SXSW ’15 exclusive: Director talks the ghosts of “WE ARE STILL HERE”Movies/TV,News Michael Gingold
WE ARE STILL HERE, world-premiering at this month’s SXSW Film Festival, boasts genre names like Barbara Crampton and Larry Fessenden among its lead cast. And as writer/director Ted Geoghegan reveals, there’s an interesting bunch playing the movie’s ghosts as well.
In WE ARE STILL HERE, shot outside Rochester in upstate New York for Snowfort Pictures and Dark Sky Films, Crampton and Andrew Sensenig portray a married couple grieving the death of their teenage soon who move into a rural house with a nasty history. That past manifests in the form of a family of vengeful spirits known as the Dagmars (a homage to Dagmar Lassander, co-star of THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY, one of Geoghegan’s key influences for the movie), with horrific makeup designed by Marcus Koch. Those wearing it, Geoghegan tells Fango, include “Elissa Dowling [pictured above] as the mother and Guy Gane III as the father. Elissa has been in countless horror films [including STARRY EYES, CHEAP THRILLS and Buddy Giovinazzo’s as-yet unreleased A NIGHT OF NIGHTMARES], and was it was a lot of fun to take someone who is known for being kind of a scream queen and is this gorgeous girl, and cover her from head to toe in makeup appliances, and get a real physical performance out of her.”
As opposed to the genre-experienced Dowling, Geoghegan reveals, Gane has a very different yet still appropriate background. “We found Guy through local casting,” the filmmaker says. “He’s a Civil War re-enactor, so he was excited to take a role outside of what he usually does by being a ghost, yet still play someone from the 1860s. He was very into the part, and really enjoyed it. He’s got quite a history of putting together basically any Civil War re-enactment you’ve seen on TV in the past few years. Somehow, Guy always seems to magically be a part of it. I believe he was even involved in the Civil War episode of HOUSE OF CARDS.”
Then there’s Zorah Burress, who plays the youngest Dagmar and is connected to another local known for a very different kind of combat. “Zorah is the daughter of a rather famous pastor in the Rochester area, Paul Burress,” Geoghegan explains. “Paul is the subject of a recent documentary called FIGHT CHURCH, in which it’s revealed that he encourages the members of his congregation to beat the shit out of each other in an MMA cage, which he also preaches from. He’s an incredible martial artist, and also had an amazing ability to pull things together for us. Through the help of his congregation, we got some of our locations and many of our extras, and basically any favor we needed—including his daughter to play Fiona, the little-girl ghost.
“I was quite concerned about casting an 11-year-old—that’s how old Fiona is supposed to be, and I believe how old Zorah was,” Geoghegan continues. “We had lots of conversations with Paul about how comfortable Zorah would feel about 1), playing a murderous ghost and 2), being covered with latex appliances. And she was a trouper; she was very good about it, and always excited to be on set. We showed her how everything worked, and she was eager to learn more about special effects and horror movies. At one point, she took me aside before we started filming and asked me if she was ever going to be alone on set. I told her, ‘No, there will always be someone there to keep an eye out for you, including your mom and dad.’ Her parents were around all the time while she was shooting, and she gives a very cool little performance. Hopefully, she’ll be remembered for playing this ghost, and go on to play plenty of other ghosts!”