US sales agent Lightning Entertainment has picked up world rights to horror film The Gates Of Hell just in time for Cannes.

Australian writer/director Kelly Dolen met all but one of the private investors that put up the $1.1m (A$1.2m) to make the film while installing theatre systems in their homes. He went into production early last year with a cast that included Michael Piccirilli, Samantha Noble, Christian Clark, Amy Beckwith and Bradley Tomlinson.

A group of filmmakers decide to make a film about an old manor with a formidable reputation in The Gates Of Hell but they come to regret that decision when they accidentally uncover a heinous truth.

The film is Dolen's follow-up to his debut, Reign In Darkness, and is produced by veteran producer David Parker.

'I would call The Gates Of Hell popcorn horror rather than arthouse horror like Wolf Creek ,' said Parker. 'The difference between it and a lot of low-budget horror films is that it has very high production values.'

The exterior shots of the main setting were filmed at a derelict mansion about an hour north of Melbourne but most of the scenes were shot in the studio.

Dolen and Parker are now financing the action thriller To Live By The Gun, about a feared and revered assassin who tries to opt out of the game after realising his family are more important to him than all else.

Dolen is frustrated at what he sees as a lack of interest by funding authorities in commercial filmmaking in Australia and is currently in LA investigating opportunities: 'I would love to develop my career in Australia but I have to apologise for the type of movie I want to make back home.'

Coincidentally, two of Dolen's cast recently appeared in Gabriel, the debut film of Shane Abbess, who has just been offered the chance to relocate to LA to direct the science fiction thriller Source Code.

Parker said it is not good for the Australian industry to keep losing directors to Hollywood. He also cautioned that not all would succeed: 'Some come unstuck because it is a very different thing to work under some kind of studio system and a Hollywood producer than to be making a credit card movie.'

Lightning president Richard Guardian once lived in Australia and regularly signs up films from that country.