Elric Kane, Master of Horror

An interview with the New Zealand-raised host of Inside Horror

by Gordon Campbell

Horror films come in a wild variety of forms. They can be slasher films, stories involving haunted houses, Satanic visitations or ancient curses, radioactive monster movies, torture porn where the brutality of the carnage seems to be the only aesthetic…They can also be films where flesh-eating aliens attack from outer space or lie waiting in caves underground or turn up on your doorstep to answer your ad for a flatmate. In David Cronenberg’s horror films, the ookiness erupts from inside our own bodies. Essentially, horror films depict what we dread. And if we’re honest, dread is lurking just beneath the normal fabric of existence, 24/7.

Horror film talkshow hosts are an altogether rarer breed. Right now, the very best online horror movie show happens to be fronted by a guy with very strong ties to New Zealand. Although born in New York, Elric Kane was raised in New Zealand from the age of six. Art filmgoers may recall the string of low budget movies that he and Alexander Greenhough made and screened on the Film Festival circuit here during the mid 2000s – I Think I’m Going, Murmurs and Kissy Kissy. A part of the Aro Valley school of digital film makers, a group including Colin Hodson and Campbell Walker. After finishing postgraduate film school studies in Savannah and Chicago, Kane now lives in Los Angeles. Each week, he hosts a terrific online horror movie show that began life last year as This Week in Horror and is now called Inside Horror. Many of the back episodes and interview clips from the show (Joe Dante! John Landis!) are available on Youtube.

The format is pretty simple. Each week, Kane and his co-host Staci Layne Wilson discuss recent news and trends in horror movies, and then interview some horror industry notable (The guy who wrote and directed Sinister! The lovely, really nice woman who starred in Human Centipede 1&2!) A few days ago, Werewolf editor Gordon Campbell phoned Elric Kane at his home in L.A., to see how a life lived in horror was working out for him:.

Campbell : Who is the main audience for the show, and horror movies in general ?

Kane : The demographics probably haven’t changed that much since the 1950s. Its still mainly that 15-24 year old male audience. Largely white…

There are at least two stereotypes about the horror audience aren’t there? One, those 15-24 year old males looking to be grossed out or challenged in a “bring it on’ sense. And on the other hand, a hyper-reflexive, self referential army of film nerds…

Right…When I was looking at the stats, it was interesting that the second-in-line audience after the 15-24 males are the couples who are dating – not married couples, which are really low – but dating couples. And that makes sense in terms of the pleasure principles of fear [and protcctiveness] But the biggest shift in the last few years is that women viewers of horror are now outnumbering male viewers for the first time ever. And especially for psychological horror. That [sub-genre] scores better for females.

Presumably, those figures include the dating women as well

Oh, sure. You were talking before about smarts. Roger Corman is probably one of the smartest people I’ve met, in person. And he’s pretty obsessed by Freudian theories, and the idea that those things that scare us as children stick with us as adults. Even the smartest people are subject to their subconscious desires. And I think horror films – even the dumb ones – are somehow enjoyable on a subconscious level, because both our fears and desires are playing themselves out on a screen. We’re passive for the most part, and we’re completely safe. Its like a controlled test experiment.

That cuts both ways though, doesn’t it? For at least half of the potential audience, wouldn’t those deep seated fears be something they would actively avoid resurrecting when they go to the movies?

Which half is that?

The half that DON’T want to see their inmost fears onscreen, in the dark?

Oh. It can also be that they’re caged, and have no interest in bloodshed, and can be easily put off by that. That goes to life in general, though. The same people don’t take rollercoasters and the like. Its also true that a lot of people are scared of their fears and desires, and they don’t want to look in the mirror. Even though horror movies are a very safe way to do that. Its like when artists like Cindy Sherman makes gore photos that are repulsive. She says repulsion and attraction are literally, the opposite sides of the exact same coin.

When was your own baptism of horror?

I was actually about five, unfortunately. And I have a kid now and wouldn’t want to inflict this on him because I did suffer really bad. I was really scared of the dark actually, after this. I was told to come into a room by a guardian, not my actual parent, and they told us Little House on the Prairie was on. I was about five or six, my sister was ten. And he closed the door and made us watch Creepshow, which was a George Romero anthology. There was a sequence in there where a creature comes out of a crate. A kind of a werewolfy looking creature. It gave me nightmares for years.

