Ginger Nuts of Horror
Featuring Betty Marshall, Ernest Rhoades, James Peterson and Sarah Catherine Lewis this documentary chronicles a three-year span in the life of independent filmmaker Kelly Hughes.
Kelly Hughes was making what can best be described as 'trashy' movies, Heart-Attack Theatre premiered in 1991 on Seattle's public access TV and soon developed quite a following. Hughes wanted to make disaster movies but lacked the funding enjoyed by even the smallest studio, and so was creating his movies in his spare time, with limited equipment but plenty of enthusiasm.
This documentary is a showcase of amateur trashy filmmaking at its best, Kelly Hughes had a definite sense of the bizarre, he filmed on VHS and the films are quite poorly scripted, very badly acted and with a shoestring special effect budget giving it a style of its own, they were guaranteed to be offensive.
In the microcosm he created you can tell his actors really had fun, which is blatantly evident in the finished product. This documentary shows several truly ludicrous scenes and has interviews with some of the actors involved; it gives a real sense of the man behind these totally outlandish films. With titles like 'An Inconvenient Whore', 'Twin Cheeks: Who Killed the Homecoming King?' , and perhaps my favourite title 'La Cage Aux Zombies' you just know from the start that you are not getting high quality, high budget movies. What you do get is all very tongue in cheek, they are not trying to be anything that they know they can't pull off, they are simply a bunch of people letting themselves go wild in front of the cameras for pure entertainment. This is unpretentious and enjoyable stuff, however it does have a certain depth in that there is an attempt to show the darker side of humanity not only in the various horror presentations but also in a strong anti-drug message, which itself turns out to be hilarious.
There are very heavy elements of a disjointedness such as was prevalent in David Lynch's Twin Peaks, and this documentary touches upon some of the ideas involved in Kelly Hughes' work. It's not just the work that's disjointed, it appears that Kelly and all of his cast members are just ever so slightly crazy. This manifests in the antics they are willing to perform with not a single one being paid, with the exception of the legendary star of Russ Meyer movies Kitten Natividad who appeared in one cameo role, which to be honest I don't think was necessary as the regular cast members seem to do just fine in keeping things moving. Having seen what so many supposedly ordinary people got up to at weekends I'm not sure I could look strangers in the face again without wondering what they do.
The theatricality didn't restrict itself to private houses; in fact Hughes appears to have had no problem at all doing location shoots which would be out of the question nowadays. I can't help but think that it would have been an incredible sight to see Hughes and his entourage filming in Airports or public parks.
Although not at the quality end of the motion picture industry these productions do in fact have a charm, unashamedly amateur they readily fall into the so bad it's good category. Just watching this documentary I laughed out loud in so many places it somehow made me feel dirty for enjoying it so much.
'Heart attack! The Early Pulse-Pounding Cinema of Kelly Hughes', is informative, well documented but above all a fun insight into a truly extraordinary body of work. For anyone remotely interested in the films of Kelly Hughes this is a mine of information, for anyone unfamiliar with his work this is as good an introduction as it is possible to have.