What I’d Like to See More Of in Film–and Indie Horror

Written with a focus on independent horror, but these thoughts apply to films in general.

What I’d like to see more focus on:

1.)  Interesting Characters–More parts that are quirky, eccentric, twisted, or with complex personalities.  Colorful characters with memorable character actors stealing scenes make Christopher Guest’s movies so compelling and would definitely add flavor to tried and true genre formulas.  And give actors and actresses juicy and fun roles to play with.   More strong roles for females–younger or older.  Not just the damsel in distress or eye candy.

And on a similar note:

Making Strong Use of “Name” Talent–If you are lucky enough to have the budget to land a marquee name, have a role that has dialogue, scenes, or moments that really make use of his/her talents (comedic or dramatic).  Or in the case of a cameo,  something interesting, fun, and memorable for the actor to do in that brief appearance onscreen.

2.)  Cast Diversity–Not just in terms of ethnic diversity, but most especially in age diversity.  Having a cast featuring older adults beyond just teens and twenty-somethings.  Meaty parts for veteran actors (particularly long-time genre favorites) can reinvigorate a career or bring attention to someone who has spent years in the acting trenches.

3.)  Horror as Satire/Social Commentary–Using the backdrop of horror to comment on society/human nature or the genre itself.   Just as comedy is a great vehicle for satire (South Park, The Simpsons, Stewart/Colbert), horror’s potential can be equally great in this regard–Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, American Psycho, Scream, Behind the Mask.

4.) Risk-Taking–The films that resonate with jaded horror fans, along with those smaller films that achieve mainstream success–spawning imitators, or become cult favorites–are trying something new, unique, or innovative.  Whether in filmmaking technique, presentation, or subject matter/theme.  Connecting with audiences on an intense, primal, and visceral level through suspense and disturbing moments that linger in the mind for a lifetime.

And perhaps most importantly:

5.)  Acting Matters–Flat performances can derail a project with the best of intentions.  Dialogue can fall flat, dramatic or scary scenes can be unconvincing, and unintentional comedy and laughter can be the result.  Casting is key.

More Use of Trained Actors/Actors from the Theater World– Yes, there are many gifted actors who deliver incredible, instinctual work without those backgrounds–or come from other creative disciplines–music performance, writing, comedy, dance, modeling, stunt work, etc.   However, training’s value can be great for an actor–whether hands on experience–or scene work with a coach/in the classroom.  Actors who have honed their craft onstage or in acting classes/training can often bring added emotional life to their characters and can definitely enhance a film.

–Cory Graham@2012

Elske McCain Asks “Is Anyone There?” in Her “Jessicka Rabid” Follow-Up

The always interesting and outspoken Elske McCain has emerged as one of the most engaging personalities in indie horror.  With a life story as compelling as any Hollywood tale, McCain has become a familiar face for Troma fans, fought a long and hard battle to see her “pet project” released, and has explored the themes of abuse against a backdrop of horror in her work as an actress, writer, and producer.  She has also become the Go-to-Gal for all things horror related in her home base of Tucson, which will be the site of her next project, under the banner of her Dahlia Jade Productions.

Elske McCain, who has established herself as a filmmaker in her own right with the buzzed about recent Troma release “Jessicka Rabid“, is following up that effort with “Is Anyone There?”–a film which she describes as “a totally different type of horror movie.”  Drawing inspiration from the films of Kevin Tenney (“Night of the Demons”, “Witchboard”), the film follows an abused woman fleeing personal demons and running afoul of literal ones via a vintage Ouija board.  McCain will play the lead and serve as producer.
Trent Haaga, director of the recently released “Chop“ will co-star, along with Jenny Spain, who will make this her eagerly awaited feature screen return after appearing in the title role of “Deadgirl”.
The film will be directed by Hugh Jardon, who co-directed the short film “Street Fighter High: The Musical” and worked as an editor/assistant on “Necromentia” (whose director Pearry Teo, will serve as consultant).

McCain says the project was “originally written to be a low budget Troma style picture,  but after tremendous support from other respected producers and directors, I believe this project will be headed in a much bigger and better direction.”

“Is Anyone There?”  is gearing up for production late in 2012.

–Cory Graham

Shaping Horror–Women Writers and Filmmakers

Rather than focusing on actresses in horror, or the term “Scream Queens”, I wanted to take a look
at the past and present of women in horror–in creator capacities–particularly writers and directors.

