MAY 14, 2009
I have a tough time buying the excuse “We didn’t have enough money” when it comes to shitty independent horror movies. Because while I don’t doubt that they didn’t have a blank check to work with, it seems to suggest that they were being forced to make a movie in the first place. Look, if nothing else, this site proves that there are plenty of horror movies to go around, so if you can’t afford to make a movie at least LOOK good on basic technical levels, then don’t bother making it until you can. There is no hole your movie needs to fill. Such is a lesson I would like to bestow on Sean Gallimore, the director, writer, star, choreographer, producer, editor, camera operator and sound effects guru of Vampire Hunter, which single-handedly reduces my expectation of what a movie on the Decrepit Crypt set can look like.
Since there’s no point rambling on about the dumb plot, horrid pace, and complete lack of actors who seem the slightest bit interested in what they are doing (since they are very likely friends of Gallimore who begged them to wake up early on a weekend to be in his vampire movie), I will just offer some advice to Mr. Gallimore and any other filmmaker attempting to make their own epic without any resources whatsoever or the humor to suggest that they were at least having fun doing it (like Suburban Sasquatch).
1. Use appropriate sets. Why all of these vampires seem to congregate around what appears to be a high school art room is beyond me, but it’s a completely ridiculous image, made worse by the fact that about 1/3 of the movie takes place there. Vampires should hang out in dark, kind of creepy areas, not brightly lit galleries with a painting of the Jack of Spades on the wall. Also, maybe it was supposed to be a funny character quirk, but when our title character is supposed to be a badass and he has a room full of action figures and Star Wars posters, I don’t see anything but a nerdy dude trying to look like a badass in a goofy vampire movie.
2. Hire an actor for the lead. It’s nice that you can wear so many hats, but maybe focusing a bit more on those behind the scenes roles will result in a better movie, while an actual actor handles the performance on which the entire film rests. Nearly every city has a community theatre group that will almost definitely have an age-appropriate actor who will be willing to donate his time in exchange for a lead role to put on his reel.
3. Get a boom mic. Luckily the movie isn’t too talky, but all of the audio in the film sounds like it was recorded through a wall, because the in-camera mic wasn’t very good. Since this was a camcorder-shot movie (it was filmed in 1995 and not completed until 2004 - because the time for Vampire Hunter had finally come, I guess), the mic was only designed to pick up the sounds of your children’s delight as they open their birthday gifts, or merely distinguish which of the two people in a homemade sex tape was moaning and grunting. Even the thing I bought for 10 bucks at Best Buy to record our audio commentaries produces a crisper sound than this film does; imagine what 50 or maybe 100 bucks can get you!
4. Learn how to import/export your footage properly. There is no reason why the film should have a horizontal blur at the bottom of the screen, a vertical pink bar on the right, and several bars of video noise running throughout the film. I’ve used a camcorder to make a movie myself, and it looked a fuck of a lot better when I put it on a VHS tape to show my friends (which is where the film’s lifeline ended - I wouldn’t dare think to shop it out to a distribution company and ultimately charge people 40 cents a piece to see it). If your footage looked like that from the start, then you A. need a new camera and B. should be focusing on that instead of making your movie (which presumably was made to show off your skills), as no one will take you seriously when the first 5 minutes contain just about every mark of an amateur production in the book (and a few new ones).
5. I’ve said this one a lot, but it bears repeating: learn the 180 rule. It’s OK to break it in certain circumstances, but two guys talking in their cars is not one of them. It’s a pretty easy rule to follow. When filming a conversation, think about how it will be edited together. If one guy is looking toward the right side of the screen, then the other guy should be looking toward the left.
6. Use less wipes. It’s clear that you are a Star Wars fan, and maybe a simple push would have been OK. An animated wipe that could best be described as “Paint Splatter Wipe” has no business in a humorless vampire film.
7. After your first day of filming, re-watch the movies that clearly inspired you (in this case, Blade seems a likely candidate). Compare the footage, and try to list at least 3 positive things your movie offers that the big movie did not. If it does not, then by all means shoot your movie for the learning experience, but for the love of Christ, don’t put it out on the market for people to pay for. Assuming my advice is not taken, what good did it do Gallimore to shop this movie around? The film’s IMDb page carries no user comments, no message board postings, no external reviews, and only 11 votes (half of which are apparently from the film’s production as they give it a 10), so clearly it hasn’t even found an audience wide enough for someone to bother writing “Worst movie ever!” on the message board. So it’s theoretically possible that the only person beyond your own cast/crew has seen the movie is me, and I am almost annoyed to having had to waste a daily entry on it (I was stuck at work and had nothing else but the Decrepit disc, and it was the shorter of the two movies on the disc that I hadn’t seen yet). No one wins.
What say you?