I don’t know whether it was from there that my attraction to it came. But it was certainly my baptism into it. Years later when VHS came out in New Zealand, and made it to households, I remember watching Deliverance at about eight or nine. And then Alien, and you then start looking for increasingly strange films. Even now in my generation there’s a certain nostalgia for VHS, because of our love for those Saturday mornings of going down and renting four or five films and watching them. Its very odd that something that looks so bad can have its own cult now.

Also, there was one other thing. I don’t know if you remember this, but in New Zealand, Piggy Muldoon used to be the host, or used to introduce, the Friday night (or Sunday night) horrors. And I remember so clearly the taboo of sneaking out and being awake while everyone else was asleep and watching, and realising this is the ex-Prime Minister introducing the bloody thing. That this could even happen is one of the great things about New Zealand, I must say.

That’s fantastic, to think of Muldoon searing himself into your imagination in that way. .

I remember him going heh-heh-heh like a vampire. Television was a really important way of seeing these things, because I couldn’t get into movies until I was sixteen. Pornography and sexuality of course, are also very tied. Obviously I grew up pre Internet, so Internet pornography and all those kind of things weren’t around until I was much older. But at a young age, that’s the first time you see those images, for good or bad…. My first sexual memories are from those movies. That might not be a good thing, I don’t know. I don’t even have a show where I’m saying that horror is a good thing, either. It is just something that I do. But deep down I do believe that it is really cathartic.

Or de-sensitising

And the one overwhelming thing from having done this show…and I’ve now done about 40 episodes in all – is that the people I’ve met from the horror genre – and I’ve met other people in L.A. from other facets of the film industry – are…I won’t say normal because that cheapens it, but they are seemingly the most sane and certainly the kindest, the most sensitive people I’ve met here in any field.

Right. In that respect, some people on your show like [horror film director] Ti West reminded me of people I’d met in the music industry – which is legendary for having a high ratio of assholes – but who were really kind, journeymen people who were simply grateful to be somehow making a living out of doing what they love to do.

I think in the horror industry, there’s also a camaraderie. You end up at parties with some of these people and you realise that a lot of them are friends. Unlike mainstream Hollywood, where most people – actors anyway – are not really buddies.

The Genesis

The first time I looked at the format of what is now Inside Horror – with you and Staci Layne as co-hosts, and a sofa for the guests – it struck me as a form of genre tweaking in itself. You guys could be a regional TV team, or a segment of Fox News.

My initial idea for the original series was a show called Inside the Actors Studio. Which had started out as a great show but as it continued the guests got patchier and patchier, and I thought it would be great if we had a show that went into things with as much depth, but with horror. That was really the genesis. So lets do half Inside the Actors Studio and half Entertainment Tonight – both done, for horror. And done without all the kind of glitzy stuff, because its the Internet, and it’s done live. It being a live show I had to learn a lot. Because everything you say is now captured forever.

That live format also means that the ordinary affirmations of “ Wow” and “Great!” to the guests can look pretty dorky and fanboyish. I guess you’ve had to learn how to dial that back.

Yeah, and somebody recently wrote an article saying that I was wry…and that was probably a planned approach to the show. Because the first episode [of Inside Horror} we did was with John Landis. And for me, that was the first onscreen interview I’d ever done in my life. And for the first few shows I was so within my skin and feeling almost a little trapped with trying to present myself a certain way…thinking that if I can control it that’s how I’m going to come off best. But then looking at it and going, that’s not me at all. And it took probably the whole first season before I was just completely me. Now, I’m completely at ease when they push “ Record” and I don’t really care. Because I’m hoping people are watching because they want to see who we’re talking to.

Gore, Galore

Many of the perceptions of the horror genre are from the Saw and the Hostel franchises, which have pretty much set the bar on gore and very bad behaviour. In the course of this job, are there any images that you wish you really hadn’t seen? That you wish hadn’t got into your memory banks?