A new generation of women horror writers and directors are getting widespread geographic representation–from Chicagoan actress/writers of “What they Say”–Heather Dorff and Kelsey Zukowski;  Canadians Lianne Spiderbaby, Karen Lam, Nadine L’Esperance, and the Soska Sisters (Sylvia and Jen); southern filmmakers Goldie Fatale, Andie Noir, and Shauna Tackett; and those covering horror across the pond: Germany’s Cat la Belle (Horrorpilot) and Scotland’s Jennifer Cooper (Musings of a Morleysaurus/Jennifer’s Bodies).  The Soskas have wrapped the intriguing  “American Mary” (w/Katharine Isabelle) and previously brought us “Dead Hooker in a Trunk”.
The realm of indie horror has proven to be a welcoming landscape for strong, young female filmmakers such as the Soskas, and other exciting new voices including Hannah Neurotica, Elisabeth Fies, Amy Lynn Best, Nicole Kruex, Axelle Carolyn, Maude Michaud, Tammi Sutton, and Elske McCain.   Bloggers, journalists, and film site reviewers such as Lianne Spiderbaby and Rebekah McKendry (of Fangoria) , Molly Celaschi and Kelsey Zukowski (Horror Yearbook), Dai Green (HorrorNews.net and several podcasts),  Jennifer Cooper, Cat la Belle, and Rebekah Herzberg, each bring great passion, knowledge of horror/suspense, and nostalgia for a life’s memories of growing up on horror and genre fare to their perspectives on the industry and its product.
Video segment webisodes, such as scribe Lianne Spiderbaby’s smart and funny “Fright Bytes” and Jill Killington’s charming and clever video review blog “Jill Kill”, have led to a new generation of horror hostesses that are more review and interview focused.

Love her or hate her, Stephenie Meyer, along with J.K. Rowling, have been the two most influential females in popular culture in the last decade.  Female fiction writers, especially in the horror and fantasy genres, wield undeniable influence.  From Meyer’s “Twilight” series (with screenplays by Melissa Rosenberg) to Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse/”True Blood” source material,  Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” epics, L.J. (Lisa Jane) Smith, whose series”The Vampire Diaries” and “The Secret Circle” have both been translated  to TV; Richele Mead’s Vampire Academy novels, Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, and the grand vampire and witch matriarch,  Anne Rice.  Also of note are S.D. (Stephani Danelle) Perry’s Resident Evil novels, which rival the Milla Jovovich film series, in my view.  And much of modern horror fiction is owed to the horror classics of Shirley Jackson and Mary Shelley.

On the film side, the late Debra Hill has to be seen as a pioneer for female producers and writers, scripting and producing with John Carpenter the classic films Halloween (original and II) and The Fog.  Carpenter’s films became a strong source for female talent–Debra Hill, strong heroines onscreen, and utilizing the late, great composer Shirley Walker.
Mary Lambert helmed Pet Sematary (and its sequel) and was the first female director of a Syfy Channel Original Movie.
Rachel Talalay directed Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ghost in the Machine, Lori Petty in “Tank Girl”, and episodes of tv series “The Dead Zone”.
Kathryn Bigelow directed influential cult fave Near Dark before being honored as the first female Best Director by the Academy for The Hurt Locker.
Diablo Cody, Oscar Original Screenplay winner for Juno, currently is tackling “The Evil Dead” remake and brought us the infamous “Jennifer’s Body” (directed by Karyn Kusama, who also did the strong femme-centric films Girlfight and Aeon Flux).

And genre fave actresses are moving behind the camera, with Danielle Harris directing “Among Friends” (scripted by Alyssa Lobit).  Kristina Klebe is enrolled in film school at NYU and directed her first short.  Angela Bettis directed frequent collaborator Lucky McKee in “Roman” and is working on a segment for The ABC’s of Death.  Asia Argento has followed in her father Dario’s footsteps, working extensively as a director, in addition to her acting.

At least half the directors I have worked with in film and theatre have been female. They have come into directing from a variety of creative backgrounds: acting, choreography, cinematography, playwriting, and teaching Drama.  As a producer, I will work to champion original, strong, and unique female voices and aid in bringing their visions to the screen.  And I hope to see more female crew entering the industry as editors, DP’s, and composers.  Many female journalists, festival programmers, photographers, painters, illustrators, costume designers, make-up artists, and gore/creature-FX creators, currently express their creativity in the horror industry.  And that’s not to mention the number of women creators in comics/graphic novels and television.  So, while wrongly held preconceived notions like “Women can’t be funny…or women can’t do horror” may linger in some minds, a new generation of rising female talent will hopefully erode the last traces of such incorrectly held views.

