I had the chance to check out two new documentaries at this year’s Frightening Ass Film Fest. For starters, let me first explain briefly what Frightening Ass Film Fest is. In its 10th year, FAFF is a two day mini-festival presented by Chattanooga Film Festival around the Halloween holiday each year. This year’s event functions as a fundraiser with all proceeds benefitting the staging of the 2021 Chattanooga Film Festival. The virtual event was fantastic and the improvements made in the streaming platform since the 2020 Chattanooga Film Festival were quite noticeable. The event was phenomenal and kudos are deserved to all involved with FAFF 2020.
With this out of the way, let’s dive into the films. I kicked off my festival experience with two documentaries: Ruben Pla’s The Horror Crowd and Steve Villeneuve’s Hail to the Deadites.
The Horror Crowd
Known mostly as an actor, Ruben Pla has dabbled in creating horror shorts and with this documentary has entered the feature length game. In this case, he’s palling around with his Hollywood horror buddies and just picking their brains about what it’s like to be part of that crowd. The aptly named The Horror Crowd is a documentary about a circle of friends and hangarounds in the horror scene that live in the Hollywood area. It includes folks like Lin Shaye, Greg Grunberg, Ernest Dickerson, Darren Lynn Bousman, Oren Peli, Mike Mendez, and several other familiar faces.
While the discussions are fun and its great to see some of these faces on screen, the documentary lacks any central theme or thesis. This, unfortunately, makes it feel like a special feature on a Blu-ray or something of the sort, rather than an actual documentary. In other words, it can be enjoyable, but I’d struggle to make the claim that it’s really a movie at all.
Hail to the Deadites
Unlike Ruben Pla, Steve Villanueve spends most of his time behind the camera and it shows. With experience directing, producing, writing, and editing, this documentary has a clear focus and a solid structure. However, it’s clearly a very niche topic – thus, this documentary has a very specific audience. If you aren’t a diehard Evil Dead fan, this documentary probably isn’t for you.
For those of us that aren’t primitive screwheads, however, this is a pretty fun time. The film is a straightforward look at the conventions, culture, and fandom that surround the Evil Dead films, comic books, and other media. What it lacks in unique or artistic flourishes as a film, it makes up for with the quirky fans on screen and the competence of the film’s storytelling style. Of these two documentaries, it was the much better film… just be sure you’re part of the very specific target audience, as this one is only for real fans.
Check out more about Chattanooga Film Fest and their array of fun events such as the Frightening Ass Film Fest at chattfilmfest.org.