If you like truth in advertising, then you’re going to love the title of this week’s film screening on TVS: The Amateur Monster Movie (2011). It certainly is amateur, and it is indeed a movie (if only in the strictest technical sense). The only thing wrong with the title is the word ‘monster’ because there’s more than one! That’s right, this is both a zombie movie AND a werewolf movie! Now that’s real value for money! It’s the first feature film starring, written, directed, produced, catered and edited by twenty-two-year-old Milwaukeean Jozef Kyle Richards – presumably because no one else would. The title tells you right away that it’s going to be both campy and goofy (along with the other five dwarfs) and played strictly for laughs.
Populated exclusively by stereotypes, The Amateur Monster Movie is actually a parody of low-budget splatter movies, and the intentionally bad acting occasionally reaches levels that make you wonder if they just used the first take, or kept shooting until they got it that wrong. Now that’s my kind of film! Literally. I’ve been in dozens of them. Behold, be bemused and befuddled beyond belief as a bunch of zombies, a werewolf and a pair of topless girls assault a group of survivors on Cadaverous Island, in the best unprofessional creature feature you’re likely to read about this week. The Amateur Monster Movie is a parody of parodies, poking fun at failed attempts at humour more than horror, two degrees of mockery removed from the original earnest monster movie.
Very post-modern indeed (meta-horror-comedy is an extremely tough thing to pull-off) but the dialogue is sharp and the humour ranges from sophomoric to moronic or, as I like to call it, sophomoronic, while avoiding the obvious gross-out elements – apologies to all you gore-hounds out there. The Amateur Monster Movie is clearly made by fans but, for once, that doesn’t negatively affect the film. They’re not all actors by trade, but they seem to understand why they’re there, resulting in performances ranging from appropriate to actually funny, especially from the movie’s lead Chris Ouchie (with a name like that, perhaps he should have become a doctor – or a stuntman – I’ll bet he’s never heard that one before!). There are some real actors to balance out the inexperienced cast, such as Charles Ramsay, veteran of 160 films, stage plays and television shows but, in The Amateur Monster Movie, he appears as Mayor Kimball.
Charlie is definitely a working actor, chalking up over 1300 performances as a clown – not including this film – and makes live appearances in full costume as Elmo, Spongebob and, regrettably, Barney The Dinosaur. The stereotypical Irish cop Riley McFinnigan is played by Rex Sikes. Normally he works behind camera as producer, consultant or assistant director, and in his spare time Rex publishes Movie Beat in an attempt to demystify the process by providing insider secrets and advice for filmmakers (I therefore assume he was on vacation while making this film). The Guru is played by Bruce Spielbauer, who has been acting since he was fourteen years old, and his credits include lots of supporting roles in low-budget movies like Body In A Dumpster (2008), Dark Nemesis (2011), Frankenstein Day Of The Beast (2011) and Qwerty (2012), and as an extra in big-budget movies like The Babe (1992), Mo’ Money (1992), Rapid Fire (1992), The Fugitive (1993), US Marshals (1998) and The Dark Knight (2008).
The most successful name attached to this week’s film is Mark Borchardt, seen near the beginning as Mister Englan. At the age of fourteen, Mark bought an old super-8 camera and decided to make a short horror film called Coven (2000). He spent the next three and a half years writing, shooting and editing one of the most infamously troublesome films ever. It was never finished but, in an ironic reversal of fortune, his full-length documentary about the making of Coven, entitled American Movie (1999), won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and was picked up by Sony Classics for distribution. Since then Mark has made appearances on David Letterman and in several movies including The One (2001) with Jet Li and The Tunnel (2001) with my old friend and Troma producer Lloyd Kaufman.
The best way to get killed in most horror movies is to smoke dope or get naked. It’s a moral message that says ’bad things will happen to bad people’ which allows them to put the bad people in there in the first place. Instead, The Amateur Monster Movie reverses this rule and features a drug fiend (director Richards as Johnny Mason) who actually moves the plot forward in a significant way. It also pays tribute by naming characters after zombie directors like George Romero, Lucio Fulci and Amando De Ossorio. This is truly an admirable first attempt by Richards, who shows a surprising amount of wit and insight for such a ridiculously over-the-top fear-fest, and I sincerely look forward to seeing more from him in the future. Naturally, this type of movie doesn’t speak to everyone but I would suggest that if my review has piqued your interest, you should pick up the DVD over at the King’s Tower Productions website found at http://www.spadeheartclub.com and support independent cinema. If your interest remains unpiqued, just keep it to yourself, will you? I need readers to return to this very spot in seven days so I may bewilder them again with another amazing oddity on the best website with the worst films ever…the Sydney Arts Guide! Toodles!