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Film stills from They Wait in the Dark

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Local Talent Spotlight: A Chat with Filmmaker Patrick Rea

If you’re afraid of the dark, his latest film will not alleviate that fear

Article by Tiffany Killoren

Photography by Film stills by Hanuman Brown-Eagle.

Originally published in Northland City Lifestyle

Not much scares Patrick Rea. As an award-winning movie director/writer who specializes in suspense, that’s probably a good thing. A proud Northlander since 2013, Patrick has directed five feature-length films, four of which fall into the literal and figurative nailbiter genre (one of his films is actually titled Nailbiter). For those who fear a presence in the night that can’t be seen, his latest film, They Wait in the Dark might just be another reason to keep those lights on.

In 2020, the world had to adapt to a new day-to-day reality, and Patrick used this time to write the script for They Wait in the Dark, eventually shooting the film at sites in De Soto, Leavenworth, and Claycomo over the course of 12 days in 2021. The film features a young woman and her adopted son running from her abusive ex-girlfriend, only to find themselves hiding in an abandoned house that brings its own dark secrets, memories, and threats.

“Every ghost story has been done,” Patrick says. “I had to figure out how to go about this differently, so I combined a domestic thriller with a ghost story.”

This begs the question: If a haunted house is the only safe place, would you stay? Patrick addresses this by cleverly combining two fears in the film – one that accompanies a tangible threat and one that goes unseen. Which is more terrifying? If you ask Patrick, it’s the things you can’t see or explain that is most frightening, and he still holds the films Poltergeist and Paranormal Activity in high regard in terms of suspense. For him, it’s the sound in movies that can make all the difference, soft footsteps on the stairs sometimes adding a chill that a visual cannot. 

Tapping into the talent pool of Kansas City and its secluded Midwest locations, Patrick proves that Hollywood has nothing on us when it comes to movie making. They Wait in the Dark’s main character, Amy, is played by Sarah McGuire, who relocated to Kansas City when she attended college.

“I wrote the script for Sarah,” Patrick says. “I had done two short films with her and she’s so good.”

Laurie Catherine Winkel, also in the film’s cast, graduated from the University of Kansas and is well-known among the Kansas City and Atlanta film scenes.

Most of Patrick’s films have been shot either in or near the Kansas City area and it’s not just the lower cost that makes the Midwest an attractive location option. Not only can a local cast and crew return to their homes at the end of the day, but local businesses are open to onsite shoots because they don’t receive those types of requests every day. For his latest film, Patrick shot one scene at a diner in Claycomo.

“I went into the diner and just talked to them,” Patrick explains. “I got to know them. Everyone was really cool about it. It’s still exciting to make movies here.”

The house in They Wait in the Dark is itself a character in the movie, an old home outside of Topeka essentially untouched since 2005, complete with furnishings.

Together with his wife, Kristin, and daughters, Violet, 9, and Willow, 4, Patrick has established firm roots in the Kansas City area, but has made a name for himself that reaches far beyond the Midwest. Appearing at film festivals around the world, he has achieved a level of success in an industry known for rare success stories.

His latest recognition took him back home again. Patrick recently received the Distinguished Alumni Award from his high school in Schuyler, Nebraska, and admits to feeling a bit unworthy of such an award.

“There’s a little bit of imposter syndrome,” he says. “I mean, I’m not Janes Cameron.” Such distinction is all relative, however; there are many who would consider an IMBD page with five feature films quite an accomplishment. At the end of the day, Patrick is a natural storyteller who spends his life telling stories. There’s something to be said for that, even if those stories make you keep the lights on.

They Wait in the Dark has been accepted to Popcorn Frights on August 11-18th, where the film can be seen virtually with the price of admission. It was also accepted to FrightFest in London on August 25-29th and Horrorhound Film Festival in Ohio on September 9-11th. Patrick’s other films are available on a variety of streaming services and include: "I Am Lisa" (horror, filmed in Kansas City); "Belong To Us (family film, filmed in Kansas City); "Arbor Demon" (horror); and "Nailbiter" (horror).

  • Patrick Rea. Photo by Brad Austin
  • Patrick McGee
  • Film stills from They Wait in the Dark
  • Sarah McGuire in They Wait in the Dark
  • Laurie Winkel
  • Sarah McGuire
  • Patrick McGee
  • Laurie Winkel