Evil Mean Stories and Grandpa (My Latest Movie)

What Jennifer Dunn's latest movie, Grandpa, has to do with southern "Evil mean stories" and genealogy

One of the great southern authors, Dorothy Allison, once said that we Southerners like to tell “evil mean stories.” 

For example, when I was very small, and my sister even smaller, a family member told us a tale out of our family tree.

As the story went, our ancient ol’ many times great-grandpa (let’s call him Grandpa Gerard) married a pretty younger wife. But when that wife gave birth to a disabled child, he simply locked them in the house and starved them to death. 

I was probably eight or so when I heard this story. And I was horrified. It really was one of my impetuses to start researching my family tree. Could the blood of such an evil mean man also flow through my veins? 

It’s not hard to see why this story stuck with shy, sensitive, bookworm Little Me. My younger sister, Amy, is disabled. Her premature birth and all the fuss and worry about my mom and tiny little 2 pound, 9 ounce Amy was pretty much my first memory. 

And then there was the ghost. 

Right around the time Amy and I heard this horror tale, my mom started to put her to bed in her crib one night. Amy pointed to a spot at the corner of the wall and ceiling and said “Hi Grandpa Gerard!” While all the hairs on the back of my mom’s arms stood up, Amy kept talking to the… what? Ghost? Spirit? Family annihilator?!?

Years later, Amy and the ghost of Grandpa Gerard is one of those spooky stories that we still sit around and tell at Christmas. 

Sensitive bookworm Little Me, of course, grew up to be a writer and filmmaker, and one day when someone was telling the story of Amy’s ghost for the 39th time, something in my creative consciousness clicked.

Let’s pretend Grandpa Gerard really had murdered his wife and child. And then he made his way out of hell to hover over my baby sister’s crib. Except what if the stakes were even higher? What if the protagonist were non-verbal and quadriplegic? And this literal ghost from the past was intent on murdering here to “purify” his bloodline? 

Well, the idea wouldn’t let me go.

So I made a movie about it. 

And you’re all invited to the premier of GRANDPA at this year’s Peaberry Film Festival in Canton, Georgia!

Sunday, April 28th @ 1pm

Peaberry Film Festival

Canton Theater

171 East Main Street

Canton, GA 30114

Get your tickets!

Poster for Grandpa, a film by Jennifer Dunn starring Coco DeBruycker, Kiersten Lyons and Ryan Knudson

Did I ever figure out if the tale of Grandpa Gerard was true? At least in my direct ancestry, I don’t think it is. Of course, we all know how tales grow in the telling. Is such an evil mean man lurking in the branches of my family tree? Maybe so. 

Maybe so.

Either way, I think that when Dorothy Allison said we tell “evil mean stories” she didn’t necessarily mean that was a bad thing. And I think it’s up to all of us to learn from the past and rewrite our stories. 

Maybe this time with a happy ending. 

You’ll just have to come to the premier and see. 

Get your tickets to the Grandpa premier!


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