Gore Than Meets the Eye
Full disclosure: I've been a huge fan of Deadpit Radio since 2008. I tuned in after seeing two weird-looking guys named Uncle Bill (Aaron Frye) and The Creepy Kentuckian (Wes Vance) listed as guests at a horror convention. On first listen, they sounded like a comedy duo whose shtick was talking about horror movies with the most ridiculous Southern accents I'd ever heard; but after finishing a whole episode, it was clear that their voices were as genuine as their love for and knowledge of genre filmmaking.
A few shows in, they mentioned that a documentarian named Kelly Marcott was making a documentary about them and I knew right away that I had to see it. Fast forward nearly two-and-a-half years later, and Into the Pit: The Shocking Story of Deadpit.com has finally been released. The movie follows Frye and Vance around their small hometown of Presontsburg, KY as they discuss the difficulties of growing up outside the mainstream of a culture that promotes guns and God, and--according to Misha Curnutte of the Prestonsburg Tourism Commission (?)--is open to anyone who doesn't try to change anything.
I was surprised by Marcott's take on his subjects. Indeed, the only "shocking" thing about Into the Pit is the fact that it's not just about a Web site, but about the Internet as a creative outlet for two kids who otherwise might have led lives of quiet desperation. This is most evident in Frye's story, which centers on his struggle to balance his need for self-expression through the outrageously profane Uncle Bill character with his drive to earn his Master's degree and become a drug counselor in a community ravaged by poverty and substance abuse. Keeping the two worlds separate is a mental tightrope act that involves pouring over thick psychology text books during the day and nervously preparing to interview John Carpenter at night.
The facts surrounding Vance are sparser, and if Marcott falls short in one area it's that fans of the show learn more about C.K.'s personal life by listening to the podcast than they would by watching this film. The only insight we get into the life of The Creepy Kentuckian is a brief interlude about his deacon father's near-fatal arterial blockage a few years earlier; the incident brought the two men closer together, and it's clear that Mike Vance loves and supports his son (even if he doesn't completely understand his passions). But Marcott dangles bits of juicy material in front of us without permitting so much as a bite, and that's frustrating.
Into the Pit is actually two movies. One is about the environment that created Deadpit and the other is about the show's place in the world of horror fandom. The latter portion of the film chronicles Frye and Vance's two-year ascension from radio novices in December, 2005 to modest Internet stars in March, 2007--in which their three-part interview with Night of the Living Dead director George Romero earned them over one million hits.
It's here that the story really takes off. Marcott captures the convention culture very well, and his brief conversations with genre luminaries such as Harry Manfredini, Kevin S. Tenney, Betsy Palmer, and Lloyd Kaufman paints a distinct picture of Deadpit's success. To a person, the people Vance and Frye have interviewed for the show compliment their passion and encyclopedic knowledge of film, as well as their laid-back style of questioning. It's clear that the guys would still be doing Deadpit even if they hadn't gained notoriety.
I was surprised by Frye's candid assessment of celebrity attitudes on the con circuit. He explains that, having now been on both sides of the signing table, he's come to detest what he sees as a disrespect on the part of some famous guests towards their fans. It's very much a fan sentiment, spoken by someone who's obviously geeked out over heroes who turned out to be less than pleasant.
If you're already a fan of Deadpit, I can recommend Into the Pit. If you've never heard of Deadpit, but are a horror fan, or if you're not at all a horror fan but love documentaries, I highly recommend Into the Pit. People who've followed the adventures of C.K. and Uncle Bill will no doubt be familiar with a lot of the material covered in the movie (though, there are surprises, too), and will instantly clamor for a sequel covering the latter part of 2007 up to the present (during which they've become even more successful, added a new member to the broadcast, and changed the show's format to include non-horror movies).
But if you've never heard of these guys--and, more importantly, if you're ready to write this whole enterprise off as stupid--then you need to see this film. Kelly Marcott has put together a fitting tribute to two larger-than-life personalities who've made fans all over the world by speaking their minds and treating cinema's bastard genre with respect. Like Deadpit's hosts, Into the Pit may surprise you with its wit and insight.