CHAMPAIGN — A haunted house movie that slowly and subtly moves toward a frightening finish makes its premiere Sunday.
So it's fitting that "House of Thaddeus" opens in an art house.
Two years in the making by local artists, "House of Thaddeus" has its first showing at 5 p.m. today at the Art Theater, 126 W. Church St., C. Doors open at 4:30.
The film runs 105 minutes and is recommended for mature audiences. Dressing up is optional, but encouraged, the creators say.
Cast members, crew members and invited guests will have free admission. Tickets for the general public will be $5. The film is scheduled to be released this fall on DVD and Blu-ray.
Director Mike Boedicker and lead actor William Kephart worked together on Boedicker's previous film, "Revolting."
For the female lead, they reached out to a familiar face: Joi Hoffsommer, a Station Theatre regular and longtime member of Parkland College's Theatre Department.
Kephart and Hoffsommer play a middle-aged couple who buy a beautiful but troubled house in "DeVille," which is actually Danville.
The Jewell House, a Vermilion County landmark, was in the earlier "Revolting," and its owner plays a small part as the agent who turns the house over to the couple.
They describe the house as one "which has seen happiness and horror, magic and madness. A house which attracts seekers and skeptics. A house which reflects people's hopes and fears, dreams and delusions."
As such, Boedicker says, the century-old house is a third major character in the film.
"We had this great house, and we were thinking what kind of story could we do using the house. We developed three or four story lines. We started talking about the haunted house genre," he said.
Most haunted house movies begin with a shocking or violent episode, but "House of Thaddeus" opens in innocence.
"We thought it would it be interesting to have the couple move in, and instead of affirming there are spirits, have it more ambiguous," Boedicker said. "People are coming on a tour, to a seance, and all are attracted to power they think the house has."
The wife welcomes the house's attractions, but the husband wants nothing to do with it, he said.
Hoffsommer said her first leading role in film was in stark contrast to her theater work.
"We usually did several takes. Mike was great; he'd let us say, 'I'd like to try that again,'" she said. "The camera can capture something really fresh; stage takes quite a lot of technique to make it seem fresh."
Kephart said Hoffsommer's work added to the quality of "House of Thaddeus."
"It was a real coup getting her onboard, and she delivered beyond our wildest dreams," he said. "I can't imagine anyone who would have committed so fully for such a long time.
"We shot some additional footage nearly a year after the main shooting wrapped, and she made herself available without question. The fact that she never ages also helped."