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Review: Portland Horror Film Festival’s ‘Snapper: The Man-Eating Turtle Movie That Never Got Made’

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Review: Portland Horror Film Festival's 'Snapper: The Man-Eating Turtle Movie That Never Got Made'

Sometimes we don’t finish our projects. Or relationships. Or thoughts even. Sometimes we bail. Or send our energy elsewhere. Sometimes new projects call us, summoning us. Sometimes projects devour us, like cannibals. Or we become obsessed with them. And we work ourselves to death trying to fix or hone them. Then, one day we wake up as someone different, and the old things no longer seem interesting.

SNAPPER: THE MAN-EATING TURTLE MOVIE THAT NEVER GOT MADE is a short documentary about an abandoned project, a low-budget indie film about a man-eating turtle. It features the trailer, old footage, and interviews with the co-writers and directors of SNAPPER, Mark Veau and Mike Savino, who discuss the history of their b-movie horror flick that was never finished.

SNAPPER was shot guerilla-style (without insurance) on weekends, over two months, in the early ’90s. And in the nineties, film was all you had; you didn’t have iPhones, a Canon 7D, or a pocket BlackMagic. Film was it, so if you messed up a shot, you were screwed, but SNAPPER had moxie and more than just moxie. SNAPPER had a special effects artist, a stunt person who could set themselves on fire and fall from a two-story building on cue, and a beautiful, hand-made, six-foot head of a turtle, and it still didn’t get made.

Snapper The Man-Eating Turtle Movie That Never Got Made Documentary

SNAPPER had all that going for it, so why was it abandoned? Well, the reason is a little glossed over. They tried to get some money after they shot a trailer, but couldn’t get money for it, so they moved on. That’s it. They ended up making another short that won an award at a festival instead. The directors don’t speak too much about why they stopped, other than they moved on to another project, which feels a bit like a surfacy answer, and though it’s a reasonable one, it’s not altogether satisfying.

Maybe that’s the real story though; sometimes, you just move on in life, and things don’t get made. Sandwiches get thrown away; you don’t finish your creepy stop-motion haunted house town; you stop brewing your own kombucha, but you take up candy-making and drawing. You get new ideas, new hopes, new dreams, new habits, new adventures. You move on, always forward, never backward. Always forward.

I enjoyed SNAPPER though I wish there were more to it, the good ones leave you wanting more. It would be interesting to see it fleshed out into a full-length documentary about unfinished projects. So many can relate to that subject; there is much to be said about abandoned projects and why we end or leave things half-finished.

The short documentary also offers advice on making independent films. SNAPPER had too many locations and too many actors, which became overwhelming; and filming a huge turtle head that couldn’t get wet (imagine shooting JAWS if the shark head melted and fell apart in the water) was an impossibly frustrating obstacle, although they did find their way around it. But the take-home message is this: Be mindful of what you put your energy into, and whatever you do, don’t shoot on the water.

Oddly enough, SNAPPER, produced and directed by John Campopiano, is inspiring, even if the directors didn’t finish their creature feature because we all have stuff we didn’t finish, and many of us have stuff we never even started. It’s particularly interesting if you love indie horror, and admire the creativity of toy-makers and the secret fury of turtles. Snapper: The Man-Eating Turtle Movie That Never Got Made is now screening at the Portland Horror Film Festival.

Snapper The Man-Eating Turtle Movie That Never Got Made Poster

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