Sep 30 2013
While some people hate finding out the stories behind movies because they feel that kills some of the illusion of what makes film such a great medium, I think that it is sometimes fun to peel back the curtain and reveal what is really going on. The best part is, if someone doesn’t want to know, they can simply look away when the curtain gets pulled. Some people would prefer thinking that OZ is magic rather than knowing it is just a guy behind a curtain, but I, for one, adore the medium of film, and anytime I can find out more about what makes the medium work, what goes into it, and what the final result is, I tend to have even more respect for it as a result.
With that in mind, I hand picked these five behind-the-scenes horror documentaries because they show us just how many things need to line up for a film to work (or not work), and in one extreme example which I will start this list with, shows us that making the horror film can be more horrifying than the film itself. If you are a fan of the genre like I am, this movies fall into the “must see” category, and will only make you respect the final product that much more.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre: A Family Portrait
This opening shot sort of sums up how everyone felt making this movie.
When I first sat down to watch Texas Chainsaw Massacre when I was fifteen, I had no idea what to expect. By the time the film was finished, I had a new respect for horror, and a new high water mark for what horror films could do. There is just a sense of dread and filth that permeates every frame of that film, and come to find out, making the film was a truly scarring experience for some of the people involved. I would have never known that, were it not for this film, and that is exactly why I am kickstarting this list with it.
Twenty hour days in 100 degree heat. The use of real animal bones and carcasses on the set, which made the whole place smell like rot and death. Actors having to wear the same, unwashed clothes, day after day for continuity sake, the list goes on and on. You will watch this documentary, and by the time you are done, and you have heard everyone’s piece, it will hit you. That of dementia and madness that permeates every frame is actually real. Actor Edwin Neal, who played the creepy ass hitchhiker, actually said, and I kid you not, that making Texas Chainsaw was worse than his stint fighting the Vietnam war. How fucked up is that?
That is only the tip of the iceberg, as you will see when you watch A Family Portrait.
We all need to admit that The Shining was the first time any of us saw glimpses of the “furry” fetish.
First off, Room 237 is not so much a behind-the-scenes documentary as much as it is a fan film about different theories about the film. There actually IS a Shining behind-the-scenes documentary that is amazing, and was predominantly made using footage Stanley Kubrick’s own daughter shot while behind the scenes on the amazing film, but I really wanted to take a moment to shine (lame, I know) a light on Room 237.
As many of you know, Room 237 is a film about theories. A film that is about finding out what another film is about. It is very meta, and as much as some of the theories are just insane, there are a few that will cause you to look at this classic horror film differently. Room 237 also offers some AMAZING insight about this film that you would never find anywhere else. The idea that the architecture was filmed in such a way that a lot of the places weren’t actually “possible”. The idea that stairways went nowhere, and hallways changed floors, and roomed changed sequences. These are all things many of us would not know without this film. The Shining was, in every way, a haunted film, and Room 237 shows us that Kubrick did all of that on purpose. MAYBE.
My favorite thing to learn was the scene about the VW Beetles Kubrick used, and how its color was symbolically different from Stephen King’s because King and Kubrick were in such opposition about the movie. Later on in the film, we actually see that Kubrick crushes the car from the book, as a mighty fuck you to King. Brilliant stuff, and while the moon landing stuff may be REALLY out there, you watch the movie, and you wonder. You really do. Directors as good as Kubrick DO NOT make continuity errors, so really, what was Kubrick trying to say with The Shining? The movie won’t answer that, but it will have a fun time of adding to the mystery and legend that is The Shining.
Full Tilt Boogie: The Making of From Dusk Till Dawn
Being a fly on the wall on the From Dusk Till Dawn set is a gift from the cinematic heavens.
What I LOVE about this movie is, you see Quentin Tarantino BEFORE he was the Quentin Tarantino we all know now. This movie hails from a time BEFORE George Clooney and Tarantino (or Robert Rodriguez) were all huge names, and that reflects itself as you watch the film. For me, Fult Tilt Boogie was the behind-the-scenes that most showed me that people making a movie are no different from you and me. Some people on set wanna hook up. Craft services is like high school lunch. George Clooney is a prankster. It is nothing we haven’t seen before, but you have never seen massive superstars this raw and down to earth. You watch this, and between Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, George Clooney, and Quentin Tarantino, this is a boiling pot of super stars and what we would think would be massive egos, yet you see backstage, and it is just like a bunch of people, making a (badass) film. What is shocking about it is just how normal everything and everyone is.
Also, it is a blast to see those odd moments when Clooney and Tarantino are just hamming it up and having fun. Outside of that, you see every aspects of film making from a behind-the-scenes perspective, and it definitely is eye-opening for just how normal the whole process, and everyone involved, seems. This documentary is the film that convinced me I WILL be making films one day, I just haven’t figured out on what level yet.
The Beast Within: Making of Alien
There are just so many iconic shots and designs for Alien, it is mind-blowing, still, to this day.
I really hope there is no person alive who doesn’t understand the significance that Alien had on horror, science fiction, and film making in general.
It was a movie that is still very much ripped off, to this day, but with good reason. Alien was fucking amazing, and getting the chance to spend three hours behind-the-scenes, seeing how it all came together, makes it even more amazing. This was film making in a time before CG. People can say what they want, but film making used to be insanely challenging. Everything from gore effects to the creature itself were all done organically, and for that reason alone, this film stands as a testimony to the true art that film making used to be.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not undermining modern film makers or the ease of use, but I am old-school, and very few films can touch on Ridley Scott’s orignal vision for Alien, so gettingto go back and time pull back the curtain gives me a huge geek boner. Plus, we get see how different the movie COULD have been.
Yeah, um, this doesn’t work, so I am glad they took it out.
Best Worst Movie
Listen, just because this is list about behind-the-scenes horror documentaries, doesn’t mean all the movies are good.
Best Worst Movie is a movie about the insane cult of Troll 2 fans. For those blissfully unaware, Troll 2 is, by some standards, the worst movie ever made. It made no sense, had no consistent tone or story, and the acting was so awful, yet it somehow, inexplicably, becomes awesome. Really, it is IMPOSSIBLE to see Troll 2 and not be blown away at how over-the-top awful, every single second of it is. Best Worst Movie not only follows the cult of fans who have made this movie uber-famous over the years, but it also talks to the director and actors and explains to us just how this movie came to be, what the actors were thinking at the time, and what the director was trying to do.
In a word, no one on that set had any fucking idea what they were doing.
The director didn’t speak a word of English (no, I am not kidding), and honestly, to this day, no one still know what happened, but they created a perfect storm of awesome corn-filled crap, and this movie embraces that before one big flush.
You know what I say to that?
Alright kids, go read my site. Daddy needs to pay rent.
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