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.
Ever since the popularization of the internet, public perception of horror fandom, as well as film fandom in general, has changed in two major ways. The first way is in the way of financial success, as film marketing has begun to focus on appealing to cinephiles and frequent moviegoers rather than the casual audiences, making off-the-wall marketing spectacles and convention presence essential to capturing audiences that expect condescension in their advertising. The second way is that the public perceives horror fandom to be incredibly narrow-minded, philosophically shrugging off remakes, sequels and reboots through forum posts and social media whilst spending their hard-earned money to see those films anyways. In a way, both perceptions are not quite right, as horror fans have essentially become incredibly open-minded for the large part: their opening weekend presence has become almost guaranteed and they’re more likely to give any project a fair shake as opposed to fans of Oscar bait drama or hard-hitting action.
But being a fan has certainly changed in terms of the stigma associated with the term, as now fans have taken over the marketplace and are key figures in entertainment. One of such is Jim Florentine, the successful stand-up comic turned radio and television personality who has successfully mixed his love for dark and biting comedy with his love of all things rock ‘n’ roll on VH1 Classic’s That Metal Show, which he co-hosts with Eddie Trunk and Don Jamieson. Previously a frequent guest on The Howard Stern Show and The Opie & Anthony Show, Florentine skyrocketed into the public eye following his immensely popular “Special Ed” character on Comedy Central’s Crank Yankers and has been keeping up with comedy and metal ever since. However, Florentine is likewise a horror fan with a lengthy and storied history with the genre, and spoke to Diabolique about his favorite films, his in-theater anecdotes and the blending of metal music and fright films…
DIABOLIQUE: Although not as an active participant in the films of the genre, you’ve touched upon the horror genre in the past throughout radio and podcast appearances as well as on That Metal Show. How you always been a horror fan?
JIM FLORENTINE: Yeah, ever since I was a little kid. There used to be this little horror theater right by my house; very old-school, and it only had 2 screens. Every Friday, there’d be a new movie opening there, so I always used to go there, even by myself because nobody wanted to see it. Everyone would say, “I’m not going to see that. I don’t want to be scared.” But I’ve always been attracted to the horror stuff.
DIABOLIQUE: What was your favorite horror film of your youth? Do you remember the movie that got you interested in the horror genre?
FLORENTINE: Well, I guess the Friday the 13ths and the Halloween films, for me. Oh, and Jaws, actually. I’m not sure if Jaws is considered a horror film, but it should be. I remember seeing that as a little kid; my friend and his parents took me when I was like a 10-year-old kid while I was out. I was petrified because I always used to go into the ocean. [Jaws] scared the crap out of me.
DIABOLIQUE: I would definitely say that Jaws is a horror film. I know some people don’t consider it as such because it was one, if not the first, summer blockbuster and is very culturally significant, but basically, it’s a monster movie.
FLORENTINE: Yeah, I didn’t go into the ocean for a long time after Jaws because I’d be afraid. Still to this day, I think of sharks when I’m in the water.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you have any recent horror favorites or anything else that you’re particularly a big fan of?
FLORENTINE: I don’t know if this counts but Dead Alive. Peter Jackson’s film from New Zealand; that’s one of my favorites. [When I saw Dead Alive] I didn’t know anything about it and I didn’t know who Peter Jackson was. I think it was his second film. I remember going through the New York Post, looking in the “Movies” section and seeing an ad for Dead Alive. “The goriest fright film of all time!” I said, “I’ve got to see this.”
There was no review or anything, and I took a date there on our second date, and within the first ten minutes, she went, “I’m leaving. This is disgusting. Are you going?” I said, “Absolutely not.” I made her walk around New York City until it was over. There was no way I was missing it. You know the movie?
DIABOLIQUE: Yeah! It’s one of my favorites.
FLORENTINE: As soon as the ear falls into the soup and the Mother eats the ear, [my date] was gone. She missed the best parts, with the lawn mower and the body parts and the shit like that. You can obviously tell Tarantino borrowed a lot from that film, with body parts getting cut off and all that stuff, but Dead Alive was the original, for me.
There’s another one, and I don’t know if you know this one but my buddy Don [Jamieson] walked out of the theater because he couldn’t take it anymore, and he likes horror films. The movie is called Murder-Set-Pieces. Ugh. It was so brutal. It’s unbelievable how brutal, violent and bloody [Murder-Set-Pieces is.] It’s really tough to watch.
