At Shriekfest: Is Christopher Farley the Next Spielberg?

[One of the most impressive films at the festival was not in the horror genre, and we loved it.]

If you loved Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E. T., this movie is for you. But here’s the thing: It’s not playing anywhere.

In a jaded, worn-down culture there aren’t many “Stop the presses!” moments for much of anything anymore, and likely none for a low-budget science fiction movie. Until now.

Christopher Farley has, with his new movie, Atom Nine Adventures, arrived. He has created a wholly original comic book-style super-hero and put him in a sci-fi, action-adventure movie that is every bit as enjoyable—no, make that as exciting and as stirring, as those made by the great directors he obviously admires; Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. But those guys have hundreds of millions of dollars to realize their visions, along with armies of writers and technical wizards. Farley had less; much, much less.

After the world premiere screening of Atom Nine to about forty people in a late afternoon time-slot on Saturday, at the indie horror/sci-fi/fantasy film festival, Shriekfest, I asked Farley how much it cost him to make his movie. He paused, and then almost as if he couldn’t quite believe it himself, he quietly said, “I made it for twenty thousand dollars.”

He’ll need to get used to the sort of reaction he got from me when he says that, the kind where you lean forward and incredulously repeat the amount to make sure you heard correctly.

In addition to writing, directing, producing and editing the film, he also acted in the starring role. And here’s the clincher: he created all of the absolutely DAZZLING special visual effects. By himself. At home.

“My poor G5,” he laughed. “I had to buy a second computer.” (The film has nine hundred eighty-six visual effects.)

Atom Nine Adventures pits Dr. Adam Gaines, a scientist who finds an ancient meteor containing an alien organism that might hold the secrets of the universe, against the evil Gremlo Flugg, who also seeks the ancient contents of the meteorite so he can carry out his sinister plans to take over Planet Earth. Watching it is like riding in the front seat of a roller coaster.

As the lights came up in the Chaplin Theater at Raleigh Studios, the small audience thronged around him, beaming with admiration. Strangers wanted to shake the hand of the young man who had just taken them on a wild adventure that left them gasping with excitement. Humble and grateful, he received their kudos like the shy guy he seems to be in such a setting.

When asked if he had a distributor for the film, he said, “I’m looking for one.”

As I left the theater, an audience member told me she had heard that he had been contacted by the Weinstein Company but knew little more than that. Earlier, I had asked Farley if he had tried to contact Spielberg, whom he acknowledges as a huge influence, and he told me, “I sent him a postcard.”

I hope he got it.