You know it, I know it, hell your religious Nana probably knows it. Independent horror flicks have always been important. Indie filmmakers birthed our modern terrors and raised the mainstream . Somewhere they became ignored, by the elite studios they helped create. These studios became huge off independent filmmakers, and now they are ignoring their roots.
John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN (1978) was an an indie horror production. Hard to imagine one of the most revered horror films in history being a indie job. But it was, and so where most of our-now mainstream-horror flicks of the past. I shouldn’t have to explain how New Line Cinema built an empire off Freddy Krueger. The indie filmmaker has sadly become drown out by the elite and we need to give them more of a voice.
Obviously the horror genre has been around longer than Betty White, Universal brought it to the masses during the golden age. Horror itself has never been necessarily mainstream, it’s been the outsider, the gutter genre, the outcast of film society. As horror fans we are used to the turned up noses of those who labeled horror as tripe. But how do we manage the same dismissal within the genre itself?
We can start by identifying the new generation of story tellers, those who reside outside the box of film-making thought. The big studios tend to get stuck in the same template, if something works why change it. That’s not the case with the independent filmmaker, even at their worst they color outside the lines. That’s where the importance is, you wouldn’t want the same movie over and over again. It’s all art, even the big budget studio affairs, but when you apply rules to art, things get repetitive.
When someone sits down and pours their heart and soul into a medium, that’s all it takes to make something artistic. The other day I witnessed an exchange where one party was outlining the rules for what is and what isn’t art. That’s confusing to me since the simple definition of the word is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination” there are no rules. When you apply rules you get the same crap over and over again. Like my hero Lloyd Kaufman says “its baby food”, sure you can live on it, but everything starts to turn a dull shade of beige.
Where would we be if David Lynch had “followed the rules” when creating Twin Peaks? Would it have been better if Eraserhead was a straight told narrative without the imagery? Life in general is boring when everyone follows the same patterns and opinions. Same goes with film-making, indie horror has always been the forefront of breaking those ideals.
Tobe Hooper broke tons of accepted cinematic “rules” when crafting his cannibal epic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), it was controversial and thought provoking. Here was a story of Texan terror that chilled folks to the bone, some leaving the theater during the opening crawl. It set a new standard for slasher films, gritty and unflinching in its terror. The good indie horror films are influential and last generations, inspiring the art that follows.
Horror is a tricky little genre, sure it has its tropes but it constantly changes, it has to or it becomes stale. How many POV horror films came in the wake of The Blair Witch Project? How many do you actually remember? That’s the problem, when people follow the exact template and rules, we lose the unique voice. Mainstream horror flicks are perfectly fine, some just plain fun. But if we let these studios continue abusing the word independent, we will lose the true underdog story that is the indie filmmaker.
Right now somewhere in the world a person is gathering their friends and family with a cheap camera and a ton of fake blood, creating a no budget horror flick in their back yard. That little endeavor needs our support and our protection, they need that little movie to be seen. The person who hates their dead end job and bleeds into their passion is more important now than ever. If we want the next generation of Raimi, Carpenter, Hooper, Craven, and even Lynch, these films need your time. Indie horror created mainstream, and its in danger of being swallowed by it.