Josh Malerman is an all-around cool guy. He’s a successful horror novelist best known for writing the 2014 novel Bird Box, which later became the source material for the popular 2018 film of the same title. He’s also the frontman and lead guitarist for the Detroit rock band The High Strung. For those who aren’t familiar with the band’s work, you’ve likely heard them if you’ve watched the Showtime series Shameless; Malerman wrote and performed the show’s theme song (with The High Strung, of course), “The Luck You Got.” Along with his manager, Ryan Lewis, Malerman recently founded the film production company, Spin a Black Yarn, which just released its first film, an adaptation of Max Booth III’s novel, We Need to Do Something.
I had the good fortune of sitting down to talk about movies with Renaissance Man Malerman nearly a year ago now. This conversation should have seen daylight some time ago, but its publication was held up due to personal issues on my part. (My apologies to Malerman, who is a kind man, an enjoyable interview, and one hell of a writer.) Nevertheless, the conversation is every bit as timely as it was then, and I’m sure you’ll find it as interesting as I did.
ANDREW J. RAUSCH: What are your earliest cinematic memories?
JOSH MALERMAN: The first things that come to mind are all horror-related, and I think that makes sense. For someone to become a horror writer, those initial movies you saw had a profound impact on you, right? Of course, I remember The Goonies (1985) and the less horrific stuff, but the ones that really, really jump out at me are the following:
The first horror movie I ever saw was Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). And what an introduction to the genre! Because it’s an anthology story, so I got to see four or five different horror stories at once. And then, if you actually look at the segments of that movie—looking at this as an introduction to the genre—the first segment is a social commentary with Vic Morrow as the racist guy; the second segment is the heartwarming Steven Spielberg “Kick the Can,” which is another variety of horror; the third one is the anything-goes-imagination of Joe Dante, “It’s a Good Life”; then the fourth segment, the monster on the airplane, was a creature feature. And then you could argue that the scariest moment was the Dan Akroyd wraparound.
Yes! “You wanna see something really scary?”
Yes! Yes! Even that first line. It had to be the first movie where they said, “Do you want to see something really scary?” What a line! So, that was it. The door opened that day, and from there, I have many memories.
I remember my brother, my mom, and I couldn’t handle a movie called Strange Invaders (1983), and we left the theater. But I was the one who insisted we go see it. Me and my friend John asked his grandmother to rent us A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). We watched it, we asked her to get rent us number two, and she went and got it. And then we asked her if she would go and rent number three, and she went and got it. I’ll always remember that day, and I’ll always remember what a sport his grandma was. Like, “sure, I’ll go back to the video store for the third time for you guys.”
But then I also remember the sort of darker side of it. I remember one of my friends had a copy of Faces of Death (1978), and I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t. Now I know the score on that movie, but at the time, I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was all real, and I was sort of like, “Wait a minute. This is not the same sort of taboo to me as watching the Saturday Shockers like Blacula (1972), Firestarter (1984), or whatever was on that weekend.” This was different. This was like, “I don’t know if I want to step into those waters.” So there, you can already start to see a sort of judgment scale or just a personal preference scale of what in the genre you’re into. And for me, most of those landmark moments are hyper-imaginative, supernatural, elastic horror, like Freddy in your dreams or the kid in Joe Dante’s Twilight Zone segment versus the brutal, realistic horror. It’s like when people say, “Well, real things scare me more than horror.” I get it. I know what you mean. But I am able to completely suspend disbelief in a horror movie. Every scary movie that I watch, I am able, for the duration of that movie, to believe that it’s possible. So I don’t need to see the brutality and all that messed up stuff. But a ghost story? Now, this is a thrill!
Are there any movies that scare you? Even when you were a kid, were there ever any movies that made you look under your bed after seeing them? I remember after I saw Friday the 13th (1980), I was worried that Jason was going to be under my bed.
