Otto Baxter: Not A F***ing Horror Story
“My name is Otto Baxter and I’ve been filmed by other people since I was a baby,” the protagonist introduces himself. As one of four adopted children with Down’s syndrome, his mother Lucy was willing to invite cameras into their home in order to educate the public on the realities of living with a disability. When he was 21 years old, filmmakers Peter Beard and Bruce Fletcher shot a BBC Three special about Baxter’s desire to lose his virginity (Otto: Love, Lust and Las Vegas). Beyond establishing an ongoing working relationship, they became friends, and so the directing duo were not only eager to assist Baxter on his quest of stepping behind the camera himself, but also documented the process, resulting in Not A F***ing Horror Story.
The title alludes to the fact that Baxter’s directorial debut, The Puppet Asylum, is very much a horror story. In style, it’s perhaps most comparable to Darren Lynn Bousman’s The Devil’s Carnival: the autobiographically tinted musical tells the story of a monstrous baby, rejected by its birth parents and sought after for its powers by evil personified. Because the genre has always had a complicated relationship with other-ness – oftentimes exploiting physical deformities and mental illness, and depicting both as something to be scared of – the history-making production is an impressive reclamation of power on multiple fronts.
Beard and Fletcher’s documentary sets the scene with archival televised footage of the world Baxter grew up in: when people argued against the inclusion of children with his condition into “regular” schools, when so-called experts claimed that no intellectual achievements could be expected from someone with Down’s. Viewers realise that the persistence with which Lucy fought for her sons to be allowed normal experiences in life, was what paved the way for Otto to live out his dreams. It is an inspiring story, but it doesn’t gloss over any of the necessary efforts.
The parallels between Baxter’s life story and his creative endeavour may be apparent to anyone watching The Puppet Asylum, but the context given in Otto Baxter highlights the complexity of his relationship to his birth mother, for instance, and truly allows audiences to comprehend the entirety of what the young man is capable of.
More than a straightforward documentary about an extraordinary individual, Otto Baxter: Not A F***ing Horror Story is a thought-provoking exploration of what it means to live, rather than to “be kept alive.”
Otto Baxter: Not A F***ing Horror Story is released in select cinemas on 1st September 2023.
Watch the trailer for Otto Baxter: Not A F***ing Horror Story here: