REVIEW: The Brilliant Terror (2021)

dir. Paul Hunt & Julie Kauffman

In a world of Blumhouses, James Wans and big budget horror, it’s easy to forget that for every $20 million Hollywood haunted house flick there’s at least a hundred indie movies, created in a painful labour of love on the smallest budget imaginable by a tenacious (and usually broke) horror fanatic. It’s this grassroots movement in the genre which is the subject here of Hunt and Kauffman’s documentary.

The wraparound narrative follows young horror filmmaker Mike Lombardo as they film their latest Lovecraftian flick The Stall, whilst enduring family tragedy, budget restraints and even death threats. The film also features interviews with various creatives, experts and fans, giving insights into what makes horror – though often snubbed in the industry – a genre that people are so passionate about.

Although critics and audiences alike may find it difficult to remember that behind every movie there is a team of people that have put all of their (fake) blood, sweat and tears into their creation, Hunt and Kauffman work to highlight the humanity behind the horror. It shows that low budget productions have to use more creativity and imagination to draw out visceral or emotional reactions, without relying on expensive CGI or visual effects. To want to be continuously elbow deep in chocolate-flavoured gore, or lubing up a tentacle with monster goo in a pizza restaurant’s toilet stall, shows the lengths and dedication that grassroots filmmakers are willing to go. And it’s impressive.

Unfortunately, The Brilliant Terror lacks a diverse voice. Despite featuring both male and female filmmakers there’s a lack of a viewpoints from Black, Indigenous or other directors of colour. The inclusion of the horror community from other non-white groups would have made the documentary a bit more interesting – such as in Ruben Pla’s The Horror Crowd, which would make a good companion piece. Other than this, The Brilliant Terror is a fantastic insight into the world of small budget indie horror, as well as providing observations into understanding what it is about the genre that generates such enthusiastic devotees.


Ygraine Hackett-Cantabrana

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