Eduardo Sanchez has had a pretty fascinating movie career. After striking lightning in a bottle the first time out, the Cuban born filmmaker went away for a long while before making another film, and when he made another one, two in fact, they hardly compared to what he seemed capable of early on. Thankfully for us horror fans, the dude rebounded in a big bad way the last few years, making good on the promise of his early talent. Better yet, the future looks bright for Eduardo, even ready to give us another flick sometime later this year. So with that ladies and gents, let's have a hard look Mr. Sanchez's 15 year body of work in the horror genre!
If not his best, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is definitely the most important film of Eduardo Sanchez. Not just for him personally, as it launched a promising career in the picture business, but because of the cultural and economic impact the film ascended to. Made in the height of the American independent film movement, BLAIR WITCH "was in the Guinness Book Of World Records for "Top Budget: Box Office Ratio" (for a mainstream feature film). The film cost $22,000 to make and made back $240.5 million, a ratio of $1 spent for every $10,931 made." (IMDB). Of course, with such popularity, the film became known globally, and even became an industry reference point when talking about the "shaky cam" aesthetic. The film was not only a massive hit, it bled into the larger zeitgeist, inspiring many knock-offs and mock-ups. In a way, it changed the economic template of movie making.
As a film itself, most of the BLAIR WITCH intrigue pertained to whether the events shown were real or not. As word spread, people had to tune in to see what the fuss was about. The grainy 16mm home-video footage gave us a legit reason to believe the action was authentic, unpolished and amateur...therefore real. As alluded to, a 14 year subsequent wave of "found-footage" movies would follow suit...few achieving the level of mystery and/or popularity. Still, WITCH mothered an entire subgenre of low-budget, hand-held mockumentary horror flicks...a subgenre that, for better or worse, continues to flourish to this day. In that regard, BLAIR WITCH cast an immeasurable spell on the way certain movies were made. Can't f*ck with that!
After reaching unmatchable success in 1999, Sanchez could naturally only go down from there. And he did. His follow up to BLAIR WITCH came 7 years later, the fairly middling alien abduction flick ALTERED, which apparently was conceived as a horror comedy. Working under an $8 million budget, Sanchez failed to captivate audiences the way he did with the awesome BLAIR WITCH. It deals with a similar setup in that it featured four friends out in the woods trying to capture an extraterrestrial that abducted one of them years before. But it's simply not as engaging or compelling as his film debut, and actually somehow feels cheaper and chintzier in some ways. It's not a terrible film by any means, but it's certainly not the desired follow up to a film that changed the landscape of low-budget indie filmmaking.
But what is horrible? SEVENTH MOON, Sanchez's third feature that was released in 2008. No bueno. Not even a little. A shame really, considering Sam Raimi's Ghost House Underground produced the film, not to mention the promising story setup. The flick finds a couple on exotic vacation in China when they happen upon a longstanding "Hungry Ghost" festival. As you'd guess, the tradition proves too bizarre and overwhelming for the couple that they become increasingly tormented by ancient spirits and ghastly rituals. Decent enough setup, right?! Too bad the execution is quite uninspired, particularly the low-lighting and nauseating camerawork. It feels as if Sanchez felt the need to go back to his bag of tricks after ALTERED, though the story of SEVENTH MOON didn't seem well suited for that kind of visual style. As a result, it's definitely the weakest movie in Sanchez's canon thus far.
As oft-discussed above, if there's any one thing Sanchez will go to the grave with, it's likely the shaky-cam found footage format he made so famous in 1999. Dude wisely branched out from that style with his next film 7 years later, though with much less success. But his last two outings, effective outings at that(LOVELY MOLLY, V/H/S/2), Sanchez has re-appropriated the vertite visual style in a way that basically says: "hey posers, get the f*ck off my turf!" Can't really argue with his results, especially in the wake of god awful shite like THE DEVIL INSIDE, APOLLO 18 and way too many countless others that have dropped recently. That said, without what Sanchez introduced way back when, perhaps we wouldn't have solid joints like CLOVERFIELD, THE LAST EXORCISM, the REC series, etc. etc.
Perhaps due to its relative freshness (released in May of '12 in the U.S.), LOVELY MOLLY has to be Sanchez's most rare find indeed. Not only is it still a bit under the radar, it happens to be a real return to form after a pair of uneven post-WITCH efforts. For those who've not seen it, do so ASAP, as general consensus here at AITH is that it's a finely crafted horror film with genuinely chilling moments. And after the spate of all the WITCH wannabes and imitators in the intervening years, Sanchez almost reinvents the found-footage motif, or at least demonstrates how it's done right, although it's used sparingly in LOVELY MOLLY. It isn't wall-to-wall found-footage, which is a wise move. As for the story, it finds a troubled young woman who returns to her childhood home, the same place her father was brutally killed, only to be met by an ever-increasingly menacing force. An astounding performance by newcomer Gretchen Lodge makes the film feel plausible, with 2 or 3 standout scenes that aren't likely to escape your memory anytime soon after witnessing them. Real shite!
Next on the docket for Eduardo is the bigfoot flick EXISTS, currently holding an unspecified 2013 release date. Given his recent upward trend, I'm pretty damned pumped to see what Sanchez can do with a subgenre of mythical-monster-movie that has rarely been given justice. No HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS up in this bitch, no what I mean?! Even more reassuring is the fact that Sanchez has once again teamed with his writing partner Jamie Nash, who has co-written every film since BLAIR WITCH. Here Nash writes the script all by his lonesome, so it'll be interesting to see how Sanchez handles the material with the division of labor so clearly defined this time out. Hopefully they don't revert back to the '06-08 days, all I'm saying on that.
Despite the small sample-size, Eduardo Sanchez has already cemented a legacy in the world of cinema. After the game-changing splash he made with his film debut, Sanchez laid low for the better part of decade before returning with his second feature. Naturally a step below, Sanchez then reached his creative nadir in 2008 with the abysmal SEVENTH MOON, before ultimately coming back with a vengeance in 2011 with LOVELY MOLLY. Now on a roll of sorts, Sanchez co-directed a really funny and gory zombie-segment of the horror anthology V/H/S/2. He also has the upcoming bigfoot film EXISTS in the can ready for a 2013 release. Let's hope the dude can continue the momentum and deliver another solid horror ditty, especially after the last two inspired outings he's given us.