This past June I had the distinct honor in participating in Billy Loves Stu's roundup of future queer voices in horror. To say that I was flattered while simultaneously wholly undeserving of the title is an understatement of the highest order, but I couldn't say no to the website's founder, my dear Uncle Pax Romano (aka my mentor, friend and occasional online therapist). I wanted to wait awhile before I posted it here and seeing as how The October Country has picked up some new (much cherished) readers, it seems like the perfect time for me to introduce myself to them. And so boils and ghouls, I humbly present to you the "brains" behind The October Country, because who says you can't relive your 15 minutes of fame?
And again, a very special thank you to Mr. Romano for this exciting opportunity to open up.
Pax Romano: Justin Roebuck-Lafleur (aka Justin Graves), is a relatively new (and outrageous) voice in the horror blogosphere. His blog, The October Country is a terrific journey into the grotesque, the erotic and the musical (downloadable soundtracks, anyone?). He has also recently started up a photo blog, I Float Alone, that I can only describe as David Lynch style gay porn with some animal pictures thrown in. Seriously, I love this guy, he’s creative and opinionated and is not afraid to speak his mind. So pull up a comfy chair (you'll be her for a bit, trust me) and let's meet my main man, Justin...
Pax: Justin, what was it that drew you to horror films originally? Was this a life-long romance or did it happen later on?
Justin: Oh, it was definitely a life long love affair. I think my very first exposure to anything horror related was Disney's animated adaptation of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (with Bing Crosby). Watching that movie was my daily custom when I was two years old. Sitting crossed legged in front of our old monstrous floor television set in my footie pajamas, probably with chocolate all over my face, I couldn't get enough and every time the Horseman's howl sounded throughout the foothills, my heart would just pound out of my chest. In fact, when I was trying my hand at screenwriting as a young adult (natch) I found that my more, shall I say adult horror fare, kept getting sidelined by these less "respectable" slasher components, that I'd dreamed up over the years. I decided that I really needed to exorcise these elements from my system, if I was ever going to move on and write the things that were really eating at me, so I resolved to put every single stalk and slash scenario that I thought was awesome, into one screenplay once and for all. When I was looking for what this particular story's hook would be, I quickly went back to my very first love, which was The Legend of Sleep Hollow, only updating the scenario of Tarry Town's haunted history to modern times and titled the project Old Haunts. I knew even then that meddling with such a classic story was kind of ridiculous (such endeavors usually get under even my skin) but I did my best to be respectful of Irving's tone, his nostalgia for the New York countryside locale in addition to bringing forth many hinted at ideas from the novel, regarding the town's affinity for the supernatural. It favored atmosphere over bloodshed (I think the body count was kept to a minimum of 5) and I even got the opportunity to turn an old ghost story my grandfather told me before bed every night, into a rather cool set-piece of prolonged tension. Though ultimately the script never saw completion, it was an absolute blast to write, probably the most fun I've ever had writing anything. But yeah, my love of scary things started with the Headless Horseman chasing down lanky 'ol Ichabod Crane.
