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Still Shoot: SyFy’s “Dead Still”

By Tara Bennett

“It was almost like this film was written for the 13th Gate.”

There will be a return to classic horror on Syfy when the locally filmed, Dead Still, premieres on Monday, October 6 as part of the channel’s 31 days of Halloween programming.

The film, directed by the Booth Brothers, was filmed locally in Baton Rouge, specifically at the 13th Gate haunted house, which features state-of-the-art set designs.

“Our detail and our sets is very movie quality,” said 13th Gate owner Dwayne Sanburn. “So I think it’s very attractive to particularly a lower budget film to come in and shoot at our haunted house because we have such a variety of sets. It’s a money saver for them to utilize what we already have here.”

The relationship between the Booth Brothers and Sanburn started between the work of Dead Still’s associate producer Justin Stelly, a local filmmaker and security worker at the 13th Gate.

“You know anything about the 13th Gate, it’s gone from just a regular haunted house to being one of the best haunted houses,” said Stelly. “Dwayne spares no time, no expense at creating some of the most realistic sets you can get in a haunted house. It was almost like this film was written for the 13th Gate.”

This will be the sixth film shot at the 13th Gate and the third time Syfy has used the haunted house as a film location. Previous Syfy films shot at the 13th Gate include Dungeons and Dragons 3 and Ghost Shark.

“The Booth Brothers are incredible artists, and it was very fun experience to be able to watch them work,” said Sanburn. “We hope to continue to work with the film industry to bring other horror movies or any movies to the 13th Gate. I think it’s a great place to film.”

Dead Still stars Ben Browder (Farscape, Stargate SG1), Ray Wise (Twin Peaks, Jeepers Creepers), Gavin Casalegno (Noah, When the Game Stands Tall), and Elle LaMont (From Dusk Till Dawn, Machete Kills). The film tells the story of wedding photographer Brandon Davis, who inherits his great grandfather’s antique camera, which is famous for taking Victorian death photography. After photographing his subjects, they start to die from horrible, bizarre deaths and then reappear as eerie death portraits.

“One of the things the Booth Brothers are doing is they’re trying to bring back that old classic Hammer Horror,” said Stelly. “There’s gore in this movie, but their focus is more on the classic element of horror: suspense.”

“The makeup on this film was unbelievable, the characters in this film was unbelievable,” said Sanburn. “I can’t tell you anymore about the story, but I can tell you that what I saw was phenomenal, and I think it’s going to be a really scary movie.”

According to Sanburn, Dead Still really utilized the haunted house for their film, including the house’s Victorian sets, the cellar and the lobby.

“Some of the more popular rooms people will immediately recognize, such as the cellar,” said Sanburn. “They always redress it into something else.”

Previously, the cellar had been redressed as a lighthouse for Ghost Shark and a medieval shop for Dungeons and Dragons. In Dead Still, the cellar was changed to reflect the haunted world inside the camera.

“You’ll recognize it instantly,” said Sanburn.

The film was shot over the course of three weeks between November and December of last year. Along with 40,000 sq. feet, and 13 different themed areas, the 13th Gate also provided the Booth Brothers access to their huge prop warehouse.

“We’ve been able to really accommodate some movies if we have the right set,” said Sanburn. “For Dead Still it worked out really great for them, they were able to find just about everything they needed here.”

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