By Matthew Liebenberg
Horror fans in southwest Saskatchewan can look forward to another year of fun events hosted by Swift Current-based Dead Prairies Productions.
They have already responded in a big way to the announcement of a horror-themed escape room experience by grabbing all available tickets in less than three days.
The Silver Scream escape room experience will take place at the SWT Lyceum Theatre in Gull Lake from April 4-7.
Devon Oman of Dead Prairies Productions said the level of interest in the event was beyond his expectations.
“I knew it was going to do good, but I wasn’t sure if we’re going to sell out until March, when it gets closer to the event, because people don’t know what they’re doing until then,” he noted. “But I was shocked how fast it sold out. This is the fastest we’ve ever sold out for an event.”
Those who missed out on tickets can add their names to a waiting list, which some have already done. He had waiting lists for previous sold-out events and it worked well, because it was easy to fill spots right away when cancellations happened.
“Things can easily change for people who bought tickets and then suddenly they realize they can’t be there in April,” he said.
The level of interest in this upcoming escape room will not convince him to simply add more dates to accommodate more patrons.
“I don’t want to put too many dates, because I want to focus on quality over quantity,” he said. “I’d rather have a great event where people are talking about this for years to come, instead of expanding to more and not have as great an event.”
It will be an intense experience and tickets were sold with a clear advisory that it will involve tight spaces, low visibility, gore and intense audio, lights and images. He previously organized a horror-themed escape room experience in Swift Current in 2019, but Silver Scream will take it to another level.
“I’m going to try to tap into some of your fears,” he said. “You’re in this venue and you’re trying to figure a way to get out while figuring out puzzles, but you’re kind of in a haunted house and in a horror movie basically too.”
Dead Prairies Productions is a non-profit creative company and funds raised from ticket sales for the Silver Scream escape room will be donated to the SWT Lyceum Theatre in support of current renovations.
Oman’s partnership with the theatre began in 2014, when the Dead Prairies Productions movie about the Redneck Betties roller derby team was screened there. He has hosted various events at the theatre since then, including classic horror movie screenings, and he became a member of the non-profit theatre’s board in 2021.
“I love it,” he said. “The people on the board are awesome. I love how people are very open to ideas. We all want to make the theatre stay open and to keep on expanding.”
Dead Prairies Productions will be presenting a free mystery B-horror movie screening with a winter theme at SWT Lyceum Theatre at 7 p.m. on March 6.
“It’s my thank you to horror fans around southwest and people that have been supporting Dead Prairies Productions and the Lyceum Theatre,” he said. “It’s not like a big production horror film. It’s more of a lower budget, cheesy one, but it’s a free movie and it’s fun.”
He is also planning to host a double feature horror movie night at the theatre later this year, which will be a ticketed event. He previously organized double feature movie screenings in partnership with the theatre and it was well received.
“People have a blast watching old classic horror movies with new horror movies together,” he said. “I definitely appreciate what the Lyceum Theatre has done and they actually took a chance on my ideas.”
Dead Prairies Productions had a very successful year in 2023 and he hopes that the events being planned for 2024 will result in another year full of highlights.
“Ah, 2023 was wild!” he said. “It was one of the biggest years for us. I’m hoping to get about the same number of events or different kind of activities for us, or even more. I’m hoping to keep that going.”
Memorable moments from 2023 include the success of two Dead Prairies Productions movies. The Swift Current premiere of Swift Nightmares 2 was sold out. The Killer Balloon was screened at several horror movie festivals, including Saskatoon’s Dark Bridges Film Festival, and it won the audience choice award at the Terrible Fest film festival in Toronto.
Oman also finished filming the latest Dead Prairies Productions movie GOREphers: Final Gnaw in 2023 and the upcoming release will certainly be a highlight in 2024. He is currently editing it and the premiere will take place around May or June.
Dead Prairies Productions has become well-known for its ongoing support for the Swift Current SPCA. It has donated over $30,000 to the animal shelter since 2012 through movie ticket sales as well as the sale of DVDs and branded clothing items. The upcoming release of GOREphers: Final Gnaw will be another opportunity to raise funds for the shelter.
“It’s really fun helping out the SPCA and helping out the Lyceum Theatre,” he said. “It’s two things I strongly believe in. I love movies and I love animals. So it’s cool that I can help out both companies that I strongly believe in.”
Movies and merchandise are available through the Dead Prairies Productions online store and updates on upcoming event will be posted on its social media pages.
“I’m thankful for everybody that keeps on continuing to support us over the years,” he said. “I never thought that Dead Prairies Productions would still be going this strong and breaking new goals and dreams.”