However that was just the first baby step. I would say that the man most responsible for making me the horror nut that I am today would be Steven Speilberg of all people. Jaws and his executive produced Gremlins and Poltergeist were my holy trinity of fright for the first 10 years of my life (also, in most cases I wasn't allowed to view anything over a PG-13 rating in our home, so I took what I could get back in those days). But I didn't just watch them (individually, between then and now, I've probably seen each one of those movies over 200 times, if not more). I was constantly "starring" in them while every other kid on the block was busy playing with their G.I. Joes. In my review for Lew Lehman's The Pit, I spent over half the article (I over-related to the plight of that movie's pint sized protagonist) recounting embarrassing scenarios from my childhood wherein one of those three films were always the root cause of some public spectacle I was making of myself and my family; playing Jaws all on my own, on a daily basis, at the public swimming pool involved me giving the lifeguards near heart attacks (or I imagine) as I was constantly screaming and splashing and crying for help before sinking beneath the surface for as long as I could hold my breath, having been "devoured" by the bloodthirsty "shark". Poltergeist? I reenacted Diane Freeling's (JoBeth Willaims, all hail) muddy swimming pool slide into a sea of decaying corpses routinely in the back of my parent's car (we didn't buckle up back then) utilizing the backseat itself as the "slanted, slippery side of the swimming pool", the space above it and beneath the window as my "goal" and a rather realistic looking decrepit skull (a Halloween decoration, complete with a long mane of filthy hair) that would "spring forth from the ground" (rather simply, held in my hand and shoved into my own face) ala the film and "frighten" me so badly that I would then "slide" back down to the bottom of the "pool" (the foot well of the backseat) and start again. Going so far to sound like a screeching banshee (I imagine) on most occasions as I was constantly "humming" (or something akin to that) the memorized scores from the films I was, er, "interpreting" and so my parents were treated to little Justin Roebuck's acapella rendition of Jerry Goldsmith's Night of the Beast in addition to my own pre-pubescent lady-boy screams. A battered and weathered Gizmo doll was my only security blanket in those days, so it goes without saying that everywhere I went, he went as well, and there were always nasty Gremlins up to no good that needed dispatching. Later on, movies such as The Gate, The Midnight Hour, The Monster Squad and Critters got added to the mix and there were more than a few babysitters that got fired as a result of me convincing them that I was allowed to watch harder fair like Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives and April Fool's Day, but those initial three Speilberg vehicles were my much loved constants.
As far as what constantly drew me to stories of misty graveyards and creaky crypts and all the scary creatures that lurked within them, it's anyone's guess I suppose. For starters, I was always a very imaginative kid. I didn't have many friends growing up and spent most of my waking life retreating into my own daydreams. Horror, what with it's dark fantastical elements was a perfect breeding ground for sowing seeds of adventure in our backyard, our dusty basement or dirty garage. Science fiction, which I do appreciate, was too specific, too limiting. Horror had it all! Vampires, zombies, crazed killers and a whole host of supernatural entities that could bend the laws of nature anyway they saw fit. The genre captured my young imagination and it hasn't relented it's grip since. Also, my other theory is that it was a comforting escape from a messy home life that was constantly in flux. Both my parents were constantly in and out of marriages and as a result I had a revolving door of mother and father figures, not to mention siblings, constantly coming and going. Add to this we were seemingly, constantly moving around. That instability, and the real feeling of never ending loss of loved ones, led to a lot of unhappiness. Then throw into the mix my even then apparent, childhood homosexuality all the while growing up in a small, conservative Midwestern town. This aspect of myself left me with a constant suspicion that there was something "wrong" or "off" about me. Even at the age of 5 or 6, I was perceptive enough to realize that many adults and most children regarded me as something "alien" or different. Some people like escapism that reaffirms their belief that all is right with the world or rather, everyone is a comic and all is lighthearted and fun. The guy always gets the girl, nobody ever dies or leaves unless the story is a noted "downer", there is always a storybook happy ending and all that jazz. I guess I'd fall on the opposite side of that spectrum. I think I related an awful lot to the inherent darkness that runs throughout all of horror, be it cinema or literature. It was reflective of my inner mood. I'm certain on the outside I appeared to be a happy, if somewhat strange child. But on the inside I was finger painting black swirls again and again and again ad infinitum. The adults in my life always fought against this preoccupation with the genre of course and loved ones would say that I was a pessimist even then, but I choose to believe that I was a realist. The world was and is a scary place and I've always known that to some degree and the horror genre is one of the few precious realms, where we don't have to pussyfoot around that reality. There is no sugar coating things when you discover the hacked up bodies of your friends strewn about the dark campground, ya know?
Pax: You are a married man (congratulations), does your husband share your love of the macabre, or does he just tolerate it?
