Halloween might be over, but local horror fans may be excited to learn of a new scary movie that was filmed in Enumclaw.
“They Reach,” written and directed by former local Sylas Dall, was released Nov. 3, and features more than a few shots around the city.
Dall came to Enumclaw by way of Tacoma, moving out here to go to school at the former J.J. Smith Elementary.
“Everyone quickly saw that I was very into art — painting, drawing, sculpting, doing comic books, drawing comic books,” Dall recalled. “That’s what I did throughout the rest of my time in Enumclaw.”
Film didn’t become a regular medium for Dall until around high school.
“All throughout high school, I was always filming as a hobby. I never thought I’d ever, you know, go that direction. I was always wanting to be a comic book artist or a graphic illustrator — during college, that was my major,” he said. “But I always kept it as a hobby; I always went in the backyard and filmed with friends and did some funny, scary movies, and we always kept on making shorts. Fun, goofy things.”
After graduation, Dall went north to the University of Seattle for a year, and then tried some community college, but ended up working warehouse jobs and as management at Coca-Cola for a decade, “not anything to do with art, which was really crushing my soul,” he continued.
It was his fiancé that encouraged him to finally “pick a direction” — and he chose film.
Dall started out by submitting movie shorts to local film festivals, like Seattle’s 48 Hour Film Horror Project and Bellingham’s Bleedingham Horror Film Festival; his first short was about a documentary crew following police officers when they’re dispatched to find an escaped patient from a mental ward.
“They Reach” didn’t come about until Bleedingham 2016.
“I submitted a short concept called ‘They Reach’, and it was a trailer for the movie that did not exist. I just shot a bunch of cool shots and made a little miniature trailer and a story behind it,” Dall said. “They loved it. I ended up getting third scariest film, which was pretty cool. And a lot of people afterward asked if I was going to make it into a film — an actual feature.”
ENUMCLAW WAS A ‘NO BRAINER’
Once Dall got a script going and wrangled his crew together, he knew he’d be coming back to Enumclaw to film.
“Enumclaw came right back in because in the script, I wrote a sleepy town,” he said. “It was kind of a no-brainer for me.”
One of the most obvious places Dall filmed was at the J.J. Smith building, but it seems most, if not all, of the scenery shots of roads and farmland are also of Enumclaw, specifically around SE 400th Street.
Dall even utilized some local talent — some folks were just extras, but receiving a credit at the end was Staffanie Foster-Gustafson, who plays the librarian.
“She knows a lot of people and [has] a lot of friends there, too, and every time I needed to refer back to Enumclaw, she would immediately know what I was talking about,” Dall recalled. “That was our inside person to help with some of the other locations that have changed since I’ve grown up there… She was a really big help in that kind of way.”
Foster-Gustafson said she got involved when she saw Dall filming in town, and in researching the film noticed that a close friend was playing a role.
Originally, she offered the crew her home as HQ so they could warm up during a cold day of shooting, but eventually her friend had to drop out, giving Foster-Gustafson the chance to audition for her friend’s role.
“I’m just amazed that a little movie — what was done for virtually no money at all and with local actors from Washington state and that was being filmed in our tiny little town — I’m just shocked every time I… see that you can watch our movie on Amazon,” Foster-Gustafson said. “It’s crazy to me.”
“It’s important to do what you love, is the bottom line. It’s never too late,” she continued. “I gave up acting for many, many years to raise a family and just recently got back into it, all because I was interested in what was going on around me.”
ABOUT ‘THEY REACH’
Here’s a quick spoiler-free summary about “They Reach”, provided by Dall:
“Jessica Daniels is not like other girls her age. She’s a science nut who’s determined to win Grand Prize at the science fair with her powerhouse potato light. Her dad wonders why she’s infatuated with experimenting on discarded electronic gadgets, instead of sewing or dolls. One day she finds an old reel-to-reel player. As she pries at it to unleash its electronic secrets, she cuts herself. Her blood releases the deadly Sangui Demon, who slaughters anyone in its path in its pursuit to possess the ultimate vessel – the body of the person who bled on its portal: Jessica. She must defeat the demon, but how? She recruits her two best friends and her Dad, and musters her science-fair winning skills, to battle the beast before it gathers more souls.”
The film is promoted as a cross-genre of classic films like Poltergeist, The Goonies, and E.T., mixing together horror, comedy, and, of course, romance.
“With its female hero and cast of teen stars, ‘They Reach’ taps into our admiration of strong female characters and nostalgia,” the summary continues.
“It’s not just horror and slasher — it’s got a beautiful story about friends and coming-of-age,” Foster-Gustafson added. “Sylas did great work.”
The 90-minute movie is available on Amazon, Xfinity, Xbox, iTunes, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, and Best Buy. Additionally, the Blu-Ray version has two hours of bonus content.
For more information about the film, head to its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/horrorfilmtheyreach/.