When it came time for Las Vegas filmmaker Brandon Christensen to direct his first feature film, the horror movie Still/Born, the Canadian native headed to his hometown of Calgary, which offered several important resources: a generous tax incentive, a large house (belonging to his parents) in which to shoot, and a newborn baby (belonging to his brother and sister-in-law) to star as the possible target of a demonic presence. Luckily, Christensen’s family members were remarkably understanding about a film production taking over their house (“With a week’s notice, they pretty much just moved out”) and their child (“They were cool with us trying to get the baby to cry by any means possible, so that was good”).
Still/Born stars Christie Burke as Mary, a first-time mother dealing with grief and joy at the same time: Pregnant with twins, she gave birth to one live baby and one stillborn. Often alone with the baby in the large, isolated house she shares with her frequently traveling husband, she becomes convinced that an evil entity is out to steal her living child. Is she really being targeted by a supernatural force, or is she suffering from mental illness brought on by her trauma?
The initial idea came to Christensen and co-writer/producer Colin Minihan out of necessity. “It just spawned from an attempt to find a small story that you could tell with a low budget, with a small cast,” Christensen explains. But once they had the story in mind, they looked to personal experience (Christensen is a father of two) to make the movie resonate. “There’s a lot of things that you can draw from the experience of just those quiet nights alone with your kid,” Christensen says. He and Minihan also researched postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis, both of which are potential diagnoses for Mary. “Some of the things that some of these women go through are just insane,” Christensen says. “I think the movie brings some level of awareness to some of the dangers.”
Since premiering at the horror-focused Overlook Film Festival in Oregon last April, Still/Born has racked up acclaim and awards on the festival circuit (including at the Las Vegas Film Festival and the Sin City Horror Fest), and is set for release in 10 theaters (albeit not in Las Vegas) and on VOD on February 9, with a DVD release to follow on March 20. Christensen, a Vegas resident for nearly a decade, plans to remain in town, and is working on a new horror script with his wife, as well as another project together. “My wife recently got pregnant,” he reveals, “and that’s making me start to wonder if we need to do another Still/Born, just because we’ll have a free baby again.”
Still/Born Christie Burke, Jesse Moss, Rebecca Olson. Directed by Brandon Christensen. Rated R. Available February 9 on VOD.