The biggest surprise out of Music Box Chicago’s inaugural Cinepocalypse Film Festival was completely under the radar. It was a film not listed in the program. In fact, it wasn’t even a secret screening, but a challenge, a first-of-its-kind bet between a programmer and two producers.
The production team at BoulderLight Pictures consists of 25-year-olds JD Lifshitz and Raphael Margules. Alongside both Contracted films, they also produced Bad Match, which received its premiere at FrightFest, the upcoming Dismissed (starring Dylan Sprouse), and numerous other genre titles including Dementia.
With their youthful exuberance and heavy output, the festival issued them a challenge: produce a genre feature exclusively for Cinepocalypse 2017. There were no parameters other than it must be a feature-length midnight movie, and that they must begin production immediately upon release of our first announcement. They had a month to make a film from conception to world premiere, which took place last night at the ongoing film festival.
When the lights went down, not even us programmers knew what was going to be showing on screen; we had no idea of the plot, subgenre, who starred, nor who directed. It was one of the coolest mysteries I personally have ever experienced at a fest.
It turned out to be a tongue-in-cheek sequel to BoulderLight’s Mike Testin-directed Dementia (2015), their deadpan serious thriller about an elderly war veteran who is forced by his estranged family to hire a live-in nurse, only to find she harbors a sinister secret.
Dementia: Part II, however, is all midnight movie, a complete juxtapose of its predecessor that’s not only funny but disgusting. Where the first film was a slow-burn riddled with exposition, this “sequel” was an exercise in chaos, madness, and insanity. Co-directed by Testin and star Matt Mercer, the plot follows Mercer as an ex-convict who has become a small-jobs repairman, who ends up in a house with a frightening old woman (Suzanne Voss) with dementia. Shot in black and white, the nightmare escalates as the woman shoves $100 bills in Mercer’s pocket, stringing him along for the revolting ride. Testin and Mercer take from the pages of Sam Raimi with their blocking and gross-out humor, hammering home revolting sequences similar to those in Drag Me to Hell.
Being made in a month with barely any money allowed for these filmmakers to break the rules, take chances, and basically do whatever the fuck they wanted. The result is a trippy, mind-fuck of a midnight movie that does have cult potential (it’s unclear if this will be reworked for future festival submissions).
This is a first, as far as I can tell, and is perfectly reflective of what’s it’s like to be an indie filmmaker in 2017. Technology allows for filmmakers to pick up a camera and be creative, and while many are hoping to win the lottery with an investor, others should accept the same challenge and see what they can create just out of sheer will. Whether we’re talking about filmmaking or some other career entirely, the lesson here is to stop talking about it and just do it.
We’ll keep you posted if the film lands distribution or plays more festivals through 2018.
Additional Info: The full cast also includes Najarra Townsend, Graham Skipper, and Stacy Snyder. Matt Mercer and Mike Testin directed, edited, wrote, and produced the film in a month. JD Lifshitz and Raphael Margules are executive producers. Cathy Tuttle co-produced with Eric Slee and Rob Yoo serving as associate producers. SFX materials provided by Josh and Sierra Russell.