The strange world of ‘Estranged’

When Adam Levins and his three college friends were in film school in England, they had an idea to center an eerie plot around an abandoned manor house they found in the British countryside.

After rewriting scenes and characters for over a year and a half, Levins and screenwriter Simon Fantauzzo headed to County Durham, England, to film a thriller. The house that originally inspired them turned out not to be available, but they made do with a similar one.

“Estranged,” produced by Steven Schneider of “Insidious” and “Paranormal Activity” and directed by Levins, tells the story of January, a young woman who is forced to return home after traveling abroad for six years. After returning home, she suffers a near-fatal accident that depletes her long-term memory and leaves her wheelchair-bound. Unable to remember her family, she sets out with her boyfriend to learn why she left them years ago, but that quest leads her to some very unloving relatives.

“It’s not gory or grotesque,” said Levins, who is based in San Diego. “It’s a dark and twisted story.”

Levins, who said his goal as a director is to take what is in front of him and use what he has, remarked on the challenging filmmaking process in England, since he and the cast and crew had limited resources.

“We did not want it to look like a low-budget film,” Levins said. “So we pride ourselves because it looks bigger than what we planned.”

The film, which stars James Cosmo of “Game of Thrones” and “Sons of Anarchy” and Amy Manson of “Being Human,” will have its world premiere Wednesday with a screening at Triangle Square Cinemas as part of the Newport Beach Film Festival.

Levins, who is adding finishing details to “Population Zero,” a documentary about three young men killed in a remote part of Yellowstone National Park, said it was an honor to be featured at the festival. He plans to reconnect with former film school friends who live in Newport Beach and surrounding areas.

“We’re very lucky to do what we do, especially since it’s fun,” Levins said. “We’re just very excited to show the film in the festival.”

Levins said what separates this film from others he has directed, including the 2006 thriller “The Passenger,” is that the psychological thriller touches on horror and revenge.

He added that when he showed a short preview to friends and family, many were struck by the plot’s sudden twists. He said he’s hopeful that the audience will react the same way Wednesday night and leave the theater remarking on the movie.

It’s not new for theatergoers to be drawn to horror films. Even Greek philosopher Aristotle thought people were attracted to scary stories and dramatic plays because it gave them a chance to purge negative emotions.

Whatever the case may be, Levins said the movie requires the audience to face the unknown and explore how they would react in frightening circumstances.

He said he takes it as a compliment when viewers share their being shocked. It’s the same reaction he hopes to elicit with his future movies.

“A lot of people are surprised by scenes, saying, ‘I didn’t expect that,’” he said with a laugh. “It’s quite a unique film.”

If You Go

What: “Estranged”

When: 8:15 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Triangle Square Cinemas, 1870 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa

Cost: $14

Information: (949) 253-2880 or