The world of grassroots horror is full of obsessives who will do whatever it takes to make their micro-budgeted epics. As far from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood as you’re likely to get, directors Paul Hunt and Julie Kauffmann follow a handful of creatives for whom an almost complete lack of funds fuels a drive and imagination to get things done their way.
At this point, there’s a need on my part for full disclosure – plus that genuine shock provided by a “Holy shit, I know that bloke!” moment as someone from your real life appears on screen – regarding this documentary, which does briefly feature filmmaker and Celluloid Screams festival supremo Rob Nevitt showing up in one of early the talking head segments. As much as I love Rob and Celluloid Screams this does not mean The Brilliant Terror automatically gets five stars.
Much of The Brilliant Terror follows Mike Lombardo who films his horror flicks in small town America, working a day job at a pizza restaurant to finance his real passion. That’s not to say shooting a zero-budget genre pic is ever going to be a walk in the park and even those folks with a seemingly unending supply of love for the process are going to have that love severely tested on a regular basis.
There are glimpses of other titles Mike has worked upon but we’re here to see what’s going on in The Stall, which marks a more serious effort than the comedy horror fare on which he’s cut his teeth. This is not someone who’s graduated from film school, this is a prime example of having enthusiasm for your projects, reading up on your subject, learning on the job and, above all, believing in yourself.
It’s not just Mike though. There’s an army of folks out there doing exactly the same thing, bringing their own individual spin to the genre and, to paraphrase a quote you’ll find within, with the advent of the internet, it’s possible to annoy people across the globe via instant distribution. This is more indie than indie.
It’s pleasing that the documentary takes the workmanlike approach of its subjects and doesn’t even try to paint a glossy picture of the constant struggle endured by these hardy souls to get their projects beamed into the eager eyes of the horror community. That’s not to say there are issues – even when your film is made for peanuts, there’s always someone out there ready to send a death threat.
Doom and gloom are largely kept at bay, however. There’s an amusing anecdote about the perils of including a werewolf in your story, especially when the bargain basement costume looks like it will disintegrate in a light breeze. Special effects frequently turn out to anything but special and in the cases of those which cost a relative fortune, both director and viewer will have everything crossed hoping it looks a million dollars – or at least the three hundred bucks the production had to shell out.
To say too much more about this would be to ruin this lovely snapshot which is a testament to the indefatigable spirit of ordinary people with extraordinary dreams. It’s a culture which is a pleasingly broad church and the affection bestowed upon it by Hunt and Kauffmann is plain to see. There are contributions from fans and even a psychological slant provided by a researcher into the effects of horror but the main focus, quite rightly, is on the filmmakers and a supremely likeable bunch they are too.
Ultimately, the litmus test for this kind of documentary such as this is: Do I want to check the films out from the clips shown? Hell, yes. It’s one thing to present a bunch of genial folks trying to get their weird movies made but if those weird movies look like they’re going to suck then the overall effect is one of sympathy for the little guy but little else. Not so here. These projects can’t hide behind multi-million dollar CGI and hype and they look all the better for it. My list of horror films to see just got longer.
Read our Five FrightFest Facts with Mike Lombardo indie horror filmmaker and feature subject of The Brilliant Terror HERE