Movies get can lost if they don't find an audience. They get forgotten as time and the industry moves on. That's what happened to "Scary Movie."
Now, 29 years after its release, "Scary Movie" -- directed by Texas filmmaker Daniel Erickson and produced by Keith Brunson, a Paducah-born journalist and ad man -- is getting a second shot.
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Brunson left Paducah at age 7, growing up to become a television news reporter and working in South Carolina and Alabama before winding up in Austin, Texas, in the late 1980s.
There he met a teenage Erickson and put together a story on one of his early short films.
"He had a really good imagination and the story blew the station away," Brunson remembered. "From there, he came over and knocked on the door one day. He asked if I'd like to read another script he had. I did and it was great. He said I should produce it and I said, 'What's that?'"
The script was an early version of "Scary Movie."
From there, Brunson started raising money for the production, which began filming in March 1991.
When most people hear the words "Scary Movie," they think of the 2000 comedy/horror hybrid starring the Wayans brothers and Anna Farris as they run away from a guy in a "Scream" mask. Erickson's movie is nothing like that.
It follows John Hawkes as Warren Kilpatrick, a nervous nerd navigating a Halloween haunted house that changes his life forever while stylistically nodding to the director's fascination with "The Twilight Zone," Martin Scorsese's "After Hours," Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Steven Spielberg, the Coen Brothers and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
"It cleverly disguises itself as a slasher film but in fact it's more of a psychological thriller/Hitchock type of film," Erickson said in an interview earlier this week. "I think perhaps why the film may be getting attention now is that it's not a blood-and-guts splatter film, but because it has more to offer than that."
The film had a successful local premiere in October 1991, but was dead in the water. Aside from a few VHS copies in Texas video rental stores, it wouldn't see a proper theater run or home video release for decades.
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Erickson was surprised when he got a call in 2018 from the American Genre Film Archive, an Austin, Texas, group that actively seeks out, restores, releases and screens underground, "lost," and cult genre films. The AGFA screened and released the movie on blu-ray in October.
"'Scary Movie' is an important part of Austin's indie filmmaking history. Since AGFA is an Austin-based non-profit with strong ties to the film community here, it made perfect sense for us to preserve the movie," AGFA director Joe Ziemba told The Sun on Thursday. "Also, we love 'Scary Movie'!
"It's a singular film, and we felt it deserved a wider audience -- even nearly three decades after it was completed."
The casting of a young Hawkes decades before his Academy Award nomination for "Winter's Bone" and his turns in "The Perfect Storm" and HBO's "Deadwood," among dozens of other credits, would be one of the film's defining achievements.
Brunson recalls seeing the actor in a local playhouse production in Austin.
"It was obvious to me that if it was attainable there would be nobody else that could play this part. I knew who he was going to become, I just had no idea how big he was going to get."
The AGFA describes his performance as "channeling a mix of Buster Keaton and Crispin Glover." Erickson called it one of the movie's biggest successes.
"Maybe the biggest success of our project was helping to discover John Hawkes," Erickson said. "Who would have thought at the time that he would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award and have 100 credits to his name. We're very proud of him and all he's gone on to do."
The news shocked Brunson, who had given up his hopes of a career in film producing for a life in advertising after "Scary Movie" failed to get distribution or critical attention.
"When you fail with your first feature, you can't find the money for your second. The movie had went into the box and it stayed in the box for 28 years. I had given up on it becoming prosperous or ever becoming recognized," Brunson said. "It was just really groovy of them to do this."
And now, just months later, the film will have its biggest opportunity yet, playing as a late-night flick on Turner Classic Movies this Saturday at 1 a.m.
"I feel like a million bucks. This is the ultimate dream of anyone to make a film, for it to be put in front of a global audience," said Brunson, now 62 and recently returned to Paducah. "This is something that came to be because I answered the door when Danny knocked. It blows me away. I wouldn't have expected this in a million years."
Erickson is equally taken aback by the sudden attention for his film.
"It never fully got its audience at the time, and we're thrilled for this chance at the exposure," the director said. "It was like a dream come true for our film to get a second life."