This past month, Video-on-Demand provider EPIX featured their 2011 documentary “The Nightmare Factory” in honor of Halloween. The film depicts the rise of KNB EFX as the premier practical effects maestros in television and film. Their work spans multiple genres; however their specialty is definitely their work on cult favorites like George A. Romero’s “Living Dead” saga and the films of Quentin Tarantino. For those who faint at blood or avoid horror at all costs, you probably won’t enjoy “The Nightmare Factory.” As for hardcore fans who binge-watch old horror movies — this movie might as well be nirvana.
The Nightmare Factory
Available for Streaming
The documentary focuses on KNB founders Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger and Robert Kurtzman as they pursue their dreams of making movies, monsters, zombies and gore. They sport ’80s rock hair and work long, demanding hours all for “the love of the movies,” as Berger puts it. It’s a film geek’s paradise and a truly inspirational story for anyone interested in joining the industry.
The movie’s an original production from EPIX, and it’s nice seeing EPIX pursue content like “The Nightmare Factory” instead of just competing with Netflix. “Factory” itself is a fantastic exposé on an art form largely ignored by the public, which is a shame because Nicotero and his colleagues embody the words “master craftsmen” — their work provides an authenticity seldom seen in today’s world of CGI blockbusters.
After re-watching “Evil Dead II” and “Land of The Dead,” both worked on by KNB, I’m reminded of something horror is slowly losing: the terror of reality. To me, that’s what makes Greg Nicotero invaluable. His creations look so real yet stem from the illusory wonderment of cinema in a way that is both bloodcurdlingly scary and oddly statuesque. Think Michelangelo’s David, but covered in blood and guts.
The documentary includes interviews with filmmakers Quentin Tarantino, George A. Romero, Frank Darabont, Robert Rodriguez and John Carpenter, among others. There are also several behind-the-scenes clips, including Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead II” and Robert Rodriguez’s “From Dusk Till Dawn.” Additional cameos are supplied by Elijah Wood (“Sin City”) and Simon Pegg (“Star Trek”). If that lineup doesn’t fill you with nerdish glee, this movie might not be for you. It’s understandable that a great majority of film-watchers don’t really care if a movie has practical or digital effects. In fact, for a great many, the effects of ’80s- and ’90s-genre pictures would be considered campy or obsolete. “Factory” definitely touches on this through revelations of how bad the studio system has gotten about the tiny details and the bottom-line profit versus pure love for movie-making.
Despite this bitterness, “The Nightmare Factory” still succeeds as required viewing for film buffs. It’s a modern day Hollywood success story, a tragic bemoaning of the current state of special effects and an unabashed celebration of some of the most influential figures in the industry.