Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fantasia 2015 Film Review - Raiders!

Eric Zala remembers clearly the July 1981 debut of Raiders of the Lost Arc. His future collaborator Chris Strompolos recalls seeing the film and the urge to recreate it. Strompolos knowing that he could not do this on his own spotted Eric reading a Raiders comic one day on the bus to school and struck up a conversation. The pair added Jayson Lamb who had a nose for special effects to form the core members needed to get the project off the ground.  The trio along with friends and siblings proceeded to spend the next 7 summers working on the film completing every shot except for the airplane flying wing scene that was out of their budget and expertise.

The documentary Raiders! covers several main story-lines. It shows scenes from the original VHS tape made by the boys which is unique and compelling because they did not shoot the film in order leading to large swings in ages of the players as the film goes along. The documentary  adds new material following the attempt  to get that one missing scene completed. Plus the ever changing relationship between Zala and Strompolos is the underlying thread of the film.

In the opening scene Zala and Strompolos try to secure the capital needed to shoot the airplane scene. The pair work an old time Mississippi gentleman for the money. Directors Jeremy Coon and Tim Skousen pace the film smartly. They show shots from the VHS tape, mix in stories about the main three creators along with other friend that played parts in the film. Many cast members played multiple parts especially Eric brother who had roles such as Egyptian digger #2 and Nazi solider #3. The comments from Eric and Chris' family are also good additions to the narrative. Eric's mother was particularly closely involved as their house was the main set with the Zala living room turning into a movie set summer after summer. Chris' mom had an important role as well.  She worked for the local TV station and secured the cameras for the boys that they used in the shoot.

The spark for the revival of the project can be traced back to the 2002 Butt- Numb-A- Thon film marathon. An event where super movie geeks get together to watch films vintage films, premiers and trailers for 24 hours straight normally featuring a first screening of a major film for that year. Major attendees Director Eli Roth and Ain't it Cool News' Harry Knowles got their hands on a copy of the boys film and decided to show it at the event. They ran it at breakfast ahead of the big release that year Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Forty-five minutes in to the screening they had to shut it off to show Two Towers resulting in boo's from the captivated audience. The reaction led the pair to track down the authors for a special screening with the full premier treatment.

Raider! is an entertaining romp that will have audiences rooting for the kids and their adult alter egos complete the project. The directors handle the material well especially using a clever device of showing the boys scenes side by side with the original film. It's an enjoyable time at the movies and a film that I can recommend.

*** 1/2 out of 4

Raiders! | Jeremy Coon / Tim Skousen | U.S.A. | 2015 | 104 Minutes.

Tags: Re create, Shot for Shot , Kids, 7 Year project, High School, Butt-Numb-A -Thon, Harry Knowles, Eli Roth.

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