There are images in Hostel 2..When, the young Jewish girl who was in Welcome to the Dollhouse, I can’t remember her name –

Heather –

Yeah, Heather Matarazzo. She’s strung upside down and being cut [inaudible] and things. It didn’t necessarily disturb me, but I didn’t enjoy seeing it. I have to admit, I don’t know how I feel about this idea of de-sensitisation, but I definitely know that I don’t experience horror films in the same way your average audience does. I often go to movies with full audiences who are jumping…and stuff, and yet I’m largely unmoved.

Well, in an ordinary week then, how many horror films do you watch?

I see one a day…and there are periods where I have to watch two or three. But I’d been watching a lot of films like that, my whole life. I just hadn’t lately. I tell people at times that I have to stop between seasons, because its like eating McDonalds non-stop. Because in reality and I’ll be honest, I think there are about three to four really good horror movies a year and about 200 to 1,000 that are pretty poor. And I have to watch quite a few of them. Well, I don’t have to actually, I could just coast, but I like to know what I’m talking about. I take research very seriously.

I’d like to go back to the trend for more women to now be in the audience for these films. Ever since the shower scene in Psycho on through to the slasher films of the ‘80s, to Eli Roth and his Hostel friends, horror films have had a strain of misogyny running right through them – where women serve as thrill bait, or they get murdered for being sexually active, or for being stupid or for being vulnerable. How do you feel about this aspect of horror, because you do see a lot of it?

I think that was more the case in the 70s and 80s, though Hostel and Saw have continued it, but if you have a look at recent horror..it is getting smarter, for one. Not across the board. Like I said, a lot of it is dreck that goes straight to video. But if you look at films like Ti West’s film The Innkeepers, which basically takes a pro-active female character, gives her super short hair that almost asexualises an actress [Sara Paxton] who was sexualised the same year in a stupid shark movie [Shark Night] and makes her a really smart protagonist that both men and women could find appealing.

She’s also someone asthmatics could readily identify with, speaking as one. [The asthma of Paxton\s character is a key plot point.]

Exactly. So, I do think people are consciously changing that [aspect]. Also there’s quite a growth of women film-makers although a lot of them haven’t necessarily hit it big making features, as yet. But if I look around in this town, I surround myself with women in horror. Obviously, I have two of them on the show. One of whom Rebekah McHendry is the head of marketing at Fangoria magazine. I see a lot of films being directed by women, not just being produced by them –

But you were saying this engagement by women is occurring more in the realm of psychological horror?

Yes. I think spectatorship is complicated. Even though these films – like Friday the 13th or whatever – were misogynyist..it is interesting that often the girls had boys names.

Like Sydney [in Scream]?

Yeah, they’re very asexualised. They’re the virgins, the survivors.

As dictated by the rules of the Final Girl theory?

Yes, by the Final Girl theory. And a lot of that, I think, was men projecting themselves onto women they didn’t actually want to have sex with. Somehow, I think it was a very complex relationship. It was kind of subversive –

Or was about sexual fear –

I just don’t know how it works. I don’t think anyone does. The idea that I’m a man so I identify with the male lead only is nonsense, is complete and utter garbage. The way we view things is so much more complex than that. But I don’t think the film-makers necessarily know that. Film-makers are probably just going : Oh we need the virgin to die here. And I think Cabin In The Woods was the chopping block of that. It kind of said – I dare you to make another film like this again, because people are just not going to take you seriously. Cabin in the Woods is, to me, the definitive end to a sub-genre.

There are also films – initially I was thinking of Audition – but the David Bruckner segment in V/H/S also plays reflexively with what happens to guys who have those kind of proclivities. They get punished severely for their attempts at sins against women. This is maybe another way of dealing with the misogyny element in horror.

Huh, I interviewed him [Bruckner] yesterday on the show, funnily enough. And I noted exactly the same thing and asked him – were you consciously punishing the male characters for wanting to make a sex tape, and asked him about how he felt about that? And he said absolutely, he wasn’t consciously doing that. The storyline is more about circumstance.

But I do think subconsciously, there is something there. Because just talking about David Bruckner, he’s very intellectual. He seems like a guy who wouldn’t be involved in those sort of things, and maybe he’s lashing out at that fraternity type of man. I found that to be a very interesting segment of the film, too. But…where are we going with this sort of imagery? Compared to the Internet, horror films are tame. The ones we should talking about, in terms of extremes, would be Human Centipede I & 2. Human Centipede 2 struck me as being like a self-referential comedy about what the first film was – which was a straight, bad, shock for shock value kind of piece. I know for a lot of people, the image [of Human Centipede] is too much for them.