DIABOLIQUE: I haven’t seen it, personally, but I’m familiar with it because it commonly comes up in discussions about violent and shocking horror films. The director’s cut is actually somewhat hard-to-find, since there hasn’t been really many reissues of the film and it’s still unavailable on Blu-ray.
FLORENTINE: Yeah, somebody who fished it out got me a copy of the film, and I remember when I saw it in the theater, there was only 6 people in the theater, including Don and I. Out of us, there was a girl sitting there by herself, and we thought, “Oh God, she’s walking out 10-15 minutes in…” or “After THAT scene, she HAS to leave!” She stayed there the WHOLE time, so we followed her afterwards into the lobby. So we said, “Can I ask you a question? I don’t want to be creepy but how did you sit through that whole thing?” She said, “Well, it was tough to watch but I’m a film student and I like to watch all these different films and their styles. So yes, it was very uncomfortable but I wasn’t going to leave.”
DIABOLIQUE: What do you think the biggest difference between the horror that you liked as a kid and the horror that you like now?
FLORENTINE: I don’t like the computer generated special effects and all of that stuff. I never liked that. I liked a good slasher film. I loved the first couple Saw’s. The Hostel movies, too; I loved those [movies] with just plain torture. I don’t like those special effects. Maybe I’m just old school, because I like a girl getting chased in the woods by a knife.
DIABOLIQUE: Would you say that you’re more of a fan of more human-based horror, like the stalkers and maniacs, as opposed to the supernatural?
FLORENTINE: Yeah, definitely.
DIABOLIQUE: When watching a horror film, do you prefer more tension-based films or films that have more of a focus on gore?
FLORENTINE: I think tension. Gore is good, but I have to say tension. I love the first Saw, because it’s a movie where that guy gets up at the end and gets away, and the guy starts screaming and then there’s credits. I loved how that movie ended. Movies are always supposed to have that happy ending. That wasn’t one of them.
DIABOLIQUE: Saw definitely has one of the more infamous endings and twists of the horror films as of late. Nowadays, you don’t get many good twists because you either see them a mile away or it doesn’t make sense. It’s a testament to [Saw director] James Wan, too, because now he’s doing Insidious and The Conjuring to great acclaim.
FLORENTINE: I also liked Wolf Creek, that movie from Australia. The villain was brutal in that and was one of the scariest villains that I’ve seen on screen. Actually, I take that back: The Human Centipede 2. [Laurence R. Harvey] is the creepiest villain of all time in film.
DIABOLIQUE: You also host That Metal Show and from that program and your various appearances in the media, you’ve really let your love for music and rock ‘n’ roll be known to the world. How important do you think the musical score is to the effectiveness of a horror film? Does a bad score take you out of a horror film or do you think it makes them enjoyably campy?
FLORENTINE: It definitely adds to the film. Look at the famous Halloween music and the Jaws music. In Halloween, when that music came on, you were like, “Holy shit, what’s coming next?” So the score has to be good. I’m not a big score guy, and I don’t get mad about the score of a movie, but the memorable stuff is stuff you REALLY remember.
DIABOLIQUE: As a cinematic experience, there’s no genre as interactive and communally linked as horror. Horror films always bring out the interesting side of people and people just react differently when experiencing horror in a group environment. Has there ever been a really memorable horror movie in-theater experience that stands out in your mind?
FLORENTINE: Well, you wouldn’t consider this horror, but do you remember [Todd Solondz’s] Happiness? Well, I saw it in the movie theater, and the last scene between the father and the son happens, and when the father says that last line, I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. Three people turned around, and this guy said, “WHAT ARE YOU LAUGHIN’ AT?!” I swear to God. Everyone was looking at me but that last line was so uncalled for, and there was no reason for it. It took me by surprise and I found it to be so funny.
DIABOLIQUE: I find that to be strange because I’m a big fan of that film and Solondz and he’s gone on record many times saying that, although the film deals with heavy subject matter, it’s always been a comedy. I would guess the reaction must have come from the subject matter, as people probably didn’t know how to take it in a comedic context.
FLORENTINE: Yeah, exactly. Welcome to the Dollhouse was great, too. For me, I think Todd Solondz’s work has gone way downhill after Happiness. I think Storytelling was mediocre and I think [his work] has been garbage ever since. Before then, I really liked him. He was really on a roll with his first two films, and I was like, “Holy shit, this guy is a genius.”
