Friday, September 6, 2013


Not gonna lie, this would scare the shit out of me.
I've been publicly writing about horror movies for the past five years, and I've been obsessed with the genre for an entire lifetime. I should be excited for how many horror films are being made in this age where anyone could make a movie, but I'm just not. Horror is more than just babes, blood, and screaming. Horror is a precise art form that if not executed properly, can become trite and uninteresting VERY, VERY fast. God, I hate that I'm being such a judgmental asshole about other people's artwork, but an important part of the cinematic arts is the way your audience responds to it.  With the technological advancements making it easier and easier for the Average Joe to make a movie, it's making it much more difficult for completed projects to actually reach an audience.  Film festival competitions are getting stiffer and harder to get accepted into, simply on the grounds that the volume of entries has grown.  Don't get me wrong, I love that so many people are making movies, but the fact so many people are making horror movies because they think it's the "easiest" genre to execute, makes me want to stab them in the arm with a fork and twist out their veins like spaghetti.

What boggles my mind is that a lot of independent horror filmmakers are crying about there being so many horror movie remakes, but in the same breath decide that they want to make a horror movie about teenagers in the woods.  I'm sorry, but where is YOUR contribution to this originality you so crave? Everything is a copy of a copy of an inspiration of a copy of something at this point in time, which is why watching a movie like YOU'RE NEXT or THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is so refreshing to watch.  There are more locations for horror movies than an abandoned building or the woods.  Look, I understand why independent filmmakers do it. Abandoned buildings and forests are free locations, and when you're working with a limited budget you need to exploit free resources as best as you can.  However, never sacrifice originality in the name of saving a few bucks. Where can you change? Is there electricity? If it absolutely must be the woods, what does that say about your setting? Abandoned whatever doesn't always equal good.

Dressing your set = important. ANTIVIRAL proving less is more

It just feels like a lot of these independent filmmakers think that because they have a camera, or because they know someone who knows someone who has a RED, that they're set on making a great looking horror movie.  As we all know, that's just not the case.  My biggest pet peeve about the independent films I've been sent is a lack of set dressing.  So you're doing a scene in a living room that is owned by your sound guy, AWESOME! Well, does your sound guy have the same taste in art as your character? Is the furniture arranged in a way where you can shoot your scene and not have the boom mic end up shown in a mirror in the background? The way we behave in a classroom is differently than the way we behave in a doctor's office or a roller rink.  Your set is the world of the movie and you always want to make sure that your characters are living in the same world (or not at all, if that's what you're going for).  Just throwing people in a set and praying it works isn't going to cut it. You've gotta shape and mold your world, or else you're not doing your story justice.  That, and you're making a lame looking movie.

I want this shot framed on my wall. HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is friggen' GORGEOUS.
There's also a HUGE lack of cinematography.  Cinematography is a matter of knowing how to frame a shot. Think about the action that you want to display and then how you want to set it up. This helps dramatically with how you want to light it too. Think of the motivation and how you wanted to play out in the scene.  I'm not saying you have to go to film school to become a filmmaker, because that's just not true. Film making is an artform, it's a hands on creation that only gets better with practice.  However, taking every single "cool" shot you've ever seen in a movie and throwing it all together isn't going to make a "cool" film. It's going to make a jumbled mess that's hard on the eyes and looks like every bad first film school project.  Unfortunately, that's what most of these independent eyesores are doing.  Learn from the movies you love and then emulate them rather than replicate them. If your film isn't visually interesting, you're not bringing anything interesting to the table.  Your film will then be just another horror film made my some douche that people only watch on Netflix when they're drunk to make fun of it.  If that's what you're going for, then fine.  If that's not what you want, then put some effort into it and do your homework.  The lack of pre and post production is also baffling. How the fuck are you filming a movie on a Saturday and releasing it on YouTube on a Wednesday?  Are you kidding me?  Do some color correction, do some editing, add some music, do SOMETHING!  Post production can make or break your film, people. Don't just haphazardly edit some shit together and hope for the best.  CONSTRUCT IT, YO!

Who needs an ending when you can just post a link to a website, AMIRITE?! *puts gun in mouth*

Perhaps most importantly, is a solid script. Without a shadow of a doubt, the biggest problem independent horror films suffer from is a poor script. What is with these insanely asinine stories that are being produced every time I turn around? A script needs to tell a story, convey a message, do SOMETHING.  If you just think "How crazy would it be to rape a 12 year old with a knife?" and try to write a story around it, you're failing.  Nothing infuriates me more than writing shock for the sake of shock.  I think it's cheap and uninspiring.  The SAW films may have tons of gore and killing, but even SAW VI gave an insight to the fractured American medical insurance industry.  Look for different voices to be heard in the script. Characters are brought to life on the page first. If you have concerns about what is written it'll show up in the final product.  Please, re-read what you write. Can you ever hear people talking the way your characters are written to speak? No? Then re-write it.  Are your characters the kind of people you'd be invested in watching? No? Then re-write them. If you yourself wouldn't want to watch a situation with the characters you've created, then you can't expect anyone else to want to watch them either.

