DUNLAP, Ill. (WMBD) — It’s officially fall, and if you’re a fan of Halloween and spooky things in general, this story’s for you.
A horror film — partially shot right here in the Peoria area — could soon be on the big screens.
A film crew from L.A., starring Actor Booboo Stewart, just wrapped shooting in central Illinois last week.
WMBD/WYZZ’S Matt Sheehan caught up with Stewart, the film’s writer/director, producer, stunt coordinator, and Dunlap Fire Chief Jim Hanson about the experience.
The film is called “Those Who Walk Away”.
“It’s based loosely on true experiences and really is about a house that feeds,” said Writer/Director Robert Rippberger.
“In terms of the vibe of the film, I’d say it’s sort of a David Lynch-like feel, absolutely, and a little bit of an oblique horror element to it,” said Producer KT Kent with Argentic Productions.
“First I visited and we were looking to buy a house to burn at one point, so I called this realtor, Esther Weber who’s a great deal of help, and said I have a very strange request for you. I’m looking for a house to buy to burn, the more run down the better. More or less we ended up at the house in Dunlap,” Rippberger said.
The movie — starring renowned actor Booboo Stewart — who’s been in the Twilight Saga, X-Men, and Descendants on Disney+, showcases parts of Chillicothe and Dunlap.
Stewart said it was the perfect location.
“It was amazing, I had a great time. I played Max in our film, Stewart said. “One of the things I really love about shooting away from home is it puts you in the place, mentally, physically.”
“Such a beautiful area that we really felt at times if we were on a film lot,” he said. “We were delighted to find ourselves there, the community was exceptionally kind and supportive. It was the perfect location for our film.”
There were some intense days of shooting, Stewart said, but the people of central Illinois helped him and the crews feel right at home.
“The setting that Peoria and all the surrounding towns provided for us was just perfect. Everyone was so kind,” he smiled. “I’d go for runs and just be running by beautiful, open corn fields, and it was so peaceful, it really set my mind at ease. Especially because our movie was so intense after a certain day.”
“When you’re filming in LA, people will be like ‘what are you guys doing’ and it’s not a happy conversation,” Stewart laughed. “You usually just tell them ‘oh were just filming a mayonnaise commercial’ but out there people would be like “hey what are you guys doing” and then you’d be like “we’re filming a movie” and they’d be like oh awesome! and they’d smile and wave.”
The film’s producer, KT Kent, agreed. Saying not only would people be happy about what they were doing, but they wanted to help.
“Everyone there is like “Oh my goodness, you’re doing this? Can I bake you something?” she laughed.
The film features a burning of the abandoned home which called for Dunlap Fire Protection District to lend a helping hand.
Chief Jim Hanson said it was an experience they’ll never forget.
“Our number one goal was safety for their crews. They had their pyrotechnics people out here along with the rest of their film crews. Our job was just to be here when they set the house on fire,” Hanson said. “Our job was to save the building because we have a future plan with the building for a training with our fire district and the Illinois Fire Service Institute. We spent about 3 hours working on the fire and making sure it wasn’t gonna go throughout the night. We ended up being here 9 hours, thank our guys for working their butts off.”
Hanson said the most enjoyable part of the experience was the unknown element to what they were dealing with.
“Normally you don’t get to go out and set a house on fire and get to be there do its changeover from the different stages of fire. It was cool we were here,” he said. “You get called, 911, to go to a structure fire, you don’t always know what started it or how long it’s been burning. But for me it was to actually sit here and see how much it actually took for this to light up. And it did take awhile. It took probably an hour for it actually to burn. That’s a testament to the old structure, how sound and true it really was.”
Hanson believes the home was built sometime in the 1930s.
“It’s been empty for years. The family’s passed on and it went to the estate. I believe it’s gonna go back to farmland,” he added.
Kent said she can’t say enough about the positive energy the community showed to the crews while they were in town.
“Everyone was so enthusiastic that you really know you can do something there, you can make something happen. With smaller films like this, it’s definitely the community and all the places you make it,” she said. “I loved the (Chillicothe) theatre, it was so beautiful, it was just gorgeous.”
Kent said once the film is done, she wants to give back to central Illinois and say thanks.
“At some point, we’d like to come back and screen it for Chillicothe in the Town Theater with everyone there that helped us out,” Kent said. “That way everyone there can feel a part of this the way they made us feel a part of their home.”
“It was awesome working with the community like John who owns Marge’s bar, Jim Lawson who owns the house. They were so helpful, John closed Marge’s on Friday all day, which is a huge deal for a bar,” she said. “But they all felt this sense of legacy and being able to do something because John said this adds to Marge’s legacy and Jim said the same thing about the house, which his mother had grown up in.”
Kent was in charge of logistics, finances, and said all of what happened wouldn’t have been possible without some special help from people in the Peoria area.
“I went and talked to Amanda Beadles at city hall, she was unbelievably helpful. At that point you could start to see a way forward,” she said.
She and stunt coordinator Nils Stewart also wanted to thank AMT’s Josh Bradshaw for the immense help he gave the crews.
“He was a very important position because there’s a lot of different protocols filming during COVID. Josh was integral in terms of us being able to film there. He’s a licensed EMT, Josh Bradshaw. He came in like the last hail Mary possible second and I thought “oh man, we’ll never find this person to just show up and do this stuff,” Kent laughed. But he’s been on Chicago Fire on all this stuff, I didn’t think we’d find someone so well-versed in film making.”
“If you can give a shoutout to Josh (Bradshaw) who served as our medic and everything else. That’d be freaking awesome, he went way above and beyond what his job was,” Nils Stewart said.
Nils, also Booboo’s father, played “The Monster” in the film.
Rippberger said they heard about the area from a house party out in Los Angeles.
Now they’re in post-production and hope to have the film done in the next two months.
“Then we’re off to festivals, and off to distributors and that’s what sets the timeline of the release thereafter,” Rippberger said.
You can find photos below of the abandoned home and different photos taken on the set of the movie.
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