Ultimately though, the viewing relationship, to me, is a lot more complicated than that I’m a young guy and so I will identify with the man doing the thing to the woman. Men, at times, are identifying with the woman, or are being filtered through the gaze of the woman. Or men are identifying at least with the Final Girl. We’re not identifying with Jason, I’ll tell you that much.

Found Footage

One of the strongest horror trends in the wake of Blair Witch – going back to Cannibal Holocaust, but popularised by the Blair Witch Project – is the ‘found footage’ stream of movies. Like [Rec,] Cloverfield, The Last Exorcism etc etc.

And yet after Blair Witch, it was still quite a long time – about another eight years – before found footage started to become a recognisable trend.

Now, with V/H/S, we have a found footage anthology that has been one of the most anticipated and praised horror films of the year. Where do you think that trend is capable of going? Or with found footage, are we already at the same kind of meta-slasher movie endpoint that you noted we’ve reached with Cabin In The Woods?

I weirdly think that its the beginning of that particular trend. We are at the very start point, even though its been with us for a couple of years. I mean, much as I dislike it, there are a few great films in there. [Rec] is, I think, a truly great film and parts of V/H/S were really interesting. The biggest problem with found footage is that the voice often feels completely contrived. At a certain point, you go –this is starting to feel contrived. Paranormal Activity 1,2 &3 were probably the ones that best dealt with that problem, in that they provided a [plausible] reason why the kids were filming, in that they were investigating something in their own house.

What these films are reflecting is our own lives. We now have the ability to shoot our own video – cheap and high end video alike – and to put the images out there on Youtube and the Internet. So to me, V/H/S is a sign that found footage is just gearing up, but is also going to split into new directions. The fact they came up with the idea of a horror film occurring over Skype in Joe Swanberg’s section of V/H/S indicates they’re going to push in different directions. And I’m not saying its good or bad, but I don’t think we’re at the end of found footage. If anything, if someone wants to re-boot Godzilla, people will say ‘Hey, lets do it as found footage.’ To be honest when I heard that Texas Chainsaw Massacre was going to be re-booted I thought personally and think I even said it on the show – they might as well just make it a found footage film. If they did that, at least there would be something aesthetically different about it.

Its interesting that you link found footage to the availability of video, even on cellphones. Ti West has linked it to the effect that reality TV has had – in terms of helping to break down the barrier of how cruddy the images can look.

And it has made us willing to watch it. People are willing to watch [reality TV] for hours on end with nothing much happening, or with much at stake. I think the other part is that we are at a point now as film-makers – just like the films we were making in New Zealand [within the Aro Valley film movement to which Kane was linked, personally and creatively] because digital technology was allowing us to do that. You couldn’t have done it on 16mm or 35mm because of cost. Now, everyone knows that found footage films are fun because hey, now I can have four people go down a tunnel and film themselves as one by one they get picked off by a ghost. And now I’ve made a found footage film. It goes straight to video. Hardly anyone sees it. But now they can call themselves film-makers.

On that point, maybe you can explain Economics for Dummies when it comes to horror movies. I took Ti West’s The Innkeepers as an example – it came out in February, was one of the most praised and well reviewed horror movies of the year. And yet according to Box Office Mojo, it grossed only $78,000. His The House Of the Devil did only marginally better.

Yeah, The Inkeepers was a festival film, It will probably do very well on DVD and Blu-Ray in the long run. And Ti West is very smart, in my opinion. One of the appeals of his films is that his films don’t look dated. House of the Devil looked like it took place in the 1980s anyway. Right now, its really tough. We had an eight week period earlier this year when horror was No 1 at the box office. It was Underworld 4, then Woman in Black, then The Devil Inside – all back to back. Devil Inside is really low budget but the rest were studio blockbuster films, which most horror fans don’t like. None of those films were liked by horror fans or by critics. So, obviously, horror films that do really well either aren’t targeted for horror or towards the hard core horror audience – they’re just being marketed to the masses. And it works. And unfortunately, a lot of the best horror films don’t do that well at the box office, while ones that the fans don’t like so much become franchise characters. That’s probably going to happen with Sinister. That comes out in about two weeks from now, and it has a character played by Ethan Hawke and is being heavily promoted – its actually a very good, very adult film –

Yeah, I’ve seen the trailer. That’s the film that has a demonic character in it called Bagul [who eats the souls of children] and who is stalking the family

Yes, it is very adult. But the problem is that if it goes to number one at the box office, they will want to make it into a franchise, because the creature –

Lives on

Yeah and it looks good for a franchise. It would make sense if you were in marketing.

