“I haven't shown it to my father yet,” director David Kabler tells Xpress. “I don't want to upset my father, because it's definitely a story about fathers.”
The story in question is Wanderlost, Kabler's recently finished, two-and-a-half year in the making production. Whittled down to its basest terms, Wanderlost is a movie about fathers and family and influence.
That's the short answer. In reality, Wanderlost is a much more complicated animal than that — part gory horror flick, part art film, part Grimm's fairy tale, part allegory. Shot mostly in and around the graffiti-strewn train trestles and junk yards of Asheville's River Arts District (all the interiors, even, were filmed inside Kabler's Eyesore Studios, located in the RAD's Wedge Gallery), Wanderlost is also self-styled by the director as dark fantasy, taking place in a much more spiritualized –almost magical– world than ours.
But don't mistake this bent towards mysticism as tree-hugging dirt-worshipping and the like. Wanderlost is a much nastier affair, a grimy, gritty picture that's occasionally disturbing. Mostly a genre piece the film recently premiered at Indianapolis' Famous Monsters of Film Land festival and its opening at the Atlanta Horror Film Festival in August. Kabler lists off John Carpenter and George A. Romero as influences. “There are sections of the film I feel are Altered States, which I think is one of my favorite movies,” says Kabler, speaking of Ken Russell's trippy 1980 horror/sci-fi classic. “All the monster movies of my youth, you can kind of see the elements of those in there. I've studied movies, like horror, '80s and '70s horror, for specific scenes.”
Even while acknowledging his influences, Kabler doesn't see the film as purely referential movie-geekery. “It's also a very personal story, but not only just for me, but my cast. The people who were cast embody some of the personal stories that are in the movie. It's hard to say that it was influenced from any particular movie, because I think that it was its own thing. I was really trying to create something new.”
This “something new” is what Kabler describes as an alternative to what Hollywood is currently dishing out. “What we're trying to do as filmmakers here,” Kabler says, “is create work that's unique and beyond what the mainstream is really doing.”
Wanderlost, in many ways, is a counter-culture response to convention, a film steeped in train-hopping, graffiti artists and punk music. With this independent production and nature of the movie, it would be easy to pigeonhole Wanderlost as guerrilla filmmaking, a label Kabler is reluctant to embrace due to the connotations attached to it, such as a lack of professionalism or production quality. As Kabler puts it, “It was guerrilla, but we have a very talented crew.”
Nonetheless, Wanderlost is one of the slicker-looking productions to come out of Asheville's indie filmmaking scene. In Asheville — and especially in this economic climate — simply finishing production on a movie is an accomplishment.
But, according to Kabler, the state of the economy — or the film industry in general — isn't to blame for the film's almost three-year-long gestation period. “The goal was to make it in one year, which we would've been able to do if we had better funding. I think it's the nature of being a first-time filmmaker.” On top of that, in Kabler's eyes, the economic downturn was serendipitous for the film. “I think Wanderlost was born out of the recession,” says Kabler, “and people who had jobs suddenly didn't have jobs anymore.” People who, a few years prior, would've been too busy for Wanderlost, were now, out of nowhere, freed up.
Because of this local approach, Kabler's most excited about finally unveiling his finished film to Asheville. To kick it off, the crew has a Monster Bash dance party planned for Thursday, July 29, while the big Asheville premiere hits the Fine Arts Theatre August 6 and 7.
For Kabler, it's the obvious culmination of years of painstaking work. “I've done a lot of hard things,” says Kabler. “I've raised a daughter who's now in college, that was pretty difficult — I'd say that's the only thing that's been harder. Wanderlost is the second hardest thing.”
Production please box:
See and celebrate Wanderlost
Monster Bash dance party: Thursday, July 29, 7 to 11 p.m. at Eyesore Studios in the Wedge Building. Featuring a monster costume contest, Djs and a scene preview.
Asheville premieres on August 6 and 7 at the Fine Arts Theatre. Shows at 9:45 p.m. each night.
[Justin Souther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]