Horror. To some, the genre is that of cheap thrills, startles and nightmare fodder to allow entertainment to be entertaining without the need to turn on one’s brain. To others, Horror is a conduit that our deepest fears, anxieties and paranoia are visualized, hence why the community of horror fans has become as large, vocal and intertwined as any group in modern popular culture. Horror molds around our individual perceptions of shock and terror, and often times can be discussed with the enthusiasm and passion that may not apply to other genres. Therefore, Diabolique Magazine presents Talking Terror, a weekly column where we speak to actors, comedians and other public figures about their relationship to the world of Horror.
Whether you’re familiar with the medium or not, popular culture throughout the world changed inarguably following the introduction of the podcast. In a world where terrestrial radio had been (and still is) rapidly declining in terms of listenership and marketable programming, podcasts quickly took off as a financially satisfying and creatively limitless alternative to the indifferent and expensive Satellite Radio. Add in that programs were able to be downloaded and consumed to at the convenience of the listener, and often gave comedians and celebrities a new way to reach audiences, and its no wonder that podcasts are now hosting sell-out crowds at live events and giving the likes of Kevin Smith, Joe Rogan, Adam Carolla, Marc Maron and Jay Mohr a viable future in the burgeoning medium.
And yet, one of the more fascinating elements of the medium is the ability to offer counterprogramming in ways that radio would never allow. Scott Aukerman’s Comedy Bang Bang offers a platform for the best alternate improvisational comedians in the business, Doug Benson’s Doug Loves Movies has carved out a popular new game show of the comedian’s own design and Graham Elwood’s Comedy Film Nerds gives a forum for Graham and his co-host Chris Mancini to discuss films, bad or good, with a focus on lighthearted and humorous banter throughout. Elwood, also a frequent guest and ardent competitor on Doug Loves Movies, spoke to Diabolique about horror, hilarity and the wickedness in between…
DIABOLIQUE: So, considering you have a love for movies in general and host the Comedy Film Nerds podcast, have you been a longtime fan of the horror genre?
GRAHAM ELWOOD: Yeah! You know, when I was a kid, I watched a fair amount of horror movies. I liked the old school Dracula and The Mummy, and the films of Lon Cheney and Bela Lugosi. Then, as a kid, I remember my parents took me to a lot of horror films, probably before I should have been. I was way too young. I remember The Amityville Horror when that came out in ‘70s, and I remember the original The Fog. So, I’ve always liked the genre. Now, though, some of new ones are pretty graphic and I’m a little too squeamish.
DIABOLIQUE: Personally speaking, how does the experience of seeing a horror movie compare to watching other genres of film, such as comedy or drama?
ELWOOD: Well, anytime you go to the movies, you’re basically going on a ride. No other genres have people screaming out loud, typically, and that’s what I think sets the horror genre apart. I’ve screamed out loud like a child at many horror movies since I get scared pretty easily.
DIABOLIQUE: Did you have any particular horror film or franchise that was your favorite when you were growing up?
ELWOOD: I think I’d have to say The Amityville Horror, just because it was based on reality and when the house started going, “GET OUT!!!” That creeped me out, man. And that style of windows- the Cape Cod-like windows that looked like the eyes of the house- well, there was a house in my neighborhood that had that style of windows and I’d run past it when I was a kid, after I’d seen The Amityville Horror. So I’d say that movie was probably my favorite since it had a profound effect [on me].
DIABOLIQUE: I know you mentioned that the more recent horror entries don’t suit you, but has there been any horror films as of late that have caught your fascination?
ELWOOD: I guess The Blair Witch Project was innovative for its time, since it was the first big found footage horror film. I was expecting a little bit more out of that movie, but the premise and what they did with so little money was pretty impressive for the time. If you look back, that movie laid the groundwork for so many found footage movies now, like Paranormal Activity and stuff like that.
DIABOLIQUE: What aspects of the horror genre do you find most appealing? Do you seek out more tension-driven horror due to your aversion of gore?