So.,.going back to Ti West, are those films just calling cards for him then, until he can secure his own big budget deal? Good as he can be [ unfortunately, his V/H/S segment is not so great] is he still struggling to get finance for his movies ?

Yeah, he was meant to make a bigger, couple of million dollars sci-fi film with Liv Tyler, but it sounds like it has been put on hold. So he’s about to do another low budget one, as we speak. The problem is that just like with any independent film maker, the studios see that you’re good at something and rather than say “Wow, that guy made a lot out of very little” they say “That guy is good at making a lot out of very little” so we’ll let him keep on doing it, and we’ll hire some asshole who shoots commercials. Nothing has changed between the horror and the indie film making world. I won’t say I’ll be surprised if I see Ti [succeed]…He is someone who is obviously capable of making a big budget movie – but given the way the industry works, who knows?

You’ve said horror movies are a mirror of what we fear. With the 1950s, that’ s easy. Nuclear radiation was the spark for Godzilla and those big spiders in Them ! with the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers being a parable about the anti-communist scares etc So if we’re looking at horror movies now, what do they tell us about what we’re currently afraid of? Do some of the ghost movies signify that al Qaeda is in the house ?

I don’t know if anyone has done a good terrorist al Qaeda subtext film yet. I think it was Joe Dante on the show who said that zombies are obviously the most popular item now…The Walking Dead TV series and zombie films in general have been kind of soaring in the last few years, and you can’t help but think that works as a subtext for the crumbling economy…

So zombies can be seen as the revenge of the 99 per cent?

Yeah, the people who are struggling to find work… and shambolically rolling around in circles looking for the next handout. Depending on who you read. But I don’t think its consciously so.

Its always easier to make these parallels about previous decades, with a bit of distance.

That’s true. But you can’t help but notice. Zombies weren’t all that popular for about 20-30 years and then suddenly they’re the hottest thing. There is nothing hotter right now than that Walking Dead show on television. The show rates through the roof, and with average people who probably don’t even watch horror movies. It is also about watching people in dire situations when you yourself aren’t necessarily doing brilliantly. It is quite nice to watch other people suffer.

You’re still making movies yourself, right ?

Right, that’s why I do the show. I never thought I’d be doing a chat show kind of thing. But it’s a chance to meet people in a genre that\s really interesting to me. Its certainly pushing me in the direction of making a genre film that’s for sure. That’s been one big shift.. My favourite type of movie in existence is the horror art film. The Zulawski film Possession [from 1981, with Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill] has always been one of my favourite movies.

Funny you should say that. I’ve been trying in vain for over a year to get Sam Neill to do an interview and talk about his experience of making that film.

Yes, he’s my number one goal, to be honest, if he was in Los Angeles. To talk about that, and about In The Mouth of Madness too. He’s fantastic in both, but Possession is made on a different level.

Currently, I’d guess that Sun Don’t Shine would be the nearest thing around to an art house /horror crossover.

Yes, and its my favourite film this year. What it is to me is elevated mumblecore. As indie film makers they’ve taken the basis of naturalism – which for most people has been quite boring in those low budget mumblecore talkie movies – but they’ve given the characters something at stake. Given them a smouldery, almost Tennessee Williams or Badlands world to be occupying. They’re lovers on the run, and its sweaty, and its the South –

And there’s a rising level of dread.

Exactly. The dread just keeps on growing. I find that more satisfying than most horror films, because its completely unexpected. There’s nothing in movie-going like being taken by surprise. As in ‘Oh wow I didn’t know you were going to push in that direction.’ Kill List was one I really enjoyed from last year or the year before – the gangster film that suddenly became The Wicker Man. It took me totally by surprise.

