Someone's in the house. He's watching. He's creeping round, only you can't see him. He's watching you from the walls. He's right behind you now. Looking over your shoulder. He wants the remote control. He's a bad boy. He wants to watch bad movies. Bad bad Ronald...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bad Ronald sez What the French Toast!

Don't know if you've seen CouchCutter's “F*ck You” – An Open Letter To The Horror Community -- but it's worth a read.  Even though the article (written by David Anthony) is flawed and spins around on itself, it's worth the time for the fact that it's opened the discussion on supporting independent horror.

With a title like that, I read on with great anticipation.  What I found in this FU message reminded me of a failed tape mix I once made.  Several years ago, a couple friends of mine were swapping some good ol' Country & Western mixes, and I culled together 90 minutes of Honky Tonk'n classics and Bluegrass ditties and hillbilly hi-jinx.  For the cassette sleeve I designed a cover that bore the image of Johnny Cash righteously stabbing his middle finger up to the camera.  I just liked the image.  I'm a huge Cash fan, so it caught my eye.  Only problem was, one of my tape-mix friends called bullshit on me. Rightfully so, I had to admit.  You see, I didn't have any songs, really, that were outright angry or nasty.  Sure, there were some pissy drunks, musing abut their wandering ways and wanton women and broken tractors.  My latest garage sale stash of LPs were mostly the classic cowboy stuff, and there weren't no anger in 'em.  My clever design turned out to be fairly unclever and failed to deliver a kick-ass mix appropriate to the angry Cash title design.  My bad.

I had the same bullshit response to Anthony's rant as my friend had to my cassette cover.
A fuck you you shall get

Basically, what the article said was the "horror community" needs to start supporting indie horror movies.  That if "we" make films like the remakes of Evil Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween big successes, then why can't "we" make smaller films like Father's Day successful.  He blames the "horror community" for the fact that the filmmakers of small genre films like Dear God No! or Father's Day can't whip out films as easily as their Hollywood big wig counterparts. "There’s not enough money there for investors to get involved," writes Anthony. "And we are where the money comes from. We, as an audience, as a horror community are the *root* of the problem."  Not so much a "fuck you" as it is a tongue-lashing from dad.

He adds that "we" are responsible for the well being of the independent filmmaker, and that "we" should assure them a career, and that have failed them: "People have bills, cars, kids, mortgages, and all this other shit in-between that costs money. And as much as you appreciate their films, your appreciation is not paying their bills."  I guess "we've" been spanked.

I don't know, I was expecting something a lot more scathing and angry from a piece titled "F*ck You...". Something that would get my head nodding and fists a-clenching, like I was listening to a good vitriolic jam slam by The Who or Suicidal Tendencies or some shit like that.

My first major problem with the CouchCutter rant is the flagrant use of "we," as if the "horror community" is really such a unified or even defined thing. It's not so much the idea that all people who happen to share an interest are grouped together in a general category that bugs me.  Rather, it's the assumption that because they share a similar interest that they -- we -- all then are suppose to share the same opinions, or drives, or perceptions or bias.  Yes, we all like horror.  But none of us like all horror.  I prefer the smaller independent horror films from America. I really like foreign horror, from Great Britain, Argentina, France, Hong Kong -- even Canada (Soska Sisters, eh!).  However, I can't tell you the last time I went to a theater to see a horror film from a major studio.  But, that's me.  Some others -- Anthony includes himself in this bunch -- don't really dig the inde horror flicks.  "We" are never gonna agree on everything.  Some really dig big splashy horror, while others go the low key chills path.  Hey, agreeing on everything hasn't worked for the Democrats nor Republicans -- why would we assume it would work for horror fans?
You mean, there's more?

My other major disagreement is that the "horror community" is to blame for the failures, or lack of successes, of indie horror films.  First of all, the definition of success, in Anthony's article, is not clearly defined. The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street is labeled a success because it tripled its $35 million budget, but Human Centipede is a failure because, even though it had lots of press, it made (by his numbers) only less than $3 million.  Comparatively, Nightmare is the one percenter, while HC is on welfare. I'm not sure of Anthony's idea of what makes a successful indie horror movie, but seeing that HC made that $3 mil (I'm thinking it's likely made much more on VOD alone, but I haven't been able to scare up those numbers) then it's doubled its less than $1.5 million budget AND generated a (terrible) sequel.  Seems the horror community did good by it, and made it a success.

The mistake would be to compare apples and nectarines (again, I'm not positive what Anthony's stand is, so I'm generalizing).  Hollywood movies can make $100 million, but still be considered a loser, if'n it don't match their $150 million budget.  However, an indie can make $5 million and be crazy successful, because the budget was much much lower.  With that said, any horror movie that generates a box office of $10s of millions -- that movie moves beyond the support of the "horror community" and got loads of help from the mainstream audience.  Rob Zombie's Halloween remake doubled its $15 million budget on the opening weekend, and then took in another $50 million overall.  It would be nice to think that there were that many horror fans.  But truth be told, the majority of those ticket buyers were the general public.  Teens, most likely, who like thrills and action, whether they be in a comic chase, and spy roughhouse, or horror.  Sure, lots of horror fans were filling those seats, as well.  But I'd never go as far as to say that the "horror community" made that film a success.  I WOULD go as far as to say that the "horror community" made the original Halloween the continued, cult success that it is now.

