This is the second in a three-part series exploring TV shows and movies filmed in Snohomish County. Part one focused on Everett. Look out in the coming weeks for part three on Index.
MONROE — Monroe is known to outsiders for two things: the state fairgrounds and a state prison. It’s the latter filmmakers have been drawn to over the years, and a nearby horse ranch has ties to one of the most famous movies shot in Washington.
“Hot Pursuit” (1984)
This drama aired for one season on NBC. Actress Kerrie Keane plays a woman framed for murder who goes on the run with her husband (Eric Pierpoint). They are pursued by law enforcement and a one-eyed assassin.
The two-parter “Home Is The Heart (Episodes 4 and 5) has Pierpoint’s character rush home after learning his sister has been hospitalized. His sister’s daughter goes to live with her grandfather at his farmhouse, filmed at Emerald Glen Farm in Monroe. The property was originally owned by Snohomish County pioneer and sheriff Salem Woods. The main barn and house were built in 1925, according to the Washington Heritage Barn Register.
The full episodes can be watched on YouTube.
“The Ring” (2002)
If you watch this tape then you’ll die in seven days. That’s the premise behind the most famous horror flick filmed in Snohomish County. The American remake of the Japanese film was shot at locations around Seattle, including spots in Snohomish County.
The moss-covered Cabin 12 where the movie’s first victim watches the tape is in Stanwood, according to Curbed Seattle.
The film stars Naomi Watts as a journalist looking into the mysterious death. Her investigation takes her to the Morgan Horse Ranch on the fictional Moesko Island. In real life it’s Emerald Glen Farm in Monroe, the same used in “Hot Pursuit.”
Susan Connor has owned the property since the mid-’90s and said filmmakers wanted to use the site “because it looks so bad.” She agreed to let them film outside a house and inside a barn. Connor was cautious at first, but agreed because DreamWorks Pictures was part of the project.
“I felt they probably would pay their bills,” Connor said.
The crew built a loft inside the barn where the character Samara slept. In the film, her adoptive father, played by Brian Cox, moves her there after her psychic powers cause the horses to throw themselves off a cliff to their deaths. Connor described its construction as “fast, but maybe not well done,” so the loft goes unused.
During the shoot, Connor was promised everything would be left “good or better,” but the crew damaged things all over the farm. She said the crew acid-washed the roof of another barn to make it look more decrepit and less reflective for the shots filmed by helicopter. That roof has been leaking ever since and Connor hopes to replace it this summer.
Connor also said the crew knocked out a couple of stained glass window panels in the barn so they could run electrical cords through for lighting and other equipment.
“And then they refuse to pay to have it repaired. There’s just a whole bunch of stuff like that,” Connor said. “So I would certainly be much tighter on a contract if I ever did it again.”
A bigger issue for Connor is trespassing film fans. Emerald Glen Farm is private property and is not open to the public.
“Butterfly Effect” (2004)
This film stars Ashton Kutcher as a man who discovers the ability to time travel and uses it to go to the past and fix the problems in his life, only to unintentionally make things worse. At one point in the film, Kutcher gets sent to prison. Inmates holler at him from their cells and throw wads of paper as he’s brought in.
Kutcher is bullied and beat up in a fight, but eventually devises a plan to time-travel his way out. About nine minutes of the film takes place at the prison, filmed at the Monroe Correctional Complex.
Dan Dusek, of Denison, Texas, worked as a unit production manager for the film’s Monroe shoot. He doesn’t know why the filmmakers selected that prison in particular. Most of the “Butterfly Effect” was shot in Vancouver and he assumes they couldn’t find what they were looking for in British Columbia.
The crew filmed in Monroe for two days. Dusek said all of the extras were “model prisoners” handpicked by the prison staff, since it was cheaper than bringing in actors. Filming went off without a hitch, but there was one prisoner interaction Dusek distinctly remembers:
“I was sitting outside on a picnic bench and there was an inmate right across from me. And he’d been there about 10 or 12 years and I said ‘If you don’t mind, can I ask you what you did?’ He said that he murdered his wife. And I went ‘Oh, ok.’ And I just let it go. I didn’t want to know any more.”
“The Ring Two” (2005)
Filmmakers returned to Emerald Glen Farm for widely-panned sequel to “The Ring.” There’s a scene where Watts visits the Morgan Ranch again to dig deeper into Samara’s past, only to be met by a real estate agent who’s selling the property.
For this filming the crew was on site for a few weeks instead of months. Connor said there was no property damage this time around. Everything went smoothly except for a stuntwoman driving off-road, nearly going into Woods Creek. A tow truck had to pull the car out.
“Other than that, it was no problem,” Connor said.
“7 Minutes” (2014)
This bank heist film was mostly shot in Everett, but a scene was filmed in Monroe. Kris Kristofferson cameos as a career criminal and father of one of the robbers. There’s a scene where Kristofferson picks up his son who’s getting out of prison, again the Monroe Correctional Complex.
Location manager Doug du Mas, of Seattle, said at one point they had considered using Monroe as their main film location, but “Monroe is so unbelievably unfilm-friendly, that we just kind of dismissed them rather quickly.”
While the city was uncooperative, the prison is state-owned, and du Mas said the staff was “absolutely wonderful, and they were all huge Kris Kristofferson fans, so that helped.”
This eight-minute fan film resembling the look and feel of “The Ring” was shot at Emerald Glen Farm. Professional video editor Jesse Stipek grew up a few miles down the road and the owner Connor is a family friend. For fun, he and some buddies, under the name Trico Films, teamed up to create the short.
“Really, the inspiration of it was the area,” Stipek said. “We knew we had the place. We knew it wouldn’t be too much of a problem to use it for a few days, and wrote a story around that.”
Set four years after the events of the first film, “RINGwhispers” uses the same score and color grading as the original. The lead actress even looks like Watts. Horror blog Bloody Disgusting called it “surprisingly really, really good.”
“RINGwhispers” can be watched for free on YouTube and has 18,000 views.
In 2016, Stipek moved into the house on the property seen in “The Ring” after it became available to rent. He has called it home ever since and filled it with his collection of “The Ring” movie props and posters. He compares it to the “Goonies” house in Oregon and is willing to show folks around if asked.
“It’s fun, man,” Stipek said, “especially around Halloween.”