6 Picks From C. Robert Cargill: The ‘Sinister 2’ Writer Shares His Favorite Documentaries

National Film Board of Canada

C. Robert Cargill is having quite the run. A former film critic and voracious movie fan best known for his work at Ain’t It Cool News (where he wrote under the name Massawyrm), the Austin resident has become a fixture in that city’s flourishing film scene. His success mirrors the dreams of many a movie geek: at a meet-up with his friend Scott Derickson (a Nonfics Pick Six veteran), Cargill pitched the idea of Sinister, a horror film about a true-crime writer who uncovers some creepy Super 8 home movies in his attic, and the project was quickly greenlit and put into production. The result wound up a huge hit, eventually netting almost $80 million at the box office.

Cargill, who is also the author of the novels Dreams and Shadows and Queen of the Dark Things and co-hosts the Junkfood Cinema podcast at our sister site Film School Rejects, has continued to team up with Derrickson on other projects, including the sequel Sinister 2, which opens this weekend. They’re also collaborating on an upcoming film based on The Outer Limits television show from the 1960s, as well as a movie based on the Deus X series of video games.

As part of our Pick Six series, I spoke to Cargill about some of his favorite nonfiction films and elicited comments about what they mean to him personally.

Project Grizzly (Peter Lynch, 1997)

“While I’m normally not the type of person who enjoys schadenfreude filmmaking, the gleeful unbridled insanity of a man inspired by the film Robocop to build an anti-bear suit in order to live amongst the bears and learn their ways is too nuts not to dive into. A delightful tale of a well-intentioned, but misguided, man.”

Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 1996)

“An easy pick, but an essential one. This brought to light a number of amazing details in a case the rest of the country had ignored, altering the course of history for everyone involved. It’s no longer a film, but a piece of history.”

That Moment: Magnolia Diary (Mark Rance, 2000)

“Tucked away on the Magnolia DVD was a making-of documentary that refused to be quick, easy and informative. Instead, it is a deep, long meditation on one artist’s struggle to make a movie few others around him got. One particular scene between director [Paul Thomas] Anderson and then-girlfriend Fiona Apple is one which has haunted me since I saw it a decade and a half ago.”

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (Mark Hartley, 2008)

“The film that taught a generation about the joys of Ozsploitation — the era of ‘70s/’80s Australian grindhouse dominance. Chock full of interviews both by the filmmakers of the time as well as those of today that they inspired, NQH will no doubt leave you with a list of films you need to catch up with.”

American: The Bill Hicks Story (Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas, 2009)

“An Austin comedy legend who died too young, but spent his last days becoming one of the most fearless, relentless, prophetic and hilarious comics of all time. Much of his early materials and story have been available as bootlegs around Austin for 20 years, but now they’re assembled into a finely crafted documentary that shows how a teenage boy who just wanted to make people laugh became one of the all time greats.”

Dreams With Sharp Teeth. (Erick Nelson, 2008)

“A movie that literally changed my life. This look at the life of Harlan Ellison not only covers his notorious past feuds and rough and tumble personality, but focuses on Ellison’s crusade to teach the world that writing is like any other profession and writers deserve to be paid for their efforts. Equal parts inspirational and cautionary tale, it is funny, touching and at times abrasive.”