The Silencing: Is Gwen Swanson a Real Wildlife Sanctuary?

Robin Pront’s action-driven mystery filmThe Silencing‘ centers around the life of a grieving father and an older sister, who go to great lengths for the love they have for their families. Alice Gustafson is the new Sheriff in town, whose younger brother Brooks has a tendency to cross paths with the wrong side of the law. After a string of dead bodies point toward a dangerous serial killer loose on the town hunting teenage girls, Alice crosses paths with Rayburn Swanson. The man’s daughter went missing five years ago, leaving her father unable to move on from the loss.

As Swanson’s wildlife sanctuary becomes the killer’s hunting ground, the man finds himself wondering if the atlatl-wielding murderer is behind his daughter’s missing case. The man’s sanctuary, named after his daughter, Gwen Swanson, remains a significant backdrop for the film’s hunt. As such, it may lead viewers to question if the location has any basis in real life.

Gwen Swanson Wildlife Sanctuary, a Scenic but Fictional Location

No, The Gwen Swanson Wildlife Sanctuary is not based on a real-life sanctuary. Much like the storyline that unfolds within the film, the details equipped by the narrative in service of the story are also fictional in nature. As a result, the wildlife sanctuary depicted in ‘The Silencing’ remains a fictional addition to the story fabricated by the film’s screenwriter, Micah Ranum.

Throughout the film, the sanctuary continues to be a significant aspect of the storyline, bestowing the characters a playing field to carry out the more adventurous points of their story. Furthermore, it allows the primary protagonist, the elusive hunter, an apt background to express his carnal and violent traits, compelling the audience to associate him with threatening and menacing imagery. Likewise, it effortlessly paves the way for the hunter to don his camouflage costume that infuses his character with an inherent wild notion.

As a result, the wildlife proves to be an effective tool to complement the film’s antagonist. Similarly, it does much the same for Rayburn, the protagonist. Rayburn used to be a professional animal hunter, known across the community for his skill. However, he sheds that life behind him and begins using his knowledge to conserve animals and keep them safe instead of hurting them. Thus, he starts a wildlife sanctuary, providing animals a safe haven, and names it after his daughter.

Consequently, the sanctuary presents a constant reminder of Rayburn’s role as a protector. Therefore, even though the location may not have a basis in real life, it ends up being a crucial component of the film. Although the Gwen Swanson Wildlife Sanctuary does not exist in real life, the film utilizes real-life wilderness to ensure authenticity within its filming locations. As such, the forest area of Sudbury City in Ontario, Canada, lends its scenic location to make up the sanctuary’s image on screen.

Filmmaker Pront prefers to have his filming locations reflect the bleakness within his movies. For the same reason, he found the mining town of Sudbury to perfectly complement his story. “There’s a beautiful waterfall [in Sudbury] that you see at the beginning of the movie,” said the director in a discussion about the film’s wildlife element. “We were just driving past it, and I said, I have to get this into my movie. And that’s how that whole opening scene came about because I was like, I need to use this location.”

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