Once upon a time there was a young man who dreamt of making a horror movie. But not just any horror movie would suffice, no. This young man wanted to make an 80’s-style slasher film. A genre of movie that swept the United States and created franchises upon which empires were built. Movies like: Halloween, Friday the 13th, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. These bloody piles of celluloid made legends out of their directors, and kick started the careers of many prominent actors in the 80s.
But how can an unknown director make their dreams come true in the 21st century media free-for-all? How does any independent artist seek out funding now that the Top Dogs have handed the decision-making reigns over to metric-based Business Intelligence? Cary Hill took his project to the Interwebs, and successfully funded a portion of the film’s budget through crowdfuding.
Crowdfunding first appeared in 2006, and since then has become the preferred business model of most independent, artistic endeavors. But what happens after crowdfunding has produced a final product? After the backers get their promised goodies, what then? I have not seen many marketing plans included in the specs or budgets of crowdfunded projects.
Several years ago I came across a crowdfunded movie project via social media that piqued my interest because it was a horror movie- specifically it presented itself as an 80’s-style slasher film. As someone who grew up during the rise and fall of what is now considered the heyday of this genre, I have an affinity for the cheesy slasher flicks of yore. Add in the bonus of the social media angle, and I paid attention. I will admit that I did not back the film, largely because I believe I missed the deadline. One downside to social media is what I call the SQUIRREL effect. Attention spans are short.
After the initial post-production campaign was over there was some media regarding the film’s release, and then nothing. It went into the limbo, like many independent films do until a distributor decides to pick it up. When I next saw the movie pop into the social media feeds, a year had passed, and I had forgotten about it. Again, attention spans are short, but I remembered the little film. All independent artists are up against the machinations of multinational corporations. It is very easy for them to get lost in the media blitz.
I am proud to say that I purchased the movie, pre-ordered it, and received it the day before its actual release date. In an age when most users expect all content to be free, including anything that they graciously write a review about, I wanted a genuine consumer experience. I sat down to watch the film with no expectations, other than value for my money.
Scream Park: Death is the New Attraction!
Scream Park is an obvious homage to the 80’s slasher genre, as suggested in all of its advertising. It is part horror movie, part Scooby Doo! Van included. All of the horror movie archetypes are present and accounted for, and the script is amusing enough. In fact, a bad script and bad acting were essential to the era. The cast are mostly from the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area with the appropriate references to the work George Romero scattered throughout the film. The project lauded the addition of two major names, both linked to the horror genre. Kevin ‘Ogre’ Ogilvie and Doug Bradley.
Ogilvie, who is somewhat new to the field of acting, is obviously in his element with horror gore. As a founding member of the seminal industrial band Skinny Puppy, who are as well known for their visually disturbing, theatrical performances, as they are their music and messages, Ogilvie has mastered the art of fusing elements of horror, both real and imagined, along with politics into their stage performances, which leave a lasting impression. He has definitely found another expressive outlet for his morbidity with acting.
Doug Bradley is an instantly recognizable face in the horror genre. Horror movie royalty is a more accurate description. Most notably, he gave a human face to Clive Barker’s Lead Cenobite Pinhead in the Hellraiser movie series. Bradley has portrayed Pinhead in eight Hellraiser films, joining the ranks of the elite few who have accomplished this. And in doing so has secured his place as an iconic figurehead to horror nerds.
The movie centers on the closing night of a horror-themed amusement park, Fright Land. As the gates close for the final time, the employees decide to do what youngsters do best in horror movies: drink, have sex, and die. I believe that The Rules of horror movies, as detailed in Wes Craven’s Scream, were closely adhered to. The use of prosthetic and practical special effects throughout gives the movie the authenticity of an 80’s slasher flick. Watching a pair of Backwoods Yokels terrorize and mutilate teens was an amusing way to spend 82 minutes, and reminded me a bit of the spoof on slasher films Student Bodies (1981.)
Ogilvie’s performance as the masked, backwoods killer Iggy evokes images of Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, the hillbillies in Deliverance, with a touch of Jack Torrance thrown in for fun. He does all of the talking while Ogre, his hooded killing counterpart, silently stalks. Bradley’s appearance as the park’s owner, Mr. Hyde, is brief, but well cast. His appearance includes a lament configuration box, which one would expect to see sitting on the desk of a madman as he details his maniacal plans to revive interest in the dying theme park.
Overall it is exactly what it set out to be, and thus fulfilled its mission as stated from the beginning. The backers received the agreed upon loot, and those who purchase or stream the movie will get their money’s worth. I bought it mostly because it was about the price of a cup of coffee and more economical than a movie ticket. I would rather support independent artists than a conglomerate coffee house or Borg-Nation movie venue.
Cary Hill set out with the goal to make his first feature film in May of 2011. The Internet helped make it a reality. There is much discussion about the future of entertainment and the arts due to the lack of financial backing from big business. Vanity publishing has become the norm. Why should film making be any different? This film is an example of the evolution of the business model and how it has empowered consumers. But with great power comes great responsibility, and we as consumers have been given power to decide exactly what projects we fund and give our support to. If we refuse to pay for entertainment, then we must not complain when it is utter shit.
But for every positive there must be a negative. Crowfunding has a darker side to it and it involves failure. What happens when the project you collected money for fails? Is it outright fraud or more a matter of business naiveté? Washington State’s Attorney General recently filed a consumer protection lawsuit against one Kickstarter project that failed to produce a product. This lawsuit will likely set a precedent that could ultimately kill, or at the very least stifle, the innovation of crowdfunding. Or perhaps this lawsuit is a sign that the golden age of crowdfunding has come and gone. Perhaps Big Business is not happy with the little guy getting a piece of the pie; Big Brother wants to keep control of what media we are allowed to ingest. Perhaps. Only time will tell. I say we should fight the rat bastards as much as we can, and our greatest weapon will continue to be our cash.
Until next time, kiddies…
dixē.flatlin3 is a pistol-packing mama from the American Wild West. Having survived more travails than Christian in the Pilgrim’s Progress, she decided to get mean and take it to the world. Honing her acid-sharp wit on MySpace, Facebook, and later Twitter, she became known for compacting volumes worth of vitriolic social commentary into one-liners, which she would throw off with the abandon of a Vegas stripper. She is a long-time contributor to Paraphilia Magazine and also runs its Twitter account. With Dixē Ex Machina she shares her insights into the vagaries of social media, technology, business, and 21st century communications: the good points, the bad points, and suppositions as to where it all might be headed.