THE HORROR LABEL: HOW TO OWN IT
Having just wrapped up the first draft of ASGW (A Shotgun Wedding ~ Feature Film), I find myself reflecting on what horror fans and casual movie goers alike, if pressed, will likely tell you -that a horror film provides a certain rush -and even edification- in short supply elsewhere. Great horror takes us to the edge of The Black Abyss-death-and makes us take a good hard look. Then it yanks us away, relieved and grateful to be alive.
But not every filmmaker shares this perspective. I knew a would-be auteur once who liked to refer to horror films as the “ghetto” of filmmaking, as if it was the lowest rung of the cinema experience, for both its creators and its consumers.
Obnoxious as such an assertion is, it’s not uncommon. Fangoria magazine once had a regular feature called “It’s Not a Horror Movie”, set aside for pretentious producers and directors who were trepidatious about having their film get lost in the endless tide of low-budget, quickly produced fear fare capitalizing on the tail end of whatever was the latest terror trend.
A legitimate concern, certainly. But my counterpoint is that the cream always rises to the top; if you have something to offer beyond quickie exploitation and you work toward manifesting it, then you will please both yourself and the fans-and what could be better?
A few years back, I became involved with a project that was initially presented to me as a horror film. After working on a few drafts, and hearing how this would rise above the lowly efforts of talentless hacks like Clive Barker, George Romero, etc. -then having it re-packaged as a “supernatural thriller” (the word “horror” was to be avoided), I realized this project was in grave danger of collapsing under the weight of its own pretentiousness. A few shady dealings later, I opted out completely-and am I glad I did. That project, fortunately for my career, and for you the consumer, died an ignoble death, mourned by no one.
The lesson here is: let a script/film be what it is, don’t “church it up” -this only alienates an audience that I know to be passionate, intelligent and discerning; i.e., the horror fan.