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Love & Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere (2014)

Not Rated | | Documentary, Biography, Drama | 1 August 2014 (USA)
In an isolated, high-plains community, a brilliant mathematics professor disappears from the local college without a trace. Three months later his body is discovered tied to a tree and ... See full summary »


Dave Jannetta


Dave Jannetta, Ed Hughes (as Poe Ballantine)


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In an isolated, high-plains community, a brilliant mathematics professor disappears from the local college without a trace. Three months later his body is discovered tied to a tree and burned beyond recognition in the remote hills south of campus. Iconoclastic author Poe Ballantine searches for clues related to the case while reflecting on his own life of wanderlust. Written by 32-20 Productions

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Not Rated

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Truth is stranger than fiction
8 November 2014 | by Mamabadger56See all my reviews

This is a simple but fascinating, often darkly humorous, look at a small town mystery, and the reaction of its inhabitants, based on the book of the same name by Poe Ballantine.

The background story: Steven Haataja, a brilliant theoretical mathematician, takes a position as math professor at a small state college in Chadron, Nebraska. He seems to have settled in and been accepted by the locals. Three months later, just before the end of the semester, he suddenly disappears. No explanation can be found. Some time later, his dead body is found under bizarre circumstances. The police are unable to come to a conclusion about his death or identify a likely suspect if he was, in fact, murdered. The resulting information vacuum is filled by suspicion and rampant, sometimes strange, speculation by the people of Chadron.

This is the situation that David Jarrett explores in his documentary. But instead of limiting himself to the contradictory forensic evidence relating directly to Professor Haataja's death, he focuses on the town itself. Interviewing author Poe Ballantine, the local sheriff, Haataja's fellow professors, and various town residents, he provides an overview of a quaint, conservative, friendly town, outwardly conventional but with unknown qualities lurking under the surface. The only editorializing comes indirectly, through the careful arrangement and juxtaposition of the interview statements and other footage, but the technique works extremely well.

Jarrett lets the residents tell the story, but includes information from other sources which adds a great deal to our picture of Chadron. For example, he narrates town images with readings from the sheriff's record of emergency calls. Accounts of, for instance, a request for help with a werewolf at the roadside, followed up by a call to cancel police assistance because the werewolf had morphed back into human form, sends the message that Chadron may not be as ordinary as it appears.

One thing that makes this film intriguing is that the collection of ordinary, benign, small town people present so many possible suspects and possible motives - unlikely in every case, but always just barely possible.

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Release Date:

1 August 2014 (USA) See more »

Filming Locations:

Chadron, Nebraska, USA

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