Honestly, Fright Night (1985) scared me, but I look at it now, and I see that it’s a total homage and spoof, but it’s so well done. But back then, just the images alone scared me. But the ones that were almost too much for me were… The Exorcist (1973) was too much for me. And I was chilled to the bone and had to have the lights on. But a lot of movies have scared me through the years. A lot. But if we’re talking about just as a kid, that one vampire running down the hall in slow motion in Blacula… When the doors all lock in the gym in Carrie (1976)… I didn’t have the wherewithal, obviously, to recognize how brilliant the slow-motion lead-up to the pig blood falling was. I wasn’t aware of film device at the time. And now I watch that, and I think, “This is the most genius thing I’ve ever seen!” But back then, it was just like, “Wait a minute, she’s going to kill the whole high school?” [Laughs.]
You know what’s interesting to me about Carrie? Stephen King [as Richard Bachman] wrote that novel, Rage (1977), which was about a school shooting, right? This is the novel that he pulled. Well, I see Carrie as being a precursor to that. In a way, Carrie White is a school shooter. She’s a kid who gets bullied, but she just happens to be a supernatural school shooter.
That is super interesting. And I think we would have to go look at it, but I think Rage was written before Carrie, actually.
I think it was, too, because it was one of the books he ended up publishing as Richard Bachman later on.
You can see the lineage there. That’s so interesting. You can see the lineage of “hey, I wrote this book, and I want to do it again, but I want it to be different.” And this is exactly what we were just discussing, which is the difference between real and brutal horrors versus the supernatural, imaginative, fun horror. Carrie would be the latter, and I think we probably would both agree that we relate more to that.
The people who are like, “I can’t watch horror movies—I get too scared,” you want to tell them that they’re the perfect audience! You get scared, just like I laugh at comedies fairly easily, which makes me the perfect audience for a funny movie. The irony is that the people who do have a sense of horror, and what I mean are the people who get scared easily, tend to stay away from that stuff. I just want to reach out and say, “No, no, no, you don’t even realize how much fun you’re missing out on.”
Would you say that there are any real-life horror movies that scare you? Funny Games (2007) has always been the one movie that scares the shit out of me, but I know a lot of people who aren’t affected by that at all. Maybe being a parent is part of that.
So, Funny Games, for me, is one that I can’t even… I reference it all the time with my girlfriend, and I’ll jokingly say, “Nope, I’ve never seen Funny Games.” [Laughs.] Because that one… Whoa, man! That one messed me up. Even from the word go, where the man drops the eggs and asks for three more… It’s just like, “Oh, no, this is just the freakiest movie.” And it’s like the freakiest entrance for a home invasion that I’ve ever seen.
The part that really gets me is the end in that sailboat. They’re in the middle of conversation, and he just shoves her off, and they keep talking.
I know your question isn’t about which ones are too much for me, but I might as well address those now. Martyrs (2008). Have you seen Martyrs?
No, I haven’t. I don’t even know that one.
Ooooh, man! [Laughs evilly.] Brutal! Absolutely brutal! It has one of the most brutal openings that you’ve ever seen. I guess I’m kind of ruining the opening for you—
No, you’re fine.
There’s just a totally middle-class dad, a mom, and a kid eating, and they seem so nice and everything. And there’s a knock at the door, and it’s these two girls who look like they’ve totally been through some shit. One of them has a gun. And… As they’re walking up to the house, one of them says, “Are you sure this is the right place?” Then they knock on the door, and the guy answers, and she just shoots the guy. And then you’re like, “Oh my god! I don’t think you have the right place!” And then, she shoots the mom. And you’re still saying, “No, this is the wrong place.” Then she shoots the kid. Then you’re like, “Oh my god, whoever this is, this girl definitely went to the wrong place like the friend kept asking her.” And then, the girl who was like “This is the right place” moves a bookcase, and there’s a stairwell that goes down into a dark dungeon. And you’re like, “Oh, wait a minute. This was the right place.” And you realize that she was held prisoner down there for years and stuff.
It’s one of the most… It’s just… It’s just too much. And the fact that I’m even talking about this to you, that we’re spending any of this time where we’re supposed to be talking about something that is so fun to me—horror movies—is overwhelming.
But the ones that really scared me were… the ending of Don’t Look Now (1973). My god, that movie… What a lesson in restraint. There’s some creepy stuff…
Donald Sutherland’s penis is pretty scary! [Laughs.]
