(94 minutes, Not Rated)
The documentary Nightmare Factory is a behind the scenes look at Greg Nicotero and his company KNB EFX Group; for those who do not know, Greg Nicotero has been a name that has graced genre pictures since the 80s. He is a special effects artist who learned from the best, Tom Savini, to become one of the most dominant forces in the industry. Lately, his work on The Walking Dead has garnered him the most fame, but his studio, which he began with Robert Kurtzman and Howard Berger, has completed well over 900 projects and has become the practical effects powerhouse of Hollywood.
Now, this documentary does not bring anything new to the Hollywood subgenre; yet, between my interest in the subject and its behind the scenes nature, this picture is a must see for all genre-flick fans. The fact that Nicotero always brought a camera with him on set makes this seemingly by the numbers film extremely interesting; the audience is treated with the documentary being intercut with footage from various movie sets, which goes as far back as the 80s.
The highlight of Nightmare Factory is its fantastic footage of Evil Dead 2, but there is also cool content from Sin City, Predators (and I did not even like it), Piranha and plenty of others: it was actually quite amazing how much content they got in a tight 94 minute package. On top of this, somehow director Donna Davies packaged some of the best interviewees in recent memory: Frank Darabont, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, George A. Romero, Tom Savini, John Carpenter, and many more. While the actual questions seem like the director was ‘star gazing,’ the incredible trade stories from these professionals make it easy to ignore smaller grievances.
With that said, there are plenty of annoyances that can be seen throughout. For instance, though it is obvious that Nicotero is the most famous of the KNB EFX Group, I would have liked an overall look at the trio that started the company. Yes, the documentary gives a minor glimpse into Berger and Kurtzman’s past, but it focuses on Nicotero: which is the main draw due to his Walking Dead fame. Also, the beginning concentrates too long on the famous zombie television show; at the beginning, so much time is dedicated to it that I actually thought that the Nightmare Factory would divulge into a behind the scenes featurette for The Walking Dead’s DVD.
But luckily, it moves on and maintains a lean pace that keeps the viewer interested throughout. However, it glosses over a topic that I feel is important when talking about the make-up effects industry: the lazy addition of CGI. While Nicotero believes in the marriage of the two, there is some clear animosity between these artists and the studio who use CGI as a cheap way out; however, none of this anger ever gets explored, and in fact, it gets wrapped up too neatly for such a complicated issue. Nightmare Factory’s pace would not have been scarred by this quick little detour; instead, the audience gets treated to an ending that serves as one big advertisement for Nicotero’s short film: The United Monster Talent Agency. It should have spent a little less time shamelessly plugging this short and a little more time focusing on an issue that is allegedly killing KNB EFX’s industry.
In the end, these minor grievances do not kill the overall documentary. Again, this tight 94 minute movie delivers great behind the scenes footage with some cool director interviews: it has enough content to make any fanboy geek out. Yes, this could have focused on some interesting conflicts in the industry, but the documentary did what it intended to do. It did not reinvent the genre, but provided entertaining fodder for those obsessed with Hollywood. For a kid like me, who grew up with Nicotero’s work, this is an entertaining 94 minutes of information that I mostly knew: but the ability to see all the behind the scenes content is what sets this documentary apart and forces me to recommend this to all genre-flick fans.