The Horror Crowd Movie Review
Written by Rachel Knightley
Written and directed by Ruben Pla
2020, 92 minutes, Not Yet rated
Frightfest World Premiere on 29th August 2020
Ernest R. Dickerson
Director and actor Ruben Pla makes it very clear from the start that this documentary will be him interviewing his friends. It features Lin Shaye, Greg Grunberg, Russell Mulcahy, Ernest R. Dickerson, Clare Kramer, Oren Peli, Adam Robitel, Darren Lynn Bousman, Lombardo Boyar, Sarah Nicklin, Mike Mendez, Jeffrey Reddick, Chelsea Stardust, Ryan Turek, Brea Grant, Shaked Berenson and Cyrus Voris talking about their experience in and love for the genre, to create a ‘revealing, intimate documentary spotlighting the Hollywood Horror community’.
It’s probably with the best of intentions that Pla features himself in conversation in a large proportion of the interviews, formatting and conducting them as filmed chats. But the line between informality and interruption is a thin one, and there’s a distracting tendency for Pla to crack jokes that divert or even derail an interviewee’s thought train. Editing decisions seem to favour this issue rather than offer damage-control: on one occasion, Pla telling the camera man to crop him out and zoom in on the subject, then cut elsewhere rather than hear further from the subject of the interview. The result is a frustrating sense of Pla as chaperone rather than the conduit, separating his friends rather than sharing them with the audience. In a version of this project where Pla spent more time behind the camera than in front of it and had more of his mind on the story being shown than his own place within the web of friendships, there could have been more brain-space for the interviewees to be more “revealing” and more “intimate” in sharing their horror journeys. As it is, they’re dodging interruptions to stay on track.
While a message of the documentary is the ‘Horror Crowd’ helps each other out, the first job of storytellers is to prioritise the product that tells the story. To be seen to do otherwise crosses the line from loyal to cliquey. Alt-rock band Zombie Sundae (managed by Ruben Pla, vocals by Madeline Pla) perform Scarlet, a strong, atmospheric final-credit song but not a deep fit with the documentary itself so an awkward choice in context of footage of Pla’s friends having a party.
The family tree of films, actors and spousal and professional relationships and dynamics between them is enjoyable and would have been more so if they’d had a longer rein on which to tell their own stories. A particularly strong and involving section concerning the fears that are motivation and muse for creative artists who choose to work in horror sees Pla sit back and let the story tell itself. Fear and fascination with death, what does or doesn’t lie beyond, and the use of artistic imagination to explore what the everyday brain is too afraid to touch comes across in articulate and relatable talking heads. It’s a celebration of itself and has every right to be, but to do itself justice needs a little more distance and could have gone deeper, from advert to exploration. A frustrating missed opportunity for a deeper sense of what makes this fascinating and much-loved scene, industry, and the artists who are drawn to it tick.
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