Horror short The Springfield Three, prolific writer/director Samuel Gonzalez Jr.’s latest effort, is inspired by the true-life missing person case involving friends Suzanne Streeter and Stacy McCall, and Streeter’s mother, Sherrill Levitt, who went missing from Levitt’s Springfield, Missouri home on June 7, 1992. It should be noted that this is a fanciful narrative short and not a true-crime documentary. Gonzalez Jr. has crafted a chilling film with top-notch production values and winning performances from its three leads.
Ashlynn Yennie (The Human Centipede; Fear, Inc.) plays Suzanne, a high school senior whose mother Sherrill (Natalija Nogulich of Incarnate and The Guardian) wants to leave town on Ashlynn’s graduation day along with Suzanne’s friend Stacy (Gigi Gustin of Girls Just Wanna Have Blood and Fast and Fierce: Death Race) for safety’s sake because of Suzanne having to testify in court against her boyfriend. The trio’s car trip turns into a terrifying supernatural ordeal that is more than it initially seems.
Gonzalez Jr. concocts a nightmarish world that looks simultaneously slick and eerie. Symbolic deer and haunting roadside images share visual space with harsher, more realistic images of an intruder. Lucas Pitassi’s cinematography vividly captures the proceedings, with several shots inside the car that place viewers uncomfortably smack dab in the middle of the nail-biting action.
Although Gonzalez Jr. aims for fantasy rather than fact with his The Springfield Three, he deftly humanizes the characters and gives viewers realistic dramatic interpretations of family and friends at odds with one another. Suzanne and Stacy have had a falling out, with Stacy trying to patch things up on their graduation day. Sherrill is doing what she feels is best and safest for the three of them, though a rebellious Suzanne feels otherwise. All three actresses give terrific performances, with Yennie having the widest chance to stretch among the three as her Suzanne is put through the wringer but also given some amusing and tender moments, as well. Gustin also shines as a friend who takes a light-hearted perspective about needing to leave town and who truly cares for her friend despite their differences.
Taking a fright-film approach to a case where loved ones still grieve and search for those who have gone missing is a bold risk, but the short could bring new awareness to the case. The Springfield Three is a strong slice of fear-fare cinema that takes a risk and delivers both disturbing and thought-provoking moments.
The Springfield Three was selected for the 2020 edition of Crimson Screen Horror Film Fest, which is based in North Charleston, South Carolina. It won the fest’s Crimmy Award for Best Short Film. For more information including upcoming screenings, visit https://www.facebook.com/TheSpringfieldThree/(4 / 5)