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Advance Review – Fantasm

Poster for Kyle Kuchta's Fantasm
Fantasm documentary poster.

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Fantasm is a documentary exploring the world of horror conventions from the perspective of a horror fan. It provides a look into the lives of the merchants, celebrity guests, and attendees of horror cons. It is directed by horror super fan Kyle Kuchta.

There is a lot wrong with this film. It is obviously a first time effort from an amateur filmmaker but it does a lot right as well. The film captures the magic that is being a horror fan and being part of a community of likeminded enthusiasts and there is something to be said for that.

It’s easy to see that Kuchta poured his heart and soul into this project and for that, I commend him. He has made a film with virtually no budget and gotten some top talent from genre film and television to offer insight on the force that is horror fandom. That is an impressive feat. Moreover, Kuchta is self distributing the film which is a headache-and-a-half and I really respect him for that. The way that he has attacked this project shows real fortitude and I am truly impressed by that.

From a technical aspect, the film is pretty poor. It looks like it could have been shot on an iPhone. There are a lot of POV shots that don’t really make any sense or seem like they belong in the film and there are plenty of sloppy segues and scene transitions that are terribly clunky but again one must consider that the picture was made for virtually no money and without the benefit of a distributor.

Expounding more on the film’s technical problems, the footage is very, very rough and a lot of the interviews feel like they were done on the fly.  I respect the guerrilla filmmaking efforts that went into making this doc but there are many instances where it’s just so unpolished that it began to detract from my overall enjoyment of the film. The locations where many of the interviews were set up are noisy and not at all intimate which ultimately becomes a distraction. And that is further exacerbated by bad sound editing. A lot of the film looks like someone’s home video footage from a  con compiled together.

The film scratches the surface on the people responsible for putting on a con but I wish that we could have seen more footage of the people who put these elaborately planned conventions together and what goes on behind the scenes. We see an interview with a volunteer but it doesn’t really offer much insight as to how he fits into the grand scheme of things or what his role really is. A documentary that explores horror conventions is a great opportunity to show the inner-workings of a horror con and what goes into  orchestrating one but we just don’t see any of that and that represents a missed opportunity.

In terms of length, the doc is about as long as an episode of premium television. It clocks in at under an hour – which makes it technically more of a short film than a feature. There is so much more that could have been explored within the film’s runtime but, it really just focuses on the sense of community that exists amongst those at a convention. While that is a good angle to explore, it isn’t a meaty enough topic to stretch into an entire film. There is no story being told here – no narrative. It plays out like a day in the life of a convention goer or vendor but doesn’t go much deeper than that and it never really tells a bigger story.

The film is somewhat unevenly paced – which seems strange for a documentary. It starts to feel tedious at about fifteen minutes in. But it’s rescued in the final 20 minutes of the picture. The viewer begins to feel a completely legitimate connection with the interview subjects and that reminded me how great it is to be a horror fan and how good it feels to be a part of something bigger than myself. And for that, I am able to forgive some of the technical problems with the film. This really is a DIY effort in every sense. But there is a hefty dose of heart interspersed throughout and the film is better for that. Kyle Kuchta is disarming and likable and that makes up for much of what it wrong with his film. He puts his interview subjects at ease and gets them to open up about being part of a community of likeminded folks. Overall, if you can take the bad with the good, there is merit to be found in the film and I think that certain parts of it will resonate with our community.

WICKED RATING: 4.5/10 [usr 4.5]
Title: Fantasm
Director(s):Kyle Kuchta
Release: November 11, 2014
Studio/ Production Co:
Language: English
Length: 56 Minutes
Sub-Genre: Horror Documentary

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Written by Tyler Doupé
Tyler Doupe' is the managing editor at Wicked Horror. He has previously penned for Fangoria Mag, Rue Morgue Mag, FEARnet, Fandango, ConTV, Ranker, Shock Till You Drop, ChillerTV, ComingSoon, and more. He lives with his husband, his dog, and cat hat(s).
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