FrightFest VOD film review: The Horror Crowd
Affectionate insider view8
Range of interviewees8
Anton Bitel | On 29, Aug 2020
Director: Ruben Pla
Cast: Oren Peli, Russel Mulcahy, Lin Shaye, Adam Robitel, Darren Lynn Bousman, Ernest Dickerson
Watch The Horror Crowd online in the UK: FrightFest 2020
The Horror Crowd streams as part of FrighFest 2020 at 3pm on Saturday 29th August. For the full festival line-up and online ticket information, click here
Near the beginning of the documentary The Horror Crowd, director Ruben Pla talks to camera in a graffitied alleyway in Hollywood where, he states, “it all began for me”. Pla does not mean his career as an actor, which commenced over two decades earlier, but his initiation into Los Angeles’ incestuous genre community. For while in this alley helping out his friend Mike Mendez shoot an ultra-gory promotional trailer for a feature called Ov3rk!ll (that to this day remains unmade), Pla met its second unit director James Wan, who asked him if he fancied a role in Insidious. The rest is history.
What is important about this anecdote, besides its personal touch, is the way that, in LA’s horror world, one connection quickly leads to another. As actor Lombardo Boyar (from Mendez’s Big Ass Spider!) later puts it, “you do it for the fun, to be in it, to be part of this cool community that keeps calling you back, and appreciates you”. Indeed, while The Horror Crosd covers a wide range of issues – like the nature of the genre, the state of the business, the position of women and people of colour, and the genesis of ideas – it becomes clear from the way that Pla talks with his subjects, and from his physical proximity to them, that these directors, actors, writers, producers and journalists are not merely interviewees, but personal friends. They have appeared in Pla’s film as he has appeared in theirs. This is a portrait of a network of horror-associated folk who enjoy an unusually tight and passionate bond with each other, as much social as professional – a band of misfits who love to work and play together.
In keeping with its presentation of the horror crowd as a sort of extended family, several of Pla’s lines of inquiry focus on roots and relations, covering topics including “a parents’ influence”, “losing a parent” and “becoming a parent”. Five pairs of the subjects (Spooky Dan Walker and Tammy Sutton Walker, Sean Decker and Sarah Nicklin, Staci Layne Wilson and Aaron Kai, Chelsea Stardust and Sean Keller, Adam Gierasch and Jace Anderson, Darren and Laura Bousman) are also actual couples.
Pla’s feature debut may be a conventional combination of talking heads – including Lin Shaye, Russel Mulcahy, Brea Grant and Ryan Turek – and film excerpts, but it is mixed together with infectious charm and affection. This allows the viewer to feel among friends, as part of the crowd – even if their favourite hangout (the Jumpcut Café) has now been converted into a sushi restaurant. Near the end of the film, the café is commemorated and its passing mourned as a symbol of an industry that is always changing, before one final section looks towards a future dominated by low budgets and the new theatre of streaming services.