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Arts & Life

"13 Midnights" Is A Kansas City Film That Will Frighten Nationally

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Steve Scearcy
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13 Midnights
Nancy Marcy is one of the local actors featured in "13 Midnights."

Kansas City filmmaker Steve Scearcy's new film is available on Amazon Prime in time for the scariest season.

Several years ago, Steve Scearcy had a lunch meeting with three psychologists. The storyteller was gathering material for a project that had nothing to do with the supernatural, but somehow the conversation took a turn in that direction.

“One of the psychologists turned to the other psychologist and said, ‘Well, are you going to tell him what happened to us?’” Scearcy says. “The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I couldn’t push the record button quick enough.”

What came of that conversation was 13 Midnights, a film now available on Amazon Prime, which Scearcy wrote, directed, produced, and narrated. The 13 stories all draw from actual experiences of people he met around the country, though many took place within about 200 miles of Kansas City.

He used local actors and shot at locations around the metro, like the Martin City Coffee Shop, the barn at the Wornall Majors House Museums, and even in the dining room of his own home in Kansas City.

Scearcy collected the stories with the idea that they might go into a book of supernatural, creepy encounters had by regular folks. However, after reviewing the material, he was sure some of the effect would be lost in writing.

“There was always for me that eerie moment when someone finally said, ‘Okay, I’m going to tell you my story,’ and the room seemed to get a little smaller, and the light seemed to fade, and they started telling me their story, and it was chilling, it was creepy.”

He wanted the viewer to feel just what he did across those kitchen and diner tables. That is, he knew he didn’t want to cut to cheesy B-roll reenactments of events.

Local actor Nancy Marcy’s story is the first of the 13. Most of her decades’ worth of acting credits are for stage productions, though she did appear in Robert Altman’s Kansas City. She says Scearcy instructed her not to memorize what would have been a 15-minute monologue.

Instead, she was to “get the gist of it,” she says. “He wanted it sort of improvised just to keep it natural. Those are real people, and those are their stories, and we really want to do them justice.”

Marcy’s story was about a woman who takes her grandchildren to the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs. They go on the famous ghost tour and, Marcy says teasingly, “things happened.” And when the woman goes home “things continue to happen.”

Scearcy says the effect of Marcy’s storytelling was completely authentic.

“It was like sitting across the table from your grandma or your next-door neighbor,” he says. “There was this authenticity to it that just made you uneasy.”

The cumulative effect of watching these stories one after the other, he says, is that the world just doesn’t look the same afterwards. So many of the stories are rooted in the everyday—a piano that sits in a living room or that trip with the grandkids.

Ultimately, Scearcy says, he wanted to recreate the feeling of sitting around a campfire telling ghost stories, that ring of darkness where the firelight stops and drops off into black. The way the light moves. The focus on the speaker.

“When your heart’s beating fast and you’re looking around, you’re alive. And it just affirms the fact that you’re still alive, you’ve got to keep your eyes open, but you’re still alive,” he says.

Especially this year, when so much has been taken away, Scearcy hopes he can give his viewers that little rush.

He says, “We like to think we’re saving Halloween.”

Steve Scearcy spoke to Brian Ellison on a recent episode of KCUR's Up To Date. You can listen to the entire conversation here.

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