–Cory Graham@2011


Jessie Carruthers was a broken man. It was ironic, given how he had dedicated this stage of his life to fixing people. To patching people up. But he had failed at fixing the one thing that truly mattered. His broken relationship with Joanna Jeffries.
His EMT work had proven a welcome distraction from the thoughts of her, but they inevitably crept in, on a daily basis.
He was haunted by the loss of the woman of his dreams, and what he knew was the biggest mistake of his life.
An exotically beautiful woman, Joanna had led a life of varied jobs and many destinations along life’s path. While she currently assistant managed a big box retail store, the time she most fondly recalled in her working life was her time spent in Alaska. She had been an Outward Bound instructor, working and bonding with at-risk kids and teens in some of the most beautiful outdoors in the world. Equally at home in a big city, a small town, or rugged wilderness, this street smart, tough young woman would be uniquely suited to brave the coming apocalypse.
“Look sharp, Jessie!” the hospital’s veteran helicopter pilot, Bill Jenkins shouted over the roar of the rotors. Jessie’s reflecting time was over. He had a new life to mend. “What have we got?” Jessie asked the paramedic kneeling over the patient as the copter landed in the field. “We’ve got severe facial trauma, tearing, loss of tissue.” The nasal cartilage was almost completely gone. Someone or something had ripped this poor woman’s nose almost completely off. He inspected it closer. “These look like bite marks.” Jessie noted. “Yup. They even extend down to her upper lip, or what’s left of it.” There wasn’t much lip at all. Mostly gums. The woman’s whole face was a mess. A ragged mess. “Get an IV started,” Bill called out, “She’s lost a lot of blood.”
As the copter soared overhead Jessie and Bill could see tableaus of the chaos below unfolding. People being hit. Cars colliding. Explosions. Fire. It was like the riots Bill had seen while living in Los Angeles, he recalled. No doubt the looting would follow.
As the helicopter landed, Jessie could see a doctor hurriedly approaching. It was however, not a trauma or ER surgeon, but rather Dr. Peter Rose, the hospital’s renowned plastic surgeon. What was he doing here on the helipad? He looked unusually pale and sweaty as he got closer. Dr. Rose vaulted into the copter, brandished his scalpel and placed it at the throat of the pilot. “Get me the fuck out of here. I don’t have to tell either of you what a sliced carotid artery will do. Don’t be a hero.”
Bill the pilot looked at Jessie with wide eyes. “Just get the patient inside. I’ll be fine.”
Dr. Rose pointed the scalpel at Jessie. “Screw the patient, move!”
Reluctantly, Jessie backed away as the helicopter lifted off. He had to pick his battles. It would mean many difficult choices. As he watched the rotors roar back to life, the patient began to struggle, violently breaking free of her restraints on the gurney. Up she rose, as the helicopter lifted off. She grabbed Dr. Rose, whose scalpel slipped at Bill the pilot’s throat–and the helicopter began to shake, careening and losing altitude. The copter exploded in a fireball onto the upper deck of the visitor parking lot. It then set off a series of smaller booms as the gas tanks of nearby cars began to ignite, like a chain of dominoes. The wreckage of the helicopter was jarred loose by the final explosion, sending the charred body of the helicopter hurtling to the street below, nearly crushing an ambulance and blocking traffic on the busy street. He’d have to leave on Newberry Avenue now.
Jessie had begun to put everything together. It was the dawning of a scenario that he been over in his head countless times.
He and Joanna had even had half serious/half tongue in cheek discussions playing “What if?” scenarios about the coming apocalypse.
He handed the gurney off to the waiting trauma team and made another one of those difficult decisions. He could either stay and try to stabilize as many patients as he could as they flooded the doors of Charles Regional Hospital. Or he could make his way to the woman he loved, risking everything. He chose Joanna, making the first of many attempts to call her on his cell phone. She either wasn’t answering, or the cell towers were already congested and dropping calls. Would she even still be alive when he got there? If he got there? He got mad for allowing himself to think the worst. Joanna was the most capable woman he knew. If anyone stood a chance of making it through this, it was her.
Jessie headed to the mini-ATM situated just outside of the hospital cafeteria. He emptied his account out, knowing it would be a major risk to carry his entire savings around in his wallet. But what was the alternative? Credit, checks, debit…all of that would be rendered useless in the coming days. It would be still be a cash economy in the short term. Until things got so bad that even cold hard cash would be viewed as worthless green paper without a government to support it. His plan was to pick up all the resources that he could on his way to her store.
He sprinted out the sliding doors of the emergency room toward the staff parking garage. He got into his car and backed out of the space as fast as he could. A car horn blared as it scraped his bumper sending up a shower of sparks, speeding past. The Mercedes’ license plate read NUM1DOC. Clearly, the docs were getting out of Dodge. Leaving the overworked nurses and med techs to fend for themselves in this unfolding crisis.
