October 28, 2016

Eli Roth, Tim Burton, and More Horror Directors Reveal Why They Embrace Genre Films

evil dead
Eli Roth, Jason Blum, Julia Ducournau and more weigh in on what inspired them to start making scary movies.

Horror fans may be the most rabid of any genre, and this new documentary from the UK's TV channel Film4 reveals that many of our favorite horror directors are longtime fanatics themselves. 

As filmmakers, it's inspiring for us to see what makes other directors tick, and this video gives us a chance to peek into some of modern cinema's most twisted minds. Although different elements attracted them to the genre, all of the directors seem to have one thing in common: the spooky seeds were planted very early.

Tim Burton: Monsters are the most human

Tim Burton is not a horror director, but his work is notoriously creepy, and classic Burton characters like Beetlejuice and Jack Skellington have become icons of Halloween. It's not surprising to learn that the director, who grew up in a "renaissance of monsters," and has made films about the likes of notorious murderers like Sweeney Todd, identifies with those creatures who others might find off-putting.

"Certain people might connect with Fred Astaire or John Wayne," he says in the video. "For me, it was Frankenstein and those type of characters because those were the most human types in all the movies." The same might be said of his own sensitive, misunderstood monster, Edward Scissorhands.

Alice Lowe: Good horror transcends horror

Best known in England as a comedian and TV actor and with several horror credits under her belt in front of the screen, Lowe took on both writing and directing in Prevenge, a "post-feminist revenge film" that premiered at TIFF this year.

Like Burton, Lowe acknowledges having been drawn to monster movies and B-movies early on. Of horror, she says, "I'm interested in occupying that world of non-realism," but it's important that there's a healthy mix of realism, too. Citing classics like The Shining and Rosemary's Baby, she recounts, "Many of my favorite films are horror films, but they're films I would classify as dramas as well."

Hostel
Some of the 'torture porn' in 'Hostel' that made Eli Roth famous.

Eli Roth: Horror lets you fly your freak flag

Eli Roth, known for the "revenge porn" depicted in films like Hostel (2005), comes right out and says what many of these other directors imply: "I was the freak in the neighborhood."

Roth recalls that, in his childhood, if you wanted to see any manner of horror, gross-out, or otherwise freaky films, you could just swing by the Roth household. "I had everything," he brags. "I had Evil Dead. I had Dawn of the Dead. I had Faces of Death."

His collection didn't exactly win him any popularity contests, however. He states, "Kids laughed at me for wanting to make horror films, and they're kind of shocked now that I've actually done it." And done it he has: his first horror, Cabin Fever, became 2003's most profitable horror, and he has gone on to garner more than 30 producer credits in the following years.

Jason Blum: Scary movies can explode storytelling

Jason Blum broke from the pack, admitting that he became more passionate about horror later in life, when he produced Paranormal Activity in 2007. Through that film, which was famously produced for $15,000 but grossed almost $200 million, he saw that "there was a way, with horror, to push out storytelling in a big way."  

Horror is certainly not Blum's only milieu—that dramatic feature Whiplash (2014) that he produced was nominated for an Oscar—but his approach to infusing auteur sensibilities into a horror framework seems to be paying off. Blumhouse Productions' franchise of micro-budget horror films like Insidious (2010), Sinister (2012), and Creep (2014) continue to woo horror fans worldwide.

Julia Ducournau: The images are self-sufficient

From her first short in film school, the up-and-coming French writer/director recalled that horror "came naturally to me as a language."

Ducournau's first horror feature, Raw, premiered at Cannes this year, where it won the prestigious FIPRESCI Prize given by international film critics. The director is especially attracted to the genre because "when you have very, very good horror films, you don't need words to explain to you what it's really about." 

What about you—what do you love most about horror films? And which ones terrify you the most?      

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1 Comment

I love good horror, but something I recently realized was just how much horror as a genre is an absolute staple of the film medium. Some of the earliest silent films were horror.

October 30, 2016 at 1:03PM

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Daniel King
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