Thursday, August 31, 2017

THE CREEP BEHIND THE CAMERA (2014) (Synapse Blu-ray Review)


Label: Synapse Films: 
Release Date: September 12th, 2017
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 110 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Pete Schuermann
Cast: Josh Phillips, Jodi Lynn Thomas, Bill LeVasseur

Pete Schuermann's The Creep Behind the Camera (2014) is a docudrama about the making of the low-budget slice of drive-in schlock The Creeping Terror (1964), a really awful movie about a teen-eating pile of carpets, directed by Vic Savage (aka A.J. Nelson), played in the movie by Josh Phillips. Savage is a straight-up scumbag huckster who conned a few men into funding and working on what he called "the biggest best monster movie ever", but what has actually come to be regarded as one of the most inept sci-fi movies ever assembled, this is the story of how it all happened. 

Originally director Pete Schuermann had planned for a more traditional doc styled film, he interviewed some cast and crew but began to realize that there was no behind-the-scenes footage to go along with the talking heads, and what he was finding out was so strange and deranged he switched gears and decided for a docu-drama approach. The story is told through re-enactments of the shockingly true events of this bad movie masterpiece-of-shit, with interviews from Savage's real life wife  Lois Wideman, played in the movie by Jodi Lynn Thomas (TV's Preacher), actor/producer William Thourly (played by Bill LaVasseur), Oscar winning special effects man Richard Edlund (Star Wars), who created the title credit sequence, screenwriter Allan Silliphant (director of the 3D porn movie The Stewardesses), and actor Byrd Holland, as well as talking head commentary from Ain't It Cool News' Harry Knowles and brothers Harry and Michael Medved of the Golden Turkey Awards, all chiming in with love/hate for this bad b-movie, condemning the man behind the camera, the titular creep. 

Josh Phillips is utterly fantastic as the depraved and deranged director, a man with no morals, a wife beater and drug abuser who dabbled in kiddie porn and statutory rape among other unsavory adventures. However, the real-life Savage and Phillips playing him muster some skin-crawling charm when called upon, this guy conned seemingly sensible people to fund and help create his movie, managing to get each of the actors to pay out of their own pocket to appear in his alien-monster movie. The guy was absolutely the worst sort of person, and the real-life Thourly at one point caps off the movie with a brief bit on how Hollywood attracts all the wrong people, and Savage was truly the wrong sort of creep. 

The movie has a weird tone, part documentary and part seedy re-enactment, it's going for comical satire, but WAY dark, this one plumbs the depths of what a scumbag this guy was, regularly cheating on and beating his long suffering wife, filming kiddie porn while his kids play outside, drugging his actors, and stalking Hollywood elite like Lucille Ball, he was a seriously fucked-up guy. Add to that little nuggets like the fact that the movie was largely filmed at Spahn Ranch with the help of cult-leader Charles Manson!

The movie can feel off-kilter at times because of the splicing of the interviews into the re-enactment, but I didn't find it too jarring. I also liked that there's some animation showing what screenwriter Allan Silliphant really had in mind with the original script, a story that was to be shot in lovely Lake Tahoe, but instead was shot around a mud puddle, and you can hear his disappointment every time he brings it up - which is often.

The cast of the docudrama stuff is uniformly very good, Philips as the maniacal and reprehensible Vic Savage, has a twisted Bill Paxton quality about him, like a drugged up version of Chet from Weird science crossed with Johnny Knoxville.  Jody Lynn Thomas as his long suffering wife is ever less than sympathetic, it was great to see her older self in the interviews, just to know there was life after Vic Savage, her last encounter with him being nearly raped by his syphilis-riddled dick, as shown in the film.     

