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.
With the influx of in-your-face and exploitative horror that’s come out of both the Hollywood and Independent filmmaking scene since the popularization of horror entertainment in the ‘80s, it’s easy for fans to forget how the genre essentially began as a form of haunted allegory. Folk tales, The Brothers Grimm and the work of Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker and Edgar Allen Poe often served as metaphors for the horrors of reality, often to put people on a path of righteousness. And whether or not those tales resonated, those allegories survived even past the ‘80s, as most slasher films at the advent of the genre served as allegories for maturation and sexual independence and the resurrection of the haunting film serves as an allegory for the importance of family. In that respects, it’s somewhat incredible how consistent horror has stayed, thematically, throughout the decades of its existence while evolving, shuffling and even becoming self-aware enough to give alternative medicine to the more nihilistic of its supporters.
That consistency can also be spoken about Jim Breuer, who, throughout the years of willfully painting the image of a rock star stoner comic and impressionist to appeal to his loyal fan base, has been maturing and shaping the opposite of his personal life. And as of the last few years, the Saturday Night Live alumni has melded both that familiar attitude to his honest experiences, making him a stronger force of comedy than ever. Furthermore, Breuer has decided to branch out in his exploration of self, shaping together his first documentary, the William Philbin-directed More Than Me, following his relationship with his 84-year-old father while on his stand-up tour. In light of More Than Me and his newest stand-up special, And Laughing For All, Breuer spoke to Diabolique about documentaries, the evolution of horror fandom and the mixture of the metal and the macabre…
DIABOLIQUE: You’ve spoken about your love for horror films before in your radio appearances and have referenced them in your comedy in the past. What’s your relationship to the horror genre? Have you always been a horror fan?
JIM BREUER: Well, it’s funny because I’m not into horror now. I grew up [being] into horror. It’s funny because the older I got, the more horror I found within the horror. I have had a harder time with horror as I’ve gotten older watching it, but as a kid, it was HUGE. LOVED Frankenstein. LOVED Creature from the Black Lagoon. That thing scared the daylights out of me. I loved Freddy Kreuger and I LOVED werewolves. Dracula… I never got into. The ‘80s was like my time of horror.
DIABOLIQUE: Despite you not necessarily being into the newer batch of horror films, is there any new horror film that you enjoyed?
BREUER: The Saw movies are horrifying. Absolutely horrifying. I’ve never seen something so tormenting in my life. So if I had to say a new horror [I liked], I’d say the Saw movies.
DIABOLIQUE: As someone who has seen the changes of horror through time, what would you say is the biggest difference between the horror films now and then?
BREUER: Oh my God. They’re way more educated now than any of them [back then]. There’s a lot more technology and there’s more thought process than the old ones, which were just, “Eat ‘em; Slash ‘em.” That’s it; it was simple. They’d just take an hour or two. It was the Jaws effect where it was just like, “Okay… they’re lurking and here it comes.” Nowadays, it’s just torment, torture and a lot more death going on.
DIABOLIQUE: With horror being the most interactive cinematic genre, is there any memorable in-theater horror movie experience that you can recall?
BREUER: Well, I remember going to see the older ones, and with the first Halloween, I remember people literally yelling and screaming every time you thought Michael was dead and he would just sit up in the background. I remember people screaming and grabbing each other. You would just giggle at them. That and Freddy Kreuger. I remember the first time you saw him on screen, people were just freaking out. He was a rock star when he showed up. That was the last time I saw people literally grabbing each other, screaming out loud and yelling.
DIABOLIQUE: Is there any particular trope or recurring convention in the horror genre that you can’t stand?
BREUER: Yeah, I’m not into kid’s deaths at all. I get turned off by that. Go after the adults! Leave the kids alone! [laughs]
DIABOLIQUE: You previously used to be headlined as a comedian who had this rock and roll / metal edge, and in your new special, you retain that attitude but apply it towards material involving your personal family life. What is it about that rock and roll attitude do you think compliments this new material as well as the old stuff?
