The cult film discussion between Stephen Thrower and Anthony Benedetto continues as they discuss Fulci, Independent DVD Companies having to compete with the fact people don’t want to pay for movies anymore, “Don’t go in the House” and why Thrower dislikes Troma.
Review Fix: With DVD releases of “The Strangeness,” “Pets” and “Messiah of Evil” on the way, exploitation oddities seem to be reaching the DVD market. What do you think the future of exploitation on DVD will be?
Stephen Thrower: I hope we get a few more years of exploitation goodness on DVD before illegal downloads and file-sharing make it impractical for small businesses to release films on DVD. There are still plenty of films that need putting out on good quality DVD. The trouble is that there’s a culture developing now where people seem to expect entertainment to be free and actually resent paying for things. How a small company is supposed to find the cash to release obscure horror and exploitation and restore damaged prints, shoot documentaries, record commentaries and all the rest of it, I don’t know.
RF: What is your interest in Fulci, a director that seemed to disregard his audience in the 1980s with cheap films such as “The New York Ripper?”
Thrower: I vehemently disagree with your assessment of “The New York Ripper!” I think it’s one of Fulci’s finest films and far from disregarding the audience, I’d say it definitely tries to give them what Fulci thought they wanted in the early 1980s. The success of his grisly zombie films must have suggested that the more he assaulted the audience’s senses, the more they loved it. Extreme gore-soaked sleaze was “in” for a while and Fulci obviously aimed to give us something to rival films like “Maniac” and “Friday the 13th.” Unfortunately, due to a sort of moralist backlash, he miscalculated. A lot of fans got cold feet and reacted against the film, claiming it was misogynous and went too far. I have always disagreed and I wrote an extensive defense of the film in my book, “Beyond Terror.” I think it’s a very powerful and enthralling film, a giallo taken to extremes and one of the finest Italian thrillers of the era.
RF: “Don’t Go in the House” is a brilliant character study that is largely ignored because of the subject matter. How does that make you feel?
Thrower: Well, I love it and I’ve always spoken out in its favor. It’s a hell of a lot more stylish and creative than it’s given credit for. The guy who shot it went on to shoot two of the “Bourne” films, so the technical credits are pretty accomplished for a low budget. There’s some great black humor in there too – I especially love the scene where the psycho-killer goes shopping for trendy clothes before a disco-date. Just like “The New York Ripper,” it was criticized for being too nasty. Well, what is a psycho-thriller horror film supposed to be?
RF: What is your opinion on Troma, “Humongous,” “Mortuary” and “Slaughter High?”
Thrower: Troma I don’t care for much. I find the style of humor too broad and corny. “Humongous” is the Paul Lynch film, right? The Canadian film about the creature lurking on an island? I enjoyed that. It’s not great but it has some decent atmosphere. The other two, I confess I haven’t seen.
RF: Best early slasher films?
Thrower: Bob Clark’s “Black Christmas” (1973), Alfred Sole’s “Communion” (1976), and Mario Bava’s “Twitch of the Death Nerve” (1971).
RF: And finally, how come when young directors in Hollywood today try to pay homage to the exploitation genre it never seems to capture the charm of those older films
Thrower: Simple answer: they spend too much money. Cut the budgets down, use untested actors – preferably not from TV – and always shoot on location. Don’t use “swoosh” noises on the soundtrack every time someone walks past the camera and don’t waste money on artsy credit sequences. Score the film cheaply – whatever you do, don’t use an orchestra. Keep popular music tracks to a minimum. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to make it weird and illogical – horror films should be like nightmares or dark dreams, so don’t worry if things appear not to make sense! They inevitably do at some level, or if not, they satisfy our taste for the truly random and inexplicable. Lucio Fulci’s “The Beyond” makes no narrative sense whatsoever, but it’s authentically dreamlike. I was more scared during David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” than any of the more overt horror films I’ve seen this decade, because for long passages of the story I was totally lost. I couldn’t make sense of things and yet there was an incredible, overpowering sense of menace and psychic trauma hanging over everything. A little more of that approach and less focus on “sensible” plotting, would work wonders for the future of the genre.