November 23rd, 2021Bush not so ideal when the sun goes down
THE forests of the Central Highlands are lovely in the day. A bucolic place, abounding with precious orchids, meandering butterflies and grazing kangaroos. A benign arcadia, safe, beautiful, serene.
But as the sun goes down and shadows lengthen, the atmosphere turns menacing. Night soon must fall and within this penumbral darkness horrors await. Or so director Shannon Young would have you feel when sitting down to watch Stricken.
Shannon has been obsessed with film making since a very young age and studied film making at RMIT where he studied with James Wan and Leigh Whannell who directed and produced the film Saw (2004) among other things.
And like his friends, one of the things that really motivated Shannon was trying to be unique and original in a film landscape that is often cluttered with predictable and cliched output; especially in the horror/thriller genre where his current project is firmly based.
Stricken, featuring Stephanie Kelly, Simon Berman, Tyler Young, Michaela Pascoe and Tom McCathie, has been in development for several years and, after lengthy delays brought about by Covid lockdown restrictions, is finally about to move into post-production.
But for the past 10 months or so Shannon and his crew have been completing photography at an out of the way location in the bush near Glenlyon. The story follows the plight of Kirsten, a woman who lives alone on an isolated woodland property. Her struggle is with fear itself as she tries to survive a world rapidly being undone by a strange, unknown disorder consuming those around her.
How this production came to be situated in the environs around the village was simple enough.
“We were looking for a regional location, an isolated property,” says Shannon. “Fortunately, co-producer Paul Moder was friends with Tom McCathie, a local actor and voice-over talent. His property was so unique and had such character that we just couldn’t pass it up and we even ended up tailoring the script to fit his place.”
As part of the project they put numerous requests for extras in the area to perform as the numerous stricken figures that lay siege to Kirsten’s house once the sun goes down.
“We had an unexpectedly enthusiastic response and had up to 30 people performing as extras. A lot of them did not have any prior experience acting, they just came in wanting to try something different. In some cases our extras were in heavy effects makeup and costumes right into the evening and there were some exceptionally cold nights during filming. But they stuck through it till the end.”
The tentative release date for the completed feature will be somewhere in the second half of 2022. And while the goal is some limited theatrical release, the way things are these days the project is most likely distributed on a streaming platform.
“However,” Shannon adds, “we would love to get back to the region and hold a special screening for everyone. Our production assistant Nadine Jade has looked into some options for venues we could make use of for a local presentation. There would be nothing better than to get all our local extras out to see the finished project.”
Pictured, above, film production at Tom McCathie’s property local, centre, Stricken director Shannon Young on set with actor Michaela Pascoe, below, local extras
Words: Tony Sawrey | Images: Courtesy of Shannon Young