Yeah. [Laughs.] Another thing I realized, and I didn’t realize this until 1999… The Blair Witch Project (1999) actually showed me that I’m the type of guy that less is more scares me. Found footage movies scare me. Even Paranormal Activity (2007). Even though by then we were past the idea of found footage, that one scared me deeply. I get scared more by things like ghosts and witches and demons than I do by stalkers. Alice and I watched Hush (2016), which is a great movie, but I wasn’t scared by the character.
I don’t get scared by things like Jason. But Freddy… the big difference between Freddy and Jason, and I know that Jason is supernatural in his own way, but he feels like a real stalker. But Freddy is just straight up 100 percent supernatural, and he comes into your dreams. To me, I can do less about that. Whereas with Jason, I feel like I could arm myself. I could be waiting. I could be hiding. I could be behind a door. I’m sure Jason is like, “There’s no hiding from me,” but I feel like I can hide from him. [Laughs.] With Freddy, there’s no hiding from him. I have to go to sleep. And there’s something extraordinarily scary about that. It’s the same thing with demons—it’s such a vulnerable idea; is there anything scarier than being out of control of your own body and the things you say? It’s the same thing that scares me about LSD or a very strong drug—I don’t want to be in this vulnerable state where I’m not in control of myself. So for a demon to take over, yeah, that messes me up.
The Others (2001) scared me deeply. It was just sort of an inverted ghost story. I have a lot of them, though. Let’s put it this way—I scare easy!
But that makes horror movies more fun, right?
But don’t you sometimes wonder… It’s very strange. The people who are like, “I can’t watch horror movies—I get too scared,” you want to tell them that they’re the perfect audience! You get scared, just like I laugh at comedies fairly easily, which makes me the perfect audience for a funny movie. The irony is that the people who do have a sense of horror, and what I mean are the people who get scared easily, tend to stay away from that stuff. I just want to reach out and say, “No, no, no, you don’t even realize how much fun you’re missing out on.” You’re actually going to experience this movie. You’re not going to walk away from it like, “That was lame” or “That was stupid.” You’re gonna get scared, and that’s the heart of it.
You know what’s a movie that was not a “horror movie” but scared the shit out of me? Have you seen Detroit (2017)?
No, I haven’t.
Maaaaan, that movie is so intense. It’s sad, and it’s depressing, but it feels like a horror film, and the tension is cranked up insanely high.
That’s Kathryn Bigelow, right? You know what? Allison and I just recently saw Near Dark (1987). It’s almost a regret of mine that I didn’t see that earlier because I think that movie would have done wonders for me as a younger writer, just in terms of how it’s quasi-western. That amazing centerpiece scene in the bar, where Bill Paxton is so badass in that scene. It was just a different take… almost a junkie take on the vampire in a western setting. That is obviously so different. So, Kathryn Bigelow, huh? She’s interesting. I’ll watch that.
Your books are very cinematic, and you’re a film buff. Would you say that your writing is more influenced by literature or by films? When I write fiction, I see my work as scenes in a film. Is that how you see your work when you’re writing it?
I think part of it is this: at some point, every writer of our generation, or generations before us, was raised on film, right? So I think at some point, novelists must have started to see their work in a cinematic way. I don’t mean that they were trying to get a movie made of their book—I just mean that’s how they started to see stories. But our era is especially ripe for that, especially if you’re a horror fan, because of the holy cow boom in the ’80s. I was born in 1975. So between 1980 and 1990, I go from age five to fifteen, which are literally the formative horror years. And what years are those for me? The 1980s?! Oh yes. Oh my God, that’s… Okay, I’ll tell you like this. I think the two biggest influences on the way I read a horror story are the movies I was raised on, plus the novels I read when I ventured out of the genre. That means I had a long run where I read Hemingway, Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, Proust—a lot of the classics. I was reading all these classic novels, and the classic shelf led me to Dracula. I was like, “Dracula. I haven’t read this yet.” I read it, and I had already been weened on horror novels before the departure from the genre. But I read it, and I was like, oh shit! I forgot that you can write a classic novel or story—a scary story. It wasn’t one or the other, genre or literary; it could be both! I think that that venture out of the genre combined with completely being reared on the horror movies of the ’80s, that’s probably what informs me more than anything.