Jessie headed for the exit and noticed on the median just outside of the parking complex a old man in a Fez hat. It was a Shriner. He lumbered forward holding a donation bucket. The Shriner half lunged/half fell through the open window of Jessie’s car, spilling spare change and crumpled dollar bills over the windshield of the car. Blood streaked his wrinkled face and his eyes seemed to be covered by some milky white cataract. The Shriner’s arms blindly seized at him, forming a death grip around the seat belt. As the car sped along the side street, the man was not letting go. Jessie slammed on his brakes, sending the old man tumbling to the asphalt in front of the car. The old man began to rise. His left arm twisted behind his back and his right knee, now a splintered compound fracture. Jessie’s fears were confirmed. This man could not be saved. Jessie hit the accelerator and swerved around the wretched old man creature.
He took one of the rural back roads headed to his next stop. The Sav-a-Flea. The local flea market. He had dismissed the idea of trying to make it to a gun shop. The gravel drive and parking lot were filled with cars on this Saturday and this soon in the crisis, local enterprising merchants were already capitalizing on the moment. Spread out on nearly every concrete table
were arms of every sort. Guns, from hunting rifles to double barreled shotguns to German Lugers. Cheap Taiwanese switchblades to rusty meat cleavers, imposing butcher knives, lawn mower blades, axes, and Vietnam era machetes. Cash rapidly exchanged hands, inventories depleting. Items going from double to triple, to even ten times their normal asking price. A survivalist couple had two tables piled high with leftover Y2K supplies. Despite their age, these were going fast. So too were chainsaws, generators, sleeping bags, camo gear, tents, flashlights, binoculars, and batteries.
He briefly weighed the old Bush era standbys: duct tape and plastic sheeting. Was this an airborne threat? Something released from a dirty bomb or a chemical sprayer? Or a moving cloud of radioactive fallout? It was possible although, Jessie thought it was most likely viral. Blood to blood.
He grabbed an assortment of blades and barrels. Guns and ammo. He shoved the mini weapons cache into his purchased Army duffel bag and swung it over his shoulder. He thought about picking up a case of water and some MRE Army rations, but decided against it. The big box store would have food and drinks–gourmet snacks and sweets, a boatload of bottled water and a wide selection of alcoholic beverages, including fine wines and foreign beers. Even if they had to hole up inside there for a while, they’d be set. The indoor and outdoor furniture boxes and display models could be used to barricade the store doors and stockroom loading dock.
A police officer in his early forties and his rookie partner announced to the table Jessie was just leaving “No license, no permit. I’m gonna have to confiscate these firearms in the name of public safety.” “You’ve got no right, you’re stealing.” the vendor protested. The officer replied: “Yeah, try calling 911, old timer. I’m sure you’ll be at the top of the list, pal.” The officer held a stun gun up. “We’ve got bigger fish to fry, if you haven’t noticed.” He handed off the last of the arms to his partner who loaded them into the trunk of the squad car. Next came every remaining box of ammo on the table.
A squat, redheaded, heavily freckled boy decked out in camo and carrying a hunting rifle was approached by the lead police officer. The boy had a glazed look in his eyes as the officer took the gun to inspect. “That’s a nice gun. Just don’t shoot your eye out, kid.” Unlike the vendor’s guns, the cop returned it and patted the boy’s head, mussing his hair. “Just remember, we’re the good guys.” The boy’s eyes rolled back into his head, his mouth then opened wide, and he sunk his teeth into the officer’s forearm, ripping out a sizable chunk of flesh. The officer reeled back, mouth open in disbelief. He then pulled out his revolver and fired point blank into the skull of the boy with the blood soaked mouth. Brain matter and skull fragments splattered over his father’s faded Stone Cold Steve Austin t-shirt. The enraged father grabbed a camping hatchet off a nearby table and sunk it into the cop’s skull.
A redneck could be overhead shouting epithets at the produce stand of an Hispanic couple. “It’s the end times. So I’m gonna do what I’ve been wanting to do my whole life. Take as many of you Mexicans with me as I can.” He had a mini-arsenal of weapons himself and he fired a shotgun blast into the chest of the stand owner. Jessie raced toward the redneck as the guy aimed for the Hispanic man’s wife, sending up a spray of melon fruit pulp. Jessie slammed into the shooter who fell, cracking his eye socket on the hard concrete table.
A group of the undead were now surrounding and feasting upon a pregnant woman who had fallen trying to escape. It was too late to save her, her throat was ripped wide open. A wheelchair bound paraplegic was a few feet nearby in his motorized chair, thick mucus running out of his mouth. With no nurse around to suction him, the poor bastard had likely choked to death on his own phlegm. His eyelids began to blink rapidly, as if his neurons began to stir to life. His oxygen nose plugs dangled limply on his face. Jessie took careful aim and fired a single shot, which ripped through the shoulder of the man and hit its target–the oxygen tank on the back of the chair. The tank sent out a mini-fireball which engulfed the mob descending on the pregnant woman.
This wasn’t the fun, Left for Dead, zombie run and gun experience he’d imagined.  He dreaded what lay ahead of him and the strip mall where Joanna would be–alive, dead, or otherwise.
—-Cory Graham–@2010

