SATURDAY NIGHTMARES: THE ULTIMATE HORROR EXPO OF ALL TIME (2010)
Being a longtime fan of horror, cult, and exploitation films of many years (whether I really knew it or not), taking one’s film obsession to the next level generally involves attending a horror convention at some point down the line. Having attended my very first convention of any kind during my teenage years (comic convention) and having been to a dozen of horror and entertainment events since, I was familiar with fanatic fans and collectors gathered around many like-minded individuals to feed their addiction through purchases, meeting their idols, getting their autographs, and taking photos of and with the stars of the trade. SATURDAY NIGHTMARES is calling itself a documentary of one particular horror convention in Jersey City, NJ at The Landmark, Loew’s Jersey Theatre, but in actuality it really comes off as a promotional video supplemented with interviews, candid conversations and unscripted footage with some of the horror genre’s most lovable icons and figures: George A. Romero, Ken Foree, Roy Frumkes, John Amplas, Adrienne Barbeau, and Joe Pilato.
I guess one can call it a documentary as it is documenting a horror convention through use of interviews, shots of the structure, and giving viewers a bit of history on the building itself, but it really just comes off as an avid fan’s footage—on a much more professional level—of his/her stay at the Saturday Nightmares Horror Expo in Jersey City, NJ…and there is nothing wrong with that at all. Being a true fan of horror and films in general, I will always enjoy new interviews and panel footage of my favorite (and not so favorite) players in the field of movie-making. I enjoyed the 5o minutes of interviews that were edited together amongst various candid shots of Joe Pilato (DAY OF THE DEAD) and his over-exuberant amount of energy that only rivals a junkie on speed or meth or scenes of Tom Savini interacting with his grandson James, but I was disappointed that the documentary did not deep digger behind-the-scenes and show some of the hard work that went into getting the convention at running speed, including any conflict or temper flare-ups that may have existed or occurred when organizing an event as big as a horror con. I believe if there were any “kinks” that developed during the process, filmmaker Michael Stever either was not around when they occurred or the organizers of Saturday Nightmares Harry Lisa, Mike Lisa, and Joanna Kuczek did not want any footage that may have put the event in a negative light to surface. This aspect to the film generally equals a great amount of “safe” footage, but can quickly turn to boring footage if there is no conflict occurring.
Hell, maybe the event went along as smooth as a baby’s bottom, but I highly doubt that. With that being said, I still immensely enjoyed the documentary because director, cameraman, and editor Michael Stever still managed to put together a film that included enough footage of various horror celebrities (usually the highly-animated Joe Pilato reciting various lines of dialogue from his scenes in DAY OF THE DEAD and behaving in a generally obnoxiously entertaining manner.
The most entertaining portions of the documentary definitely were the interviews with STREET TRASH director Roy Frumkes as he talks about working on DAWN OF THE DEAD (Frumkes was a zombie in it) and filmed footage for his DOCUMENT OF THE DEAD (continually a work in progress (at the time of production) as each new zombie film by Romero gets made) and chatting with, whom Stever’s referred to as a “thoroughbred” in mentioning her beauty and age, horror regular Adrienne Barbeau. Barbeau whom most remember for having been married to horror’s legendary director John Carpenter, as well as starring in Carpenter’s THE FOG, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, and the Stephen King-adapted CREEPSHOW. Since Stever’s is also a Sacramento-native (like Barbeau) and also is involved in stage theater and acting, the interview went in a more personal direction and was not the usual run-of-the-mill set of questions.
One segment of the film that completely had me bewildered was the bizarre footage of the lead actress of FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE SERIES, Louise Robey, dancing around on the balcony of the theater set to some strange music. I would have liked to hear her talk about working on, what I consider, to be a very entertaining and underrated television series airing on television from 1987-1990. I would have traded some questions answered by Robey in regards to the series any day over a weird, arty nonsensical dancing and quasi-operatic singing. The segment claimed she was possessed but I feel Stevers had to have been possessed to toss this footage into the film. It had to have viewers scratching their heads and wondering what the hell was going on?!?!
One has to take into consideration that the film had zero dollars in its budget and consisted of Stever and his camera with a glaring light running around the theater interviewing guests with a microphone. Yeah, the production values were pretty shoddy, but it did not make the film too hard to watch but it certainly did not help. I do commend Stever for providing subtitles for viewers during the Q&A panel footage since the sound quality, at times, was less than audible.
As a total package, Stever’s documentary is a glorified, yet entertaining, advertisement for the SATURDAY NIGHTMARES EXPO with film footage edited together from the 2010 Jersey City, NJ event. One can get past the shoddy production values, low-budget effects and graphics, but the film stands out as promoting the horror convention more than it does really going behind-the-scenes and catching candid footage of what goes on into making an event such as this a success. There really is not much back story on the individuals that made the expo happen or much history about the location of the Loews Theater that is 100+ years old (which would have been really nice). I recommend watching SATURDAY NIGHTMARES for many of the candid interviews (Adrienne Barbeau’s, John Amplas‘, and Roy Frumkes’ in particular), but if one is looking for a documentary as defined in the more traditional sense and look most are accustomed to having seen, they may be slightly disappointed. I feel that Michael Stever could have found a way to dig deeper into getting more unscripted footage, depicting people in bad and good light, to paint a more vivid and accurate picture of transpiring events.