Classifying a film produced by “”Chasing Amy”” director Kevin Smith as “cult” seems redundant, since the filmmakers early works helped define the term. Smith’s low-budget “”Clerks”” and its irreverent follow-up, “”Mallrats,”” not only prompted cinephiles to commit key dialogue to memory, they gave slacker college burnouts two new heroes in Jay and Silent Bob.
Only those steeped in View Askew lore, however, are aware that Smith’s vision doesn’t end with his five feature films. Between the filming of “”Mallrats”” and the mature “”Amy,”” Smith lent his creative – and financial – juices to a B&W comedy concocted by two “Film Threat” reporters camping out on the “Mallrats” set. Smith funded the project, writers Matt Gissing and Malcolm Ingram shot the feature, and now, IndieDVD has is releasing it on DVD.The immediate tickle comes in the casting, a virtual “who’s who” of Smith films, many of who just wrapped a tour of duty on “Mallrats.” Jason Lee, who has gone on to work with the likes of Tony Scott and Cameron Crowe (twice) plays the sullen and stoic Donner, a Canadian slacker suffering from delusions of Bigfoot. Convinced he can track down the mythical beast, Donner coaxes his buds (including Smith cronies Jason Mewes, Renee Humphrey and Carmen Lee) into a multi-day camping trip that first threatens their friendships, and eventually threatens their lives. Gissing and Ingram’s script borrows more than a few elements of Smith’s lesser works, and in true Smith fashion, a seemingly irrelevant discussion about the Scooby gang sets the stage for this adventure. After all, these guys are the Scooby gang, complete with non-descript van and monster on the mind.But even with a clever conceit, “Chasing Flies” cannot overcome the bad acting that drills holes in the production. Lee stands out as the only one with talent, while the rest just try and keep up. However, because Gissing and Ingram can’t juggle the incoherent musings of the displaced slacker the way Smith can, “Flies” doesn’t pick up the pace until Mewes’ character departs, and the Bigfoot subplot claws its way to the surface. Die-hard Askew devotees will chuckle at the archaic feel of the shoot, and Lee’s ability to lose himself in a truly peculiar role. All others will be bored to tears.GRADE: C-THE EXTRAS IndieDVD’s commitment to bringing alternative titles to the mainstream gets off on a great foot. “Drawing Flies” looks as good as can be, considering the budgetary constraints of the shoot. Problems arise in the audio transfer, but if they were part of the original film, I don’t see why they were not cleaned up in post-production. The sound tends to fade out at inopportune times, though the dialogue isn’t so spectacular that you’ll be cursing the IndieDVD folks. And in one of the funniest scenes, an airplane can be heard passing overhead, and while I waited for the characters to acknowledge it, I finally realized it was just an unfortunate coincidence during filming. Ah, the joys of indie filmmaking. Now, the real joy of the “Flies” DVD comes in the extras, which gather the cast and crew together to discuss the film. Two audio commentaries are included, one with the directors, and one with the directors, cast and producer (Smith, himself). Like most of Smith’s DVD commentaries, the “Chasing Flies” track turns into a party of memories and inside jokes. KS tries his hardest to guide Gissing and Ingram through, asking them leading questions about the process that the co-directors just never answer. Still, the cast and crew saved some choice nuggets for the track, and we learn that every film in Smith’s repertoire can fit Mewes’ name into it somehow. So, instead of “Mallrats,” we get “Mall-Mewes.” This film, obviously, is referred to as “Drawing Mewes” more than once.Additional extras on the “Flies” DVD include a bloopers reel, outtakes, a number of deleted scenes that flesh out a subplot involving the group’s need for additional cash, a longer Director’s Cut of the film, and a comical introduction to the film by Smith and co-executive producer, Scott Mosier. GRADE: BOVERALL GRADE: B-While the film “Chasing Flies” is nothing to write home about, it is an essential piece of any collection involving Kevin Smith. Though penned and directed by Gissing and Ingram, the film feels like the Great White version of a Smith adventure, and deserves to be classified as such. The extras were obviously crafted by film aficionados, and they add to the disc’s value. By Sean O’ConnellFeb. 19, 2002