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Talking Terror: Joe DeRosa

Comedian / Author Joe DeRosa

Comedian / Author Joe DeRosa

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.

For a culture that’s so symbiotic with the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll, as seen in Diabolique #15, it’s very strange that the world of horror isn’t ingratiated as much into the world of stand-up comedy, a live performance that is equally as nerve-wracking. Even though comedians will tell many jokes about horror films and the various observations that come along with repetitive subgenres and laughably bad acting, in some cases, there are very few comedians that embrace the inherent darkness and theatricality that comes with the horror genre. And whereas theatricality and improvisation can be tools for even the most rigidly traditional stand-up comedian, the topics of the horror genre can often time find their ways into stand-up comedy, including death, murder, paranoia and ignorance.

It’s these themes, as well as a multitude of other hilarious fare, that run rampant through the work of Joe DeRosa, who has quickly made himself a headline comedian with his hysterically unrelenting takes on even the darkest of topics while also providing absurd and witty anecdotes throughout. DeRosa has already maintained a presence amongst the world of stand-up comedy, having multiple Comedy Central stand-up specials, occasionally filling in and appearing on SiriusXM’s The Opie & Anthony Show, and having released two acclaimed stand-up albums, The Depression Auction and Return of the Son of the Depression Action, with a third, entitled You Will Die, aiming for release this Fall. And although DeRosa has played many of the most famous stages in New York City, including opening up for his friend Bill Burr at Carnegie Hall, it’s his versatility as a comedian has turned him onto fans around the nation in the forms of his podcast work (formerly as the co-host of Uninformed and You Know What Dude? podcasts, the latter on which he occasionally still appears), his acting (recently appearing on Louie and Bored to Death) and his writing (having co-wrote the book Cheat: A Man’s Guide to Infidelity from Simon & Schuster).

DeRosa has also been a passionate and outspoken horror fan himself, having discussed his relationship to the genre previously on his podcasts and radio appearances, and spoke to Diabolique extensively about his fandom, his horror film dealbreakers and his own potential future within the world of cinematic chillers…

Joe DeRosa

Joe DeRosa

DIABOLIQUE: In the past, you’ve spoken about your relationship to and affection for horror films as a guest on The Opie & Anthony Show and the You Know What Dude? podcast. How long have you been a horror fan?

JOE DEROSA: I would say most of my life. When I was younger, horror movies were one of the things I was able to bond with my parents over. Particularly, my mom was a big horror fan and I almost dare to say that she got me into [horror]. She saw a lot of the classics before I did because, you know, they weren’t “classics” when she saw them; they were new. As my interest started to grow in horror movies, she started to introduce me to more of the renowned horror movies.

Over the years, that’s one of the common interests that [my mother and I] had. We didn’t really line up on a ton of things; we really didn’t like the same music or a lot of the same TV shows, necessarily, but horror movies were something we could bond over. I think that’s where it started. Since then, I’ve maintained a healthy interest in them and I don’t know when it was, specifically, but maybe about four years ago, I really decided to just take a pass on something I really enjoyed, so I started to collect them and expand my horror movie collection, knowledge and fandom of it all. So it’s been a lifelong thing but it’s definitely been more intense over the past 5, 4 years or something like that.

DIABOLIQUE: Do you remember your favorite horror movie growing up, or perhaps, which horror film served as your “gateway drug” into the genre?

DEROSA: Yeah. I know it wasn’t the first horror movie that I had seen but the first A Nightmare on Elm Street was the film that, when I was a kid, really kicked me off into high gear. I was obsessed with A Nightmare on Elm Street; I watched it over and over, I dressed up as Freddy for multiple Halloween’s, I bought the toy glove when it came out and the Nightmare on Elm Street posters. I was really into A Nightmare on Elm Street. I remember seeing the first [Nightmare], renting it and then watching it every chance I got when it was on TV, and then, I remember that my mom and dad took me to see some of them in the theater, like A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and 5. Then, by the timeA Nightmare on Elm Street 6 came out, I was old enough to go on my own. I remember going to see that, then New Nightmare, and then the two that have come after that, including the remake.

But that was the [franchise] that really opened me up [to horror], and man, I loved it. I loved it so much. I loved the concept behind it. It was one of the first horror movies I’d ever seen, too. I saw the first one at a pretty young age; I couldn’t have been more than 10 or 11. I remember it being one of the first horror things I’d ever seen that was “fun scary” to me; it didn’t creep me out. It didn’t make it so that I couldn’t sleep. It was fun for me to watch and it was an enjoyable kind of scary.

