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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [January 5, 2017]
[HollywoodInvestigator.com] In a genre crowded with copycats, Big Biting Pig Productions has earned a reputation for innovative horror films. BBP's creative duo, Steven Hudgins and PJ Woodside, like to take familiar subgenres -- zombies, vampires, ghosts -- and present them with an unexpected twist. Or more often, with several unexpected twists.
It Lives in the Attic continues this tradition. The film's title and opening shots suggest a haunted house tale. But soon we're into the story of Andy (Michael Coon), a young camper who confronts a deranged chainsaw- wielding redneck. It's an old conceit. Even so, writer/ director Hudgins provides a twist ending that is a jolting surprise.
It shouldn't have been a surprise. His twist has been done before. Often. But so clever was his execution that I didn't see the twist coming. The story plays out like a magic trick, with Hudgins drawing our attention to certain incidents and characters over here, so we don't see him setting up the trick over there.
In addition to that twist, there's a second surprise -- in that it's not the end. It felt like the end. So much so that I thought, "Oh, I see. It Lives in the Attic is a horror anthology film. This was a short story that just ended. Now it's on to another short story."
But no, it wasn't a short story. Although we now shift to another set of characters and events, we'll come back to Andy. As in some of their previous films, Hudgins and co-producer Woodside tell this story in nonlinear fashion. We won't see how Andy fits in with the rest of the pieces -- or the attic -- until the film's end.
"The idea of a haunted house story being told in a completely different style was intriguing to me," said Hudgins to the Hollywood Investigator. "Rather than the old 'entity terrorizing people' thing, I thought it would be interesting to see how a presence affected people more subtly in their outside lives. I have a hundred different story ideas floating around in my mind at any given time. I can see something -- a house, building, piece of furniture, someone or something doing something unusual -- or just hear a sound that I get a quick idea from. Sometimes story ideas just pop into my head. I started thinking of some of those filed-away ideas. It Lives in the Attic was what I came up with."
The film's main characters are Andy, his wife Ellie (Jessica Leonard), and Barney (Steve Hudgins), a research chemist. Three seemingly normal people with repressed urges. When they unwittingly go to an Open House for a haunted house, what lives in the attic unleashes their repressed inhibitions. After which they are compelled to indulge in their sublimated fantasies and dark desires -- while also taking us, the audience, on a convoluted, yet entertaining, rollercoaster ride full of unexpected twists and shocking surprises.
A trained stage actor, Hudgins has performed in every Big Biting Pig production, always turning in professional work. But he excels in the role of Barney. Although I'd seen Hudgins act in previous films, I didn't immediately recognize him as Barney, so much so did Hudgins subsume himself into the creepy character. Certainly, Barney is among Hudgins's best film performances.
"Back when I did a lot of theater, I played an extremely wide variety of characters," said Hudgins. "In movies, I tend to play dark and/or angry characters. Once I had the script written, I looked at Barney and thought it was a role I could do some justice to. And it was a bonus to be able to play something different from a lot of the other types of roles I've been playing recently. It was a fun part."
Despite their micro-budgets, Big Biting Pig's horror films are often more entertaining -- and more innovative -- than many bigger-budgeted Hollywood horror fare. "We don't really have a budget," said Hudgins. "We try to make a movie for as little as possible. If you don't take equipment into consideration -- camera, lighting, sound, editing software, which we already own -- we were able to make It Lives in the Attic for less than $1,000."
As with most micro-budget films, volunteer labor saves money. "Due to a minimal budget, what we offer those involved with the project is the experience and joy of working on a feature film that will hopefully be available for viewing from multiple locations across the globe. We are very clear about this from the get go.
"I liken it to community theater. People get involved for the experience and love of being part of the show. But unlike community theater, with film there isn't near as much of a time commitment. When someone signs on for community theater, they're looking at a schedule of several days a week, for six to eight weeks in a row. Most of the people in our movies are involved for one to five days total. The flexibility, and lack of a long time commitment, makes the involvement much easier in our films than most any community theater production."
Some Big Biting Pig films have enjoyed local theatrical releases. All are available on DVD or digital streaming. "We have a distributor for streaming that's been doing a great job," said Hudgins. "Our last six movies, not including It Lives in the Attic, are all available for free on Amazon Prime in the USA, UK, Germany, and Japan. Several films are available on Youtube Red Channel, which is free to watch, but of a lower quality than on Amazon. All of those movies are available on Google Play and some other outlets.
"Soon all of our movies will be available worldwide on the Indie Rights Movie Channel, which was recently launched on Roku. Slowly but surely our movies are becoming more easy and convenient for people to find and watch."
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