News Column

Haunted by memories

August 15, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 15--DANVILLE -- Movie lovers can get their pre-Halloween chills with a new film, "House of Thaddeus."

The drama, with elements of a psychological thriller, will make its premiere this weekend after two years in production. It will start promptly at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Art Theater, Champaign; admission is $5.

The movie was produced and written by Mike Boedicker of Danville and Bill Kephart of Champaign through Roselawn Productions Ltd., with Boedicker directing and editing.

Boedicker described it as "a unique take on an overdone subgenre -- the haunted house movie."

This isn't a horror film, however. Rather, he said, "It's about the reality of living in a house with a dark past. People want and need it to be haunted." The movie uses elements of the horror genre, but in a non-supernatural way.

"It's almost ghostly in a way -- it's creepy, but not supernatural," he said.

Most of the movie was filmed at the Jewell home in the 400 block of North Hazel Street. The historic home was owned by Gary Gardner, a Danville native and longtime professor of theater at the University of California-Los Angeles. Gardner, who had a supporting role in the movie, died unexpectedly in June.

The house captured Boedicker's imagination when it was used in two brief scenes in his last movie "Revolting."

"Bill and I said, 'We have this great house. What can we do with it?' We came up with the idea of the house being haunted by the memories of what happened there -- and not necessarily ghosts," Boedicker said.

In the movie, a couple new to town -- played by Kephart and Joi Hoffsommer of Champaign -- buy the old house from a man (Gardner), who doesn't reveal its past. Later, they learn about the murders of three people and the suicide of the murderer 25 years earlier. A little girl escaped the bloodshed.

The wife, Claire, becomes consumed with the house's history, including its early days when it was owned by the mystical Rex Thaddeus and his commune. When the curious flock to the home, Claire wants to capitalize on the house's reputation, but her husband, Tom, disagrees.

"These are people with different views of how they should live in the house," Boedicker said. "The house is the thing that divides them."

The subgenre of haunted house movies is tired and overdone. So, Boedicker and Kephart wanted to give it a new twist and show a house haunted by people's refusal to forget its past. "The house is haunted by expectations of people who would like it to be haunted," he said. "How do you live in it?"

Local talent

While the main characters are played by people from Champaign-Urbana, many Danville people have parts in the film. Julia Megan Sullivan plays Jacy, the girl who escaped when her family was murdered, and who returns to the house.

"It's an interesting script and a compelling story," Sullivan said. "It's as much about relationships as it is about a haunted house."

People who attend the premiere will have an enjoyable evening and will have a lot to talk about afterward, she said.

This is Sullivan's second project with Boedicker, and this time, he has a bigger cast to work with.

"He did a beautiful job of making details work together seamlessly," she said. "It was an incredible experience. Even more people were coming together to collaborate, which was exciting."

Some of the scenes outside of the home take place locally, including the Danville Public Library.

With the convenience of computer editing programs, Boedicker was able to place a cemetery next to the home. He also used an actor to pose as Thaddeus on the porch of the house, and then used computer tricks to surround him with people found in old photos.

He and Kephart used other touches to make the story realistic. When Claire researches the house's past, she comes upon a Wikipedia page and she also finds a book in the library about the murders. Boedicker got permission from Wikipedia to create the fake page, and he also created a fake book, complete with photos.

A couple of the scenes didn't need computer help to add to the creepy atmosphere -- such as the scenes when crows fill the sky over the house against a blood-red sunset.

The film was shot primarily in fall 2011 through winter 2012, with some additional shooting in spring 2012. Editing began in May 2012, with a screening of the rough cut for cast and crew four months later. The final cut -- including special effects, scoring, mixing and grading -- took almost another year.

Boedicker, assistant director at the Danville Public Library, said it felt good when the final cut of the movie, without color correction or sound mix, was screened a few weeks ago.

He said, "Someone once said, 'Films are never finished -- they're abandoned,' and that's probably how it will be on this one, even after the premiere. But once the DVDs and Blu-ray are produced, it truly will be done."

The movie uses an original score composed and performed by John Tjoenes with the University of Illinois, as well as classical music by Debussy and Chopin, and even a piece by J.S. Bach performed on player piano.

Gardner's help

The movie is dedicated to Gardner, who got to see a rough cut.

Boedicker said Gardner was gracious about letting the actors use his home when he was out of state. He was planning on retiring from teaching this fall, and doing more acting.

Gardner once said that as a 9-year-old newspaper carrier, he went inside the home, and told himself, "I'm going to buy that house one day." Years later, a Realtor friend called him in Los Angeles to say the house was for sale. Gardner bought it sight unseen.

"It's a pretty stunning place," Boedicker said of the century-old home.

As for Gardner, Boedicker said, "We all miss him. He was a wonderful guy."

If you can't make it to Sunday's premiere, there will be screenings in east central Illinois this fall, and it will be released on DVD and Blu-ray this fall.

Boedicker's "Revolting" has won two awards at film festivals, and he plans to enter "House of Thaddeus" in festivals. He also produced "Show" a few years ago.

FYI

The premiere of "House of Thaddeus" will start at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Art Theater, 126 W. Church St., Champaign. To learn more, go to www.houseofthaddeus.com.

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(c)2013 the Commercial-News (Danville, Ill.)

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