Now, here’s something that I’ve noticed. A lot of books recently—even hit books—seem to feel closer to screenplays than they are to novels. And Bird Box is absolutely one of those. It’s like, “Malorie’s in the kitchen. The kids are down the hall. Mallory thinks. She exits the kitchen…” I mean, these are stage directions. Whereas I don’t ever want them to meld into one thing, I think it’s clear that those two are leaning towards one another. Why? In 1950, the Twilight Zone writers like Beaumont, Bradbury, Matheson, Rod Serling—they saw movies, but they didn’t fucking see movies like we see movies. So I think that this generation, there’s just no hiding the fact that it’s cinematic.
Now here’s the interesting thing, I think: if you pull it off… Because even if you read The Shining, the novel, it moves fast, but it still now feels a little bit older than a book written today. Now my challenge is, can you write a novel that’s just exciting as the sort of newer cinematic thing without leaning on the cinematic element? Can you pull that off? That’s sort of the challenge that I’m trying to do. But I don’t know if it’s possible to extricate the cinematic influence. I don’t know if it is.
You mentioned The Shining. As we all know, Stephen King didn’t like the film adaptation. And they are different. I get that. But a lot of authors would absolutely kill to have a film like Kubrick’s made from their work.
Obviously, I respect the hell out of Stephen King. I think we all do. At the same time, I’m like, that movie came out in 1980. Stephen King was only a few books into his unbelievable career. Honestly, I can’t make heads of the fact, like, why not just like it for being different then? Why not just like it for being what it is instead of constantly comparing it to your book? But you’ve read, just like I’ve read, his reasons for not liking it. But, for me, it’s just like they’re both separately brilliant. All I know is that I’m a few books into my career and if Stanley Kubrick— Let’s say, Paul Thomas Anderson. Or Tarantino. If Quentin Tarantino said, “Hey, I wanna make Unbury Carol,” I don’t think that I would care how it turned out. I think I would just be so fucking glad that it was happening that I’m not sure that I would even think about it in that way. I would have opinions about it, but I can’t imagine myself being upset by that. Maybe Stephen King just has stronger opinions about books and movies than I do, so that’s where he landed on that one. But I think to all of us writers, we look at it like, um, yeah, we would love Stanley Kubrick to make anything we’ve done. Look, I don’t care if Stanley Kubrick shot Malorie on his iPhone! [Laughs.]
I always liked what James M. Cain said about film adaptations. He basically said that no matter how the film turns out, the novel will be unharmed and exist as it was written. I believe he pointed to a shelf once and said something like, “Nothing happened to my book. See, there it is, right there on the shelf!”
I can even go a step further with this because I’m in a band and am very used to bringing a song [I’ve written or co-written] to the band and them doing whatever they want with it. So if it comes out way better than I had expected, then I tell myself, “I didn’t write a bad song, but I did write it. Then they made it great.” But, I brought that same philosophy to Bird Box the movie. I felt like I had written a song, and no matter how good or bad the song is, I’m proud that I wrote the song. Now, you the film side, you’re the drummer, you’re the singer; you guys make the music out of this, and however it turns out, I’m just happy I wrote the song. And it’s the same thing as what you’re saying, which is, the song and the book exist in and of itself, but this is how they did it.
I will say this, too, because it’s in step with what we’re talking about. All this sort of uproar about remakes… And, for a while, I was one of those voices. Not online, because that’s not my style in my life. I was like, “Oh my God, they’re remaking this! They’re remaking that!” What I sort of figured out was, the book is sort of like the play. It’s like the written play, or the written score by Beethoven or whatever it is, and the movie is just an interpretation. It’s like a play. It’s a staging, a performance of theatre, a theatrical run of your story. So now I see it as a remake is just another run of that play. It’s not like if you did a play, you say after the first theatrical run, “That’s it! That’s the only one that counts!” No, we say that the play is the play, and then you watch varieties and versions of it. So, with that in mind, I’ve become way more open-minded to remakes.