BREUER: Well, everyone who is in that scene has families and stuff now, so they can all relate to it. We all still have that rock / metal edge inside of us. We suppress it inside of us by the society we live in and those corny education events or school events or planning birthday parties or whatever. You got to dress a certain way and all that other stuff. I’ve got to wait until I’m in the car, alone, with closed doors before I can blast out “Rapid Fire” by [Judas] Priest or “The Ultimate Sin” by Ozzy [Osbourne].
But that attitude and way of live never changed with me. It’s high energy, it’s powerful and it’s got attitude. My stand up has always been that way and I’m not going to let go of any of that. I’m kind of glad I put up that family forefront. What’s great is that now, anyone who is not into that music or genre find it comical when they watch my stand-up.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you think that by retaining that attitude it may have been difficult to steer away from reprising your older material or do you think that it, inversely, compliments the older material?
BREUER: I think it does. From doing that kind of stuff from the past, I kind of isolated my audience, like if you weren’t into it, you were lost. Now, everyone can be a part of it because everyone can relate to it and I’m able to take them on journeys, like when I saw The Big Four and was trampled by adults, meanwhile I’ve got to call the babysitter. I’m in a violent situation and I’m 45. It’s not different because my heart is still there, but people howl and can relate to it better. [My act] is much cleaner now, and I don’t mean clean as in, “Oh, that’s very nice.” It’s trimmed well and it’s tight.
DIABOLIQUE: You also recently released your documentary, More than Me, which I personally thought was really affecting because you never tried to paint your father in any particular direction in terms of morality and your attitude towards him. Considering your father was at the focus of the film, did you find it difficult to remain objective to the direction of the documentary?
BREUER: No. I knew what I wanted to do. There was a couple of things I wanted to do since, originally, it wasn’t a film. It was stuff I was going to put on my website because I have been traveling with my father for years. It wasn’t like it was this one time. I’ve been doing it for years and every time I go out, one of the biggest compliments I always get- even though it’s not so much as a compliment as much as it is an inspiring moment- is when I hear, “Wow, you brought your father? That’s pretty awesome that you did that.”
But he loves it, and we have a great time together. It brought so much life to him, and he loved being funny, and I’d learn about him and our relationship when we’d go on the road. Honestly, what I wanted to get out of [the documentary] is that I wanted to inspire people. I wanted to inspire people to think a little deeper about what their relationships are as they get older and the ups and downs of that, and how close you become, no matter who you are. I have a deep faith believing, although I’m not religious, and I’ve never read a bible, clearly, but he was just like, “Pfft. There’s no God. You’re born, you’re dead and then they forget about you.”
People are who they are. He was a great man, and is a great man. The best compliment I get from More than Me is that people come to me and honestly, on my kid’s life, tell me that movie changed their lives. That’s the greatest thing I can possibly hear.
DIABOLIQUE: Did you ever feel that in you, specifically, in making a documentary that you needed to subvert the expectations of the now-popular comedian road documentary?
BREUER: Well, yeah, because right before Tourgasm came out, I was filming a documentary. I had a tour bus and I had rock stars on it, but Tourgasm beat me to the punch. I still had all that footage, and then a lot more [tour documentaries] started coming out, and it’s like watching [a documentary] of a band, where it’s like, “Oh, here’s them walking into here.” I’m a fan of comedy, but even with podcasts, I get bored. It’s like, “Okay, in an hour, how many times can you talk about comedy or interview someone?” It’s like, “Alright! Give me something different!”
I knew I had that element because I’m not like most comics. I’m very close to my family and I travel with them. I’m not divorced, I’m not an alcoholic, I’m not a drug addict, and I’m not a dick. I’ve go a lot of things that I live for and that I’m fond of. I’m very into family and being a father and a husband. None of those positive outlets are out there and that’s another reason why I put More than Me out there. I wanted to put out something GOOD out there that feels GOOD. I don’t want to watch it like, “Ha! He’s funny, especially when he’s talking about how everyone else is an idiot.”
That stuff is exhausting after a while. I’ve had enough of that, for me. I feel like this is the age of ‘90s rock, where everything is dreary and dark and everything sucks. It’s like, “Alright, yeesh, everything doesn’t suck.”
DIABOLIQUE: Beyond your time on Saturday Night Live, you’ve forayed into the world of acting as well, albeit never specifically with genre films. Have you ever considered or wanted to try acting in a horror film?
