“The worst question anyone can ask an artist is why would someone make that?” says Andrew Hooper when asked about the upcoming production of Cinema Incubo. It’s a statement that could almost double as a mantra for a film like his in a time like now. Although it isn’t Hooper’s first foray into feature-length films, it is his most ambitious to date. He’s got the script, assembled a solid cast, and has even been surprised by the response from complete strangers looking to join the team with filming and editing. His name might not be familiar but you may have already seen some of his work. He has worked with an array of local Sacramento musical artists including Kepi Ghoulie, Dog Party, his repertoire extending to even The Dollyrots and The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. He’s been bouncing back and forth between short films to music videos for the last decade and his vision has grown to encompass a variety of perspectives. With a new IndieGoGo campaign launched, Andrew Hooper is reaching out in hopes of achieving his dream to create the film he feels he was born to make and unlike the Wizard of Oz, he would very much like you to pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

Having grown up in the Fairfield/Suisun area Andrew Hooper has always been a fan of horror films and has maintained his ever growing passion for filmmaking since as early as he was allowed to hold a camera. While many horror fans can relate to widespread adulation for boogeyman like Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Leatherface, Hooper dove deeper into the dark corners of the video store where many films once regarded as classic, likely wouldn’t hold up by today’s tense social standards. “Horror films are supposed to be like a roller coaster, they’re supposed to scare you! You aren’t supposed to be comfortable. Going further with that notion, not everyone goes on the haunted house ride. It’s a particular audience, and you know what you’ve signed up for by getting in line.” Hooper goes on to explain, “I think it’s wrong to blame a film for how it made you feel. If you see a film you didn’t like, then you shouldn’t watch it again. But to decide that no one else should see it either is wrong.”

The premise of Hooper’s latest film, Cinema Incubo, is a dark and uncomfortable conversation layered in sociological, moral, and perspective challenging content that at the very least will be hard to scrub from your eyes. First conceptualized by Hooper and his brother, Jim McGrath, the details were fleshed out by Tim Pronovost. The story centers around an underground group of filmmakers that once a week convene to view and critique one another’s film. Each week that passes, the students all try to top one another in cinematography, delivery, execution and most of all, sadistic violence.

Until now there have been two-star pupils that week after week rule the roost, but there’s a new student gaming for top billing. The genre of said films is not something most audiences would prefer to view, let alone discuss in complimentary detail. The group’s leader, or teacher, is a character based on Hooper’s real-life film professor in college. “He really inspired me to hold onto my specific likes and critiques no matter where the world conversation should gravitate. He always made us consider what we would watch from so many different points of view, you could find the beauty in almost anything.”

“The script was written four years ago, and considering exactly what this story is centered around, I think it’s perfect for a time like right now. I admit the timing may seem ironic, but my hope is that it will help the audience not just have a knee-jerk reaction to being uncomfortable. Then again when we were writing notes we did say if anyone walks out, then we’ve succeeded,” laughs Hooper. The irony Hooper is alluding to is that of the two-star students being male, and their new antagonist being female. Within the genre of horror, an often overlooked counterpoint for protest is now something at the forefront of the movement: the final girl. Women bring life into this world and in many horror films, it is the female that kills the monster and stands as the sole survivor.

In recent real life, there has been a huge push for long overdue equality, both in pay for actors and directors and for films not further perpetuate a negative narrative. “People complain that films like these have no place or don’t deserve to be made because they’re too gross or violent, yet the top fiction show[s] all center around real-life atrocities fictionalized to be easily digestible. We aren’t worried about the last part. We aren’t aiming to offend anyone, but we are looking to make a really scary and really gross horror movie like the ones we grew up loving, more than the basics.”

When asked about whether or not the audience will be left to their imagination or subject to the screening of the student’s films, Hooper is quick to state, ”The audience will absolutely be on hand and in class during each student film.” With the social pressures to tone things down and shy away from the real and ugly side of things, Hooper goes on to add, ”It’s totally worth noting the influx of boundary-pushing horror and gore slipping into mainstream TV shows like Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, and Black Mirror. They gather worldwide acclaim and films like The Green Inferno, Tusk, or The Human Centipede receive a lot of independent conversation, but there seems to be a line at which personal opinions clash with politics, leaving the idea of art at the wayside. Those films and shows have one layer of discomfort. It peels back a layer and makes the audience feel a little uncomfortable, but I could say it’s like food. Most people that want to enjoy a burger certainly don’t like to consider the ugly side of how it got to their plate, and I’m sure no one wants to be told they’re not allowed to do that because someone else doesn’t like it.”

Hooper is no stranger to the art of filming horrific images. He’s made small budget independent films and submissions specific to various horror film contests. This time though he’s going all in with an IndieGoGo campaign of a steep $50,000. “That’s laughably cheap compared to big-budget films of today but with the cast we’ve assembled and the crew of people excited to be a part of this, we could make something really special.” Some of the stars include Bianka Bell, Cameron Caves, Jordan Potch, Alex Shirley, Steven G Lawrence, Victoria Turney, and Edward Young. “Cinema Incubo is going to be a very graphic and intense film, and may not be for everybody, but it is a film that needs to be made for that very reason. We are firm believers that art is subjective and there never truly is a right or wrong answer to whether a piece of art is good or bad, we do know that this is going to be something special, and we are going to do everything we can to make a memorable movie for cinephiles, horror fans, and filmmakers of all kinds”.

The campaign to help is currently running and extends to mid-May. There is a long list and wide array of rewards and prizes for contributions towards their funding goal. You can find out more here.

Words: Jordan Wolfe.

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