Kevin Smith's teen dreams come true 

Horror films mark a return to first film love

click to enlarge Kevin Smith
  • Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith's childhood dreams are coming true.

This weekend, he's coming full circle to one of the places they began — a comic book convention bustling with fans.

"When I was a kid, conventions were all about finding a bargain or finding something rare, but now as a middle-aged person, they're about finding time tunnels," he says.

Saturday night at Indy PopCon, you'll find Smith following tunnels all the way back to his youth, talking about the superheroes he's loved since as far back as he can remember and screening the movie he's wanted to make since he was a little boy.

Smith's new film, Yoga Hosers, is the kind of creature feature he would stay up until midnight to catch on cable when he was a kid. Clueless meets Gremlins, the film follows two teenage convenience store clerks as they battle mini-monsters called Bratzis — one-foot-tall Canadian Nazis made of bratwurst.

click to enlarge yoga_hosers_poster_1_.jpg

"Yoga Hosers is a weird piece. This is the movie I always wanted to see when I was a 12-year-old girl, but it took for me to be a 45-year-old man to make it," Smith says with a chuckle.

While he gleefully acknowledges the film's outlandishness, he's not kidding when he says he's been building up to a bizarre work of pulp fiction like this one. Although Smith is defined by his breezy comedies (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy), he doesn't consider horror his mistress on the side from funny stuff.

"If anything, horror was like my first girlfriend," he says. "That's what I dreamed about when I was a kid. I wanted to do special effects makeup. I had a makeup kit, I had nose putty, I made my own fake blood with Karo syrup and red food dye. I was raised on a steady diet of rubber masks."

Smith chased the careers of monster-makers like Tom Savini and Rick Baker, hoping to build creatures like those in Dawn of the Dead and An American Werewolf in London.

"Life just didn't take me in that direction," Smith says. "But that doesn't mean I lost my love for horror. Those are the movies I watched the most growing up. I didn't watch movies like Clerks and Mallrats; I just made movies like that."

Smith certainly followed the comedic route for a long spell, creating a whole universe of quirky characters, most notably Jay and Silent Bob — the weed dealers first seen loitering outside the convenience store in Clerks. Of course, those guys went on to linger in the background of several other geeky comedies in Smith's cinematic universe — the "View Askewniverse," named after View Askew Productions.

Now, Smith wants to stop walking down memory lane with these characters and create a new world. He's taking a detour from the View Askewniverse with what he calls the True North Trilogy. It started in 2014 with Tusk, an unnerving tale of a podcaster (Justin Long) kidnapped and transformed into a walrus. The Canada-themed horror series continues with Yoga Hosers and concludes with Moose Jaws — an homage to the classic shark thriller Jaws ... but with a killer moose. It's safe to say that these films are unlike anything you've seen from Smith before, but that's the appeal.

click to enlarge The jersey wearing legend
  • The jersey wearing legend

"I wanted to do something original. That's what I love about these movies: You can love 'em or hate 'em, but you gotta admit ... no one else is making this shit," Smith says with a mischievous giggle.

Although his horror films are receiving mixed to negative reviews, Smith is finding rewards in taking risks and tossing aside the security blanket of comedy. He seems to find more success now when he strays from what's familiar.

"I've been trying to get Clerks III made for about three years now, and it was surprisingly easier to get Tusk financed," Smith says. "People were like, 'We've seen Clerks, and we saw what a sequel to Clerks was like, but I've never seen a movie about a guy that turns another guy into a walrus.' That gets an investor interested, man. As long as you keep the budget low, you can still be creative and weird and fucked up."

Smith uses the True North Trilogy as an example when talking with "the art kids" about how they don't have to play it safe and pursue run-of-the-mill projects — a lesson Smith sometimes wishes he learned when he was their age.

"I used to be scared and think, 'What if my movie dies at the box office? What if it gets bad reviews?'" Smith says. "At this stage of the game, being middle-aged and whatnot, I don't want to pass up on opportunities because of fear, you know? I never really think about what's good for my career anymore. I just go, 'Ooh, that looks fun!' And I head toward it like a shiny light."

Smith plans on bringing this kind of childlike exuberance to the discussion after PopCon's screening of Yoga Hosers, which isn't just a typical Q&A. The film will be followed by a live recording of Smith's podcast, Fatman on Batman.

Initially conceived in 2012 as an outlet for Smith to unleash his decades-long love of the Dark Knight, the show is now a launching pad for discussions of all things entertainment, co-hosted by Marc Bernardin, the film editor for the Los Angeles Times.

click to enlarge On set
  • On set

Like Smith's approach to his career, the show takes a positive, optimistic look at the world of entertainment.

"The show has morphed into me and Marc talking about anything genre-related and hailing the things we love," he says. "We don't bag on the stuff we don't like too much. There's no point in cursing the darkness; we'd rather light a candle."

Smith ultimately associates that kind of warm, hopeful light with the feeling he had the last time he came through Indianapolis. Let's have him tell the story:

"I was traveling with my wife after September 11. We were in Los Angeles, and we drove home because it wasn't a good time to fly. So we traveled across America and spent the night in Indianapolis at a hotel and watched Bridget Jones's Diary for probably the 100th time. Honestly, that was one of the greatest nights of my life. It was this quiet moment between me and my wife. We had just put my movie to bed and who knew what the next one was going to be. Meanwhile, who knew what the future of the country was going to be. It was a time of uncertainty, but I had something certain sitting there watching a movie with me. Everything felt right, and I always associate that feeling with Indianapolis. It's very rare that you have a moment where you think in every direction and go, 'Nothing is wrong right now; everything is OK.' I had that moment in 2001 with my wife in Indianapolis. I look forward to repeating it."

(Editor's Note: This article was graciously boosted on social media by Indy PopCon. []. Indy PopCon had no input on the content in this article or the decision to create it.)

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