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Directors of Some of History's Best Horror Films Discuss The Genre in This 1982 Roundtable

The ThingWe talk a lot about horror here on NFS, because, for one, the genre is awesome, and for two, the genre is supremely important to understanding and analyzing the human condition. In this 1982 roundtable, host Mick Garris discusses several genre-specific topics with directors of some of the greatest horror films in history, David CronenbergJohn Carpenter, and John Landis, conversing about why people watch horror films, how important special effects are to a production, and what they think about censorship. Continue on to check out 26-minute of scary movie goodness.

If I was only able to talk about one thing for the rest of my life it would undoubtedly be horror cinema. Horror is that weird, quiet girl who sits in the back corner of the class, whose strange antics and bizarre clothes provide entertainment to all, but respect from few. But there’s so much more to her — oh yes. There is more to her.

This was the first thing that came to mind during the first topic in the roundtable discussion, when Garris asks Landis why he thinks horror films are so popular, and the An American Werewolf in London director simply replies, “I guess ’cause they’re really entertaining.” It’s not until Cronenberg starts to talk about the complex themes in Videodrome that we begin to see beyond the blood, guts, and exploding heads. We see the political, social, and spiritual commentaries these filmmakers are making within the horror film universe. Cronenberg, when talking about censorship in terms of his film Scanners, which has a head exploding in the first 10 minutes, says:

I have been offended by violence in movies, but primarily because, let’s say, the violence is completely gratuitous within the context of the movie. That is to say every movie has its own rules, and you can really set up any game that you want, but once you do that you have to play that game, otherwise the audience feels — they know that something’s wrong; that something’s not working.

Check out the discussion below, where the directors touch on all sorts of topics: why horror is so popular, censorship (which I’ve already touched on), the importance and tediousness of shooting special effects, as well as the deeper themes that some horror films take on.

What are your opinions on censorship? Do you think horror films are cathartic, harmful, or neither? There are so many things to discuss here, so share your thoughts in the comments below.

[via revokcom & Filmmaker IQ]


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  • What a great interview. 4 horror legends gathered together, talking about the genre during their prime years. It doesn’t get any better.

  • This is amazing.

    Its amazing to see how times have changed with the MPAA – however sexuality is still suppressed and instead of makeup being the big budget thing, its the CGI.

  • Neill Jones on 04.15.14 @ 9:52AM

    The Thing still looks good and where the FX do fall down when seen present day, the editing, script, acting and Kurt Russell ensure that the film is a stone cold classic. I love the balls out horror of it and I love the internal paranoia of it and don’t even get me started about the ending. Quality from start to finish. Didn’t watch the ‘prequel/sequel/remake, was afraid it would affect my appreciation of the original. Was I right to be worried?

    • Right to be worried? Yes. But would it affect your opinion of the original? Probably only for the better. The remake is fine, but it’s best quality is to display how damn near perfect Carpenter’s The Thing was.

      • I avoided watching the 2011 prequel for awhile, but my curiosity got the best of me. There’s a lot to like about it, not the least of which is the ending that turns into the beginning of Carpenter’s far superior film. Respect.
        But as soon as the prequel is over, you’ll go running to find your copy of John Carpenter’s The Thing.

    • The effects fall down in present day?
      In what way – they are pretty much the best and most inventive gore effects in cinema history.

      It’s shits all over every US-made horror film since.

      • Agreed. Bottin’s and Winston’s FX are obviously organic and NOT CGI. And that’s exactly what the film calls for. Could they be done better today with CGI? I don’t think so. This movie created a beautiful sense of isolation, growing dread and humanity pushed to the limit. The REAL FX are much more in tune with those themes than any CGI extravaganza could ever be. And finally – Morricone’s music . . . maybe the best sci-fi/horror score of all time. Everone involved was at the top of their game. God, I love this move!

        • Neill Jones on 04.16.14 @ 5:03AM

          I forgot to mention the music. *Hand slaps forehead*

          • Neill Jones on 04.16.14 @ 6:20AM

            I didn’t say the effects fall down in the present day. I said it still looks good. I would wholeheartedly agree that they are the best and most inventive gore effects in cinema history but inevitably over time some bits have aged. I would point to the dogs being attacked scene especially, but the rest of it is pretty much flawless.

    • You, sir, are a god! That is to say, you are absolutely right. These grand special effects movies like Battleship and Pacific Rim and Transformers are amazing in their effects, but devoid of anything else. Carpenter’s “The Thing” is an absolute masterpiece across the board: music, photography, screenplay, casting, editing AND the best, most appropriate special effects. No comparison with today’s bloated, empty big budget CGI stuff. And don’t even get me started on the torture porn . . .

  • Mike Brodin on 04.16.14 @ 1:27PM

    Good post, as usual.

    It was particularly interesting to me since I had the opportunity of attending an amazing talk given at the BEA (held in conjunction with the NAB) earlier this month by Dean Cundey, ASC, the DP of THE THING. Cundey’s really got an impressive resume and worked with John Carpenter on a number of films. I can see now why that might be: his personality and Carpenter’s seem very much alike.

    Cundey spoke a lot of course about lenses, lighting, production design, and whatnot, but stressed also the importance of interpersonal relationships on the set. Among many memorable things he said was this: “I try early on to decide who is invested in the film, and who is invested in himself.”

  • Interesting roundtable. I found these types of movies more into escapism, not what was the other choices. I have always enjoyed the classic “Twilight Zone, Outer limits” types of horror/thriller. Mostly because of the acting not relying on VFX.

  • Great videos from yesteryear. I’ve actually studied the art of horror movies, and the reason why so many are “successful” with the 16-24 year olds, especially males, is because the Fight v. Flight reaction within each human and also the need for many young adults to step through a portal into adulthood by standing your ground while you are extremely scared. It’s an adrenalin rush akin to our days on the Serengeti, when we would have to stare down a lion in order to survive. We actually need this to remind us that we are at the top of the prey v. predator chain. It’s primal and we actually get off on the excitement, similar to a rollercoaster ride.