Wow, I’m impressed! That is the perfect analogy. I’ve never heard it explained that way, but it makes a lot of sense. But they do make remake after remake. It’s getting out of hand. We’re now seeing Stephen King novels that are being adapted for the third or fourth times. I believe you know [the author] Gabino Iglesias. He wrote something on Facebook a while back that I thoroughly agree with. He said something akin to, “I have a whole bookshelf filled with books that would make wonderful movies. But instead of seeking out those new and fresh properties, Hollywood just keeps remaking the same things over and over again.”
See, that’s the inverse of what I was just saying, and I totally agree with him also. Because a remake smacks of “we know this will make money.” That’s what it typically sort of smacks of. So Gabino’s right. I have the same thing. I’m surrounded by books in my office right now, and any one of these books could be made into a movie. Let me look. Okay, the first one I see… Final Girls by Riley Sager. The first book I looked at, yep, one hundred percent! That one is probably already in some sort of development already, but the point is… Okay, the next one I look at… The Gorgon by Tanith Lee. The Bridge by John Skipp. Yep, one hundred percent! The Cipher by Kathy Koja… Every single one of them could be a movie because one, it’s not like every single movie you’ve ever seen is unbelievably good. It’s not the same thing as in athletics, right? Where to play in the NBA, you actually have to be this good at a sport. For a book to be made into a movie, that doesn’t necessarily mean “this is the best book.” There’s no math in that way. It’s just opinions, blah, blah, blah.
But it’s also about how it’s done. Like, if you read the script for Evil Dead (1981), and this is an extreme example, but if you read that script, you’d be like, what? They drove to a cabin, found a tape recorder, and they’re just kind of running around, and demons are yelling. It’s like, this is nothing. But it’s done so well [in the film] that you begin to realize… Sometimes when I have meetings about the film side of things—now, remember, my manager and I started a production company called Spin a Black Yarn, and we are daily having meetings about my projects and others. And I say to Ryan, “The same script that you’re having problems with now imagine it with screeching violins. Now imagine it with a slow pan down a long hallway.” Now it’s scary. So to me, in a film, it’s so dependent upon the delivery that, really, why couldn’t any of these books be made? I agree with Gabino completely. But… like I said, I have softened up to the idea of remakes. Both things, I think, can be true.
I realize anyone who loves movies will, at any given moment, list ten or twenty movies that they consider their favorites, and then when asked later, provide a different list. But… if someone was to put a gun to your head right now and ask you for your five favorite films or the five films you’d take on a deserted island, whatever, what five would you pick?
Hmmmm… [Laughs while considering this.] The Blair With Project (1999) is one because it constantly reminds me how small the story can be and how powerfully scary that small story can be. I would probably take something like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1967) because I want also to be reminded of how fun something that is darkly dramatic can be. I like that. There’s something elastic to that movie. Let’s talk about the music, for fuck’s sake!
Ennio Morricone! Of course!
I would probably take The Thing (1982) for a similar reason as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly because it’s the imagination unchained, in terms of the monster and everything. And also a very small setting, which I love.
I don’t see how I could not pick Rear Window (1954). Ah, man, do I love that one! I could give you a list of more obscure ones, too, but… I’m trying to think of a good fifth one. [Thinks for a moment.] Oh, my God. There’s one that I always forget to tell people, “That’s my favorite movie.” But I’ve forgotten it again! [Laughs.] But I would say for right now, I think I would say something like Fright Night, something which is more of an homage… but wait, no… The Burbs (1989) is almost a better version of that. I’m just gonna say, for now, The Burbs for my fifth one.
You mentioned earlier having gone back to watch Fright Night. I love Fright Night, but it’s funny going back and watching it now, because you are more aware of how cheesy that party dance sequence is with Chris Sarandon. [Laughs.] It’s just… horribly awesome.
Oh yeah. [Laughs.] That movie… What a freaking movie! I watched it again because my nephew loved it. For whatever reason, he actually loved it. So I was like, “I’m gonna watch Fright Night again.” And then I was like, “Holy shit, I do not remember this movie being this good!” And I watched an interview with the director [Tom Holland], and he almost seemed like he didn’t even know why it’s so good, to be honest with you. [Laughs again.]
