I'm a big fan of Adam Green and Joe Lynch. They're funny, positive, accessible guys who work insanely hard and know their shit. I want them to succeed because I want to see more from them. Maybe it's because I like both of them that I've become such a big fan of Holliston, the FEARnet sitcom on which both produce and star and which Green writes, directs and oversees. Or maybe it's because I've become such a fan of Holliston that I like Green and Lynch so much (this scenario is less likely, only because I have always liked them both). My point is that if I have any dog in the Holliston fight, it's that I want it to be successful so that Green and Lynch continue to make movies and TV. But this isn't just about how I like the show and think it's good (I do). It's about why it's fucking important.
Over a decade in the making, Holliston follows the exploits of wannabe horror directors Adam (Green) and Joe (Lynch), best friends and hosts of a basic cable horror showcase called "The Movie Crypt." They're totally broke, don't have a ton of prospects and are desperately trying to find the funding to make a soccer-themed horror movie called Shinpads. They're not even trying to get the movie made at this point -- they're just trying to scrounge enough money to make a trailer, which they hope will get them the money to make the feature. Also factoring into the show are Laura (Ortiz), Joe's adorably odd girlfriend; aspiring country singer Corri (English), the girl who broke Adam's heart but who now wants to be "just friends"; Lance Rockett (Dee Snider), the boys' sexually ambiguous boss at the TV station who is stuck in the '80s and sings in the Van Halen cover band Diver Down and Oderus Urungus (from GWAR, playing himself), an alien that lives in Adam's closet that only he can see. Oh, and Axl, a cat with feline Down syndrome.
Why does this matter? Because Green didn't pitch a horror show. It would have been easy to suggest doing some sort of horror anthology show, particularly because it would have allowed Green to maybe write and direct the pilot episode before handing off the reins to a bunch of other filmmakers -- Tales from the Crypt or Masters of Horror or Fear Itself all over again. And maybe that wouldn't have been so bad (I love a horror anthology), but choosing to do Holliston is far more interesting because it forces horror fans -- a notoriously narrow-focused group -- to embrace something outside of their usual comfort zone. The emphasis is not on blood or gore (though there is some of that), but instead on dialogue and jokes. The series certainly shares the DNA of many horror movies in terms of its tone and its humor, but it asks the horror audience to invest in story and character instead of kills. They have to care about people rather than just how they die. It forces the established horror audience to confront something new while still giving them some of the things they love.
In this area, the show has only improved in its second season, turning into a kind of Larry Sanders Show for horror icons, where established genre stars can go to poke fun of their images. So we get Danielle Harris as an awful narcissist who lets Adam think he has a shot at fucking her so she can steal money and Oxycotin from him. We get Kane Hodder as a depressed version of himself, on constant suicide watch because he wasn't asked to be in Freddy vs. Jason (I was truly hoping that Hodder would become a series regular in Season Two, but that isn't happening). Bailee Madison, the young star of Don't be Afraid of the Dark, does a turn as Adam's girlfriend, a 12-year old pretending to be 21 to trick him into fucking her and then blackmailing him to commit murder. It's become a place for horror stars to go and send up their images, having fun with the idea that they are in real life much worse than the monsters they play. It's also a clever way to rope in the horror audience without literally having to throw them a lot of red meat.
With the instant cult success of Hatchet, Adam Green could have very quickly been pigeonholed as just the "Victor Crowley" guy. That happens a lot in horror, where the audience is only interested in sequelizing the thing they like and not necessarily in following filmmakers through different kinds of projects. While both Spiral and Frozen, Green's non-Hatchet films, have their own cult followings, he's still best known for his slasher output -- even Hatchet III, which he wrote but did not direct, is being credited almost entirely to him. Perhaps sensing that phenomenon taking place, Green shifted gears and threw himself 100% into his TV series (though even that is more likely the result of it being a passion project he's been trying to get off the ground for more than 10 years). Without leaving Victor Crowley completely behind -- he even makes a cameo during Season One -- Green has redefined himself as "the Holliston guy." It makes sense, too, since the series basically culls from his real life. He's "the Holliston guy" because he IS the Holliston guy.
So Green is branching out and doing something different, working overtime to bring his audience along with him. Few directors known for making horror movies have ever successfully accomplished such a feat, meaning Green has an uphill battle in front of him. Holliston represents a turning point for Green in that its failure could easily have led to a retreat back to horror (Green choosing to make another horror film is not automatically a "retreat," by the way; making another horror film just because it might be safe would be). That the show is already a success is a good sign, proving that Green and Lynch are capable of more than just directing horror -- not that I wouldn't be happy seeing them do that for their entire careers -- and that their fans are willing to stick with them as they take chances.
Because Holliston is so personal, because it is so grassroots, because it isn't on a major network or available in every home in America, Green and Lynch have worked their asses off to get the word out. They're on Twitter and Facebook, talking to fans. They're doing live chats while the episodes air. They're recording commentaries and shooting special features for the DVD releases. They doing radio and podcast interviews. They've even started their own podcast, "The Movie Crypt with Adam and Joe," over at Geek Nation, which is now my second favorite movie podcast on the internet. They spend a good portion of each podcast talking about the recent episode of Holliston. Short of going door to door and asking people to watch, they're doing everything they can to get the word out on the show.
Because this is what it takes now.
We live in the DIY Age, when someone in his bedroom can make a movie on a phone and distribute it on YouTube at the same time that Zach Braff goes online to raise money from fans to make his next feature. Even with the resources of FEARnet at their disposal (and yes, the resources of FEARnet are VAST), even with two successful horror directors with their own built-in fan bases at its center, Holliston needs all the help it can get. Nothing is a sure thing anymore, and a low-budget sitcom on a barely accessible network not known for a) sitcoms or b) original programming starring two cult horror movie directors is not quite a sure thing. So they've opened up the experience and have documented every aspect of it for their fans.
Red State. Green and Lynch are doing the same thing with Holliston, creating an ongoing dialogue with the audience as a means of building not just an audience, but a community (and as someone with a movie website, I know about the importance of community). At a time when media is dividing audiences into smaller and smaller fragments while still attempting to mass-market entertainment so that it appeals to EVERYONE (see: most of the movies released this summer), Green and Lynch's approach is quietly revolutionary. They're actually taking the time and having the patience to build a fan base instead of just assuming one is there.
Holliston matters because it's changing the rules for how things are done, while at the same time underscoring just how hard it is to get something off the ground even with some money, resources and name recognition. Whether or not it will ultimately be mentioned in the same sentences as projects like The Guild, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and maybe even House of Cards remains to be seen; should FEARnet not pick up the show for a third season, Green has insisted that there will still be one (his company, ArieScope, owns the show). Whether that's just online, on Netflix or released directly to DVD or Blu-ray I can't say, but it will continue to evolve and to adapt to the changing marketplace. It will continue to matter -- especially to its fans.
Holliston has been great for me not just because I like the show, but because it's given me more access to Green and Lynch, two guys I could listen to goof around and talk about the filmmaking process all day. Their willingness to pound the pavement and make the show work is an inspiration to any of us trying to something going. They've made a sitcom that works as a sitcom and as a thing that deconstructs the sitcom. A weekly celebration of horror, of persevering and of finding support in your friends. You don't have to love Holliston, but the fact that it exists at all should give us hope. Thanks, Adam and Joe.