Justin: Well first off, thank you. Sometimes it's still a shock that my name carries that big moniker above it especially because for the longest time I refused to not only date, but I resisted being domesticated in anyway (the latter of which is still something that I stubbornly fight). Thankfully, my love of horror has been one of the easier, more tolerable aspects of married life with me. When Daniel (my husband) and I met he enjoyed horror movies sure, but I'd say more in passing. He wasn't obsessed with them and he surely didn't possess a background education on the big players and important landmarks in the genre's history. I suppose he has had no other choice but to pick up on things through his daily exposure to me and my incessant prattling about the subject. Over the years though he's constantly surprised me by blurting out some tidbit of information that he took the time to learn on his own; a director's body of work, a composer's notable contributions, why someone was considered a scream queen. At first, I imagine that my brow would probably always furrow and I'd look confused and then realization would set in and I'd give him a big proud kiss. I'd say that through his own volition he's become nearly on par with my knowledge of the genre and in some cases he's even surpassed me. Our tastes are radically different sometimes as much as they can be the same. We both love slow burn, atmospheric creep-fests and vintage monster movies, we're both partial to many of the artier foreign offerings and we both also appreciate a good old fashioned gore flick. However, he's struck out on his own of late and has discovered that above everything else, he really enjoys some plain awful, exploitation cheapies, which is not an enthusiasm that I share even though he's slowly whittling away my reservations. The one aspect where we are really different though would be that he has yet to fully tumble into fanboy territory. Save for the occasional film that he absolutely must own (recently it's been J. Michael Muro's Street Trash and Giorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth), he certainly has resisted the call to purchase things like action figures, vintage promotional standees and all that other good stuff that comes with the territory. Also, he occasionally helps me out with The October Country so I gotta love him for that.
Just like in any other marriage though, we have to make compromises. Sometimes he wants to listen to Pink Floyd and I've had Fred Myrow's Phantasm score stuck in my head for the better part of an hour. Other times he is in the mood for Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS and I'm leaning towards The Mist for the billionth time. On his behalf, I've done my best to keep the horror related shit regulated to one room, so when we moved into a small house last year, I was designated a space that became our library (thereby fulfilling my life long dream of having such a thing) which is where all the horror novels, movies, posters and general memorabilia is on display. So yeah, it's a total holy matrimony. From the very beginning though, there were three stipulations he had to possess if I was even going to give him the time of day, in my utterly jerkish, geeky way. First, he must have reverence for the almighty David Lynch. Secondly, he had to promise that he would at the very least give author Ramsey Campbell a shot and third, he must accept that throughout the month of October we are consistently going to be flat broke as I would be buying any and all Halloween decorations that even mildly struck my fancy. Also, in short, our house was going to be transformed into the Haunted Mansion for 31 days. Obviously, he passed with flying colors.
Pax: Speaking of marriage, since most states in the US still do not allow gay couples to marry, what horror icon do you think would be the best spokesperson for gay marriage?
Justin: Oh, good question. And a tough one I might add. I guess that begs the question as to who ultimately is more influential in the eyes of heterosexual voters; out of the closet gay men and women or their heterosexual allies. Obviously, the more iconic they are the better. If it were the former I would say Anthony Perkins, if he was still with us. Perhaps I'd nominate him because I know he caught the eyes of many ladies in his (and their) youth, which never hurts. That and my grandfather loves him (and as everyone knows, the elderly vote can mean millions). Unfortunately though, he is no longer, so perhaps Clive Barker (though he may be too obtuse for the average fella).
