When we think of filmmakers, we typically picture a director -- someone whose job it is to translate a story into moving pictures by composing shots and manipulating actors. The role of a documentary filmmaker can be much different. Typically, they have no control over what they are shooting. If done in a true verite style, the director simply points the camera and documents a person or an event. It's in the editing room where the documentarian becomes a filmmaker, as they use the footage which they've shot to tell a story. The ups and downs of this practice become evident in Christopher P Garetano's documentary Horror Business.
With Horror Business, Garetano has decided to take a look inside the world of independent, low-budget horror films. His primary subjects are five directors, Mark Borchardt (Coven), Ron Atkins (Necromaniac), David Stagnari (Catharsis), John Goras (Chirpy), and Brian Singleton (Forest of the Dead), as well as special effects make-up artist Tate Steinsiek (Zombie Honeymoon). Garetano traveled across the United States, from Long Island to Las Vegas to Wisconsin, interviewing the subjects and showing them at work. The participants talk about their passion for horror films and the reality of making independent films. Garetano also features comments from Fangoria magazine editor Tony Timpone, actor Sid Haig, Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman, gore legend Herschell Gordon Lewis, and critic Joe Bob Briggs.
Garetano has certainly picked an interesting topic for Horror Business. Thanks to other documentaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes, we've gotten to know a lot about A-list horror directors, such as Wes Craven and John Carpenter, but what about the little guy? Garetano clearly did his homework in picking a group of directors who are dedicated to their craft, but have yet to tap into the mainstream
Ironically, Horror Business exhibits some of the issues which make so many people dismiss low-budget films. The movie simply doesn't flow. Clearly, Garetano has amasses a generous amount of footage, both through interviews and on-set visits. But, he has edited this footage together in a way which simply doesn't feel the least bit cohesive. The editing style reminded me of how Michael Moore does his documentaries, as Horror Business jumps back and forth between subjects (the people) and subjects (topics). But, where Moore makes smooth transitions, allowing his narration to guide the audience, Garetano will simply switch topics mid-stream and the audience is forced to catch up. Are we talking about casting? Oh, no wait, now we're talking about censorship. The movie also limits the amount of time spent introducing each of its subjects and then it cuts back and forth between the filmmakers far too often. Even when two speakers are giving similar opinions, a sudden cut from one to another can be jarring. If the movie had spent more time with each speaker allowing us to get to know them better, this would have helped...
...Or would it. I've been a horror fan my entire life and to the best of my knowledge, I like people who make horror movies, but none of the participants in Horror Business came across as the least bit appealing. One can't help but wonder if this is how they truly are or if this is a result of Garetano's editing. Most of the people in the movie come across as angry, misanthropic, dark, depressed, and disenfranchised. We know that all horror filmmakers aren't like this, so why is this group so glum? The only one who comes across as halfway lucid is Mark Borchardt, but this may be because he was already a subject in the documentary American Movie. In this time following the killings at Virginia Tech, the American public is poised to fear/scrutinize those who write violent and disturbing things. But, look at someone like Quentin Tarantino, a man who has written some of the most violent films of the last 15 years. And yet, would you describe him as dark or scary? No. If anything, I would say that he's goofy. Horror film fans have a bad enough reputation and this movie does nothing to help them.
Horror Business stalks DVD courtesy of Image Entertainment. The movie has been letterboxed at 1.78:1, but the transfer is not anamorphic. The movie was apparently shot on digital video and the image shows the pros and cons of that medium. The image is sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. Colors are fine and flesh-tones look realistic. There is some video noise at times, and artifacting is evident in some shots. Rapid motions with the camera result in mild pixelation.
The Horror Business DVD has a PCM stereo track. This track offers dialogue which is clear for the most part, but it is somewhat muffled at times. The dynamic range is suspect here, as the music is much louder than anything else in the movie.
The Horror Business DVD contains a few extras. There is a TRAILER for the movie, as well as TRAILERS for David Stagnari's Catharsis and John Goras' Chirpy. There is a STILL GALLERY featuring art by Horror Business poster artist Trevor Cook. Garetano's short film "365 Ways to Cook Chicken" (4 minutes) is offered here, and it can be viewed with or without an intro by the director. The less said about this short, the better. "The Escape of Horror Business" (20 minutes) is a making of featurette in which Garetano describes the making of the film. Ironically, he's much more interesting than the directors featured in the movie.
With Horror Business, Christopher P. Garetano wanted to paint a portrait of what it's like to be an independent horror filmmaker in America today. The result may scare off many potential artists. If that's not the case, they should definitely pay attention to the scene in which Joe Bob Briggs describes the 3 mistakes which first-time directors most commonly make. It's an hilarious moment and the best part of the movie.