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Before there was The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity, there was America’s Deadliest Home Video… well almost. But no really, it LIVES! America’s Deadliest Home Video was written and directed by Jack Perez, produced by Racine native Mick Wynhoff, and filmed in Racine 25 years ago. Initially released in 1993, the movie was just re-released by Camp Motion Pictures and that means the flick is now available on DVD to buy on Amazon or GeekyBrew.com. Starring Wynhoff, it also featured Danny Bonaduce just after he faced jail time for punching a transvestite in Phoenix Arizona.

Snagging Bonaduce

So how did Wynhoff get Danny Bonaduce to Racine? It was all timing baby. “I saw a news article about it and we were looking for a name,” Wynhoff said. “We called his agent and he was pretty frustrated with him. He gave us Danny’s contact information and he said that if we could help him stay out of jail by writing a letter to the judge, he’d do it.” The letter, which the judge mentioned during Bonaduce’s sentencing, was one of the factors that led to Bonaduce avoiding jail. Wynhoff and line producer Maripat Ridge (now Valentine) both wrote letters to the judge about how well behaved Bonaduce was and that they had a job for him. The flick was the first shot-on-tape found footage movie, which was filmed well before The Blair Witch Project. “We made it so that If you found it in the gutter, you would potentially think it was real because there are no cuts,” Wynhoff said. A spoof on the VHS home movie crazy, the movie tells the tale of Doug (played by Bonaduce), a man who gets a VHS camera, and starts filming a little too much. After he finds that his wife (played by his real wife Gretchen Bonaduce) is cheating on him. Doug accidentally films a car being ditched by a gang of ruthless killers, who make him video their crimes.

Camp Motion Pictures Looks To Re-Release Film

After finding the film at a flea market, Josh Shafer contacted Perez two years ago to tell him that Camp Motion Pictures wanted to put the film on DVD, which meant that they had rebuild the movie from original footage. “I no longer had the final, finished cut of the movie. We had to take the finished video from the video cut and the sound from a backup SVHS copy and re-assemble it,” Wynhoff said. “That print was lost when the duplicator went out of business.” To make a digital friendly copy of the film took about three months as Wynhoff dug up the original camera footage. The film was re-released earlier this month and a number of reviewers have given it credit as a ground-breaker. “It’s kind of like a lost gem,” said movie review TonyoftheDead on YouTube. “It was found at a flea market on VHS.”

America’s Deadliest Home Video: “Ground-breaking”

Fangoria Magazine’s Michael Gingold called the film “an unsung ground-breaker in the found-footage field.” But he notes that the film distributor showed the movie to George Lucas, who didn’t quite “get” the concept of the movie. “At the time, movies lensed on consumer VHS or—like this one—Hi-8 were looked down on by all but the most rabid genre fans, and much of the film-making/distribution community (including George Lucas, according to writer/director Jack Perez on one of the disc’s commentaries) didn’t get what these filmmakers were up to,” Gingold said. Ultimately the pan by Lucas led the distributor to not return Wynhoff’s phone calls and the group only ended up selling a few hundred copies. While Wynhoff is happy that the project is getting more play, he also has a critical eye of the work saying some of the scenes are too long. He is considering a showing for the movie, but hasn’t hammered out the details yet. “But it’s really a cult film within a cult,” he said with a smile.        

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.