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Dear Filmmakers: Subvert A Genre All You Want, But You Have To Respect It First.

Black Rock

A little while ago I tossed up an article about the sale of Black Rock at Sundance. In fact, it should be the piece right below this one.

Right after doing so I saw that Devin Faraci, one of my favorite critics, had already filed his review of the film over at Badass Digest so I headed over there to check it out. You can do the same by clicking here.

Now I’m gonna state in bold letters that I have not seen Black Rock. For all I know it could become my favorite movie of 2012. I don’t always agree with Devin (maybe 70% of the time), but he’s one of a handful of about 5 or 6 critics whose reviews are my “go-tos” when I’m deciding what films to spend my time or money on as a consumer (I don’t always see everything for free, especially non-horror stuff). Whether or not I ultimately agree with his take on something, he’s got a knack for thoroughly explaining the reasoning behind his reactions that’s in a language I can relate to.

So I was surprised to come across a couple lines in his piece on Black Rock that echoed something that’s been on my mind for sometime in regard to genre and people who think they’re slumming in it.

Hit the jump to see what I’m talking about. From his review, “I rarely take such things into consideration, but at the Q&A after the movie Aselton said the script was written in 18 hours. I’m surprised it took them that long. There’s something so contemptuous about this movie – such a sense of ‘We can do one of those, no problem, no effort’ – that I find myself going from disliking ‘Black Rock’ to actually hating it. ‘Black Rock’ plays like a movie made by people who have never seen stalk and kill horror films; it’s easy to believe that Aselton and Duplass thought they were doing something unique with the genre by having the girls fight back, but this has been happening in the genre for decades now.

Again – I have not seen the film. And until I do so, I can’t speak to whether or not I personally feel this sentiment applies to it.

But I do feel it’s applicable to more and more genre efforts these days. In the case of horror, it sometimes seems that studios and indie filmmakers alike think of it as a way to just get something made. A product. After all, horror’s often cheap(ish) to make. And there’s a built in audience – you. And a lot of people don’t think you’re as smart as you actually are.

At least half the horror movies I see are made with an utter disdain for the genre and its audience.

It’s often assumed that it requires almost no effort to craft a horror film that will satisfy its audience. I find it especially strange that people who are successful in other genres of filmmaking could somehow believe that making a good horror film is somehow less difficult. As filmmakers in the trenches they have to know by now that making a good film – of any kind – will always require, thought, consideration, sleepless nights and thousands upon thousands of hours of hard work.

Ironically, I think it’s these exact people who have the skill set required to make the very best horror films. While horror is one of my favorite genres, I don’t think it’s possible to make a truly great horror film without embracing a ton of other styles of film and filmmaking as well.

If Alexander Payne were to followup The Descendants with a slasher film I would hope that he’d put as much consideration into the characters he’s slaughtering as he did the King family in that film. If Diablo Cody ever returns to horror (Evil Dead polish aside) after hitting a new creative peak with Young Adult I’d want her to imbue her new protagonist with just as much inner turmoil as she did Mavis Gary. While the genre often dictates that just as much screen time is devoted to kills as it is to character – neither should be skimmed on in terms of effort and imagination.

And that’s not even speaking to the technical/editorial side of things, which I don’t have time to get into right now (and which it sounds like Black Rock bungles as well).

It all boils down to this – anybody working on any film should be always pushing themselves to the best of their abilities and beyond*. It doesn’t always mean the film will be great, but it’s kind of the nature of the game. And it’s part of the nature of paying respect to those paying to see your film.

*As an admitted fan of Friday The 13th: Part 2 I feel somewhat hypocritical saying this. As with anything, there are no absolutes, and I must admit that some films I do like don’t exactly qualify as “pushing the envelope” material.

Some of my favorite horror films (admittedly a muddled mix off the top of my head) where I can feel the filmmakers pushing themselves are: Halloween, The Thing, Friday The 13th: Part 6, An American Werewolf In London, The Shining, Scream, Kill List, Shaun Of The Dead, Seven, You’re Next, Let The Right One In, Psycho, and, of course, Jaws.*

How about you? What are your favorite horror movies that make you taste the filmmakers’ blood, sweat and tears?

*EDIT – perhaps I should clarify that list and clear up some confusion. I don’t mean that all of those films are of equally quality, or are all classics. It’s just that I love them all. I know JASON LIVES is not as good as JAWS.



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