Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – The Horror Crowd (2020)

My notes on The Horror Crowd

This chatty, informal documentary opens with some expected clips and images – The Exorcist, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Jaws, etc. – and musings about whether creatives have to be dark and twisted to tackle such material … then skips on to do something else rather than cover ground fully explored in many other documentaries.

Director Ruben Pla – a familiar face from the likes of Insidious, Contracted, Cheap Thrills and Lavalantula – doesn’t set out to track down reclusive mad geniuses or bring on the usual talking heads, but instead makes a film about his extended circle of Los Angeles-based film industry friends, who have long-time associations with a particular stripe of boutique studio horror fare.  A few veterans – directors Russell Mulcahy and Ernest Dickerson, actress Lin Shaye – are interviewed and so are folk who have created or nurtured franchises (Jeffrey Reddick of the Final Destinations, Oren Peli of Paranormal Activity, Darren Lynn Bousman of the Saw sequels, Anthony C. Ferrante of, um, Sharknado), but here’s where to go for a look at relatively unfamiliar faces like Chelsea Stardust (Satanic Panic), Mike Mendez (The Convent), Adam Robitel (The Taking of Deborah Logan), Axelle Carolyn (Soul Mate), Brea Grant (12 Hour Shift) and Dave Parker (The Hills Run Red), plus prolific execs Shaked Berenson and Ryan Turek.  If there’s a handy film showcasing this particular crowd it would be Tales of Halloween, on which quite a lot of the interviewees here w

Pla digs a little into everyone’s childhoods and their normal family lives, and gently probes for darknesses – but only gets hints of a few professional disappointments, and stays well away from the #metoo scandals and other genuinely unappetising aspects of the horror field (not all horror crowds are as pleasant to be around as this group, and there have recently been disillusioning controversies involving companies, film shoots and festivals).  Pla probes a bit about a few specific films, but sometimes oddly intercuts unrelated anecdotes from different folk as if impatient to get to the next nugget.  There’s an appealingly mellow, inclusive, laid-back LA vibe to this film, which includes a section about a recently-closed café that was a hang-out for this gang – and it strikes some of the chords heard in Frightfest Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema and Cult of Terror, which are as much about the social aspect of being part of an extended, complex horror community as the work itself.

Here’s a trailer.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.


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