“During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens…” reads the opening line of Edgar Allan …
“During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens…” reads the opening line of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
This short work of Gothic fiction deals with madness and isolation all set to a soundtrack of the grating hinges, shrill screams, and ringing sounds that have long since scored the horror genre.
“I love the sound of the story,” said writer, director and producer Maria Collette Sundeen, who used the Poe tale as a starting point for her independent film, “Lifeless.”
“If you read it out loud it’s about the sound and the words that he chooses,” she continued.
Conceived and written during the 2020 pandemic, the horror short film “Lifeless” is a story focused on the breakdown and the seeming end of life as we knew it. It is an existential and psychological allegory told only through visuals, sound effects, narration and an original score.
“I wanted it to be ethereal feeling with smoke, fog, the sound of the narrator telling the story,” Sundeen said.
Told through a single perspective, the film depicts a lone woman desperate to connect and interact. The story follows her as she transitions from confusion to despair to anger, all the while deteriorating emotionally and physically.
“She’s trying to reach people she cares about, trying to touch things she wants to touch,” Sundeen explained.
"Lifeless" details doom, death and rebirth. The film sets out to capture the grief and the loss we’ve all felt in some way during the last year.
“It’s not a horror in the traditional sense,” she added.
“It’s just a horror of the life that we knew and the life that we didn’t have anymore – how it makes us fearful and angry. We grieve and mourn the loss of the life we had.”
The crew is set to film the short in Port Townsend this next week. They will be shooting in various locations, showcasing Port Townsend as a timeless global village with scenes in Fort Worden, the Wheeler Theater, the Port Townsend Antique Mall, Undertown, and the downtown area.
“I thought that Port Townsend was a great place to tell that story,” she said.
A Port Townsend local-by-association, Sundeen’s family resides in town where she has spent many holidays and summer seasons.
“I wrote ['Lifeless'] visualizing locations that were in town so it was written framing Port Townsend as a character in the story … I specifically wrote the Undertown and the Antique Mall as big characters – and Fort Worden, of course – showing that timeless element.”
With a focus on working with a diverse team of filmmakers, Sundeen’s cast and crew includes primarily females in the key roles of director of photography, editor, and hair and makeup, as well as a Black and Latinx crew.
Her team hails from all over: Los Angeles to New York, Seattle to the United Kingdom, and everywhere in between.
Several safety protocols will be in place during filming. Cast and crew members will be isolated prior to the shoot and masks will be required on set.
“I’m doing it very safely and respectfully, not only for the cast and crew but for the community. That’s really important,” Sundeen added.
When bringing a team together, seeking out permits, and putting her film in motion, Sundeen was met with great support.
“We’re very fortunate to be working here, and the town has really supported us,” Sundeen stated in a press release.
“For a group of artists hungry to create, we couldn’t have asked for a kinder reception.”
Lunches for the team will be donated by Ferino’s Pizzeria in Port Hadlock and they’re still seeking support for crew dinners.
The filmmakers are also crowdfunding in order to raise the last of the production money. To donate, visit www.museworks.tv/lifeless-short.