Scary filmmakers pay tribute to ‘uber-fan’
Television Top horror, sci-fi names in documentary on magazine founder

DEAN LISK

They are responsible for some of the goriest and most frightening films yet made, but Mike MacDonald says horror-film directors and producers are some of the nicest people around.

“I was surprised at just how kind and gentle these people are,” he said. “There is not a nasty bone in their bodies.”

MacDonald, the owner of Halifax-based Roadhouse Films, recently interviewed some of horror and sci-fi’s biggest names for a documentary on Forrest J. Ackerman, the genre’s greatest fan.

Called Famous Monster, the documentary chronicles Ackerman’s life as the founder of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, one of the largest collectors of sci-fi and monster flick memorabilia and an influence on generations of film fans.

‘First fan’

MacDonald found out about Ackerman through documentary co-creator Ian Johnston – The Daily News’s former TV reporter.

At the time, MacDonald was working on a documentary about sci-fi art.

“I mentioned to Mike, ‘You might want to check out this guy called Forrest Ackerman,'” Johnston said.

A fan of sci-fi and horror films, Johnston first met Ackerman – known by friends as Forry – during a Famous Monsters convention in 1993.

“Forry is pretty important in an odd way,” Johnston said. “He is not a creative type in the usual sense. He is sort of like the first fan in a sense – that makes him unique.”

At last year’s Atlantic Film Festival, the two decided to begin working on a documentary about the 90-year-old.

“Forry was the uber-fan,” MacDonald said. “Fans of this genre found in Forry something of an uncle figure, but also someone who could indulge them.

“Parents would say, ‘What are you reading that trash for?’ But Forry would encourage them to write in and talk about the subject they loved so much.”

Among those he influenced are Roger Corman, Ray Bradbury and Joe Dante – all of whom appear in the documentary.

‘Bent over backwards’

“These people are busy people, and they have rough schedules, but they bent over backwards to reschedule if they had a conflict,” MacDonald said.

“They really wanted to do it. If they didn’t want to, they could have easily eluded us.”

MacDonald said there is something this genre of movies and books that seems to attract gentle people – the opposite of what you’d expect, seeing the horror and science-fiction films they make.

“Ray Bradbury is a big teddy bear,” he said.