If we were to go the latter route, I'd say perhaps Robert Englund or Stephen King. Englund, because he is probably one of the genre's most recognized and beloved modern madmen whose popularity back in the day truly crossed dozens of demographics (be thy age, color or gender) all the while he's shown himself to be a likeable, intelligent and astute individual. I mean, who wouldn't just smile if Freddy Kruger was talking to you? I'd buy whatever he was selling (except for maybe Strippers vs. Werewolves). But if he were unavailable, I'd say Mr. King would be an ideal runner up. Even though he himself seemed to suffer from a slight case of homophobia in the 70's (if his reminiscences from Danse Macabre are to be believed) he seems better of it now. I'd nominate King because though his style isn't my cup of tea (I appreciate his ideas and worlds, just not their execution), his work is already in the majority of every household in this country, sitting right next to Americans' copies of Rush Limbaugh's An Army of One and Bill O'Reilly's Pinheads and Patriots.
Pax: What is your favorite horror film, and why.
Justin: George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Hands down. I think that that movie is the most perfect horror film ever made, and on first viewing, one of the most horrifying. Honestly, you really couldn't ask for more. Romero's biting social satire has never been stronger. The story on a whole is intelligent and sophisticated. There's its eye-popping, stylish color palette. The four leads are all great, each and every one of them earning a memorable, iconic place in horror movie history. Despite mostly being confined to the shopping mall, the film's scope and canvas feel huge and despite many attempts at ripping it off (and bigger budgets) since, nothing has trumped its epicness (at least in my mind). There is Goblin's awesome score and even the stock, incidental music rocks (and might I add, there's nothing in this world that I cherish more than the memory of my husband tooling about the house in his underwear humming Herbert Chappell's The Gonk). You've got Tom Savini's beautifully executed gore. I mean really, I could just go on and on, but I highly doubt that I need to sell your readers on this particular masterpiece.
Dawn of the Dead was also the first real gore film I'd ever seen (around the age of 15 I think). Spurned on by the pages of Fangoria, I hunted down a copy in the small, do-nothing town my father was living in and bought it sight unseen on some boring summer afternoon. I watched it right after eating lunch from the hot dog / root beer stand across the street from us, and then spent the next 2 hours trying to keep all that chili sauce down as I witnessed the most graphic bloodshed I'd seen up to that time splash across the screen. Actually, the neck / arm ripping during the opening SWAT invasion still gets to me a little. Additionally, and this is despite the daylight beaming in through our windows, I think I had the blanket pulled up to my eyes on more than one occasion. It's not so much that I am a pussy, but I usually go into these things with an over eagerness to be frightened, the opposite of many viewer's puffed-up stance of "I DARE you to try to scare me." That's whats fun for me. Not getting grossed out (though I can take it) but really having the hairs on my arms raised. You'll never find me standing there, hands on hips, legs spread, chest to the sky acting like I've seen it all (even though really, I think I have) and proudly declaring that nothing can or will effect me. Sometimes, I really can't wrap my head around that attitude, outside of its macho posturing. I'd practically take a film maker by the hand and beg them "PLEASE scare me" if I could. And Dawn of the Dead, with it's sea of gnashing, rotting teeth and decayed, clawing hands, did just that.
Pax: David Lynch is coming to your house for dinner, what do you serve and what kind of entertainment would you provide?
Justin: Oh goodness. For starters I can only cook one thing, West African Peanut Soup and that's probably not what I'd wanna serve him because we only have one bathroom. So I think I'd leave this in the hands of my husband, who can whip up anything really. I know Mr. Lynch is partial to Bob' Big Boy so perhaps we'd just serve plates of greasy bacon, eggs, pancakes, hash browns and toast. As far as entertainment is concerned, my first instinct would to have a regular three ring circus twirling about the dinner table; Monkeys wearing white clay masks with elongated noses, burlesque dancers shaking their business in our faces, somebody who knows magic fire tricks and could sit in a corner silent and still, shooting flames outta their hand with the snapping of their fingers and so on. However, I'd probably ignore the urge for theatrics and resign myself to a very quite, very entrenched evening of picking his brain. In all honesty, I don't think Mr. Lynch would have very much fun because he wouldn't be allowed to leave our home until he spelled out the entire season three of Twin Peaks for me, scene by scene. Maybe even season four. In fact I've already got the pliers, duct tape and ball gag.
