It Came From Connecticut: The Making of Root of All Evil (2004)
Starring the cast & crew of Trees & The Root of All Evil
Directed by Michael Pleckaitis
Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing the double feature DVD of a movie I had already seen and enjoyed, and its sequel that I enjoyed even more so. If you listened to the Dinner For Fiends audio roundtable about Christmas-themed horror films that I took part in, then you heard me sing the praises of the Jaws spoof Trees and its more fantastical sequel The Root of All Evil. Both are seriously tongue-in-cheek productions along the lines of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, but in this case the objects of unexpected terror are man-eating trees. While Trees was an ultra low budget Jaws spoof about a Great White Pine terrorizing the woods of a small community, The Root of All Evil was more its own creature, an almost completely original film with a few elements of Jaws 2 tossed it, that looked and felt like a far more professional production, even boasting some CGI effects work that probably cost more than the entire budget of the first film. I often get the sense that I'm one of the only people to have actually seen either of these films and that's a pity considering they are definitely potential cult classics that deserve a better audience than what they've gotten.
A few weeks after my Dread Central review of Brain Damage Films' double DVD release of Trees/The Root of All Evil, I received an email from the films' director and co-writer, Michael Pleckaitis, asking me if I'd be willing to screen a copy of It Came From Connecticut: The Making of The Root of All Evil, a 33-minute documentary on the making of the movie. I said sure. One thing then led to another and suddenly it's nearly a year before it finally arrives and a few more weeks before I finally get around to reviewing it.
Now from what Pleckaitis has told me, they're hoping to submit It Came From Connecticut... to some independent film festivals as a potential documentary short subject. After watching it I'm just not sure how much appeal it will to the uninitiated. It may suffice as a nice infomercial for The Root of All Evil and perhaps even serve as a source of inspiration for other do-it-yourself indie filmmakers, but this "making of..." documentary isn't nearly independent enough from the movie itself to fully endorse on its own. I mean I was ten minutes in and realized there had yet to be a decent explanation as to what The Root of all Evil was all about. That's perfectly fine if you've already seen the movie but not if you haven't. It really feels more like an extended DVD extra.
To be honest, given the nature of what it is I'm reviewing, there really isn't a whole heck of a lot to say about it since, again, it really does help to have actually seen the movie. You mostly have behind-the-scenes footage and the usual suspects for this sort of doc (actors, director, writers, producers, computer & make-up effects people) telling of how they came up with ideas, put the project together, went about making it, the camaraderie and ribs on the set, trial and error, etc. The most interesting aspect of this - something that should tell you what a homemade production the making of Trees was - is just how huge a deal it was for them to hire and have on the set an actual professional lighting guy. Hearing from them and the lighting guy make for the most interesting aspect of this short.
As the title of the documentary suggests, The Root of All Evil was truly a homegrown labor of love, and in this case that home was Connecticut. Freezing temperatures during the location shooting is shown to be the film's greatest nemesis. I must admit a bit of surprise hearing these hometown boys talk of being almost taken aback by the winter weather, something I'd have thought they'd have been somewhat used to and prepared for.
Now no disrespect to the cast and crew or actor Ron Palillo, but their giddy excitement over having "Horshack" in their movie some twenty-seven odd years removed from the cancellation of "Welcome Back, Kotter" almost seems a bit comical in and of itself. For horror fans too young to remember that sitcom, Palillo also played Tommy Jarvis' friend who gets killed by Jason at the very beginning of Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives. Ring a bell? To Palillo's credit, he does come across in the documentary as a genuinely decent and down-to-earth fellow, shown giving advice to the film's less experienced actors and even pulling a funny rib on the crew.
The doc ends with footage of the film's world premiere at a local old fashioned movie palace nicely renovated for their full scale, Hollywood-style premiere. I bet most low budget indie filmmakers would kill to have this sort of world premiere for their films.
I guessing that since Brain Damage Films released Trees and The Root of All Evil as a double feature DVD they just didn't have room to include It Came From Connecticut: The Making of The Root of All Evil as a bonus feature. A pity.
As I said earlier, I don't know how much worth this short documentary has one its own, but I do wish Michael Pleckaitis and company good luck on any future filmmaking endeavors, preferably the third installment in the franchise teased at the end of The Root of All Evil.
As for the rest of you, I urge those in the mood for some light-hearted horror comedy to seek out a DVD of Trees/The Root of All Evil. They won't light the world on fire but they definitely provide some good natured entertainment for a few hours.
2 1/2 out of 5
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