Let’s face it, blowing up Atlanta’s Starlight Six Drive-In for work must’ve been pretty damn cool. I’d even be willing to bet that the film maker, cast and crew of Dear God No! had fun on most workdays – blowing up the drive-in, riding motorcycles, playing with fake blood and special effects, making jokes, and the gratuitous use of beards, boobs, and violence.
Dear God No! held its World Premiere at the historic Plaza Theatre in Atlanta on Friday, September 9. Word of this locally-filmed and produced independent flick must have traveled fast because the sold out line wrapped around the building. 375 people came out to see what local Atlanta film maker James Bickert and his crew had created – some were friends of the cast and crew, others were Kickstarter Partners (who had donated money to make the movie happen), and yet others were intrigued by the proliferation of the film premiere through social media and were also morbidly curious about it’s “WARNING: Dear God No! contains gratuitous nudity, mad science, hairy beasts, Nazis, patricide, suicide, nuns, decapitations, evisceration, infanticide, limb removal, rock and roll, machine guns, explosions, heavy drug use, incestual lesbian rape and Richard Nixon.” I was in the latter group; I had to know if the film maker and crew could actually pull all of that off without the film coming off as a clustered mess.
The Plaza Theatre, Atlanta’s independent non-profit cinema, was the perfect place to host the World Premiere of Dear God No! as the renovated theatre room has a large stage where the creepy, trench coat-wearing emcee could get the crowd riled up and introduce the movie – in this case with lewd jokes and having the audience say, “Dear God No!” after everything he said. The theatre auditorium lobby was covered in Dear God No! movie promos and horror props used on set (fake heads and hearts, anyone?).
Touted as a lost ‘70’s drive-in exploitation film, Dear God No! was shot in color on super 16mm film format which gave the film a softer focus, rich color saturation, and natural graininess that softened up and almost romanticized the movie’s gore. The production company Big World Picture’s goal was to make the film look as authentic 1970s as possible with little to no computer-generated special effects. Keeping in line with the 1970’s look, the bikers wore what looked like hand painted gang jackets and rode on stripped-down bikes with no helmets; backdrops included a drive-in and hole-in-the-wall bar with the additional scenery of open roads, fields, vintage cars, and a backwoods cabin. This was definitely an exploitation flick featuring all that could be perceived as sensational (refer back to the movie contains warning), right down to the twisted movie poster by The Dude Designs and movie tagline, “When the blood begins to flow, who will be left to scream.” World Premiere attendees were lucky enough to receive an official uncensored poster, a certificate of movie survival, and some even received other pieces of furry film memorabilia.
This is one movie that truly lived up to its name, “DEAR GOD NO!” Several times during the movie viewers gasped, moaned, and groaned at the gratuitous violence, blood, and gore; but they also laughed. Being an avid horror movie fan, one thing I’ve come to learn is that there is a strong connection to how well a movie is received or remembered by the laughter associated with it. Well at least for me, laughter can make or break an over-the-top horrific movie. I think James Bickert, Writer, Director, and Executive Producer along with Co-Producers Nick Morgan and Shane Morton get that. I felt Dear God No! was an interesting mix of Quentin Tarantino-esque style meets Troma films goriness and comedy. Basically, Dear God No! was the uninhibited film that the two might have made together if Tarantino’s budget got reined in and Troma upped the ante on special effects. One scene in particular reminded me of a scene right out of Troma’s Tromeo & Juliet, but with a sicker twist of course. Doing a little bit of research on Internet Movie Database (IMDb) turns up that Bickert’s last film in 2000, Dumpster Baby, was both produced and distributed by Troma Entertainment.
My favorite parts of the movie included very well done decapitations and authentic horror scenes which I was not expecting out of this production (but I would’ve known better if I had read the bios of SPFX artists on the movie’s website first). I also liked the onslaught of jokes that made the harsher parts more tolerable – the deliveries were spot on, smart, and hilarious!
The Dear God No! cast included Atlanta locals, horror movie veterans, professional actors, rock band members, a former World Wrestling Federation RAW babe, special effects gurus, Silver Scream Spook Show-ers, Atlanta haunted house ghouls, and monster costumers. Dear God No! starred Jett Bryant, Madeline Brumby, Olivia LaCroix, Paul McComiskey, John Collins, Shane Morton, Nick Morgan, Rusty Stache, Jim Sligh, Billy Ratliff, Johnny McGowen, John Collins, Heath Street, Rachelle Lynn, Nick Hood and Jim Stacey. The original motion picture soundtrack was provided by the Atlanta-based band the Forty-Fives.
This film is not yet rated, but contains loads of gratuitous violence and nudity. The World Premiere event even noted, “SISSIES, MINORS & THOSE WITH HEART CONDITIONS WILL NO BE ADMITTED. NO EXCEPTIONS.” So, if you have a twisted sense of humor, love horror, and don’t mind uttering, “Dear God No!” every ten minutes, go see this movie! If not, avoid it like the plague. And yes, every bit of the warning about what the film contains is true. I’m still in shock about how they managed to cover and weave all of those topics into one film. And yes, there were times when I really wish they hadn’t gone that far with the topics. “Get ready for the thrill kill ride of your life! Sex and violence so extreme you will want to scream… DEAR GOD NO!”
P.S. As far as I know, the Starlight Six Drive-In thankfully survived the filming of this movie as did the Plaza Theatre after its World Premiere. It is unknown whether Bigfoot the monster and/or the band were accidentally harmed in the filming of this movie or in its post-production stage.
Exclusive pics by Brook Hewitt!
Future showings of Dear God No!
September 22nd 10PM: Arizona Underground Film Festival (Tucson, AZ)
October 15th: Pollygrind 2011 – Las Vegas
October 21st 9:30PM: Plaza Theater – Atlanta
October 22st 9:30PM: Plaza Theater – Atlanta
October 23rd 9:30PM: Plaza Theater – Atlanta
October 24th 9:30PM: Plaza Theater – Atlanta
October 26th 9:30PM: Plaza Theater – Atlanta
October 27 9:30PM: Plaza Theater – Atlanta
To Be Determined Starlight Six Drive-in – Atlanta