Pax: Your blog sometimes celebrates sexuality. Do you think there a link between the darker side of sex and horror in general?
Justin: Absolutely. Hence the inclusion of such content on the site. That and the marriage between the two has always been a highly controversial, often hush hush aspect of the genre that frequently is only ever discussed or acknowledged by those that seek to condemn it. Well, I want to celebrate it. I think that that is possible without stepping over too many lines, even if certain lines sometimes need to be crossed for no other reason than it can be healthy to stop and ponder the darker, less seemly side of life sometimes. To take your torch to those shadows. It's there, it always has been and it always will be no matter how much censorship or letter writing campaigns you throw in its way. So why not examine that and dispense with the knee jerk judgements. That and quite frankly, I live for pushing certain people's buttons. Anytime a largely complacent, doe-eyed person crosses my path, I have this overwhelming urge to shake things up a bit. Does some of the art make you uncomfortable? Good. Does some of the art turn you on too? Awesome. That is the point. Look, I'm not attempting anything straightforward here, or rather there hasn't been an open dialogue on the site as far as feedback between the dealer (me) and the user (everyone else) is concerned. Whatever confrontational aspect the art possesses, the readership thus far has dealt with it privately. Add to that, the art in question isn't always nude bodies slathered in blood or gore. Some of them are just good, cheeky fun. Others are so under the radar I think that only certain fetishists will pick up on the purpose of their presence. For instance, sometime ago I posted a vintage photo of a fully dressed woman with her stockinged, high heel clad foot perfectly positioned a top a shovel as she hovers above an open grave. Now for many, the picture seems like just that, a fully dressed woman perhaps up to no good (made all the more apparent by the accompanying text) but nothing more. But for some, her very means of dress and position of dominance is incredibly sexually charged. It's certainly nothing new that I am attempting, I'm just openly and unabashedly nodding to it's ubiquity. It's present in most if not all horror films with an R rating. From the completely mundane T&A that you find in most hack n' slashes, to the more adult aimed, erotically tinged thrillers of the 90s (really just slasher films for yuppies in most cases) to just about everything that Clive Barker, David Cronenberg, Jess Franco, David Lynch or Takashi Miike has attached themselves to. Sexuality, much like Grim Reaper that haunts the sidelines of all horror films, never really leaves us.
As far as sexuality's importance or relevance within the horror genre is concerned, this is how I see it (if you will allow me to get pseudo-philosophical for a moment). Some years ago when I was being hopelessly undeveloped with my bottom of the barrel creativity, I was looking up at this antique, oil painting of Jesus that I had hung in my bathroom above the toilet bowl (it's very position should be enough of an indication as to where my beliefs lie) and I had the sudden urge to cover the majority of the thing in images of penises and vaginas (even though ultimately I didn't, as I recognized that my means and approach would just look infantile and amateurish). Despite what some may think though, the urge wasn't born out of some need to be crude or offensive. On the contrary, the spark stemmed from the exact opposite. I'd got to thinking about how most Christians, or most religious types claim to have this deep reverence for life (as we all should) and in their case, eternal life. But I've always found it funny that they would hold such a notion, eternal life, in such high regards when most can't even look life and where it begins for us all, right in the face. That's what the penises and vaginas were about. I just thought it silly to talk about living forever when you can't acknowledge the true forces that brought you into being in the first place.
