Jerry Pyle, the filmmaker behind the thriller, Burn, is a writer/director living in Santa Monica, California.
When was the first time you watched a horror film, and how did it affect you?
I think I was around ten, at a friend’s birthday party. He had Halloween 3 on in the background. Between that and the Mardi Gras episode of Twilight Zone, I decided to stop wearing latex masks.
What was it that first attracted you to horror?
Initially, it was the transgressive nature of it all. I was raised in a Baptist household during the satanic panic of the 1980s. I developed a fascination with the occult. That led me into movies like Prince of Darkness and Witchboard. Whatever I could find in the local video store in the tiny town I grew up in. Only later did I learn about the rich history of transgressive and occult cinema. But I have all those wacky nights under a revival tent to thank for my attraction to horror.
The fact that I’m still making movies is a miracle. The first short film I tried to make was in Copenhagen, Denmark. I was there on a tourist visa and one night, wandering around the island of Amager, I found an old hospital which was delectably terrifying. I decided then and there to make a horror film in it. It took me weeks of wrong numbers and wild goose chases around the Kobenhavn Kommune before I finally got permission to film at this old, abandoned hospital. The day before the shoot, I went to the immigration office to see if I could get my visa extended and they laughed in my face, stamped my passport as if I were already on my way out of the country and told me I’d be arrested if they caught me in Denmark after that. My dreams of making a film were dashed by deportation. But then I spent the next three years in Prague, where I learned what true horror was. Thank you, you gorgeous Danes.
What are you working on now?
Another horror short. This time with some of my favourite people in LA. And hopefully a few people from Burn as well. Also working on a feature-length version of Burn with hopes that Tim Abell will reprise his role as the man who put the ‘dad’ in ‘daddy’s girl’.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
I’m a big fan of some of the people I’ve met along the horror film festival circuit. Here are a few names to look for:
John Pata and Adam Bartlett – Dead Weight
Danny Delpurgatorio and Anthony Williams – Other
Lucas Masson – Babysitting
Kevin Sommerfeld and Steve Goltz – Teddy
Scott Schirmer and Leya Taylor – Found
David Matthews and Ryan Roy – Murderabilia
Jill Sixx at Slaughter Movie House for being great at promoting our movies.
Do you prefer gore or psychological horror?
Psychological. Gore is a thing of beauty only when it’s pushing the right buttons.
How important is it to unsettle the viewer?
Of utmost importance. I’m more excited by discomfort than disgust.
How do you evoke fear?
Dread, to me, is the most inspiring of all emotions. If you can get someone to dread something, you’re going to move them. This, to me, is more powerful than shock or revulsion.
What scares you?
Everything scares me. Death. Love. Monsters. Uncomfortable social situations. Mainly death. And Monsters.
Why should people watch your films?
I love to leave an audience with the question, what would I have done? (Hint: Survive.)
How far is too far in horror cinema?
I’ve seen a lot in the last year. Child rape. Bestiality. Parenticide. And my favourite, de-genitalisation. One can only hope next year will bring more goodies. Too far is nearer than you think.
How do you think horror cinema will evolve in the next ten years?
In the last ten years, we’ve seen horror films become more self-aware, self-referential, and self-absorbed, which is great. But I hope we can build on that somehow and start commenting on some of the issues we’re dealing with outside of our nerdy subculture. Organised religions? Oppressive regimes? Personal privacy? Doesn’t anyone remember laughter?
Recommend a film.
I keep telling people to track down The Houses October Built. It’s an awesome documentary about some great Halloween haunted houses with a twist at the end. I had so much fun watching it last year at Shockfest in LA.