The streaming horror flick They Wait in the Dark was specifically written for actress Sarah McGuire, a former Avila University student, pictured here with local child actor Patrick McGee.

“They Wait in the Dark” is a successful product of Kansas City film industry

“It is amazing the quality and product of films that are coming out of this area,”

  • They Wait in the Dark
  • Directed by: Patrick Rea
  • Starring: Sarah McGuire, Patrick McGee, Paige Maria, Laurie Catherine Winkel
  • Horror | R | 1 hr 25 min

By Reed Ripley

For some, the City of Fountains has become the City of Filmmakers. There’s a growing community of talented and productive filmmakers in town, and they’re living proof that feature films don’t always have to come out of Los Angeles. 

They Wait in the Dark, a horror film released earlier this year and shot exclusively in and around Topeka over 12 days, is one of the latest examples, as almost the entire production, from the top down, calls Kansas City home. 

The film is directed and written by Patrick Rea, a local indie filmmaker with a penchant for horror. Rea went to community college in Nebraska before transferring to the University of Kansas’s film school, and instead of jetting off to Hollywood, he decided to stick around. “It was around the time that digital technology was taking off, and you didn’t feel like you had to go to L.A.,” Rea said. 

Meagan Flynn, actor, producer, and owner of local production company Smart Mouth Productions, had previously worked with Rea, and at the start of the pandemic, Flynn thought of Rea to helm one of her company’s first feature films. 

Rea eventually agreed, and he turned to a genre classic he’d always wanted to try–a haunted house story. He’d never done it because he never came up with an interesting angle, but after Flynn called, he decided to go for it by weaving in a domestic thriller. 

Rea knew exactly who he wanted for the lead role of Amy, too–Sarah McGuire, another local talent. Rea actually wrote the film and the role specifically for McGuire, who moved to Kansas City to study musical theater at Avila University and never left after landing her first feature film role during her senior year. 

McGuire thinks Kansas City’s film industry has really taken off since she began her career, especially in the area of feature filmmaking. 

“The Kansas City film area is so vast, and it is amazing the quality and product of films that are coming out of this area,” McGuire said. “I’m so proud of fellow Kansas City filmmakers because they’re busting their butts trying to put us on the map, and I think they’re doing it.”  

Initially, Flynn’s choice of Kansas City as a base of operations was something of a necessity, but the area’s grown to become a wonderful spot for indie filmmaking and production, thanks in no small part to its Midwest mentality.

“People in L.A. sit around and talk about making movies all the time, and in the rest of the country people are actually making movies,” Flynn said, quoting an L.A. producer. “People aren’t cynical about the movie industry [in Kansas City]. They’re so excited, and they want to come out and cheer you on.” 

They Wait In the Dark was filmed in Topeka.

They Wait in the Dark is a tight, hour and twenty-five minute affair, and its horror elements work well to highlight its themes centered on cyclical, generational abuse. Yes, it’s tough to watch and quite dark (it’s right there in the title, after all), but that’s the point, and it’s certainly effective. 

Although the film has Midwest roots, it’s intended for a wide, international audience. In fact, the film premiered this past August at FrightFest, a horror and thriller film festival in London where some of the best horror films of this past year played, including surprise hit Barbarian.

The hope is that They Wait in the Dark is less and less of an outlier as time goes on, and Kansas City develops into a regional hotspot for filming. Flynn thinks that’s not so unrealistic. 

“I think we have all that same potential here,” Flynn said, comparing Kansas City to other lesser-known filmmaking hubs, like Oklahoma, that have seen a recent mini-boom in productions. “We have beautiful locations, we have talented crew. I think we can be just as big as anybody in the Midwest. We’ve just got a little bit of work to do to get there.” 

They Wait in the Dark is currently available to rent on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, and other streaming apps.  

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