HORROR MOVIE: A LOW BUDGET NIGHTMARE (Gary Doust, 2017)
Queens Museum Block 3
Flushing Meadows Corona Park, New York City Building
Sunday, August 5, $10, 12 noon
Festival continues through August 12
“The only thing I ever wanted to do was make a movie, and somewhere along the line I got confused and made television. Now I’m thirty-eight, and I’m old, and parts of my life have just fallen by the wayside,” a distraught Craig Anderson says at the beginning of the terrific documentary Horror Movie – A Low Budget Nightmare. “What I don’t want to be is the guy who dies not having done what they should have done. So, I’m gonna make a movie,” he adds, tearing up. His determination to make a feature-length motion picture is documented in all its gory guts and glory by award-winning director and producer Gary Doust, who captures intimate and revealing footage of one man trying to live out his dream against seemingly insurmountable odds. Anderson, an Australian television regular behind and in front of the camera, spent two years polishing the script for Red Christmas, which he explains is “about an aborted foetus that survives its abortion, grows up, and kills its family.” Doust shows the somewhat jolly, extremely self-deprecating, apparently very single Anderson sleeping on the floor of a warehouse, trying to get more money out of his brother, sneaking around at night doing questionable location scouting, and failing to fill out all the proper union paperwork that would allow his otherwise ready, willing, and able star, horror movie fixture and Daytime Emmy nominee Dee Wallace — who’s had major roles in E.T. the Extraterrestrial, Cujo, The Howling, and the original The Hills Have Eyes as well as such other fright flicks as Alligator 2: The Mutation, The Lords of Salem, and Apparitional — to come to Australia and act in the movie. Anderson’s crew consists primarily of friends and relatives, very few of whom have any experience whatsoever doing the jobs they’ve been hired for, including Bryan Moses as first assistant director, Douglas James Burgdorff as cinematographer, and his father, Rob Anderson, as the sheriff in the movie. Craig has also set up quite a schedule, planning to shoot 336 scenes in 16 days in order to stay on budget and allow him to edit and finish the film in time to submit to festivals. But as problems increase, Anderson is inordinately troubled as he sees his deepest desire possibly fade away forever.
Horror Movie – A Low Budget Nightmare is not just about one man attempting to find out whether he’s Steven Spielberg or Ed Wood Jr. It’s about any person chasing their dreams, seeking to get past catastrophe after catastrophe to achieve their goals, no matter how ridiculous or crazy they might seem. We root for Anderson, both a mensch and a schlemiel, to succeed because it is like rooting for ourselves; if he can make it, then we can too, or at least give it a legitimate shot. Watching Anderson interact with Wallace and O’Dwyer in particular is utterly cathartic while also being uncomfortable enough that we feel his trepidation and self-doubt as we continue to cheer him on to gain more knowledge and confidence in the process. Fan favorite Wallace brings respect and dignity to the set, challenging Anderson to do his best and not embarrass himself in front of a genre star. Doust (Making Venus, Blue Zoo) and editor Julie-Anne de Ruvo expertly guide us through Anderson’s follies and foibles, making the film a kind of procedural thriller, while composer John Gray ably jumps around multiple genres, including paying homage to John Carpenter (as does Anderson on one of his T-shirts). At its heart, the documentary is supremely enjoyable because Anderson is such a pathetic yet likable doofus of a guy, a man who is desperate to accomplish this one major thing in his life before he dies, even though he is only thirty-eight, and it’s almost impossible for everyone not to relate to him in one way or another while also feeling empathy and compassion for his endless, charming ineptness. Horror Movie – A Low Budget Nightmare is screening August 5 at the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema and will be preceded by Josephine Massarella’s seven-minute experimental Canadian short 165708, featuring a score by Graham Stewart. The festival continues at the Queens Museum and the United Artists Midway on Queens Boulevard through August 12.