Any horror fan knows it: We love to watch. Perhaps through giddy fingers; maybe with a stomach-kick queasiness. But horror film is, at heart, deliberately looking at the worst possible things, and not looking away. Director JT Petty knows it; his first film, Soft for Digging, was a low-budget, high-ambition horror film made for less than $6,000; his next directorial gig was Mimic: Sentinel. "I make my living making scary movies," he explains early on in S&MAN, "but this is going to be about scary movies." Opening with a nod to a few classics -- Peeping Tom, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer -- Petty introduces us to three different filmmakers working in what he calls 'underground horror" -- a shot-on-video world of cheap thrills and cheaper production budgets, sold on-line, at conventions or by mail. As Petty explains, "It's not snuff" -- the unholy grail of long-rumored real-life death caught on film for purposes of entertainment -- "but it's close."
In the uneven (but not uninteresting) S&MAN, Petty introduces us to three separate film makers: Fred Vogel, who creates gonzo horror films under the August Underground banner; Erik Rost, who creates stalker/snuff-themed films in the S&MAN series; and Bill Zebub, the creative force behind slasher flicks like Kill the Scream Queen and The Crucifier. Vogel looks like a well-groomed sports buff; Rost is a self-deprecating, self-promoting craftsman; Zebub looks like he was peeled off the bottom of a cab in his native New Jersey after a particularly rockin' Sammy Hagar show. And they make films about killing people. Zebub says it best, and bluntly: "I don't shoot movies to make art; I shoot movies so perverts will give me money."