Monster Road, Best Documentary winner at the Slamdance Film Festival, is explores the wildly fantastic worlds of legendary animator Bruce Bickford. Bruce Bickford’s collaborations with rock musician Frank Zappa in the 1970s made him an international cult figure. Three decades later, the sixty-one-year-old animator works alone in a basement studio near Seattle, producing films for no apparent audience.
Brett Ingram’s documentary has an impressive 7.8 user rating on IMDb. Here’s a sampling of what critics have to say:
Visually arresting, narratively sound and deeply depressing at times, Monster Road is a viable reason why the documentary film genre is one of cinema’s most passionate and critical. Sometimes, all a filmmaker has to do is turn his camera on a subject and let their story do the telling. In this case, Bruce Bickford is such a striking human being, a man possessed of as much originality as he is overpowered by inner demons. He should be an old master by now, the kind of clever cult guru that young animators gravitate toward in order to learn from and emulate. Sadly, he seems more alone now than ever before in his creative life. Because of its power, its penchant for telling Bickford’s amazing saga without relying on the formulaic facets of the biography, Monster Road earns an easy Highly Recommended. You may not know who this atypical artist is before going into the excellent overview of his life and career, but its assured you won’t forget him – or his fascinating, freakish films – once his tale has been told.
– Bill Gibron, DVD Talk
The scenes of his clay animation that are offered in Monster Road are eerie and poetic displays of perpetual consumption and transformation. Warriors locked in combat are gutted, their insides morphing into indescribable creatures. Large, inhuman heads eat everything in sight and rearrange in shape and size. They’re violent but mesmerizing vignettes, set to a rhythmic score by the band Shark Quest.
– Ray Young, Flickhead
Ingram paints a compelling portrait of Bickford and his aging engineer father as reclusive savants, feeding off the atmosphere of their backwoods, Twin Peaks-ish corner of the Pacific Northwest. Both men seemed haunted by the specter of war — Bickford by his time in Vietnam, his father by WWII. Their recollections in the film’s second half more than answer the “how the hell did he dream up that?” question posed by the extended scenes from Bickford’s homegrown claymation epics. Ingram passes over some tantalizing details — what was it like working for Zappa, anyway? — but by the time Monster Road is over, you’re likely to get as detailed a peek into one marginalized genius’ obsessions as you’d get from any overblown Hollywood biography of a “major” artist.