JB: You explore two primary concepts in the film, firstly that these films are reflections of the time and place in which they are made, and secondly that they involve the struggle of the individual or “outsider” with some type of threatening entity. As a lifelong horror fan, did these elements jump out at you initially or coalesce during your research? Were there any other aspects you found competing with these in developing your thesis?
JM: Growing up, I was constantly watching and reading about horror movies – always searching for things I hadn’t seen. (This was the age of mom and pop video stores, when finding the really good stuff took some legwork.) I kept a running chronological list of titles and that was how I started noticing thematic similarities among films from particular time periods.
When the book was published, a friend of mine who hadn’t read it yet said, “But did you write about why you, personally, are interested in horror films? That’s what I want to read about.” Of course, I hadn’t. Another friend read the book and commented that, while he understood my thesis, he believed that the true appeal of the horror genre was its universal themes – fear of death, fear of change, fear of the outsider, etc. So in conducting interviews for the documentary, I tried to pursue the historical, the personal and the universal.
There are countless other concepts that we might have explored in the documentary if we’d had more time. Ultimately, the challenge was not finding things to say, but narrowing the scope and creating a coherent narrative.
That got me thinking about why I keep jabbering about and seeking out horror movies. My first instinct is to state that film is the most important artistic canvas to me for storytelling and the expression of ideas. Film is so expensive, however, that often the raw, uncompromised, and frequently inscrutable instincts and feelings that penetrate from other mediums such as visual arts, literature, and music are severely muted by commercial concerns. Horror, however, with its lack of reliance on mainstream respectibility, broad appeal, or outrageous budgeting (not to mention its lack of attention or regard as "serious art") has constantly served as a forum for transgressive images, taboo subject matter, controversial ideas, and uncomfortably personal artistic statements. Horror is a place I go to see what I have not seen, be intellectually provoked, and be viscerally and spiritually shocked. It is among the most cathartic and challenging of genres.