Horror Business (DVD)
Reviewed by Debi Moore
Featuring Mark Borchardt, Ron Atkins, Davis Stagnari, John Goras
Directed by Chris Garetano
Distributed by Image Home Entertainment
"Let's buy a Target, destroy it, and put up a drive-in." So says David Stagnari, aka Slave, director of the mind-bending Catharsis and one of the stars of Chris Garetano's entertaining, enlightening, and occasionally exasperating (damn you Hollywood demons!) documentary about indie horror filmmaking, Horror Business. Let's just say that if you can't relate to the sentiment behind Slave's statement, then odds are you are reading the wrong website.
Filmed over the course of two years and finally being released on DVD following a successful run in the late 2005/early 2006 festival circuit, Horror Business details the trials and tribulations of the aforementioned Stagnari; his fellow filmmaker Mark Borchardt (best known for playing himself in 1999's highly praised American Movie and going back behind the camera for the first time in six years); the writing/acting/directing team of John Brodie and Ron Atkins (please, guys, if you're reading this, let me know how I can get a copy of The Sins of Government; I must witness the awful truth in its entirety); the multi-talented John Goras, who is helping keep the "art" in the horror artform with his animated skeletons and other creatures; and up-and-coming special effects man Tate Steinsiek, who has since received mucho praise for his work on Zombie Honeymoon and appears to be working steadily in the industry. The words and deeds of these six gentlemen are accentuated by pearls of wisdom regarding the "business" of the horror genre by the likes of Herschell Gordon Lewis, Sid Haig, Lloyd Kaufman, Fango's Tony Timpone, Joe Bob Briggs, and Satan Sideshow's Andy Gore. The director and stars of Zombie Honeymoon chime in with a few cents, too, as do Dave (The Dead Hate the Living) Parker; Atkins' wife, Jennifer; a few fans at various conventions, and Canadian director/actor Brian Singleton. And no, things aren't much better for the indie guys up in the Great North than they are for those who are struggling to get their projects off the ground here in the States. At the time the documentary was filmed, Brian had just moved back in with his folks in an attempt to get enough money together to film his next project.
Which, in a nutshell, is what Horror Business is all about: a passion for filmmaking -- specifically of the horror variety -- and laying everything on the line in order to fulfill a dream. But it's not just the filmmakers themselves who are working in the "horror business." It's also all of us who love the genre, and that's who this documentary was made for. Yes, we're a niche group, but Garetano understands and respects his audience just as much as he does his subjects. He filmed, directed, and edited this entire documentary himself -- a real one-man operation. No doubt that's how he was given such access and why these filmmakers were willing to open up to him so much although certainly they welcome any and all exposure that results from it; not a one of them seems to be a fool. On the contrary, they all are articulate, motivated, talented individuals who just need to find themselves in that elusive "right place at the right time" to make something happen. Garetano shows them warts and all, especially Atkins and Borchardt (who was almost always filmed in profile for some bizarre reason), but no one comes across in any sort of negative light. I didn't mind at all spending the time to get to know these guys. Above everything else, Horror Business is an often compelling look into the creative process that gives us a much more candid peek into the minds of filmmakers than the typical making-of or behind-the-scenes featurette tacked onto a DVD. These guys, and a diverse group they are, all spring from the same fertile ground -- childhood experiences that sparked a love of both horror and film. They are inspired and have some very lofty goals. Whether or not they can achieve them will be interesting to see.
Speaking of tacked on, what sort of extras have Garetano and Image provided? The DVD includes the Horror Business trailer; trailers for Catharsis and Goras' Chirpy; some artwork by Trevor Cook; and the 16mm student film "365 Ways to Cook Chicken," which Garetano shot in 1996 during the first semester of his first year in film school. It's not as bad as you might think but nothing spectacular either. It's four minutes of quirky, slapsticky fun wherein diners feast on a "big fucking head." I don't think I need to say much more. Lastly is the short documentary "The Escape of Horror Business", a 20-minute look at the path of Horror Business and a chance to meet Garetano. "Escape" dissects the film itself, shows what Garetano did to promote it and the fans' reactions, gives the parties involved a chance to pat him on the back a bit, and ends with a pep talk to stop dwelling in the past and instead surpass it. There's an underlying homage to The Texas Chain Saw Massacre that runs throughout the disc, and I couldn't help but wonder if one of the people I was watching is the next Tobe Hooper. Or perhaps has the next Blair Witch Project percolating inside his brain.
If it's true that all "filmmakers are dreamers and always will be," then Garetano is no doubt seeing a pretty big dream come true with the release of this DVD. Horror Business includes a brief statement from him (whether you watch it as an intro to the feature or not is your choice) explaining that he elected to retain the March 2005 cut of the film rather than spending more time to re-edit and update it; instead he is at work on a sequel, Son of Horror Business. He's moving on and moving up, and I'll be happy to go along for the ride. If you're a fan of guerilla horror filmmaking, you will be too.
"The Escape of Horror Business" featurette
365 Ways to Cook Chicken Garetano student film
3 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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