There’s a kind of rare documentary about a film that enhances and arguably eclipses its subject. “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse,” a behind the scenes look at the madness that forged the masterful “Apocalypse Now” was the primary example; until now.
“Horror Movie: A Low Budget Nightmare” is such a rare and wondrous exploration into the madness of independent filmmaking. We join Australian TV, actor/filmmaker Craig Anderson riding the hurricane of emotions, doubts, debts and downright weirdness bringing this premise to life. “Horror Movie” has you reaching to use overused clichés. It’s the kind of movie that one could easily convince me had been masterminded by an evil comedic genius.
The production of “Red Christmas” is where we set our scene, and you definitely don’t need to see “Red Christmas” prior to seeing “Horror Movie.” In fact it’s arguable that seeing “Horror Movie” first is preferable. Anderson, a horror movie aficionado cum filmmaker, manages to convince Hollywood veteran Dee Wallace (known best, much to her chagrin as the mum from “E.T.”) to play the lead in this altogether batty low budget horror film. The story imagines what it would be like if an aborted foetus survives and thrives to exact revenge on his family.
Director and producer Gary Doust was drawn to Anderson’s production to make a childhood dream come true. We watch Anderson conceive of an idea and cast off this production and all the while be desperately and drastically over his head. You dive headlong into this increasingly stressful exercise. Doust does a wonderful job of being both unobtrusive and essential to the production. You feel like Doust is a pressure valve for Anderson making himself known behind the lens in situations where you feel the uncontrollable urge to scream from your seat. Doust and editor Julie-Anne De Ruvo had the impossible task of assembling this goldmine. It’s just beat after beat of unbearable, in the best possible way.
Budgets out of control requiring inter family loans negotiated at Mum and Dad’s place by men in their thirties wearing pyjamas. Bryan Moses producer of “Red Christmas” is in the midst of a recollection interview that’s being intercut between a particularly stressful moment of international negotiation and his nose begins to bleed. When you should be empathising, you can’t help but shriek with the perfection of sheer luck to capture it. Rob Anderson, Craig’s Dad, is feeling like a real world character from a Two Ronnies sketch. When he’s not satisfied with merely being given chauffeur duties for Dee Wallace, he begins to pitch her business ideas on the long journey from the airport to the set. And if that weren’t enough, Rob convinces his son that a cameo of a cop coming to investigate the carnage at this secluded community. Gerard O’Dwyer, a down syndrome actor, who plays ‘Jerry’ in the film begins to coerce Doust to stop filming or “cut it Gary” when he’s binging on the crew’s catering snacks when he shouldn’t be..
While there’s a score of moments that are excruciatingly hilarious, it’s not all a bumbling mess. Anderson’s utterly ‘out there’ slasher movie paves the way for shining moments of aesthetic ingenuity. Doust is on the spot to capture Anderson and his team’s inventive composition, movement and use of colour. There are sweet moments where this, some would say foolishly, dedicated crew get brought into the warm embrace of this family affair. Hell when Elliot’s Mum from “E.T.” is happy to roll up her sleeves to help cook some homemade stroganoff it feels like a warm hug.
The wrestle when you talk about “Apocalypse Now” and “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” is which is ultimately better. Like the tide, with any given mood, fanatics could argue either side with equal passion. When you’re comparing “Horror Movie: A Low Budget Nightmare” and “Red Christmas” that never comes into your mind. A movie about a vengeful aborted foetus has given birth to one of the most incredible portraits of artistic struggle ever captured on screen. In true antipodean fashion, as we’re spiralling out of control we cannot help but take the piss. Take the piss out of ourselves, our family, our modest dreams. “Horror Movie: A Low Budget Nightmare” makes you feel like the drama is impossible, like the comedy is far too well conceived and timed to be REAL. “Horror Movie” is impossibly funny, because it’s true.
Director / Producer: GARY DOUST
Executive Producer: MEGAN McMURCHY
Editor: JULIE-ANNE DE RUVO
Composer: JOHN GRAY
STARRING: CRAIG ANDERSON
DEE WALLACE, GERARD O’DWYER, BRYAN MOSES, ROB, LYNN, TODD & ROBBIE ANDERSON & THE CAST AND CREW OF ‘RED CHRISTMAS’
BLAKE HOWARD IS A FILM CRITIC & THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS THE HOST OF THE ONE HEAT MINUTE PODCAST. BLAKE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.