There aren’t too many sweet-natured Lovecraftian musicals, but here’s one that hits the spot from directors Ryan Smith (who also wrote) and Tyler Foreman. It’s mostly about sibling rivalry, with good-natured schlub cameraman Geoff Brewer (Graham Weldin) constantly being bumped out of the way by his aggressive, insincere, self-interested on-camera brother Rich (Andy Phinney). When Rich is killed in an axe accident which is sort of Geoff’s fault, the guilt-stricken, panicking survivor hauls the corpse to a local religious oddball community whose patriarch Clyde (Westan McNew) claims to be able to raise the dead using bits and pieces of occult apparel and the Necronomicon. Geoff’s best friend Colin (Cameron Fischer) – of the oft-repeated ‘haven’t you seen any horror movies?’ and a song about all the bad things which happened in Stephen King stories – advises against going down this route, but the pasty-faced Rich who rises from the dead turns out initially to be a much nicer guy than he was before … and even encourages Geoff to get together with intern Jill (Aline O’Neill), who turns out to have vital plot information.
Naturally, this idyll doesn’t last long … and Rich starts chewing on people, acting on evil impulse, creating zombie cultists and opening a swirling sparkly CGI void to summon Yog-Sothoth tentacles to end the world. One reason it’s so charming is that everything is small-scale and low-key … catchy songs and community theatre dances, wry jokes that aren’t milked (like the visitor leery of drinking literal Kool-Aid when offered it by the cult), underwhelming CGI gore or cosmic effects and a sense that the minor personal problems of these foul-ups have more weight than the fate of the universe. Phinney, who has a Marty Feldman look and a Chevy Chase attitude, is low-key hilarious whether dead or alive and jokes are nicely spread around the cast.
It may make one or two too many nods to The Evil Dead or Hellraiser, but they’re mostly sprung without too much fan snark – and a conversation about what to call the risen dead if you don’t want to go with the z-word makes for an amusing trip through zombie euphemisms from film and TV. Being a musical, it has a brighter, peppier look than most backwoods horrors – which makes for a pleasing change. NB: it’s Eldritch USA in the opening credits and Eldritch, USA in the end crawl and on the posters.