Sunday, April 12, 2009

In Praise of Darren Bousman

I don't really know Darren.  I've been in the same room as he has many times, I've watched movies with him, but we've never really spoken with each other.  Funny how these things work.

When I first heard that Darren was making a sci-fi/horror rock opera, I said "What?" and followed that up with a blank stare.  Now, that's not exactly the career move you usually see from a director whose last three films have grossed well, let's just say oodles of money.  Usually at this point in someone's career, they go big studio Hollywood in a big way.  Generally speaking, the money is just too much to resist.  But no -- Darren Bousman decided his next picture would be his passion project, and an ambitious one at that.  

I began to hear news about Repo.  Bill Moseley had been cast.  An actor from Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be playing the lead.  And Paris Hilton would be acting in it along with Ogre from Skinny Puppy.  All of these things struck me as truly eccentric, albeit creative, choices.  And I kept thinking to myself, "Good for Darren -- go for it man, go for it!"  I even heard a rumor that he was even putting in some of his own money to get the project off the ground.  This, my dear blog readers, defines "balls."  

What I heard next was that they were shooting in Canada and that Joe Bishara, my good friend and composer on both Autopsy and Night of the Demons, would be producing the soundtrack.  All very exciting.

Months later, Repo was done.  The trailer hit the net, and everybody seemed primed for a big theatrical release.  However, this was not to be the case.  For reasons unknown to me, the movie would be going direct to DVD.  I'm sure this news broke Darren's heart.  He took about as many chances as a filmmaker can take, and his reward was, well, not what he expected.  

So what did he do?  Crawl into his bedroom and cry?  Talk about how the studio had quote-unquote "fucked" him?  Bemoaned and cursed Hollywood and the motion picture industry in general?  That's probably what I would have done.  

No -- Darren decided to put the movie in theaters himself, and travel around the country on the Repo Road Tour providing the fans (and by this point, there were many of them) with a true chance to see the movie as it was meant to be.  The next thing you know, people were singing along, dressing in costumes, and making each Repo screening an event.

This is punk fucking rock.  He didn't roll over and die -- he did it himself.  Fuck yeah.  Years ago when I sang for a punk band (we didn't get signed to a label), we put the records out ourselves, sold them at shows, gave them away and just generally tried to get them out there the best we could.  This is what Darren did on a much bigger level.  These things generally don't happen in filmmaking.  You do what the studio wants, and you move on to your next job.

Darren Bousman deserves much praise.  The man is stubborn, bullheaded and as I said before, has a huge pair of balls (probably made of titanium).

By the way, what did I think of Repo?  I had mixed feelings.  I loved the idea of it, I thought the cinematography and set design looked great, and it had a nice energy about it.  But I have to admit the story lost me a few times.  I found the mythology to be a bit convoluted and confusing.  (After an organ is repossessed, does it get put into someone else?)  I tend to be more of a straight punk rock/metal guy, so some of the songs weren't to my taste.  

But one man's opinion doesn't matter -- the important thing is, Darren Bousman did the right thing, and it should be a lesson to us all.  Let's not let the powers that be determine our own self-worth -- we can, if we try, get our films out there, whether they're multi-million dollar epics or shot-on-handheld video camera zombedies (comedy/zombie movies).  I think all horror fans and filmmakers should keep this in mind.  If a movie isn't viewed as "commercial," we should all do our best to get it into theaters -- or hell, get friends with big screen TVs to play it, throw parties and support our films and our friends' films.  We horror fans are a community -- please, let's not forget that.

Adam G