Finally – best monster film?

Creature of the Black Lagoon, easily. Not even close for me. There’s nothing that comes close to that film. The voyeurism, the sexuality of a creature watching a woman constantly under water, can’t touch her, can’t be part of her…I must have seen it pretty young, because I remember coming back to it, even though its not a very good film. Its pretty clunky now, but the creature and those voyeurism sequences are incredible.

Best appearance by Satan in a motion picture?

My favourite was The Devil Rides Out, the Hammer film. Its one of those creatures with the big goat horns and a man in a cloak and you don’t see it for long. I’m definitely not one who likes the comic Satan, or the Satan who is literal. The Satan from Legend with Tim Curry is fun and it looks great, but that doesn’t creep me out.

I think the villain in The Devil Rides Out [Charles Gray] was the same guy who plays Blofeld in the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever.

Yeah that would make sense. Christopher Lee is one of the good guys, and it looks beautiful. Terrence Fisher was one of the most under-rated film makers…mostly because his work was with Hammer, but his films were on a different level than most of the other Hammer stuff.

Best recent trend in horror films?

That’s a good one. I would have to say its indie horror. Slow burn horror, to be honest. I’m a big fan of what Ti West has been doing, and probably that’s the closest to what I would be doing myself. Films that take their time, that subvert expectations. You see it in House of the Devil where the girl opens ten different doors and just looks in and keeps going. In a traditional horror film, on the third door something jumps out. In his, it doesn’t – so that dread subsides for a while, but it stays there under the surface and has a payoff at the end. The worst trend in horror and in everything else is the idea that every three minutes you need a kerblam ! That comes from sci-fi and TV, and it doesn’t work in how we experience dread and fear. I’m fine with a film that’s 90% character and where the horror comes in only towards the end of the film. Kind of as it did in The Changeling, back in the 1980s. A lot of those movies knew how to pace themselves a lot better.

The infiltration of horror elements into indie and mainstream movies is noticeable in Looper. That kid in Looper could almost have wandered in from a different movie. He fits within that storyline really well, but he could also be a stand-alone character in a horror film.

Yeah, I kept thinking he was the child of Bruce Willis and the Asian wife from the future somehow looped back. But they never went there. He looked part Asian, so I kept thinking oh, maybe they did have a kid in a different timeline and the kid comes back and ends up destroying the world…But then they never touched on it, so I was sitting there thinking ‘Oh I guess I’m wrong’ but for the whole movie that was all that was going through my head.

While it isn’t horror, Looper is an interesting case. There’s a real pressure on now [to open big at the box office.] I was just talking to the director of Sinister, Scott Derricksen and he said look, if my film doesn’t open big on the first weekend I will struggle to get my next film made, and it won’t be a franchise. If we open big, all bets are off. And it’s the same with Looper. If Looper reaches no 1 at the box office, we can expect more intelligent genre films. If it doesn’t, the studios will be saying “ Nah, these smart ones are too complicated for audiences, and lets go back to the stuff that’s easy.“ Smart ones have to prove a case. Like, Cabin In The Woods didn’t scare up any money…Fans and critics loved it, but it didn’t make anything, when it came to money.

Well, I guess that’s where crowd sourcing of finance starts to become an imperative.

And that’s probably what I’ll do when I finally get around to making my first horror film, which will be a pretty small indie couple drama-type thing in the vein of the slow burn horror. I have a pretty firm idea of what its going to be but…I also think there’s a responsibility with money. If I make a film for $50,000 dollars that’s crowd sourced, then if I lose money its not the end of the world. If people don’t make their money back and their maximum investment is $100, I can live with that. If that same scale is $1 million and you don’t make any money, that’s a real responsibility….

Starting with Nightmare on Elm Street and more explicitly with the Scream movies, there’s been an almost manic reflexivity in this genre. Take that upcoming film called P5ych for example – the storyline is about five people who had inspired five classic horror movies, and are then being experimentally de-programmed for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which I think we can assume is going to turn out badly. Then there’s Ti West’s celebrated use of yellow lettering in the opening credits of The House of the Devil, and his use of zoom shots rather than dolly shots in order to replicate – or at least tip his hat to – the look of older horror films. Do we explain this self referential compulsion by the fact that the people involved seem to have spent their entire youth sitting in the dark watching horror films, and so now they make films about people sitting in the dark watching horror films? How else do you explain it?

