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State Theatre inspires spooky film

The State Theater showed its share of scary films from 1927 through 1990 when it was an active cinema. Now the landmark Springfield building has a fright film legacy all its own.

“The State,” an independent horror/psychological thriller hybrid created by a Bluegill Films, a group of area filmmakers and actors, has its premiere at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Champion City Comic Con at Wittenberg.

Admission to the film is free with a paid admission to Comic Con, and the stars and crew will be at the screening. It’s just in time for Halloween as an alternative to remakes of classic horror films.

The story involves husband and wife paranormal investigators, or ghost hunters, mourning the loss of their daughter, who are drawn to the State in an effort to ease their pain. From there, things get creepy.

“It’s more ghost story than bloody,” said director Troy Berry. “We shot it for zero dollars, and it took two and a half years to edit. You can call it a labor of love.”

Berry, Ryan Wetz and James Straley are the three partners of Bluegill Films.

The story evolved during a cast event for a different project at the State. Larry Coressel of Springfield Stageworks, who also acts in the film, gave a tour of the then underused theater and the wheels turned in screenwriter Wetz’s mind.

Berry watched several films at the State when it was an active theater. But seeing what’s beneath it — a spooky basement — formed an appropriate setting for thrills and chills.

“The State” is the second feature Bluegill Films has shot. The first was a “Blair Witch Project”-like film called “Screamshare,” which hasn’t been released.

In another ironic bit of timing, almost like something out of the film, this is the second local project Berry and Straley, who plays a lead in “The State,” are in.

Their roles are reversed, as Straley is director and Berry one of the leads in Clark State’s production of “Next To Normal,” premiering next week at the Clark State Performing Arts Center.

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