You know, a movie that blows my mind, and it’s not horror, but Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966).
Oh, that’s a great one! The performances in that are off the charts good.
You know what? Let’s put that one on there instead of The Burbs. That one is just one of my all-time favorite movies. Just in terms of pacing through dialogue. It’s just relentless. Also, it all takes place in like two hours. It’s almost like real-time. I love that movie. And that’s Mike Nichols’ first movie.
Nichols’ career was kind of amazing when you look over the various types of films he did and how good most of them were. He was a terrific director. To think that at the end of his career, he made something as edgy as Closer (2004). And he was an old man at that time. I just find careers like his, where they do so many different types of films rather than just repeating one thing over and over again, incredibly fascinating.
Yeah, I know what you mean. You know, I relate to that more in directors than I do novelists, and I don’t know why. William Goldman is a great example. William Goldman jumped all over the place, and it was all genius. We’re talking genius-level shit with him. There are some genre-hopping novelists where I’ll tell you, I can’t quite get a hold on them. But then with directors like Tarantino… We talked about him before, and now you’re saying Mike Nichols. You know, one of the strangest things of all time is Bob Clark’s directing A Christmas Story (1983) and Black Christmas (1974).
Right!? Isn’t that crazy?
That is just one of the craziest things. And it’s not just that he did A Christmas Story and a horror movie—he did A Christmas Story and Black Christmas! [Laughs.] That is just super interesting. And then he, I think, Porky’s (1981)? And Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972). What a fucking varied career. For whatever reason, with directors, that just hits a different nerve. It’s so exciting for me to see that in directors.
We did talk a little bit about film adaptations and how they can go good or bad. So, I think you got really lucky with your first film adaptation. I thought Bird Box was a really solid film. I know there were some changes from the novel, but I really enjoyed the film.
For a while, it was very difficult for me to answer what I thought about that movie. Why? Because, dude, I was forty-three when it came out. I just felt so much flat-out gratitude that it was happening at all… I’m not even being cutesy or whatever, but I was so glad that it was happening that I didn’t even know what the fuck I thought of it! But then there were a couple of things. Okay, so Malorie and me. It’s like, you guys were a little too liberal with the blindfolds in this movie. When they enter the grocery store… There’s more than just window to check in a grocery store. And the fact that Tom survives the first scene in the book makes less sense of her calling the kids Boy and Girl because the idea is that Malorie is alone with these kids, so it’s Mom, Boy, Girl. So, little things like that, okay, okay.
On the flip side, the movie contains a scene that the book does not that is the best scene in the movie to me. That’s when Malorie and Boy and Girl are on the river, and Malorie intimates that one of them is going to have to die.
I really loved that scene. It was so powerful.
It’s such a good moment that I called the screenwriter, and I said, “What’s the legality of me retroactively adding that scene to the book?” [Laughs.] It’s so good. So, in a weird way, at the moment, the movie outshines the book. And at other times, I feel like it was a little liberal on the rule. In the end, I literally could not be any happier. And, obviously, what happened with it was mind-blowing, and it made Bird Box the book a bestseller. So my thoughts are all positive about Bird Box, the movie.
Bird Box, like any horror film that gains massive popularity, received some late pushback. I was wondering, why do you think it is that horror movies in particular almost always experience this? The horror community seems to always end up ripping movies that gain widespread popularity, to shreds. They like it on Tuesday. It gets big on Wednesday. Then on Thursday, they’re like, “Fuck that movie!”
You know, that’s a great question, and the two examples that come to mind in the modern era are It Follows (2014) and The Witch (2015). On The Witch, I experienced it firsthand because my fiancee and I watched the movie, and by the end, I was like, “Holy shit! That was so unsettling! Wow!” She’s like, “Yeah, that was a good one.” Then we walk out of the theater, and we see some friends of ours who were also in the theater that we hadn’t known were there. They’re like, “Oh, my God! Hi! Hi!” I said, “How about that one?” And they look at each other, and one of them says, “That movie was garbage!” [Laughs.] So I immediately experience the divide, which is a little bit different from your question because your question almost seems to be like, “How do you explain it?” Because horror is a very welcoming place. Like, if we all went to a convention together, everyone’s going to have the time of their lives no matter what the fuck you’re into. You’re all gonna drink and talk about scary stuff, and it’s gonna be amazing.
