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Creep Behind the Camera, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Since it's about a terrible film, this is a bit of an improvement."
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2014 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: In real life, there's often a very thin line between the horrible and the ridiculous, and "The Creep Behind the Camera" posits this as being especially true for Art Nelson, director of disastrous monster movie "The Creeping Terror". And while there's a good film to be made about the man and the making of his movie, this one is not exactly it; it's as disorganized and two-faced as its subject, except it's seemingly that way on purpose.

A.J. "Art" Nelson (Josh Phillips), who like to call himself Vic Savage, among other things, was trouble from the start, spending most of his Connecticut youth in juvie. He had a certain amount of charm, enough to seduce Lois Wiseman (Jodi Lynn Thomas) and move to Los Angeles to break into the movie business. An inveterate hustler, Nelson somehow manages to get a script and funding for what he says will be the biggest monster movie ever, although it may be difficult to find time to shoot it amid the other women, drugs, and violent tendencies.

Nelson was a man of extreme volatility, and writer/director Pete Schuermann takes his cue for the movie's tone from that, with broadly comedic scenes packed with hammy acting sitting right next to intensely threatening ones. Schuermann also intersperses talking-head interviews that might have come from a documentary about the film, along with recreations of the original conception of the story. There are moments that reference how The Creeping Horror was infamously narrated rather than having a conventional soundtrack. It's a bizarre combination of being played straight and tongue-in-cheek, meta and conventional.

That might work if the film was snappy about it, but the pacing is a real mess. The interviews don't add enough to the movie to make up for how redundant they often are when the subjects are often referencing things that have just been shown or will be played out within minutes, making the movie rather longer than it really has material for. The story often jumps back and forth along the timeline in a manner that is needlessly confusing; it's very difficult to keep things like how Art's and Lois's marriage intersected with the shooting of the movie straight. Characters and subplots from the head of a prostitution ring who lived with the Nelsons to Charles Freakin' Manson are introduced and dropped in scattershot fashion, anecdotes that don't progress like a story.

Given that approach, it's not surprising that Josh Phillips is all over the map as Art/Vic. At times, it's easy to appreciate his hammy performance akin to Jim Carrey when he's been wound up and pointed in the right direction; it's manic, funny, and sometimes has a certain edge to it that impresses. Other times, it's overdone and not far enough from the comedic scenes for the guy to be taken seriously as a real person or threat. It's a valiant effort, but doesn't always stretch far enough.

Sad, because it seems to be dropped in the middle of resources that Nelson could only dream of. This is a spiffy-looking period piece with a pretty good soundtrack, and sets and locations that are far more convincing than the ones that the writer constantly bemoans. A number of good scenes are peppered throughout, and the soundtrack is an enjoyable pastiche of monster-movie scores.

It just doesn't fit together. Maybe a trip to the editing room to get it in a more conventional order, or to keep the documentary, narrative, and self-parody elements from competing, would help. As it is, unfortunately, is an interesting story with even more interesting pieces that doesn't add up to what it should.

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originally posted: 08/02/14 04:13:58
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2014 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/13/14 Anna Nelson The story for the movie came from the book " Hollywood Con Man " By Lois A. Wiseman. 4 stars
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