Anyway, I guess as far as my personal outlook is concerned (and yes, this relates back to what I was just saying and I'll get to that in a moment), I've applied that particular thought process to horror over the years. I've never been one to watch scary movies and rejoice and applaud the brutality on screen. Sure, I'll get as excited over an excellently executed gore effect as the next fanboy, and I'll appreciate it if you make me squirm from the red stuff. But on a deeper level, the death and carnage I'm witnessing usually instills within me a sensation of loss (assuming the screenwriter or director has done their job and the characters are somewhat three dimensional). Which is a wonderful thing really, because outside of some weepy chick flicks, where else in cinema is the handling of such unavoidable human destruction seriously, and routinely dealt with? It's not in action films I'll say that much. When Bruce Willis or Jason Statham blows several hundred people away in one film, where was the respect and honor for human life presented in any way by the time the closing credits roll? When throughout do they ever pause and with any recognizable human emotion, reflect about the heartache that has been wrought? They don't because it wouldn't be an action film if they did. That's pixalated dead bodies, video game nonsense. That's modern warfare propaganda. With the horror genre, when someone dies, when someone is lost, there are real consequences to that within the story for our characters. Our protagonists don't light a cigarette and swagger off into the sunset all cocky and proud of themselves when and if they vanquish the villain (unless of course, you're Bruce Campbell). No, they are oftentimes broken or destroyed as a result of what they endured. The lives that have been lost in the 90 minutes we just sat through carry a real weight for our hero or heroine. Death, as it is in real life, is ugly, messy and it's accompanied by much screaming and hysterics and sorrow. Which brings us back to my philosophy about sexuality's place within the genre. I feel as though if one is to respect the presence of death in horror films, in all its incarnations and visages, if you are to feel the gravity of it, you must respect life somewhere along the line. There is no weight or horror from death unless you cherish life, and much like the content of the bad art I almost made so long ago, you cannot cherish life without celebrating the very act that creates it. I think the two are eternally intertwined. Linked, whether we know it sometimes or not. Surely I'm not the only person that gets the sudden urge following a funeral to just grab someone and wrap my naked body around theirs and just sweat and thrust and feel ALIVE! It's one of the few natural acts that many of us employ, unconsciously or not, to fight back against our own mortality. To push back against death, to deny it, even if in the end we all lose. Anyway, that's my personal philosophy about it.
Pax: Do you think horror films in general speak to the disenfranchised?
Justin: Without a doubt. First off, the people who create them many times seemed to have had awkward childhoods, so that little seed is already planted right there. I'm not saying bad childhoods, just awkward. Many of them (and us) were the "weird" children down the block. This was all a misunderstanding of course, many didn't know what to make of us and wrote us off as strange. We just liked scary things more than most is all. This was a never ending "problem" for me when I was growing up. Add that to being gay in a small town and I just wanted to escape into horror films all the more, where the creatures were as freakish as I felt. It can be a life lived in solitude, in our our heads and wonderful imaginations and that just naturally leads to feelings of disenfranchisement, of being cut off from everybody else. Whether you be gay, transgendered, black, white, brown, or just a nerd, whatever it is that made people give you a hard time, who among us can't relate to the misunderstood "monster"? From Frankenstein's monster to vampires to Carrie to May and little picked on Jason Voorhees, the horror genre is THEE genre for outcasts. We celebrate them, honor them, give them half-baked motivations in an effort to understand them. Our heroines even tend to be rejects, oftentimes shy, reserved, virginal or saddled with a traumatized back story that has left them scarred and removed from the rest of society in some way. It could be seen as the genre of victimization, but the end message is almost always a positive one of triumph over terrifying odds, the opposite of victimization. Wherein our put upon hero rises up and vanquishes the snarling, blood hungry metaphors for society's ills, the very things that have seeked to hold him or her back, or end them entirely. Or society's meat grinder if you will. The genre's monsters may be there to scare us, but I think most of us suspect that underneath the glowing red eyes, or behind the mask, there is a little bit of each of us. Which is the duality, we recognize the "oppressor" and the "oppressed" and often times the role reversals they go through, oftentimes relating to both as many times the oppressed become the oppressors later on in life. Many of us can understand that bitterness, that pain with little to no explanation needed as it's amazing what some people endure; the unbelievable cruelty and heartache that is so prominent in the world. Sometimes I think that that is merely our lives thrown up there on screen. Metaphorically speaking of course.