BREUER: I would! I’d be an amazing psycho! [laughs]
DIABOLIQUE: Through your stand-up and radio show, you’ve expressed your love for metal as well, which is in many ways ingratiated into the world of horror, with guys like King Diamond, KISS, Alice Cooper incorporating horror and theatricality. As a fan, do you like the incorporation of horror into metal or do you prefer straightforward rock and roll?
BREUER: I think it all depends on the individual. I want what they’re about, so if I’m going to see Five Finger Death Punch, I’m not expecting to see wizards, blood and all of that. If I’m going to see KISS, I know I’m going to see the blood coming out and the fire. To me, it’s on the basis of the band. If Judas Priest comes out and there’s a ballet show, I’ll go, “What? Ballet?” So, I know what to expect from bands, but if it’s kind of from left field, I’m like, “Yeah. Okay. What are you doing? Play your music!”
DIABOLIQUE: Well, one thing I noticed is that in a lot of your work, and in your words about the horror genre as well, your tastes are embedded in works that either take on an evolution or a journey. Both horror and rock and roll, especially metal, have suffered from saturated markets and a need to package marketable material. How do you think horror and metal can return to their golden age? Is there anything you’d like to see in either brand come back?
BREUER: Definitely. In metal, I’d love to see that ‘80s “really good lyrics, great melodies and really crunching rock” vibe. Back then, it almost seemed like they really believed what they were singing about, and now, I don’t know if that was naïve for my age, but now, the older I get, it looks like they’re just putting on a magic show. “Hey, you know what sells a lot? Talkin’ ‘bout Ass! Let’s sing a song about ass! Let’s sing a song about doing lines and being wired!” “Yeah, yeah right…”
The same thing happens with horror. I like horror with a twist and a really great ending. But as I said, the ones more recent have been almost too intense. I think I’m a lot more sensitive now since I have three girls and I’m growing up, so it all seems kind of kooky. I don’t need to see some whack-a-doodle ripping someone up.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you think that now that you have a family that you’re so close to that you’re more susceptible to family-centric horror, ala Poltergeist?
BREUER: Yeah, and I’ll tell you, my daughter is constantly watching new horror films. She’s always like, “Dad, can I see this?” “You’re not seeing that.” Whereas I just showed her The Shining and we visited that Shining hotel out in Colorado. She liked it, and I still watch The Shining and I think it holds up just as hardcore today. Just the things with the friggin’ twins; I can’t explain it, but it’s just so creepy. She watched The Shining and I asked, “So, what did you think?” “It was alright.” I’m like, “Alright?! That thing threw off my rhythm for months!” Not until I was an adult did I feel not awkward in long hallways when I’m in hotels.
I think that’s cool when horror makes you think for the rest of your life. Jaws, to this day, makes it hard to get into the ocean. When I’m in the woods, there’s a little part of me that’s worried about being attacked by a werewolf or some kind of crazy creature out there. I don’t know if that exists today. But I’m almost trying to wean my girls into horror. My daughter wants to watch The Exorcist and I’m like, “You know, I don’t know if you’re ready for that one.”
DIABOLIQUE: So what do you have currently in the pipeline? Will you return to documentary filmmaking in the future?
BREUER: I do! I’ll probably be doing that a lot this year. I’ve got a podcast coming out, and I’m going to be doing a lot more of my own stuff, including shows that I’m creating, and it all has to go through my official website. There’s some new stuff coming out in the very near future and you’re going to be a really big fan of it.
For more from Jim Breuer, you can visit his official website, like his official Facebook page and you can follow him on Twitter: @JimBreuer. Furthermore, you can check out the previously mentioned Jim Breuer: And Laughter for All and Half Baked on Netflix Instant Streaming, and you can find his documentary, More Than Me, on Amazon, iTunes and at his official store.
Remember, you can learn more about the evolution of horror comedy in Issue #17 of Diabolique, now available at the App Store, Google Play, Barnes and Noble and wherever horror magazines are sold! Next Monday, we’ll be speaking to writer, actress and star of the still-unreleased Poughkeepsie Tapes, Stacy Chbosky!
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