Turn Your Trauma Into Horror With ‘Dead Whisper’


This post is by Grant Vance from No Film School

Ever had a dream so scenic and filmic you just can’t shake it? How about a coinciding, traumatic life event that needs to be further explored through artistic fiction? Sometimes you can’t let the strike of inspiration shake, and thankfully Conor Soucy didn’t with his latest feature, the eerily cathartic Dead Whisper.

Dead Whisper follows Elliot Campbell (Sam Dunning), a brooding lawyer with martial issues after the loss of their first-born daughter. If that wasn’t hard enough to cope with, Elliot finds himself drawn to distant island off the coast of Cape Cod that spirals into a terrifying anachronism that feels inescapable. We’ve all been there.

Below, we had the pleasure of a formidable email interview with Soucy, where he digs deep on everything from shooting beautiful location shots on a tight schedule, to crafting intricately dense prop newspapers. Also featured: bad guy prosthetics! Please do enjoy this sea fare across a nightmarishly beautiful Cape Cod.

Editors note: the following interview is edited for length and clarity.



Dead Whisper (2024) | Private Trailer

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No Film School: Where did inspiration for Dead Whisper come from? Am I sensing Lovecraft?

Conor Soucy: It’s interesting that you mention Lovecraft; while we never intentionally channeled his style, there’s definitely a similar vibe in Dead Whisper.

The film was primarily inspired by a nightmare I experienced. In the dream, I woke up on a completely empty ferry off the coast of Cape Cod, headed towards an island. I sensed that the ship had no captain. Once on the island, I found that all its inhabitants spoke only in whispers. This dream came at a time when I was grieving the loss of a family member, which profoundly shaped the film’s central theme regarding the isolation of grief.

NFS: What was it like shooting at Cape Cod and what was the process for getting all of those cool eerie ocean shots?

CS: We filmed along the coast during the fall, winter, and summer. Although the scenery was majestic, the conditions could be brutal—rain, snow, hail, you name it. Race Point Beach, suggested by our cinematographer Ben Grant, became the perfect backdrop for the island dunes. It’s a bit comical how we transformed a location so familiar and beautiful into a haunting setting for the film.

Turn Your Trauma Into Horror With 'Dead Whisper'
‘Dead Whisper’Courtesy of Conor Soucy

NFS: Tell me about your process crafting a period piece.

CS: We never specifically set a period for the film but embraced an aesthetic reminiscent of classic horror movies. The result is a film that’s period-ambiguous with a distinct retro feel.

Naturally, this choice presented numerous challenges. For instance, the scenes involving the telephone booth on MacMillan Pier in Cape Cod required shutting down the entire pier. We transported the telephone booth across Massachusetts—a three-hour journey (the same telephone booth featured in Boston Strangler, fun fact). These extreme measures almost led us to compromise, but I’m glad we stood firm. The imagery we created is entirely unique to our film and would be difficult for others to replicate. That was precisely the goal for Ben Grant and me: to craft visuals that are uniquely tied to our story.

NFS: What was the process like making a prop newspaper?

CS: West Coast Prop Master, Anthony DeFeo, crafted three prop newspapers for the film. My wife, Kennedy, a talented researcher and writer, penned detailed stories about the Reynolds case and a boating accident in Cape Cod. If you pause the film during that scene and read the newspaper, you’ll find rich details including local accounts and perspectives from three different journalists.

While it’s unlikely that anyone will do this, I think such detail is crucial for enriching the story’s world. Anthony did a fantastic job making the newspapers look authentic; he also supplied police reports and other miscellaneous items. I think Sam Dunning delivers a phenomenal performance in that scene, and I like to think that part of its impact comes from the authentic and immersive atmosphere created by the set and props.

NFS: What was your festival run like and how did you find and settle on distribution?

CS: The distribution process was quite swift. I had been in contact with Vertical Entertainment about the Dead Whisper short film, which piqued their interest.

Once the feature was completed, they seemed like the natural choice for distribution. Our producing team had realistic expectations about the film’s journey through the festival circuit and into distribution. We had our premiere at Cinequest, which coincided with the debut of another Sam Dunning film, Tim Travers and the Time Traveler’s Paradox. It was a fantastic experience for our team, highlighting the importance of a theatrical run. The film feels grand in theaters, thanks to Nikhil Koparkar’s epic score and the impressive scale of imagery crafted by Ben Grant.

Turn Your Trauma Into Horror With 'Dead Whisper'
‘Dead Whisper’Courtesy of Conor Soucy

NFS: What was the prosthetics process like for Dead Whisper’s otherworldly, multifaceted villain?

CS: Special Effects Makeup was handled by Kelly Harris, and it was an intensive process, often requiring Rob Evan to spend up to six hours in the makeup chair. Time is crucial on set, so we were meticulous in our scheduling.

Sometimes prosthetics can fail, but Kelly consistently delivered exceptional results. Rob Evan, one of the most professional and experienced actors I’ve had the pleasure of working with, masterfully utilized subtle shifts in persona, stamina, and vocal control to portray aging, making the transitions appear flawless. Remarkably, he never complained about the extensive makeup process; instead, he embraced and enjoyed it. You could feel the excitement when he first appeared on set as the fully aged Demon—everyone was visibly thrilled.

NFS: Any particularly challenging aspects of production you weren’t anticipating?

CS: This film truly spanned across Massachusetts, and the sheer volume of traveling and location changes was daunting. We anticipated these challenges, but they proved formidable still. Much of our exterior filming in Cape Cod was conducted with a skeleton crew to maintain agility. Sometimes, I’d catch Ben staring off at the clouds, calculating that we had a five-minute window to capture a shot with the best natural lighting. Traveling for hours and then hauling heavy equipment through the dunes was exhausting, but we persevered nonetheless.

NFS: And that Samuel Dunning—what a star.

CS: Sam Dunning is one of the finest actors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. He is also a brilliant writer, and we’re already collaborating on our next film, “Fear the Tall Branches,” set in Washington State. If he’s not already a movie star, he certainly will be soon.

NFS: Any advice for aspiring filmmakers out there?

CS: My advice for aspiring filmmakers is to listen carefully. Sometimes, the stories that need to be told aren’t the loudest; they’re the ones quietly whispering, waiting to be discovered.

Dead Whisper wasn’t the film I initially envisioned making, especially since I never thought I’d venture into the horror genre. However, when I shared the concept with friends and family, their visceral reactions were unlike any I received for other projects I had spent years developing. Just a few months after those initial discussions, we were already in production. This experience taught me the power of resonant ideas and the importance of being open to unexpected creative paths.

Dead Whisper is On Demand everywhere, including Amazon Prime and Apple TV.