Pax: Your blog ran a countdown to Scream 4 – was it worth the wait, what did you think of the film in general?
Justin: That was a lot of fun to do, really nostalgic. Reaching back into '96, '97 and 2001 (the release dates of the first three), I was shocked at how much useless Scream related trivia was cluttering up my brain space but it certainly came in handy when I was writing all those articles. Though I can't say (what with an at times demanding home life), I'm eager to start another countdown for anything anytime soon. As far as whether or not it was all worth it, or more specifically, was the wait for Scream 4 worth it, I'd have to say...partially, on both counts. The film itself presented quite a conundrum for me as a critic. On one hand, I enjoyed myself immensely with each viewing (I had to see it 3 times to suss out my feelings about it). I thought it was fun and sassy and possessed a wicked mean streak, a really good time. On the other hand, my criticisms (mostly related to the script and it's paired down running time, which was heavily edited) were legion and at odds with my aforementioned enjoyment. It walked like a Scream film, it talked like a Scream film, but I felt a lot of elements were lacking and that review, my God, that review had to be one of the most frustrating things I've ever tackled. Discussing films within films within films that are remakes, reboots, retellings of previous Scream films. Murders that are copycats of movies which are retellings of murders. I got it all, but trying to explain the various, clever plot threads whose tentacles stretch back over a decade in printed form without the whole piece ending up a corpulent mess was a real headache. As far as the countdown. Well, despite my...I'd say passing enjoyment of Scream 4, I felt like the countdown amounted to a whole lot of nothing in the end. It was meant as a build up to something quite monumental so that was a bad call on my part. It was the cock tease of 2011. In my heart, when I decided to run a countdown, it was for an imagined, hypothetical film that was going to be a whole helluva lot more groundbreaking than what we got. My deepest wish was that Scream 4 would turn the mainstream, Hollywood financed horror industry on it's head all over again. I wasn't hoping for another glut of teen slasher films mind you (even though that is probably what we would have got), but a changing tide of some sort. A diversion away from remakes and rehashes, or as I like to call them, whore copies, at the very least. But alas it wasn't to be as I think Scream 4 has been certified a bomb now and it certainly didn't make any ripples that I've detected.
Pax: In your roundup of the “worst films of 2010” you sited Skyline. I loved that movie, but I know most found it lacking. Why do you suppose certain genre films cause such extreme reactions either positive or negative, with no in-between?
Justin: Well with "genre anything", be it horror or science fiction or fantasy, you are dealing with the fanboy contingent and their preponderance with obsession tends to make them a vocal lot. Even when it's not something that they are entirely in love with, they already know how to argue their hundred and one reasons as to why something is "great" or a "masterpiece". They can be quite formidable to go head to head with about anything. I worked in a comic book shop for about year not to long ago, with a staff of about 30 working in the shipping department and those boys could really go at it sometimes, bless them (I only vaguely knew what they were talking about most times, but it was entertaining to listen to). I think with our particular sub-culture, the sub-culture of geekdom, what you occasionally have are very intelligent, very bright people who haven't necessarily had the most fulfilling of social lives sometimes (which is fine) and have built up a lot of love and loyalty for things that have substituted for actual fullfillment elsewhere in life. God knows I've done it throughout some of the harder patches in my life (I could probably quote every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer from beginning to end, as a result). Anyway, I think that that particular, pre-existing way of living just naturally lends itself to being protective of things that bring us happiness. I think that those fanboy obsessions sometimes have been the safe and protective cushioning that we have built up around some of our childhood wounds. Some of those fictional, fantastical worlds have been our salvation sometimes.They have been for me anyway. They're comforting for us and they have treated us well and so we're very guarded with them. If you are a horror nut, your kinda use to not being excepted as you are, you are use to having to defend much of what interests you from grade school onwards. The great thing is though once you get older nobody but Focus on the Family gives a shit and you are left with some really great debate skills. Even if it's for a shitty movie like Skyline (love ya Pax). Other than that, human beings don't agree on anything ever anyway. I'm certainly an argumentative fella through and through.
