What do you think of the horror scene today, particularly when it comes to mainstream horror?
Mike: “Mainstream horror does still exist, but it’s a sad state of affairs. They keep grinding them out, but whenever I see a new one advertised they always seem so dull and uninteresting to me. Most of the films I see today originate from outside the USA. I keep hoping filmmakers in the US will get their act together and start taking risks again, but realistically . . . it’s not happening very often.”
Ondskans: “Could sum it up in one word: Uninteresting. I do like the fact that horror has got an upswing from being in the gutters all through the 90s, and I do recognize that there are a few gems in the stream (bound to be). But—it has been said before, and I am unsure if it needs repeating—in the 80s there was a mold being made and most of the flicks that were made followed that mold. Wes Craven made fun of that mold when he made Scream. Most of the 80s flicks were formula based and not all that original as they are sometimes touted to be. Some of us grew up with them, learned to love them, and had to live with only that production during the 90s. I think that’s the reason we are so stuck on them. That, and that it was the age of censorship, VHS-copies, and Dutch imports (if you lived in Europe).
“The mainstream horror of today does basically the same thing as what the industry did in the 80s. They find a formula and stick to it. The less discriminating crowd enjoys this, pays money to see it. I can accept this as part of the natural cinematic order. I do, however, think it’s harder for people to get the same kind of obsessive love for the media as it was during the 80s. The mold has gotten a few new features, more gore, more nudity, more CGI, less traditional moralistic messages. But still I know how they all will end in all likelihood and therefore I find them mostly uninteresting in the mainstream.
“We all know about the remake hype, and the big companies’ unwillingness to let the horror scene be what it once was, a playground where you could experiment. But that comes with the big budgets (the basis for better effects) and the impossibility of financial failure. So they go with what’s been tested and proved successful. It’s the rational choice, but it will be what will cause the downfall and subsequent financial failure, which in turn will put the genre in the cupboard again, where new fans will put their Saw copies on repeat and dream of a new era of horror. There are exceptions. Big studios are looking to the more risk-taking Asians and just copy their success stories. To the chagrin of OTEC members, who have already seen those flicks and dread the ‘Americanizations’ of the plot twists. Old Boy is about to be remade. Do you really think the ending will stay the same as in the original? I doubt it, but hope they are willing to try.”
Chad: “Mainstream horror is like a huge booger. You pick it and flick it and it just keeps reappearing. I’m so tired of the remakes/re-imaginings. In my opinion, the French have been the ones to keep your eye on. I must admit, however, I did enjoy the Chainsaw Massacre flick that premiered recently.”
Do you feel that the underground horror scene continues to thrive or has it dwindled? Why?
Ondskans: “It thrives. I interpret the concept of underground horror with the independent moviemakers who get to release their works through mostly their own distribution. Internet has benefited them immensely. Those new and old fans have found them and a way to buy from them directly if necessary. Ryan Nicholson with Gutterballs and Hanger on his resume did the festivals, but in the old days it would have ended there. A precious few would have seen those titles. Nowadays, they reach their market. The evolution of home electronics makes their job look so much better and sets new demands of their competence in special effects. I think they meet those demands with grace. A nice example is Marcus Koch’s work on Sweat Shop. It looks better than more than a few big-budget productions.
“The industry needs people to challenge the KNB Effects team. I love them to bits, but I can smell one of their effects or monsters a mile away by now. It’s extremely nice to see something new. But—there is always a but—with the underground horror now competing with a mainstream that has taken over the extreme gore, they have taken a turn to porn for shock—in my opinion. Ryan Nicholson is a prime example of this. Earlier on, extreme gore or a ‘crime’ against what’s considered ‘good morals’ would have sufficed for an underground horror film to get an audience. These days, that has reached the mainstream. So, when I first popped in Gutterballs, my jaw dropped as the first pornographic image went onscreen. It filled its purpose. Now the ball is rolling. You got genre mash-ups with porn. If you want that, you can have it. It’s not my cup of tea, though.”
Chad: “The underground horror scene deserves a huge amount of credit for at least trying to differentiate from the Hollywood cookie cutter. Their biggest hurdle, in most cases, is, unfortunately, their budgets (or lack thereof).”
Mike: “We can hope that the next big idea in horror films will emerge from the free-thinking independents. It’s very possible. Without the big budgets, new ideas—or new approaches to old ideas—are the life blood of independents.”
Pay a visit to Albuquerque Horror Examiner tomorrow for Part Three of this three-part interview.