But there does seem to be a vanguard where to make it into the classics… It’s sort of like being voted into the Hall of Fame in baseball, where certain players don’t get voted in right away even though they deserve it. There’s sort of a sense of reminding everyone how important it is to become a horror classic. I think sometimes people see It Follows and the “holy shit” reaction it gets, and they’re like, “Wait, wait, wait!” It seems like there’s almost a need to stave that positivity before It Follows just sort of makes it into the Hall of Fame unanimously or something. I don’t really know why that is. To me, It Follows is great. It Follows came out, I think, the year after Bird Box the book. And then, Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay. And then The Witch. That was a real shifting, to me, in the genre. They’re all different, but something did seem to shift there where it seemed like the genre stretched a little bit. And I think genre-heads, I believe most us anyway, when there’s a change there’s a little apprehension, like, “This genre is very special to me. It’s precious to me. I identify with it. It’s a major part of my life. And you are, buddy, prematurely saying It Follows is at the top of this, and I need to say no to that, for now.” I don’t know. Let’s say there’s no hype for It Follows at all, okay? Think about the guy who hated the movie. If you were the guy who made the movie and brought it over to your friend’s house and sheepishly said, “I made this movie. I haven’t shown anyone yet.” And you showed him It Follows, do you think he would think that it sucked? Fuck no! He would be like, “What the fuck?! You made this?” The pushback seems reactionary. But here’s the thing—I’ve had my own experience with it, where everyone loved The Babadook (2014), and I just thought it was alright. But I deferred to the people who loved it. I’m just like, “Okay. Maybe I got it wrong.” We’re all madly in love with this genre—the highs, the lows, everything. And for some reason, Babadook didn’t work for me, but I can’t see taking to Twitter to say, “This movie sucked!” That’s just not my style, man. [Laughs.]
You know what I think it is? This is kind of a sad take. I think it has to do with, okay, you and I have this conversation right now. I have books. I have songs. You write. We have outlets for expression, for ideas, how we feel. Now imagine if you didn’t. And here you’re suddenly presented with a platform where you could literally say whatever the fuck you want, right? I think what we’re witnessing a lot of is a lot of overcompensation. Like, “I need to express myself in full, in this tweet, in this post. I need to make it known how I feel in full, because there’s nowhere else where I express myself.” You and I— I just wrote a 350-page novel about enablers. And I absolutely love this book, so when I sit down and get on Twitter, I don’t feel the need to pound that out.
But you can just get the sense from some people that like, every post or every tweet has to fully represent them in full. Then the problem with that is, they also feel that about somebody else’s. If somebody else tweets something like, “Hey, I don’t really understand the push for diversity. Could you explain it to me?” people would swallow that person up and be like, “What do you mean you don’t understand?” And the person is just asking or doesn’t know something. Like, if you’re at a bar with someone and they say something that they would have tweeted, it doesn’t sound as final. There isn’t the same finality to it. It’s not like a tweet published, in amber, forever. It’s just something the guy said at a bar. Then the next thing you say back to him might change his whole fucking mind.
But it seems like it’s almost impossible to change someone’s mind of something on Twitter.
I think it’s because it’s in public, so you feel like you’ve got to dig in. I guess the intimation is that I see a lot of overcompensation on social media. And I think if all these people had different ways to express themselves, that would be less so.
Okay, my last question. You recently wrote the novel Malorie, which is a sequel to Bird Box. Do you expect that we’ll see an adaptation of Malorie?
So, we have been informed that they want to make it, and development has already begun. I don’t know what that means in terms of I don’t know if Sandra Bullock is on board yet. And if not, does that mean that they tell a total different story in that world. If she is on board, does that mean they follow the book? I just don’t know. But they did let us know that they want to do it, and work on it has begun. My instinct says yes, we will eventually see it, but I don’t know what that’s gonna look like yet.