I do think that’s the reason, to an extent. I mean, people say you should be well read and know a lot about art and in the classic era of directors, people like Elia Kazan could tell you as much about Greek architecture as he probably could about movies. That’s not the case now, for sure. I think for a lot of our generation, our education has been in movies themselves. So, self reflexivity is going to pop up, as well as nostalgia for certain tropes – and especially for the look and feel of certain films. None of that surprises me. Sinister is the ultimate example of what you were just saying. It is about – literally – a man, who is a crime writer, watching movies. And its written by a film critic. To me, the parallels are of a guy who watches movies for a living writing a movie about a character who is watching these home movies…and that really is the entire plot. The plot is him [the Ethan Hawke character] pulling out movies and looking at them [and finding a demon in the footage.] In V/H/S, the plot is them looking at the videotapes. I think its beyond self reflexivity, and into the subconscious. They don’t even know they’re referencing all these things half the time, I’d say.

Well, I guess it reflects the way that movies have been the art portal for this generation –

Yes…and I think it will be interesting to see what sort of movies that the generation born with DVD and Blu-Ray and Youtube will make 20 years from now. My generation – which is Ti West’s generation – all grew up on VHS, which has a major place in our memory, and shaped how we experienced movies, much more so than by going to the cinema. It will be very interesting to see how it goes from here, I think.

Zombie footnote : Besides the zombie/Occupy Movement analogies referred to above, it should be said that the 2005 Joe Dante zombie film Homecoming was the best satirical film made about the war in Iraq. In it, dead soldiers rise as zombies from their flag-bedecked coffins and angrily eat right wing talk show hosts en route to their ultimate goal, which it is find a polling place where they can vote to “ end this evil war.” Go figure that a zombie film should come closest to conveying the public anger about the carnage in Iraq .

Final Girl footnote : For a basic summary/critique of the Final Girl theory that Carol Clover originated ( largely with reference to US horror films) in her fascinating book Men, Women and Chainsaws, go here. The essay usefully raises the complicating stance that European horror traditions like “giallo” horror pose for Clover’s theory. Briefly, giallo is an extremely violent horror tradition that leans more towards stylised, fantastic expressions than naturalism, and where the killer is often female and is a highly sexualised point of viewer identification.

On a different point entirely, too much can be made of the ‘women outnumbering men’ among the horror audience, cited above. In the dating context a sizeable proportion of women are going to horror movies not because they like them, but because their boyfriends know they don’t like them. By such means, horror movies become an excuse for snuggling and various expressions of he-manery.

Non-Horror Footnote. Ever since his days as an Aro Valley film-maker in Wellington, Kane has been known to be a big fan of the Dardenne brothers, the great Belgian inheritors of the mantle of Robert Bresson, as makers of highly naturalistic, morally centred films. While visiting New York’s Film Centre a little while ago, he discovered he would just miss out on a complete Dardennes brothers retrospective. Disappointed, he trudged down the street to kill time in a bookstore and then…well, here’s how it turned out. It is a pretty good story :

Kane : I’m walking down this street and a person with a camera passes me and I looked over my shoulder as film-makers will always do when they see that, and then I saw a guy with a cigar and his brother with the scarf just walk right by me, and I realised they were being filmed for something. I got so excited, and thought Omigod and thought very carefully. I didn’t want to geek out but I got pretty excited and I ran back and said I have to stop you and say your work has meant a great deal to me and to a number of other film makers I know in New Zealand. I mean they’re from Belgium, I’m from New Zealand… So after about ten minutes of my exuberant talk, the woman who had the camera said Ahhh, I am making a documentary for Belgian TV. Would you mind doing all that again? She asked me to go around the corner and come back and repeat literally everything that I’d just said. I mean, you know how I get when I’m excited. It’s a mile a minute. So I repeated the whole thing.

Thus confirming all our suspicions about documentary realism.

Its probably on some Belgian feature extra on their DVD. Crazy New Zealander talking about Campbell Walker, which is always dangerous.