Beast Wishes (2012)
Directed by Trish Geiger and Frank Deitz
To make a great documentary, the first thing you need is an interesting subject. Whether that be the inflammatory issues approached by Michael Moore or the intriguing looks at fast food and other unique subjects by Morgan Spurlock, the path to a great documentary begins with an intriguing subject, and in Beast Wishes the filmmakers bring us into the lives of two of the most beloved figures in horror, Bob and Kathy Burns.
For those unfamiliar with the couple, married now for over 50 years, Bob and Kathy are the curators of what may very well be the largest museum of movie monster memorabilia, endearingly referred to as "Bob's Basement," in their Burbank, California home. Beast Wishes tells the story of how Bob and Kathy came become the keepers of this treasure trove of movie history, how they helped to launch the careers of some legendary horror figures, and how they have shared their collection of artifacts and love of horror... and helped to grow movie monster fandom from the ground up.
Beast Wishes describes how originally studios treated film props as trash, and Bob himself relays the story of how he acquired his first piece of memorabilia, a cane head from The Wolf Man in 1941. That first piece would grow into a collection that includes a 'spaceship' used in the filming of Plan 9 From Outer Space, Lily Munster's dress, a huge werewolf from An American Werewolf in London, and even the armature used to build the ape in the original King Kong. And as impressive as this collection is, what is truly great is how they use it. Beast Wishes shows how the couple share their museum with others by giving tours and visits, and they remark how children get so inspired by the visits they often go home and begin experimenting with their own movie monster magic.
Another thing that goes into a great documentary is having standout experts to share their knowledge of your subject. Beast Wishes has that in spades. None other than the best of the best in Hollywood monster-making have wonderful relationships with Bob and Kathy Burns and were more than happy to share stories about their experiences with the couple. Horror icons like John Landis, Joe Dante, Rick Baker, and Greg Nicotero are just a few of the outstanding legends who can't say enough good things about the first couple of fandom and what they contribute to the world of horror.
The film goes on to talk about other notable accomplishments of Bob and Kathy Burns, such as their incredibly impressive annual Halloween show, which is worked on by some of the biggest names in the horror industry. For example, talking about the year the Burnses did a Halloween show based on The Exorcist and Rick Baker himself played the demon. It also details Bob's affinity for gorilla suits and his beloved Major Mars character.
Beast Wishes is an excellent viewing experience. You can really get the sense of what fantastic people Bob and Kathy Burns are from watching this documentary. The sheer love, respect, and adoration this couple receives from everyone around them is a testament to what they've given to monster movies, horror, and fandom. Bob and Kathy have influenced the horror the genre we love in immeasurable ways, and a lot of the hands-on things we get to enjoy today like horror conventions, publications, blogs, etc., can be traced back, at least in part, to Bob's Basement and the wonderful experiences fans had visiting that one-of-a-kind place. The influence, love of genre ,and undying good nature of the couple make this documentary one that you cannot help but enjoy... while smiling through the whole thing.
4 out of 5