Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mulliga's Haunted Halloween 2012 - Horror Documentary Double Feature

Another Halloween, another season of supernatural spooks and scares. As always, Shangrila Towers celebrates October with a series of ghoulish posts. Rather than review horror movies tonight, let's look at two documentaries about horror movies. After all, there's nothing more frightening than the truth...

Best Worst Movie

It's fun to snicker at awful horror flicks, but have you ever wondered where they come from?

At the end of the day, there are hundreds of people who write, direct, produce, and perform in horror movies, and there's gotta be at least some who care about putting out a good product. If you genuinely tried to create a good horror film, but failed so miserably that people consider your work one of the most laughably bad movies of all time, what would it do to your career? Your psyche?

"Best Worst Movie" attempts to answer these questions, at least with respect to the cast and crew of "Troll 2":

Directed by Michael Stephenson (the child actor in "Troll 2"), ""Best Worst Movie" follows one of Stephenson's "Troll 2" costars, George Hardy (a dentist by trade with no acting experience, Hardy auditioned for the movie expecting to be cast as an extra...he was instead assigned a starring role as the family patriarch). In the documentary, Hardy travels around the country to figure out why "Troll 2" has become a camp classic, attending midnight screenings, horror conventions, and generally laughing at his awful performance with fans.

There's a dark edge to "Best Worst Movie," since most of the members of the cast faded into obscurity. Several of them (particularly the actress who played the mother, Margo Prey) fell on hard times, both physically and mentally, and their segments border on the tragic. Even Hardy himself questions whether he's wasted his life if the one thing he's famous for is a bad movie. Still, at the end, the documentary is upbeat - if people can enjoy a movie that's so absolutely wretched, how bad can the world really be?

Rating: 8/10

I Am Nancy

To the casual horror fan, Wes Craven's "Nightmare on Elm Street" series is all about Freddy Krueger - the iconic, wisecracking, malicious bogeyman that kills you in your dreams. To a lot of hardcore ANoES fans, though, the heart and soul of the movies is Nancy Thompson:

"I Am Nancy" is documentary that celebrates Nancy, the girl-next-door played by Heather Langenkamp in three of the original "Elm Street" movies. Unlike her disposable compatriots, Nancy has the wits and courage to face Freddy on his own terms, both in the world of nightmares and our world. She doesn't always come out on top (these are horror movies, after all), but it's her willingness to fight that has gained her appreciation among ANoES cognoscenti.

The nuts and bolts of the documentary are simple - Heather Langenkamp travels the horror convention circuit, searching for reasons why Freddy became popular and Nancy did not. She's an engaging host, but considering the already metafictional nature of the last proper Freddy flick ("Wes Craven's New Nightmare"), "I Am Nancy" spends a bit too much time riffing on the meaning of the movies and how Nancy's can-do character fits into pop culture (there's already plenty of scholarship about how Nancy fits in the "final girl" canon - do we need yet another interview from Wes Craven and Robert Englund?). Overall, though, the documentary moves at a good clip, and there's some legitimately inspirational bits, like Heather's neat conversation with a fan who got over a crushing injury through the help of Nancy.

Rating: 7/10


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