Fear on Film
October 10, 2014 8:09 AM   Subscribe

These three artists represent why "horror" is such a large umbrella, as the three artists couldn't be more different. Cronenberg was known, before his recent foray into gritty crime films and psychosexual biopics, for Freudian body horror, Landis for rather batty comedies sometimes borrowing from conventions (and castmembers) of 1970s Hammer horror films, and John Carpenter for sometimes chuckleheaded action-scifi-horror films with a pulpy sensibility and a wild sense of humor (and, sometimes, a perfectly Lovecraftian premise).

I'd say that this illustrates the meaninglessness of the term "horror," except that I love all three filmmakers and love that horror is broad enough to encompass all three. And all three are hilarious.
posted by maxsparber at 8:20 AM on October 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

David Cronenberg is a horror-movie director??? But his films are all comedies: "At Cannes, someone said, 'Have you ever considered making a comedy?' And I said, 'I’ve done nothing but.'"

No, seriously, he goes on to explain: "Not maybe the traditional definition of a comedy, where it ends with a feel-good kind of thing, but for me, there is an observed and humorous aspect to the human condition and, of course, exploring the human condition is really what art is about. And I can’t imagine not having humor be part of it. I just can’t imagine it."
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:27 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

I recently rewatched an old John Landis favorite of mine - American Werewolf In London - but was disappointed to find that it has not aged well. :(
posted by fairmettle at 8:33 AM on October 10, 2014

Remember that film that goes all meta about a psychopath film director who kills three actors on set? That was a spooky one.
posted by Yowser at 8:34 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

fairmettle -- Really??? I have found the complete opposite! That's fascinating, though. Would you please elaborate as to why? I am quite curious!
posted by Kitteh at 8:36 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

"currently working on the thing"
"currently working on a new film called videodrome"

Ohhhh man. Cancel all my calls today.
posted by boo_radley at 8:59 AM on October 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

If David Cronenberg truly believes that he makes exclusively comedies, then he must feel like a colossal failure at his chosen medium, given 99% of his viewers' reactions to his films. Also, the parameters he describes in that quote would mean that to him, any film of any genre that accurately explores the human condition would have to be considered a comedy.

(I know, I know...He's just having some fun with us...)
posted by doctornecessiter at 9:01 AM on October 10, 2014

American Werewolf In London

You just reminded me that when Mrs. Example and I find ourselves in the more rural and remote parts of the UK, one of us will inevitably turn to the other and ask in his or best Gormless American Backpacker "What's that star on the wall for?".
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:11 AM on October 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'll admit that Dead Ringers had me laughing in a squicked out, oh-no-he-didn't kind of way. A lot.
posted by whuppy at 9:22 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

yeh, the cronenberg 'they're all comedies' thing is a bit like charlie stross's argument that The Ipcress File is actually a horror novel: on one level, he actually believes it, but he's mostly trying to make a point.
posted by lodurr at 9:44 AM on October 10, 2014

as far as landis making 'goofy' movies: yes, but they often had some really genuinely scary moments, and those worked in part because of their goofiness.

of the three of these guys cronenberg is the only one I genuinely enjoy, but that's mostly because until recently I haven't cared much for horror or horror-comedy. these are extremely skilled folks, though, and it's great to see the contrasts between them.
posted by lodurr at 9:46 AM on October 10, 2014

YES. Thank you!
posted by brundlefly at 10:52 AM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

YES. Thank you!
posted by brundlefly

Are we still doing eponysterical?

Anyroad, one doesn't cast Jeff Goldblum in a role in which he turns into an insect-hybrid without having a sense of humor. In fact, all it needs is a poke in the right direction to turn it into a rom-com.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:11 AM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Michael Ironside, the veteran actor, took part in a fantastic Reddit AMA yesterday. One of his best answers was a personal story about David Cronenberg that might explain a few things:
David uses the same crew people and the same creative people, he has a small or extended family, creative family. SO a lot of people had been in the trenches with David before when we did Scanners. I was the newbie.

And David is a very straight, very middle class, average looking person with glasses and an inappropriate haircut and inappropriate shirt. And he came on set one day and said: "I had a dream last night."

And I said "What was it about?"

And I noticed people started to walk away until i was the only one standing there. And he said "I had a dream last night, and my POV was of the ground, and it was a sandy kind of ground, and then vomit started to land on the sandy ground, and it was quite a lot of vomit, and then this wind started to come up and cover the vomit in sand and dust, and the vomit kept coming, and coming..."

He says "And then I felt safe, and satisfied, and relaxed again. And then another wind came, and when the sand had blown away, the vomit had formed into a shape of my naked body, laying on the ground."

He said "I found that very interesting."

I nodded and said "Yeah, that's really, really interesting."

Thankfully we were called to set and had to go shoot a scene. 3 days later, David was standing on set, and he said "I had a dream last night..." and one of my costars said "Really, what did you dream?"

And I walked away with everybody else, and left that person standing there to hear.

And that's a true fucking story.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:20 AM on October 10, 2014 [13 favorites]

No really, context is everything, what's funnier than exploding heads?
posted by sammyo at 1:06 PM on October 10, 2014

I roomed with a cinema geek in college, and he and his buddies thought the whole 'exploding head' thing was hilarious.
posted by lodurr at 1:26 PM on October 10, 2014

Damn! I was just about to post that Ironside story. It's one of the most Cronenbergy stories I've ever heard.
posted by brundlefly at 2:11 PM on October 10, 2014

No really, context is everything, what's funnier than exploding heads?

Exactly! And the context in question of the infamous Scanners scene is a boring company presentation, given by a balding and bespectacled guy who looks like he ought to be in HR, that starts out with all the menacing suspense of an Uri Geller appearance. One of the corporate suits volunteers as to be the Scanner's test subject and starts making these weird faces during the demonstration, and then corporate Scanner guy starts making even weirder faces, until we get the biggest surprise in science fiction horror since John Hurt's disagreement with the suggestion that the food ain't that bad, man.
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:40 PM on October 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, that Michael Ironside AMA is great. Highlander II makes a lot more sense now.
posted by mubba at 6:37 PM on October 10, 2014

There are some more Mick Garris interviews and footage at his website (previously).
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:47 PM on October 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

An old coworker of mine is doing these with Mick. Good on ya, [name redacted]!
posted by infinitewindow at 11:38 PM on October 10, 2014

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