Pax: Finally, what do you want the world to know about Justin?
Justin: What indeed. Hmm, well I've run the gamut as far as what I've wanted pursue with horror over the decades. I spent the better half of my teen years convinced I was destined to be an author but realized later on down the line that I wasn't very good at it. Likewise, I experienced a short bout of wanting to make horror movies. I still kinda do. However, I deduced early on that I didn't have it in me to play the Hollywood game of ladder climbing and ass kissing. Really perhaps I just wasn't ambitious enough, but I think I'm just too nice a guy to be vicious on a set when need be, play hard ball with studio execs or tolerate or humor exaggerated, monstrous celebrity. Plus, I can't imagine living in a city where everybody is there pursuing the exact same dream. I imagine that would get quite boring and tiresome really fast. I need variety in company.
As far as as the here and now is concerned, I'm busy having fun with The October Country. My initial aspirations for the site seem to be a bit bigger than what one man is capable of pulling off though. Which was a downer when that realization set in. However, I've been talking with people here and there and seeing if they might like to come aboard and contribute so that it's content can expand. We'll see how that goes I guess.
All of that and I intend to do my very best at getting the world to view our beloved genre with the seriousness and respect that I think that it deserves, which has become kinda hard again considering some of films that have been getting released of late. Or rather, the films that have been getting released to cineplexes nation wide. But then people shouldn't slight an entire genre because of the greedy, number crunching idiots sitting at the top and currently pulling the strings. Hopefully horror will always be the black sheep of the creative universe, I hope that never changes no matter how successful it becomes at the boxoffice. When things become too mainstream and popular, you end up with what we've had these past couple years coming out of Hollywood; watered down whore copies streamlined for mass consumption. The same 'ol thing time and time again wherein nobodies buttons are getting pushed in anyway meaningful. That's not the job of the genre, to lay there flaccid and ineffective. Horror is meant to make you feel uncomfortable. This doesn't mean that it must disgust you, it can achieve this oftentimes on a purely emotional level. But it's meant to shake you one way or the other. This unique side to our genre, which really no other genre has, is something that I think deserves serious respect. Where else can filmmakers routinely have a conversation with their audience about subject matter oftentimes deemed too dark to be discussed? Metaphorically and thinly veiled of course but discussed nonetheless. The horror genre isn't trash, it can be cinema. Horror fiction can be literature. If I change just a handful of minds and they in turn continue the argument, I'll be satisfied.
Also, all the while people have been bemoaning their belief that the genre has sucked of late, I think that many of them have failed to notice that that statement couldn't be further from the truth. Because, (and seemingly this has always been the case) the films that are contenders to be considered classics later on down the line, films like Martyrs, The House of the Devil, Frozen, Antichrist and so many more, have all come out of the independent world. They haven't garnered the exposure of films like Nic Cage's Season of the Witch, Skyline or Legion. Which goes to show that the more things change the more they stay the same. The majority of movies that we now know are masterpieces, movies like Carpenter's Halloween, Romero's original Dead trilogy, Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and hundreds upon hundreds of others, all came from the indie world and if they were released today, would likewise probably play 5 select cities and then go straight to DVD. I guess I'm just trying to urge people who think horror is in dire straits to get off their butts and do the leg work required to really track down the worthwhile titles. Stop allowing yourselves to be spoon-fed the dreck that Hollywood is trying to distract and disappoint you with. Don't give up on the genre because the good stuff is always out there. That's my other goal, to get more people to open their eyes to this amazing world of cinema that decidedly is not being shown in 3-D. I guess I'm a man on a mission these days.