We’re in strange times. And in the big scheme of things, who really cares about the sanctity of something as subjective – and ultimately inconsequential – as an entertainment genre? I certainly don’t go to bed at night musing whether the latest sequel to a solid film will soil that movie’s purity (though it usually does) or whether the latest bastard remake of, well, just about any film over two years old, will neuter the original’s legacy (though it usually does). At the end of the day, who gives a damn? Life’s relatively short, so have fun, shoot straight, and keep your loved ones number one. But since we’ve opened a can of worms, what say we let them crawl around, maybe find a rancid corpse to feast on?
Do you ‘like’ horror?
I think social media is damaging independent film, with horror taking the bulk of the abuse. Supporters may argue that Twitter and Facebook provide a direct link to the fanbase, create free marketing opportunities for budget-conscious projects, and open doors to meet talent with which to collaborate. All valid points, in theory. But, as with many good intentions, they don’t seem to hold up in practice. Take Facebook, for example. When I joined in ’09 it was to keep up with friends, nothing more. But, in mingling with the indie horror crowd, a strange thing happened. Aside from far too many ‘major announcements’ that tellingly weren’t trumpeted by any film news outlets, I started receiving crowd-funding solicitations. Lots of ’em.
Having been there, I could sympathise with needing a few extra bucks to do an idea right, but this was over-the-top. I’m talking, “please, please, please contribute a dollar to our film for a producer credit!“ over-the-top, and I was unfamiliar with the level of desperation. It was mostly aspiring ‘scream queens’ tough-selling the same old crap, and some were just mouthpieces for guys with tired horror-centric screen names like Bobby Chainsawsyourheadoff, or some shit like that. (Note: any similarities to an actual Bobby Chainsawsyourheadoff are purely coincidental)
The racket was as simple as the low-end digital movies they wanted to make: show cleavage, pout lips, pitch idea. And repeat…and repeat…and repeat. I wondered when it became acceptable to relentlessly, shamelessly shill relative strangers for cash. I had no professional link to many of these people, yet they wasted no time ditching their pride at the cyber-door the minute we became ‘friends’ in their scramble to make an investor out of anyone foolish enough to bite. I wanted to tell them there are crowd funding sites where they could find real investors, but it would’ve technically made me an executive producer (I know execs who’ve done less for the credit) and I preferred no involvement at all. You can’t explain something to people who intrinsically don’t get it.
In the name of networking, I had a nasty habit of accepting anyone who came calling, whether we personally knew each other or not. Around the 4,000 mark, it just wasn’t working out. Who really keeps thousands of active acquaintances, anyway? No one. If your Facebook page is skirting its friend limit, you’re spending too much time online. And if you announce, “my friend limit’s been reached, join my fan page!“ you’re a total jackass. You need to go volunteer at an animal shelter or medical clinic and become human again. Those self-esteem issues will vanish like…well, like me, if you keep asking for money to fund your film. Besides, that’s what rich uncles and guilt-ridden deadbeat dads are for.
I finally deleted my page and started anew, just for – get ready for this – friends. Crazy, I know. I sometimes wonder if those virtual pickpockets are still at it, and if anything good might one day be made by a crew cobbled together via social networking. Before that can happen, though, the kids need to cut the crap and learn the craft. Truth is, 5,000 little thumbs up do not signify a constituency.
So, what does all this internet stumping mean for the genre? In and of itself, nothing. Just a bunch of johnny & jane-come-lately’s posing hard, taking up space, being self-proclaimed legends of their own networking universe. If we take a look at some of the work that’s actually produced from this bargain basement ethic, it mostly cheapens a genre that already fights ridicule and disregard by the commercial mainstream. Let’s face it, horror films don’t need outsiders to give ’em a bad name, they’ve been doing it on their own for years. Stock scenarios, bad acting, and hackneyed premises now often include a near-total lack of production value and zero technical prowess; by the very people who should be unleashing the new classics. Indeed for some, popularity in social network circles outweighs doing the real work.
Some filmmakers aren’t even trying to get out of the box, so why watch? Because the dark is still there, and always will be. Because someone, somewhere, might deviate from the path of corporate market-surveyed predictability and no-budget backyard bullshit to deliver the real deal and send it floating out of the mist outside our windows to scratch on the glass, demanding to be let in. I don’t know about you, but I invite it with open arms. It’s been too long, and though we’ve kept the fires burning, many of the faithful have given up and gone to bed. We can only ask so much, after all. Waiting the better part of a decade between truly great horror films is too much to ask of anyone. If the diamonds really are that rare, why bother digging? The answer’s easy: when the beast finally does rear its head, it’s worth the wait. And while we might need a bigger boat, we don’t want one. Because the one we have is just fine, especially when it’s sinking. Hell, that’s the fun part.
In closing, an overture to logged-in horror makers everywhere: open your social networking account, get your camera ready, get your pose just right, and smile, you son of a bitch. Then forget about it. And disregard your imaginary friend count, because it’s all an illusion and real fans don’t care anyway. What matters is the quality of the work. Study the greats, learn the lineage you call yourself a part of, know what you’re up against, and respect it. It deserves that much. And so do we. Now get off-line and get to work, time’s wasting. To quote one of my favourite shows, tick, tick, tick. That’s the sound of your life running out. Go make something fresh, something daring, something great. Call me when it’s screening, I’ll bring the popcorn…and I’ll leave my wallet at home. Don’t even think about it.