The Sounds of Death

The Sounds of Death
by Cory Graham

He was the new sensation on the club scene.
DJ Death.
So dark. So edgy. So avant garde. No one questioned his techniques or methods. It was just the way he liked it.

Musica Mortis was nearly complete.
His masterpiece, his magnum opus.
He relishes the reaction from the live shows.
The immediate feedback.
The audiences adore the pounding, pulsating beats.
His tracks follow the heartbeat of his muses.
Increasing in intensity until the final crescendo and release.

Not that every new “sample” came from someone
entering his studio by force. On the contrary.
There were plenty of aspiring singers in the city.
His plain flyers looking for a vocalist were plastered
all over the arts district. Quaintly nondescript ads in the age of flashy graphics, clip art, and funky, bold text.
But his simple, straightforward request was so very vanilla, so refreshingly plain.
Blending in with all the others.
But not to those desperate for a chance at stardom.
From the petite, pretty blonde with the Southern twang
to the plump, classically trained, operatic diva who could belt out the high
notes in life and in ensuing death.

Nevertheless, he did, on occasion enjoy the thrill of incapacitating someone
and bringing that slumped-over form into his studio.
Disorientation produced its own unique sound in the music of panic.
Scrambling about in the carefully padded room.
For acoustic purposes, naturally.
Inevitably, the victim would paw and scratch.
At the foam padding. Sonic insulation.
Meanwhile the DJ watches, observes.
Sees everything from his control room. How perfect. How poetic.
Control means everything to him. Artistic control. Complete and total.
Control over those who give their life for his art.
His “muses.”

He has met almost a dozen muses now. One per track. Just two shy of
his planned thirteen track CD waiting to be unleashed. Lucky 13.
His cell phone chimes to life. He asks for a display of her vocal talents.
She complies. He’s intrigued by her range.
He will push that range to its primal limits.
He smiles. The night is just beginning.

—Cory Graham @ 2009.

Jeremiah Kipp–A Filmmaker Worth Checking Out

“Drool” (2011) from Jeremiah Kipp, in collaboration with Mandragoras Art Space, is an absorbing four minutes that is always evocative and atmospheric–alternating between disturbing moments, tenderness, and eroticism.  Experimental in its storytelling, the short is dialogue free and bathed in mystery–and its leads in the “drool” of the title–a slimy substance of unknown origin.  The audience is left to draw its own conclusions in terms of meaning.  Placental/amniotic fluid at birth (with an actor nude and in the fetal position at start and finish), a body/life consumed by an addictive substance, bodily fluids exchanged during intimacy/disease transmission, and control/possession are all possible interpretations.   Visually compelling, “Drool” is stark, yet stylish; using potent black and white imagery to lend a music video level of stylishness to abstract narrative.  Director of Photography Salinoch and editor Scott W. Perry have created a sleek, flowing look appropriate to the title.  Featuring expressive physical performances from actors Laura Lona (also serving as producer) and Brian Uhrich , a neutral space location, fog/smoke, and a haunting melodic score, “Drool” will linger in the memory.

“Drool” can be viewed here: http://vimeo.com/33438309

 I previously watched two shorts from up-and-coming filmmaker Jeremiah Kipp: the darkly beautiful suicide saga Crestfallen, featuring Deneen Melody (2011), and mind and body merging through drug trance in CONTACT (2009).  Kipp has an extensive background as an AD on horror/suspense projects and has recently moved into the director’s seat–on these two shorts, as well as an intriguing, forthcoming film starring Tom Savini called The Sadist.  More about The Sadist in a bit.