ELWOOD: For me, it’s the tension. I’m not a big gore fan and I don’t like cheap scares, like when a cat jumps out and goes “Meow!” or whatever. I want real tension and a real threat. I don’t want a “Boo!” I want to see someone in a dangerous situation, watch it get scary and then see someone move behind them, slowly. It’s that tension that I enjoy about them.
DIABOLIQUE: The past decade or so has been quite a ride for horror fans, as the Slasher subgenre died off early in the new millennium to give way to influxes of Torture Porn, Found Footage and now, Classic-Formula Haunting films. Is there any specific horror subgenre that you’d like to see less of?
ELWOOD: I don’t know! Torture Porn, maybe; I don’t get it. They’re not for me at all. I would like to see the old school tension horror, like Halloween, brought back because they are terrifying. Especially if you go way back to films like Psycho, which is an amazing film. The shower scene in Psycho is still really unnerving and uncomfortable for the right reasons. Psycho does exactly what a good horror movie should do. You didn’t see a knife go into anyone’s body back then, but the sounds, the score and the way Hitchcock shot it made it really terrifying. I think they should do more of that.
DIABOLIQUE: Sometimes the most insane thing you can see at a horror movie is what’s inside the theater. Do you have any memorable horror movie-going experience that you’d like to share?
ELWOOD: I think I was watching The Blair Witch Project and I remember I jumped out of my seat so much that my knees kept hitting the seat in front of me. I had bruises on my knees afterwards and was limping around for a week.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you think the horror genre is more complimentary for a theatrical experience or home viewing?
ELWOOD: I’m still a purist. I think the theater is the better way to watch most movies, but specifically horror movies, because in order for a horror movie to work, you have to be totally drawn into its world. You HAVE to be scared; that’s the point of a horror movie. It should be like a rollercoaster. You want that big drop or loop that a rollercoaster provides, so I think the best way for that [to happen] is to watch it in a movie theater with the exception of home invasion films. Watching home invasion films in your house alone can scare the crap out of you, so there are some exceptions. But for the most part, I’d say I think it’s better on the big screen.
DIABOLIQUE: I agree. It’s sort of like when you watch a cult classic at home by yourself and you don’t necessarily get the same effect as you would watching it with a room full of rowdy people. I think the communal experience of watching a horror film lends itself to the effectiveness of a scare.
ELWOOD: Yeah! Hearing a theater full of people scream at the same time is a lot of fun. That’s a good experience.
DIABOLIQUE: It’s very strange to notice how well the genres of comedy and horror compliment each other, as opposed to other incompatible genres. For instance, Ghostbusters still is in our pop culture zeitgeist to this day while Edgar Wright’s “Blood & Ice Cream” trilogy is concluding this year after a terrific collaborative run. What is it about comedy and horror that you think make them so compatible?
ELWOOD: Well, with both genres, there’s a loud physical response when done correctly. You’ll either laugh out loud or you’ll scream out loud. Drama films don’t typically affect you in that way, unless there’s a comedy or horror element to it. But pure comedy and pure horror elicits laughing and screaming. I also think that it’s because horror fans tend to be pretty die-hard fans, and they can also be more forgiving, as long as they’re given a good scare.
I think that’s true of comedy as well. There’s been a lot of comedies where the premise isn’t that great, but because there’s so many funny scenes, who cares? I think that lends itself to working together, like, “Wouldn’t it be funny if these zombies attacked THIS town?” or whatever. That’s why I think they work so well together.
DIABOLIQUE: As someone who has his own independently made podcast and has carved out a name in the world of stand-up comedy, do you find yourself more forgiving or appreciative to the world of independent film as opposed to studio films?
ELWOOD: I like both [types of film], but what Chris and I tend to do on Comedy Film Nerds is be more lenient on independent films because they wouldn’t have the time or the money that a big studio would have to make a movie. A big, fun studio movie is great, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I do like supporting and getting behind independent film. There’s nothing better than finding an obscure movie that didn’t get a wide release and not many people know about. It’s like finding a secret treasure.
