My notes on the documentary ¡Culto al Terror! (Cult of Terror).
Several times in this amiable, ramshackle documentary about the international horror community, it’s noted that there are more magazines and festivals devoted to fantasy, horror and science fiction – we seem to have given up on blanket terms like cinefastique, but we know what they mean – than to any other genres, and that few people wear t-shirts or get tattoos celebrating their favourite romantic comedies. We get a bit of elementary digging about why that might be, namechecking Christians thrown to the lions and campfire tales, but on the whole this takes that enthusiasm as a subject and just runs with it.
Made by the Argentinian Gustavo Mendoza, this features a few familiar anglophone folk – Robert Englund, Bruce Campbell (who keeps warning Mendoza he’ll need a release form), Barbara Crampton, Mick Garris, our own Alan Jones – but interestingly comes from a mostly Latin point of view, with more time spent at Sitges in Spain, Morbido in Mexico, a horror store in Buenos Aires and other international festivals than in the US. An archive interview with the late Spanish horror star/auteur Paul Naschy, plus appearances from Brazilian mad mountebank José Mojica Marins (of Zé do Caixão fame) and Narcisco Ibáñez Serrador (director of La Residencia/The House That Screamed and ¿Quién puede matar a un niño?/Would You Kill a Child?) reference horror traditions from Spain and Latin America and there are showings from Dario Argento (who might not have signed that form since he doosn’t talk to the camera as he signs memorabilia in Paris) and Ruggiero Deodato (who does big up himself and his famous credit Cannibal Holocaust, perhaps humorously, in a rambling anecodote) … but the real meat is chat with the younger (and older) fans, festival programmers, filmmakers, magazine publishers (still hanging in there despite the internet), zombie walk participants, critics and general ‘freaks’ (the term used in Spanish as equivalent to ‘geeks’).
The larger con/fan scene has more than its share of problems – just google the controversies surrounding harrassment, awards campaigning, representation of minorities, and price-gouging, not to mention the rise of huge impersonal media cons that hawk celeb autographs and pictures to long queues – but thus far the horror fest segment has kept things genuinely friendly and approachable, and Mendoza stresses that. It detours a bit as folks start talking about their own stuff – Englund on Freddy, Garris on Masters of Horror – but there’s plenty of big feels stuff about this loose, worldwide culto al terror.
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