I've often thought while watching bad movies, usually on one of those 50-pack Mill Creek budget collections, that the making of such awful movies must be, more often than not, more intriguing than the movies that ended up at the drive-in, and this slice of real-life movie making proved me right, this is right up there with Tim Burton's Ed Wood, only way darker and a lot less fun. Ed Wood was a likable misfit, as least as portrayed in Burton's movie, but Savage is more akin to a serial rapist, a real bad guy, but it makes for an enthralling and skin crawling movie, made all the worse because it really happened,but with a little bit of cinematic artistic allowance. 

Audio/Video: Pete Schuermann's The Creep Behind the Camera (2014) arrives on Blu-ray from Synapse Films, presented in 1.78:1 1080p HD widescreen and looks solid as you would expect from a recent digital production shot on RED cameras,  everything is vibrant and razor sharp. Audio on the disc comes by way of an English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, everything in nicely balanced and spread out, the jazzy score from John Schuermann sounds wonderful, too. Optional English subtitles are included. 

Onto the extra we get more than a few, we get a ton! For starters we get a bonus feature - the actual Creeping Terror! Advertised as a new 2K scan of original vault elements, I am assuming a decent looking theatrical print was used, and it is the best we've seen this space-turd look on home video ever, which is awesome. This is the cleanest and best looking version I've ever watched, it still has plenty of blemished but the contrast looks good, and we get a lossless DTS-HD MA Mono audio track with optional subtitles!  

Then we have a commentary for the the docu-drama from Director Pete Schuermann, Producer Nancy Theken and Stars Josh Phillips and Jodi Lynn Thomas, which I haven't gotten around to yet - after watching all the video extras I felt rather steeped in the film already. There's a cool making of featurette and even a how-to-make your carpet monster feature which surely puts more care into the re-creation of the pile-of-carpets creature than the actual monster we see in the movie, of that I have no doubt.

Director Pete Schuermann shows up in two more brief extras, one detailing the horror homages that can be found in the movie, including a nod to The Abominable Dr. Phibes, and another that goes into the details of filming Savage's death scene and burial. Actor Byrd Holland and writer Allan Silliphant have a brief chat together, Holland asks Silliphant that if his better known writer brother had actually seen The Creeping Terror would he have disowned him?

We also get 12-min of deleted scenes, an alternate ending and a Screamfest Black Carpet Q/A with Frank Conniff, in which the director discusses some alleged kiddie porn aspects of Vic Savage's career, plus theatrical for the docu-drama and a promotional trailer for The Creeping Terror! 

Blu-ray Special Features: 
- All-New 2K Scan of the Original Horror Classic, The Creeping Terror (Blu-ray Exclusive)(Full Frame 1.33:1) HD 
- Audio Commentary with Director Pete Schuermann, Producer Nancy Theken and Stars Josh Phillips and Jodi Lynn Thomas
- The Making of The Creep Behind the Camera (26 min) HD 
- How to Build a Carpet Monster (28 min) HD 
- Breaking Down Art’s Death Scene (7 min) HD 
- Monster Movie Homages ( 1 min) HD 
- “One Mick to Another” with Byrd Holland and Allan Silliphant (5 min) HD 
- Deleted Scenes (12 min) HD 
- Alternate Ending (2 min) HD 
- Screamfest Black Carpet Q/A with Frank Conniff (9 min) HD 
- The Creep Behind the Camera – Original Theatrical Trailer (3 min) HD 
- The Creeping Terror – Screamfest Promotional Trailer (4 min) HD 
- Newly Translated Removable SDH English Subtitles

If you love bad movies, if you love good movies about bad movies, then you need The Creep Behind the Camera in your life, this is a weird and wildly dark docu-drama about a rather nasty man who made a rather shabby sci-fi drive-in flick. It has since has gone onto it's own infamous notoriety as one of the worst movies of all-time, thanks in large part to a '93 episode of MST3K, joining the ranks of Troll 2, Manos: The Hands of Fate, Plan 9 from Outer Space and any of Michael Bay's brain-dead Transformers movies. As a nifty bonus you get the absolute best presentation of The Creeping Terror to date on home video!