Omaha director's horror movie to get Aksarben screenings

Tom Elkins, right, will be at Aksarben Cinema for three screenings of his film, “The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia.” The horror film is the Omahan's directing debut. He was editor of “The Haunting in Connecticut.”

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Omahan Tom Elkins is pumped. You can hear it over the phone all the way from Santa Monica, Calif.

He has a good reason. His directing debut, “The Haunting in Connecticut 2: Ghosts of Georgia,” will screen in his hometown this weekend at Omaha's Aksarben Cinema.

Elkins will be at the theater, 2110 S. 67th St., for screenings at midnight Thursday, 6 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday to introduce the movie and take audience questions.

“I couldn't be prouder to show this movie to a hometown crowd,” Elkins said just before flying home Tuesday for the screenings after working on the DVD version in California. “It will be nice to watch it on a big screen and know it's out.”

Known primarily as a film editor (his credits include “The Haunting in Connecticut”), Elkins said his directing debut was a long time coming. The new film is a companion piece, not a sequel, to the earlier title, he said.

As the movie opens in select cities across the country Friday, it will simultaneously be released to video-on-demand platforms such as Time Warner, Comcast and Cox Communications.

Elkins said the relatively new release model, known in the industry as Day & Date, is gaining popularity since it was successfully used for critically praised movies such as “Arbitrage,” starring Richard Gere, and “Margin Call,” starring Kevin Spacey.

Elkins said Day & Date cuts expense and risk for the studio and could be the wave of the future for movie distribution.

“You always hope for the wide release in 3,000 theaters,” he said. “But it's a changing industry, and it's my first film. Studios can't take the same risks they used to. The movie scored very high in audience screenings.”

Elkins signed on as director in early 2010, when the movie had a working title of “The Haunting in Georgia.” Shot in Louisiana, it's based on a true story about a family that moves into a house in the woods.

“The women in the family have this gift of sensing presences,” Elkins said. “The little girl is just becoming aware of this power, and as a result this whole history of the property starts to come forth.”

Chad Michael Murray (“One Tree Hill”) and Abigail Spencer (“Mad Men”) star as the parents, and Emily Lind (“Revenge”) plays their daughter. Katee Sackhoff (“Battlestar Galactica”) plays Spencer's free-spirited sister, and Oscar nominee Cicely Tyson (“Sounder”) also is in the cast.

“It's scary but not vicious,” Elkins said of the R-rated movie. “I'm proud that it's very story-based, and not about creating the most gratuitous trailer moments. And it's unabashedly sentimental, which is unusual for a horror film.”

Elkins' movie career began when, as a Godfather's Pizza employee in his native Minnesota, he made a spoof video about the chain's training procedures. Godfather's chief Herman Cain saw the video and hired Elkins in 1987 to make training films in Omaha.

In 1995, Elkins and his new wife, Omahan Suzy Dalton Elkins, moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of making movies. He learned editing under director Ron Howard's Oscar-winning team of Mike Hill, also from Omaha, and Dan Hanley, and Wes Craven's editor, Patrick Lussier.

The two moved back to Omaha in 2000 to raise their daughters, Samantha, 13, and Abby, 10. He sometimes edits film at home, sometimes commutes to movie jobs. Monday in Santa Monica, Elkins was finishing up commentary for the DVD of the new movie, to be released later.

“It was a blast,” he said. “I'm kind of forthcoming about how things evolved on the set. I don't gloss over anything.”

Elkins said he's looking forward to seeing Omaha friends at the screening, including some from his days with Godfather's, and his wife's friends from Marian High School and Creighton University.

“It's going to be neat this weekend,” he said. “I started my career in Omaha, so it's a special time to have the movie shown there.”

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