There are several notable strengths on display in Kipp’s shorts. A sleek, fluid look adds much to both the feel and production value. CONTACT uses a stark black and white look to great effect, while “Crestfallen” utilizes a lush, dark color palette.  There is skillful use of light and shadow.  Cinematographer/editor Dominick Sivilli deserves commendation.  Much is able to be conveyed without dialogue in these pieces, a testament to strong performances, writing, and editing.  Narrative is shown through gesture, flashes from memory, and photographs. Well chosen settings are able to contribute a distinct sense of place.  A haunting ominousness can be felt throughout, even in tender moments. Music is effectively chosen and adds much to mood.  Both shorts feature nudity from their female protagonists, which rather than feeling gratuitous, adds to characterization, with characters being emotionally (and literally) exposed, stripped-down, and vulnerable. And CONTACT features a very effective bit of makeup and gore FX that is jarring and well-executed.

While any film featuring Savini is worth checking out for curiosity alone, I am especially intrigued about The Sadist.  Given the strength of these shorts, I am looking forward to seeing what a feature from Kipp would hold in store.  The new film features Tom Savini as a combat veteran with serious psychological damage who stalks campers and hunters in the woods . Currently in post-production, I would suggest keeping an eye out for further updates on both The Sadist and filmmaker Jeremiah Kipp.—-Cory Graham

CONTACT is available at: http://vimeo.com/16334767
The Sadist trailer can be seen here: http://vimeo.com/14663470

Horror: Ultimate Drama’s Encouraging Trends

For my inaugural post, I thought I’d share some thoughts about why I’m optimistic about the current state of horror.

One of the greatest successes of horror as a genre is its ability to explore the darkest sides of the human condition, whether mental instability and breakdown, primal emotion, or animalistic brutality.   These explorations, coupled with the most basic human impulse–the fight for survival, make horror in many ways, the ultimate form of drama, through its depiction of tragedy at its most raw and stripped-down level.   Yes, subtle and psychological portrayals of horror can be incredibly powerful as well, using the power of the imagination to create our own personalized images of fear–whether featuring the ghost in the attic or the creature under the bed.

European filmmakers, especially the French, have been exploring brutality in very visceral and intense ways, in such films as Inside, Martyrs, Frontier(s), and High Tension.  In these films, humans are the monsters;  the darkness within the human mind is the greatest threat.  And the horrifying acts of violence that spring forth from humans, free of supernatural influence,  are shocking in their graphic portrayals.   And importantly, they often occur with emotional resonance, inflicted on characters we come to care about.  The psychological terror and physical torture they must endure, leave us, as audiences,  feeling as if we’ve taken a journey with them, hitting us at a gut level.   Characters can be dispatched suddenly and violently, killed with little warning–a jarring, although welcome contrast to certain predictably plotted slashers with disposable, anonymous victims whose deaths we can see coming a mile away.

Fresh energy has been infused into the slasher genre with Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon,  Hatchet, and Laid to Rest.  Clever, inventive American indie productions, made outside the studio remake machine.   These films have provided the burst of hope and freshness to the slasher genre of today that Scream created in the 90’s.

Independent filmmakers drawing inspiration from the films they grew up on, especially 70’s and 80’s horror flicks, are becoming new torchbearers of inspiration.  Ti West, for example, fully evoked the feel of the 70’s in the tense and atmospheric  The House of the Devil, which has rightfully become one of the most applauded recent horror films of any budget level.  The power of the passionate fans eager with nostalgia has also led to throwbacks such as Hobo with a Shotgun and Madison County gaining sales, buzz, excitement, and anticipation.  The hopeful trend of the comeback of the illustrated movie poster, created by an artist, rather than a Photoshop tech, is also a most welcome return.  Both Hobo and Madison have benefited from great poster art.  The Chillerama gang (Tim Sullivan, Joe Lynch,  Adam Green, and Adam Rifkin), along with John Gulager and James Gunn, have been responsible for bringing a great sense of refreshing humor, playfulness, and bad-assed irreverence to cleverly over-the-top gory delights and homages to films of the 70’s and 80’s.   Within the studio system, Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects eagerly embraced this gauntlet.

So, as horror fans, we eagerly devour so much content, searching for the great gem that makes so much mediocre viewing all worth it.  In a sea of sameness, however, there are many films, filmmakers, and recent signs of greatness to remain hopeful for the future of horror.—Cory Graham