Your Oscar can't protect you from TCM: Next Generation on your resume, Renee Zellweger...

Finally, a message for the actors.  What are you gaining by performing in these shit-house horror movies?  Horror is the jumping off point for the careers of many actors, this is true, but you're allowed to be picky with the roles you accept.  So you're going to play a bloodied up set of tits in booty shorts without any rhyme or reason to be in this outfit and you aren't being paid and there's no closed set or safety release forms involved?  Yeah, sounds perfectly legit.  There's a lot of sketchy people out there and as much as I know people want to have a wide range of roles on their resumes or reels, at what cost are you willing to sacrifice your time and talent?  I get needing the money, but a lot of these independent gigs pay very little. In that case, is it worth it? If you're sent a script you find zero merit in, don't get involved.  If you audition for a part that requires you to do or wear things you're not comfortable with, don't do it. These vile pieces of horror garbage aren't going to skyrocket you into fame, and showing your tits on camera doesn't mean you're a "dedicated" actress.  Trust me when I say, people don't forget the gross films you did before you were famous.  Especially in the age of the internet, I would never do something I wouldn't be proud to talk about performing in on a panel at a festival.  Why do you wanna do this project? This is a legacy, a body of work. Is this something you'll be proud of in a year? 5 years? 30 years? If not...don't do it.

Horror, just sucks you right in. WAKKA WAKKA.

Horror gets a bad enough rap for being violent, vulgar, vile, and exploitative.  With all of these stigmas already attached to it, why would you want to make a movie that was anything other than well executed? If you don't do these things you're taking advantage of the one film genre that seems to welcome every filmmaker regardless of skill or talent. This perpetuates the stereotype and the stigma associated with the fans and their audience, that what we like is a low form of entertainment and easy to make.  You're taking advantage of every actor or director or designer that ever got their start in low-budget horror with your thinking that you can do better but failing to do so.  Unfortunately, filmmaking isn't for everyone.  It doesn't matter how much you love watching movies, making movies is an entirely different beast. Just because you have a camera, doesn't mean you can make a good movie.  If you enjoy the creative process, perfect your craft.  If you just want the attention or the fame, stick to recording your niece's dance recital and stop diluting the watering hole for those that actually care.

4 comment(s):

Anonymous said...

Couldn't disagree more. If it's not scary or disturbing, it's not horror. Period.

I'd rather see 100 Blair Witch rip-offs full of pathetic jump scares than yet another Scream or Cabin in the Woods, neither of which had a single moment of fright.

"Can you ever hear people talking the way your characters are written to speak? No? Then re-write it."

That's pretty funny considering your respect for Joss Whedon (a respect I share, BTW, but his dialog isn't something you'd EVER hear real people say).

robotGEEK said...

I loved this so much. Thank you! I feel the exact same way you do, and I'm glad someone else understands. What's almost as infuriating to me is when I try conveying these feelings with "regular" folk, and they just don't get it. Apparently found footage/shaky-cam bullshit/quick-editing is the norm these days for the younger generation. They just don't know how films "used" to be made or "should" be made.

Even with You're Next, which my gf and I looooved to death, there were a few sequences that were just so overdone with the shaky-cam that we almost got sick. But we forgave those brief moments because the overall experience was such a refreshing one for this type of film. Anyway, great site! I'm adding you to my blog list now! Keep up the great work!

Unknown said...

I often feel that less is more, both with gore and with depictions of sex.
The Haunting of Julia had its cheesy moments, but it remains one of my favorite films because, although there was virtually no gore, it was a terrifying movie. The evil child wasn't even seen till the end of the movie, yet her presence dominated everything.
I'm probably one of the few people out there who got nothing out of the Blair Witch Project. I found it boring and irritating. However, it was an original concept at the time, I have to give it that much. The imitators are even more boring and irritating.

Spike Ghost said...

Great article, you are really showing your frustration and it's nice and i agree with pretty much most of this (The shrine *shudders*). I also want that shot from House of the devil framed on my wall. Though i will show my ignorance, but what is the movie and the now famous person in the link where you say "people don't forget the gross films you did before you were famous"?

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