DIABOLIQUE: As you mentioned before, horror fans are uniquely somewhat removed from casual filmgoers because they’re more forgiving and patient due to the mechanisms of the genre. They’re also unique in the aspect that they’re more inclusive than casual filmgoers, more likely to try new genres and indulge in drama, comedy and science-fiction in ways that fans of those non-horror genres may not reciprocate. What is it about horror that you think causes non-horror fans to look down upon the genre? What do you think makes horror fans have that inclusive attitude?
ELWOOD: I think it’s the same reason for both questions. A lot of the best horror movies are made on low budgets because if a story is scary, you don’t need a lot of stars or special effects. There are plenty of horror movies that are just scary. It doesn’t matter if it’s filled with a bunch of no-names on no budget; if it’s done correctly, it’s a lot of fun.
So I think what happens then is that because there are so many low budget horror movies, I think many cinephiles look down upon the genre like those films are fast food or something. And another thing is that horror movies made in America can be sold overseas, whereas comedy films have difficulty being sold overseas because comedy is so local and that doesn’t translate to foreign audiences sometimes.
What happens then is that people who like getting scared like the thrill of horror know that they’re going into a film for a specific type of event. They want that scare and it doesn’t matter how it gets made, so they’re more forgiving. As long as you’re scared, then logic, plausibility and suspension of disbelief are all things you can be flexible with.
DIABOLIQUE: If given a chance to appear or act in a horror film, in what role or mechanism would you most like to see yourself inhabit?
ELWOOD: Oh boy, I’d love to play a werewolf, or something like that. I’d love to play somebody who had a secret demon inside of them. That’d be a lot of fun.
DIABOLIQUE: Have you considered entering the horror genre at all, whether it be as an actor, director, or writer?
ELWOOD: It’s funny that you ask that. I just auditioned for a horror movie that my friend sold, so that would be a lot of fun, if that happens. Chris Mancini has a script that’s kind of a science-fiction horror movie that we’re looking to try to raise money for to shoot, so hopefully, I’ll be working in some horror movies coming up.
DIABOLIQUE: So, now that we’re winding down, do you have any cool projects coming soon in the future?
ELWOOD: Yeah, of course. There’s the Los Angeles Podcast Festival, which will feature 35-40 podcasts, including some of the biggest podcasters out there including Marc Maron, Doug Benson, Aisha Tyler, Greg Fitzsimmons and more. That’s October 4th through the 6th in Santa Monica, California, and you can get tickets, discounted hotel rooms and all the information you want at www.LAPodfest.com. Of course, all of my personal stuff, tour dates, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and links to my Comedy Film Nerds work is all at www.GrahamElwood.com.
To hear more from Graham, you can listen to the Comedy Film Nerds podcast, which releases weekly on iTunes, BeyondPod and other podcast hosting services as well as on www.ComedyFilmNerds.com. Graham is also a frequent guest on Doug Benson’s movie trivia/ game show podcast, Doug Loves Movies, which you can find on the above services as well as on www.DougLovesMovies.com. As previously mentioned, you can see Graham’s projects and stand-up comedy at his official website, where his stand-up album, Palm Strike Dance Party, is also available for purchase. You can follow Graham and his podcast on Twitter: @grahamelwood / @ComedyFilmNerds, or you can ‘like’ his official Facebook page.
Remember, you can learn more about the evolution of horror comedy, featuring quotes from Doug Benson himself, in Issue #17 of Diabolique, which will be available for preorder and Digital Download soon! Next week in Talking Terror, we speak to stand-up comedian, filmmaker and author Joe DeRosa, exclusively at DiaboliqueMagazine.com!
– By Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Diabolique Magazine and Fangoria Magazine. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on several screenplays spanning over different genres and subject matter, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.