Under the Scares – Review
I first met Steve Villeneuve on the Fangoria message boards many years ago when he was launching his first project Stories of a Gravedigger. I later met him at a Festival of Fear in Toronto, where I picked up his film. Villeneuve’s first feature was pretty damn good when compared to a lot of the other low budget productions I had been exposed to. Under the Scares (his second feature) is a documentary that in some ways chronicles a lot of what he experienced during the production, and the uphill battle to get it seen when completed. It doesn’t necessarily focus on Stories of a Gravedigger, but instead offers up the experiences of many low budget film makers struggling in a competitive field that has been blown open by the digital era.
Cheap scares. Extreme Gore. Loads of nudity. These have been the three staples of low budget independent horror films since the 60′s. But what’s a filmmaker to do when, thanks to technology, ANYONE can make a film these days? Under The Scares offers an inside look into the production and promotion of an independent, ultra low-budget horror film, while combining interviews and insights from some of the genre’s biggest legends – Lloyd Kaufman, Robert Kurtzman, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Frank Henenlotter, Gary Jones, and many many more. In addition to tips and tricks for emerging filmmakers, they offer their opinions on the genre (where it’s been and where it’s going) plus lots of intriguing personal anecdotes. The result is a compelling look into the world of horror films that will interest any movie enthusiast wanting to know more about what really goes on behind the scenes. Forget everything you’ve learned from the DVD extras of big Hollywood productions, the real truth lies, Under the Scares! (Official Description)
Under the Scares starts at the production level of film making. It compiles interview after interview explaining the process of creating something worth while. It points out the pitfalls in low budget film, and in some ways is a very cautionary commentary on what can make or break your career as an aspiring film maker. Although Under the Scares focuses primarily on the horror industry, a lot of the advice given can be carried through on all levels of low budget production. It’s an honest look at what to expect from this genre of film making, and even though there is conflicting advice between different people in the industry, all of the information is useful.
I have to hand it to Villeneuve. Although his documentary chronicles a lot of what he experienced during his time on Stories of a Gravedigger, he manages to avoid self promoting his own projects too much, focusing on what’s important. It would have been easy for him to draw heavily from his own canon, instead he brings in the staples of the industry and gives them good presence. He also brings in a lot of the lesser known talent, directors and actors you may have never heard of, who like him have been at this for over a decade, and offering up their experiences. There’s even extended interviews in the extra features with some of his top billed names like George A Romero, Herschell Gordon Lewis, and Debbie Rochon. In the end Steve uses his experiences as book ends to segments, explaining how his project related to the commentary, and where it finally ended up. There’s no blowing smoke up your ass. Villeneuve’s honest exposition of his experience is comforting on some levels and a little disheartening on others. If you don’t truly love what you’re doing, then there’s no point in doing it. The payoff comes from the experience, the heartache and the pride of a finished project…. it can’t be about making money. That’s what I’ve taken from this DVD.
If you’re an aspiring film maker, or love the low budget horror scene, Under the Scares is definitely worth grabbing. There’s enough important information to take from this to help get you started on the right foot. It doesn’t give you the tools to make a better picture, but it will lend you enough insight on what to expect from pursuing your dreams as an independent film maker.
I’m not going to rate this, as its not for everyone. Under the Scares is a competently made and interesting commentary on the world of low budget production. The DVD offers a nice package of extras including extended interviews, a bucket load of trailers, and a couple of shorts! You’re either into this kind of stuff or not. If you are, then it’s definitely worth picking up!