Eldritch USA

Eldritch, USA (2023)

Eldritch, USA had its international première on Sat 28th Oct at the Halloween FrightFest

“Dude, this is not a horror film,” Geoff Brewer (Graham Weldin) insists some way into Eldritch, USA – yet his best friend Colin Fischer (Cameron Perry), a nerd who knows the tropes of horror films inside out, remains unconvinced, discerning, in all the smalltown cults, necromantic rituals, ancient puzzle boxes, books of the dead and cosmic portals around them, clear signs that things are not going to ‘end well’. Ryan Smith and Tyler Foreman’s feature debut, whose very title alludes to a celebrated collection of stories by H.P. Lovecraft, is indeed a horror film, but it is also a comedy, a musical, and a saga of fraternal strife (and love). 

All his life, Geoff’s thunder has been stolen by his older brother Rich (Andy Phinney). Rich interrupts Geoff’s stories, moves in on any woman in whom Geoff has an interest, effortlessly takes the better jobs and promotions at the news station where both work (but where Geoff worked first), and gets obvious preferential treatment from their parents (George Cron, Nancy Ward). Rich is also, despite his popularity with colleagues, obviously a selfish, bullying, womanising arsehole, even if only Geoff – and the new intern Jill Coleman (Aline O’Neill) – can see it. “Nice guys finish last,” Rich tells Geoff – although Geoff’s nice-guy status is rather undermined by the feelings of resentment, jealousy and hatred that he harbours towards his brother – feelings so strong that Geoff dedicates three whole songs to them. So when Geoff kills Rich with an axe, it may be entirely an accident, but there is also the sense of a wish being fulfilled. After all, Geoff has previously sung: “Life here would be easy if he’d leave.”

Now filled with guilt, having nightmares about being arrested, and wishing he could “undo this”, Geoff turns to Clyde Schafer (Westan McNew), a cult leader whose Kingdom Beyond Community on the periphery of smalltown Eldritch was earlier rejected by Rich for a news item. Geoff is hoping that Clyde’s claims to be able to bring the dead back to life might prove true – and they do. Yet Rich, now sallow-skinned and weird-eyed, retains no memory of what went before, and despite seeming more considerate towards Geoff, has even less sense of right and wrong, and does not hesitate to resort impulsively to theft, violence, even cannibalism. “Don’t murder, morals are your friend,” Colin sings to the confused Rich in a remedial ethics lesson, with Geoff adding (in a reprise of his own character arc): “But if you accidentally murder, just move on and do your best.”

Soon Rich will have an undead bride (Rebecca Claborn), an undead army of followers, and a plan to open up the world to celestial Old Ones, with only Geoff, Colin, Jill and Clyde to stop him – and when this ‘nightmare’ is over, and everything is reset to normal, that will include Geoff’s relationship with his brother, as dysfunctional as it ever was. For Smith and Foreman have crafted an absurdist, genre-fied saga of family tensions, where no matter what form – horror or otherwise – Geoff and Rich’s sibling rivalry assumes, it always ends up looking the same.

strap: Ryan Smith and Tyler Foreman’s horror comedy musical knowingly revives the same old fraternal frictions across multiple genres

© Anton Bitel