We want to thank The Bye Bye Man director Stacy Title for acting as a guest editor this week on Bloody Disgusting. She’s shared her favorite boogeyman, offered commentary on the film’s trailer, and even shared her picks for best genre movie of 2016 (and most anticipated of 2017).
For her final piece Title shares with us her horror influences, which range from Kubrick to DePalma and even Hitchcock, with an additional bit by writer Jonathan Penner, who is also Title’s husband.
“My Horror Influences”, Stacy Title
I watch movies all the time. Hundreds a year so volume and repetition have shaped my aesthetic. Dreadful and brilliant, I kiss the movies, my favorite art form. As a young girl, my father was a commercial producer; I watched Ridley and Tony Scott work and Michael Cimino too, up close. They directed commercials for my father at a NYC commercial production company called MPO. High end, very high budget, replete with the toys of heady budgets and watching that excess probably ruined me for my future independent film road. At seven I was a precocious but quiet little mouse on these sets. I remember them all clearly, all talented but Cimino was insecure and secretive, Ridley a fascinating force of personality and Tony in the trenches, he did everyone’s job and well. Watching them as a kid took the magic and mystery out of filmmaking but that was actually great. That coupled with compulsive movie viewing: riding my Schwinn with pink handle fringe to the three movie theaters in Plainview, New York each weekend created an obsession that never changed. I had a cold, hard eye for filmmaking and I was able to absorb great work even then, back in the day.
My favorites and greatest genre influences: Kubrick, Cronenberg, Polanski, Von Trier, DePalma and the grandmaster Hitchcock stand above all in my ‘horror’ psyche. There’s an emotionally and brilliance to these filmmakers and their work, that transcends even horror. For me, horror works only when it has palpable emotion. Their work lives in character, authenticity and emotional claustrophobia. In Carrie when she gets her period, in Rosemary’s Baby when Charles Grodin sells out Mia Farrow, ‘cause she’s a dumb woman. Their anxiety and betrayal are complete. In Von Trier’s The Kingdom, an epic seven-hour perfection made for television, the series wades along the supernatural with a hero, a hypochondriac bag lady who knows it all and more than anyone else.
All these filmmakers are phenomenal visualists, the class of the world. Putting forth iconic image after iconic image. I can feel the world of The Shining always, find myself wandering the halls and maze of this full vision over and over, riding with Danny or being stalked by ‘all work and no play’ Jack. In Dead Ringers, Cronenberg’s excruciating gynecological tools take my breath away– even right now as I write this. In Rebecca, which is my favorite movie, Mrs. Danvers is always completely still but more threatening than anything, anywhere in all film. She hovers over ‘she’ who has no name, the second Mrs. de Winter. How is possible that Danvers is scary just standing there? Almost no one else could be. But Judith Anderson sends her hatred, her mania and potential homicide via Hitchcock who shoots it medium and perfectly backlit, delivering the implied deadly threat of Rebecca, Max’s (Olivier’s) first wife. Brilliant simplicity. Max’s beloved ‘she’ (Joan Fontaine) can all but wilt.
Many of these favorites are book adaptations, and two are from the Mensa Stephen King, which begs the question: as a writer/director, are the novels only influencing me as a writer, or does that pure storytelling transcend to the mechanics of directing? Either way I love King’s books and too, Daphne du Maurier’s. A great source like a novel or story helps deepen and richen an adaptation as opposed to an original. It’s not a coincidence that a lot of great movies and horror specifically come from source material with deep and rich characters. To me the emotion and complex characters of the past have gone the way of only jump scare fests that feel like an amusement park. Some of modern horror has taken a giant step in this direction to its peril.
“My Life in Horror”, Jonathan Penner
So nepotism is alive and well in my life. And apparently here on Bloody-Disgusting as well. See, Stacy Title, the brilliant director of The Bye Bye Man and this week’s guest editor, also happens to be my wife and the mother of our two marvelous children. She not only got me hired to write the script (and also put me and the two kids in the movie), but now she’s asked me to write a short piece on my life in horror.
Anyway, dear readers of Bloody-Disgusting, she wants me to write about two things; acting in horror and writing horror.
Acting wise, I have been killed in Tony Randel’s inimitable Amityville 1995 – It’s About Time wherein I get covered in toxic goo and then strangled by a phone cord, and in Adam Marcus’ TV cut of Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, in which I get my face smashed to shit in a motel sink. From those two directors I learned to shut up and be as funny and easy-going as possible on set.
I love horror and will do and have done anything to be involved with it. Going to conventions, looting the Ackermansion, even trying to get a Famous Monsters of Filmland show on the boards. I’ve read every book, and seen many of the movies (only a fool would say he has seen everything… and while I may be an asshole, I’m no fool). So basically, with The Bye Bye Man, knowing what I knew, I just tried to write as much stuff into the movie that I’d never seen before, and hoped that, in Stacy’s capable hands, it would translate into something compelling and scary as hell. I always said to Trevor Macy, who actually did produce the movie and very well, that I wanted The Bye Bye Man to make people so scared they’d either cry or piss themselves. Going for anything less would be bullshit, I said. And I believed it.
The Bye Bye Man will open in theaters tomorrow, Friday the 13th.