Having spent years slogging away at low-paid television gigs as a writer, actor and occasional director, Craig Anderson reached a point in his life where he was pushing 40 and had little to show for it. His life's ambition was to direct a feature-length movie and so with a mid-life crisis looming over him he threw his entire life-savings into a script he was writing and began an odyssey that would push him to the brink of despair.
Lucky for us he had the foresight to document the entire thing, and ended up with hours upon hours of footage for director Gary Doust to draw upon. With a no holds barred approach Anderson bares his soul to Doust, who is on hand to capture his most vulnerable moments and ultimately documents one of the most earnest, and frankly terrifying, behind the scenes films I have seen outside of Hearts of Darkness. It is a genuine and illuminating depiction of independent filmmaking, which ought to serve as a what to (and not to) do to all aspiring filmmakers.
The production of his film RED CHRISTMAS was doomed from the outset, whereby Anderson found himself consumed by an insurmountable debt with tens of thousands of dollars spent and the production locked-and-loaded beyond the point of return. With every unforeseeable obstacle tripping his every step, Anderson's desperation had him all but crawling on his hands and knees, begging his family and friends to lend him more money. He had American actress Dee Wallace Stone locked in, an entire cast and crew awaiting his direction, and a never-ending series of miscalculations threatening to crush his dream and ruin his life.
The cast and crew, including Wallace-Stone, offer insight into their experiences and give perspective to the shambolic nature of the production, and in the documentary's most poignant moments actor Gerard Odwyer, who has down syndrome, gives a heart-wrenching insight into living with his condition. He bares his soul to such a raw and painful extent that witnessing his personal struggles feels almost voyeuristic, and yet watching his creative process is mesmerising. Equally as heartbreaking is watching Anderson's own health deteriorate before our very eyes. The weight of the stresses baring down on him manifests themselves as he binge-eats to mask the pain, and emotionally crumbles while the camera haunts his every move.
HORROR MOVIE: A LOW BUDGET NIGHTMARE is a representation of the realities of independent filmmaking. It is a warts 'n all chronicle that deserves a place in the library of every film school in the country. It will make budding directors reconsider whether the movie-making business is one they're prepared to pursue, and it is just as likely to weed out those who don't possess the passion and tenacity to risk everything. Having seen RED CHRISTMAS will serve viewers well, however watching it isn't necessary. The documentary holds up well on its own and proves to be a wonderful, captivating and thrilling roller-coaster ride that all self-respecting cinephiles should see.