Unless otherwise noted in the post title, these are not
reviews, per se. They are articles for people who have already seen the film or read the book in question--meaning that there will be spoilers. If you're already familiar with the material being covered, or don't mind the plot being spoiled, please read on and leave a comment.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

[Movie Review] Fantasm: A Convention Documentary (2013)

Lifelong horror fan Kyle Kuchta attended his first horror convention at age fifteen.  Years later, he returned to the convention circuit with a camera to document the events, and attempt to capture the heart and the spirit of them.  Interviewing fans, stars, filmmakers and merchants alike, he often fails to portray the experience of attending, but it is, at least, an honorable attempt.  The problems with these sorts of documentaries, which rely primarily on “talking head” footage, is that all they do is talk—and it’s exceedingly difficult to capture an experience simply by talking about an experience.  That is something that a good documentary does, but a great documentary will somehow manage to show you.

Morgan Spurlock surely faced a similar challenge when putting together his COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE (2012).  Quality of that documentary aside, Spurlock knew that there is no universal experience when it comes to these sorts of things, and wisely chose a small handful of attendees, and followed them through their experiences.  It wasn’t a personal journey—at least not to the filmmaker—but it gave the documentary a narrative flow and helped to encapsulate something as large as the San Diego Comic-Con into digestible morsels.

Kuchta’s documentary, though, is a highly personal affair.  He goes in with something of a glassy-eyed innocence (which is honestly just a rather catty way of saying that he hasn't yet become jaded), and it shows in the final product.  All of the interviewees offer up sweetly sentimental accounts of the sense of community that is to be found at these conventions (one of the central themes to be found here), and while that’s surely true, hearing it repeatedly from the mouths of different folk didn’t do much in propelling the film to the next level.  The documentary followed no narrative structure whatsoever—there was no story to tell—it was just a series of people telling us why they like the very convention that they are currently attending.

All that being said, I didn’t wholly dislike the film, despite the fact that it comes across more like a na├»ve love letter than an actual documentary.  Kuchta’s innocence is refreshing, and it’s nice to see that the sense of community that it extolls still exists.  Spending any amount of time on the internet will have you cringing at the venom and bile espoused by fans, and it makes you wonder why said community tends to turn so villainous when they are protected by anonymity.  The vast majority of us horror fans have at one time or another felt that we didn’t fit in.  Reading some of these tweets, blogs or Facebook posts is enough to make you wonder why you should even bother to fit in.  But FANTASM is trying to tell us that we do fit in somewhere, and it is worth it. 

And as far as I’m concerned, that ain’t a half bad message.

FANTASM will be released on DVD November 11th, and is currently available for pre-order (with free autograph from Kutcha) at the film's StoreEnvy page by clicking HERE.

(Special thanks to Simply Legendary for the screener!)


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