Editor’s note: This story was updated March 31 with additional showtimes and a link to buy tickets, as well as to fix incorrect information about funding for the project and the name of the film company.
A Springfield filmmaker who’s been honing his filmmaking craft for nearly a decade is releasing his first full-length feature film on the Alamo Drafthouse’s silver screen. And the film’s concept is a doozy.
Cosmic horror, side-splitting laughter, and musical numbers can be found in the film Eldritch, USA. Filmed entirely in Springfield, Mo., this movie features several actors local to the area. Springfield native Sloan B. Gregory, Aline O’Neil, alumnus of Missouri State University, and George Cron, a professor at Ozarks Technical Community College, are some of the folks in the film.
Having lived in Springfield for seven years, director Ryan Smith wanted to create a movie that showcased people here in the Ozarks.
“There’s a lot of talented filmmakers and actors, and yet I don’t see a lot of films coming out of our area. Usually, if a film comes out of Missouri, you’re seeing it come out of Kansas City or St. Louis or something like that. So I really wanted to highlight all the talented people here,” Smith said.
The Springfield Daily Citizen spoke with Smith, who funded one-third of the project, to learn about the movie’s origins. The feature got its start back in 2018 when Smith sat down to pen the project. He envisioned making a feature one day and wrote about what he knew — but was surprised that the project morphed into a musical.
“I was actually surprised that I landed on a musical, but that’s where I landed. I wrote a story about two brothers because I got a twin brother, and I just thought it would be fun to write a story like that,” said Smith.
Smith not only serves as the film’s director, but also its editor, producer, virtual effects editor, and song co-writer for the project. He cut his teeth in the industry starting in 2014 when he wrote and directed an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s story “The Terrible Old Man.” The author of the story helped shape the inspiration for his current feature-length film.
Produced by Passive Aggressive Films, the movie tells the story of two competitive brothers as a freak accident happens to the family. The youngest sibling seeks out a backwoods cult rumored to have supernatural powers. Their ritual seemingly fixes the accident but at the cost of unleashing a cosmic horror on their town.
Smith ran a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to secure additional funding for the movie. It began on Feb. 18, 2020, a few weeks before the COVID-19 global pandemic shut everything down. His team was able to get an extension on the Kickstarter to finish acquiring funds for the feature.
Smith found the musical Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog to be a big inspiration for his feature-length film. “From a movie perspective, I really liked some of the darker musicals that were out there. One in particular is Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. It’s a musical about a supervillain, and I thought it would be fun to do something similar to that but lean into horror.”
Smith teamed up with Nathan Hurley, the lead singer of the Indie rock band Fox Royale who also has a cameo in the movie, to help co-write the 12 musical numbers featured in the movie.
“We would sit down and say, ‘OK, here’s point a, here’s point b. What does the song need to be about to push us to that point?’” Smith said. “There was actually a lot of structure going into it. The fun part was obviously once we knew what the theme was, was sitting down, playing with the lyrics, trying to make them funny and actually write the music itself.”
Opening night for the film is on April 28 at the Alamo Drafthouse. Those two showings have sold out, so the Drafthouse has opened five added screenings April 29 to May 3. Check availability and buy tickets on the Drafthouse website.