The successful indie horror movie is not going to appear as the success stories we're all used to seeing: Saw, Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project. These flicks are phenomenons, the extraordinary... at least today they are. There was a time when independently produced films were distributed by major studios on a regular basis.  That's how we got Halloween, Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (and countless other indie horror gems).  These movies literally toured the Country, generating word of mouth, and building anticipation over months. Today's model of distribution is much different, with the majors relying heavily on open weekend box office.  They want instant results, so they're not going to snatch up many indie horror flicks, unless they're uniqueness can assure them a big weekend take.  Gauging the success of an indie produced and distributed horror flick by the Hollywood distribution model standard only sets us up for disappointment.  Why compare the two?  If a small budget film recoups its budget, and makes enough to pay the cast and crew properly, then it's a success.  Period.  There, we've put food on the table.

The last major problem I have with CouchCutter's FU is that a lot of blame goes on the filmmakers themselves.  If they want to make this their living, then, just like any other job they've ever held, performance matters.  Make a good film, that people want to see, and then make sure they see it.  Work!  The notion that the "community" just ought to support the filmmakers, because we're a "community" is bogus.  I'll do my share by seeking out and watching the movies I like or want, and avoiding the ones I don't think are worth my time.  But, I am in no way obligated to ensure that the indie horror filmmakers have shoes on their feet.  That's their bag.
Cripes! Will this lecture ever end?
Luckily, today filmmakers have new avenues to follow.  There's the festival route, which helps build that great word of mouth for films like Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Woman, V/H/S, The Innkeepers.  There's also Netflix and RedBox, and the likes, and Video on Demand.  There's Amazon, YouTube, Vimeo.  The market is now open, and ready for business!  Self distribution has become so much easier than back in the day, when the actual film had to be carted around city to city (anyone who complains about how hard it is to have to Twitter/FaceBook/Pintrest/blog/Flickr about their movie should read up on pioneers like William Castle or Roger Corman and the likes, to see how it's really done).  It takes work!  Even established celebs have to pound the cyberpavement -- look to Kevin Smith or Louis CK.  With every celeb who has a go of it, there are a thousand worthy non-celebs who're busting their asses too, trying to get their work seen.  Last year I checked off My Name is A by Anonymous as the Best Movie You Haven't Seen Yet of 2011.  Amazing film!  You still haven't seen it in 2012, though.  Luckily, due to director Shane Ryan's hard work, you'll get to see it soon on DVD and possibly VOD.  Also, check out what Nick Hagen is doing to get the movie he's made of his successful YouTube hit The Haunting of Sunshine GirlThe webseries has logged over 10 million views, and has over twenty thousand subscribers, but do you think he could just waltz into a distributors office and secure a deal?  Not so fast!  He's doing it the ol' fashioned way, by busting his knuckles and banging on laptop screens across the world, creating good buzz.  Will it work for him and Sunshine?  We'll see soon, when the film is self distributed online and on DVD on December 21.  

Look, I agree with Anthony on the idea that independent horror should be supported more (I'll ditto that credo for indie movies in general). Why not?  Most every Hollywood trend we've had comes straight from an indie movie: Blue Velvet, Apocalypse Now, Blair Witch Project, Star Wars, Pulp Fiction, Saw, Clerks, Paranormal Activity...  Films like these, made outside the major studio world, actually drove the major studios to rethink their model... and then proceed to embarrass themselves with countless copycat clunkers. I agree heartily that we support indie horror, because I love indie horror.  I love the rough amateurishness of backyard cinema, the testing of limits with caught on tape thrills, the quietness of a limited budget.  It all makes for good experimentation.  This is where the real success lies, in the experiments, the finding of new techniques.  The clever mind will figure out ways to reach beyond the limitations, and that's when the breakthroughs happen.  Only in indie filmmaking do you find such successes.

So, yes!  Support indie filmmaking -- especially indie horror.This is the one thing I can agree with CouchCutter on.  If there is such thing as a "horror community" then get off your asses and start taking horror seriously. 
Yay! It's over!!

And as far as the "Fuck You" to the "community" -- hell, I think they deserve it.  But not in ways CouchCutter described.  Cripes, there's loads more things to dump on them for. How about fans who personally attack filmmakers whom they don't like, as if it's their right to disregard them as a human, just because you didn't like their casting choices.  How about for slamming other fans of other movies you don't like?  So what, they like vampires that sparkle!  You like movies with no solid storyline -- big whoop!  How about those twerps who laughed their way through a Linda Blair head spin, during the re-release, but now copycat the stairway spider crawl on their own Windows Moviemaker masterpiece?  How about bully blogging?  How about lame ass petitions?  How's about we all just watch a horror movie that we like and shut our faces and eat some popcorn?
Wait... that wasn't nice.
And one last thing, let's differentiate between indie horror and amateur horror. Independent filmmakers like Ti West, or Adam Wingard, or Tom Six -- and even more low budget directors like James Bickert or the Soska Twins -- these guys are clearly serious about their craft.  You may not like all their stuff, but they're working hard to create and distribute. Then there's a load of others who bang out a movie that pretty much emulates every other movie that they like, and call themselves indie filmmakers.  Their stuff is poorly shot, badly written and self gratifying. These are the filmmakers who ruin it for the others.  They ruin it by abusing the term indie, to push their self absorbed rip-offs on the fans, and they make it harder for working filmmakers to get respect for their work.  Fuck you to them...

Support indie filmmaking.

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