Spaghettiman is the first feature film by Heckbender. Heckbender is a group of four guys who are all writers, actors, comedians and filmmakers. They are Winston Carter, Benjamin Crutcher, Mark Potts and Brand Rackley. They’ve been making YouTube videos for some time now. Four years ago, Crutcher came up with an idea for a superhero who was modeled after Spider-Man but instead of webbing, he shot spaghetti from his hands. Heckbender spent three months writing his origin story. In early 2015, they decided to do the whole Edward Burns thing for The Brothers McMullen, and filmed the story on weekends, even while holding full-time jobs during the week.
It meant working every day, sometimes for 14 or 15 hours straight, but after about two months or so, they had the movie shot and in less than a year, Heckbender had the world premiere for Spaghettiman in February at the 2016 Oxford Film Festival in Oxford, Mississippi. The guys took the movie to other festivals like the 10th annual Dallas International Film Festival in April where they found a distributor. The movie will play tonight at the Portland Film Festival, as somewhat of a last hurrah before getting released in theaters and digital platforms on September 24.
According to Heckbender’s blog, critics have called the movie the “ultimate millennial superhero” and “Deadpool meets The Big Lebowski.” For anyone attending the screening, Heckbender has decided to bring prizes, or one prize in particular that they will dole out to some lucky film-goer at the Q&A.
Talking to Heckbender, particularly Carter, it’s obvious that he is a total fanboy for comic books and comic-book films. Watching his movie, one could be confused if he’s mocking the genre or not. Rest assured, Carter insists that his movie is in homage to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films, especially the second, which he believes is the best.
He and his fellow Heckbender crew worship those superhero movies. They even go to see the movies together. Carter admits that right now he’s leaning more toward the Marvel Studios brand as the better one, as opposed to the Warner Bros. and DC Comics brand, which kicked off this year with Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. Yet, he and Heckbender are anticipating the Wonder Woman spin-off starring Gal Godot.
Carter describes the movie as the anti-Spider-Man. The protagonist, played by Crutcher himself (pictured above), the so-called Spaghettiman, is a deadbeat and shlub of a man who’s from Los Angeles but definitely rocks a long, hipster beard, which the men of Portland who see it at tonight’s or Saturday’s screening might appreciate. Spaghettiman doesn’t embrace or think of being altruistic. He’s self-centered and doesn’t even come close to considering the whole “with great power comes great responsibility,” which is the quote attributed to Spider-Man as his mantra or core belief.
Instead, Spaghettiman is a rank capitalist, or he operates with just a base feeling of greed at the forefront. He makes being a superhero a business or else seizes upon the obvious economic opportunities. There was a 2013 story about how firefighters in Arizona charged a family money to help put out a fire. ABC News reported a similar story back in 2010. Carter and the gang simply applied this idea to the superhero genre, and it’s an interesting question to see debated.
Because Heckbender comes from the L.A. improv scene, improvisation works itself into this movie. Crutcher improvs a ukelele song that’s pretty hilarious because of its intense literalness. Heckbender even incorporates six guys who play the henchmen for Spaghettiman’s arch-nemesis whose origin is straight out The Incredibles (2004). Heckbender didn’t want these henchmen to be fodder in the climactic fight scene at the end, which was the longest thing to shoot. They wanted these henchmen to have personalities and be fleshed out a little, so they let the actors playing them improvise and develop their characters a bit.
It’s all ridiculous, over-the-top and silly, but it helps to fill out and immerse us in this world. Heckbender says those henchmen scenes are probably some of the funniest material in the whole movie. Sure to make the audience laugh.