DIABOLIQUE: In Diabolique #15, the issue centered around the connection between rock ‘n’ roll and horror, specifically within certain subsets of the genre. Obviously, certain major artists in rock ‘n’ roll like Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, King Diamond and KISS have theatrical, horror-inspired elements to their music and performances. Do you think that gothic theatricality compliments rock ‘n’ roll or do you believe horror has no place in music?
FLORENTINE: No, I love both [horror and rock ‘n’ roll]. I actually saw Rob Zombie recently and his stage show was phenomenal; he had monsters coming out, fire, devil masks and all that shit. It was really cool to watch. It was a great visual show.
I love extreme stuff like that and the Alice Cooper stuff. I’m a huge fan of Slipknot and anything that annoys Middle America, like if they wear a mask or are scary and makes a fat soccer mom go, “Oh my God, that’s evil!” No, it’s not. I’ve always liked the theatrics and the extreme stuff, so I’ve always been attracted to that [mix]. I love Gwar and have been seeing them for 20 years.
DIABOLIQUE: Metal is also sometimes used for horror scores, although not as much anymore outside of the direct-to-video market. As a fan of metal and horror, do you think metal music can compliment a score for a horror film?
FLORENTINE: Yeah! Dee Snider’s Strangeland had all metal music throughout it, pretty much. Even at the end of Saw, during the end credits they played a Fear Factory song. It’s a slower Fear Factory song but as soon as he stops screaming, they put a Fear Factory song right over [the film]. Metal and horror definitely go together, easily. I don’t want to hear Beyonce when someone is getting stabbed.
DIABOLIQUE: Horror and comedy mix very well together, as focused upon in our new issue, Diabolique #17, and are much more recognizably symbiotic with one another than they can be with drama, action or science-fiction. As a prolific comedian in your own right, why do you think those genres compliment each other?
FLORENTINE: That’s a tough question. I’m not sure. I mean, I love Dead Alive and that movie is brutal too, but to me, it’s a comedy. Some people could watch Dead Alive and say, “There’s nothing funny in that movie,” but to me, most of the movie was funny. I can see people not getting it and not wanting them mixed up, almost like people going, “Don’t tell me any jokes. I don’t want them. I don’t want to laugh; I want to be scared.” I can see both of the lines on that.
DIABOLIQUE: As a comedian, what kind of horror comedy do you prefer? Do you enjoy over-the-top, ridiculous stuff like Piranha or do you prefer horror comedy that plays it with a straight-faced and lets the humor come from the situation?
FLORENTINE: I’m into stuff like Dead Alive, I guess, when it gets goofy. I was never into the Scream movies or the Scary Movie’s. Those don’t do it for me at all, and I wouldn’t go see that. Some of those movies I haven’t seen, so it wouldn’t make sense among the others. It just didn’t work for me at all.
DIABOLIQUE: Is there anything in horror films that you’ve noticed that immediately take you out of the movie?
FLORENTINE: Not really. Some are really cliché. I always make fun of romantic comedies for having the same cookie-cutter format, but a lot of horror is a bunch of kids in a Jeep in the woods who just keep walking when they hear noises, so yeah, there’s a lot that’s cliché. Buddy cop movies are the same; Just a wiseass back-and-forth commentary the whole movie.
DIABOLIQUE: So what projects do you have currently going on or in development?
FLORENTINE: I do a podcast every week, and it’s called Jim Florentine: Comedy Metal Midgets. It’s on iTunes and my website, JimFlorentine.com. I do one every week, and I basically just rant on things that annoy me. I also do a radio show on SiriusXM on Ozzy’s Boneyard Channel every Thursday from 5-7 p.m. It’s a hard rock / metal show.
To hear more from Jim, you can visit his official website, his official Youtube channel, follow him on Twitter: @Mrjimflorentine, and listen to either Comedy Metal Midgets Podcast every week or the Boneyard Metal Midgets radio show from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 P.M. EST. You can purchase his previous comedy albums here. To watch Jim on That Metal Show, which recently concluded its twelfth season on VH1 Classic, you can watch clips and full episodes on its official website.
Remember, you can learn more about the evolution of horror comedy in Issue #17 of Diabolique, now available for preorder and iPad / iPhone digital download (at the App Store) and will be on shelves and available on other digital platforms soon! Next week in Talking Terror, we speak to SiriusXM radio personality and producer Sam Roberts, 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.