That also planted the seed for my future horror tastes, like I really like that [“fun scary”] kind of horror movie. I like ghouls and anything Devil related. Demons and spirits; that’s the stuff I really liked. I wasn’t too big into the slasher genre. I mean, I like some of the tried-and-true classics, like the Halloween series, but even Friday the 13th became more of a monster movie than a slasher movie. But anything more along the lines of, “There’s a serial killer on the loose,” or, “This crazy guy has captured these people and keeps them in his house or whatever,” was stuff I was way, way less into, with the exception of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I am a really big fan of that series, but even they took the slasher thing and really turned it on its ear a bit to be a bit more ghoulish.

But A Nightmare on Elm Street was the big “gateway” one, and then I remember when TV show Tales from the Crypt came out. I think I was in 6th grade, 7th grade, somewhere around there, and I remember when Crypt came out and being crazy excited for that to come on. I remember seeing the previews on HBO, and then it came on and I loved it. Tales from the Crypt was another bonding thing between my mom and I, and I remember my mom used to say, “I used to read those [EC] comic books when I was your age.” I remember she took me to the mall to a store called “Comics and More” in the King of Prussia Plaza in Pennsylvania, and she bought me the reprints of the EC comics, like Tales from the Crypt and Vault of Horror.

That’s what really set me off into the direction of anthology horror, which is my favorite type of horror to this day. It’s my favorite approach to horror. I was a huge Tales from the Crypt fan. I remember my parents taking me to see Tales from the Darkside: The Movie when that came out on opening weekend, and I loved Tales from the Darkside, the TV show, when I was a kid. To this day, The Twilight Zone is my favorite TV show of all time; I wouldn’t classify that as a horror TV show but it certainly has horror elements and is, without a doubt, heavily sci-fi. Creepshow and Creepshow 2 are two favorites of mine. I just love stuff like that. I still read the old EC reprints and I have a lot of the old coffee table books. I read some of the old Steve Ditko stuff still. I’m just a really, really big anthology fan.

DIABOLIQUE: That’s great to hear. I personally think Tales from the Darkside is incredibly underrated. Is there anything that has come out recently in the arena of horror that impressed you or caught your fascination?

DEROSA: Absolutely. I thought Sinister was masterful; I really did. I thought Sinister was one of the most solid start-to-finish horror movies that I had seen in ages. It was so well acted and executed, and the whole thing made sense from front to back. There was nothing that made me step back and go, “Well, why did they do that when they could have done this?” or “Why didn’t the bad guy just do this?” That’s rare. I just thought that movie was incredibly crafted and really, legitimately scary. I saw that at the movies alone one afternoon in New York, and there were two or three times in the movie where I was laughing because of how much that had scared me or startled me.

I thought that movie was excellent, and Ethan Hawke [was excellent] too. He’s becoming, strangely, like a horror movie guy now. He did that Daybreakers movie, then Sinister and then The Purge. I love that an actor of that quality is making these films now, and the same goes for Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne. I love that people are taking these movies seriously and we’re seeing actors who are in all types of other dramatic work and now, they are doing horror movies and are putting the all into that they would put towards a dramatic role. That’s the key; Ethan Hawke doesn’t let up for the entire running time of Sinister. He dives head first into that role.

I think over the past few years, we’ve seen more “legitimate” actors cross into horror once in a while and you can tell that a lot of them don’t want to be there. They either don’t take it seriously or it’s a paycheck or whatever, and Hawke, Wilson and Byrne don’t seem to do that at all. I think it’s great. I’m glad that Wilson and Byrne are back for Insidious: Chapter 2, and that Wilson is in The Conjuring along with Vera Farmiga. I think it’s awesome. [Farmiga] is another one, since she was in [George Ratliff’s] Joshua, she’s in Bates Motel now and I think she’s done one or two others.

I’m really excited to see The Conjuring and I thought that Insidious was really good. I didn’t like the ending [of Insidious] that much; the very, very ending I liked but the third act of the movie I wasn’t quite as much into as the rest of the movie. I don’t think that’s a flaw of the movie; I just liked the first part more than when it was like about demons or spirits trying to creep into this house or whatever. Insidious is another one that legitimately scared the shit out of me.

It’s funny because I told three people to see Insidious: I told my mom, [You Know What Dude? host] Robert Kelly and [The Opie and Anthony Show co-host] Jim Norton. Those were the three people who I told, “You need to see this movie.” My mom and I watched it together, and she almost walked out of the room during it; she was saying, “It’s freaking me out too much.” Bobby Kelly would text me frequently over the course of a week, telling me, “Fuck you! Fuck you for telling me to watch this movie! This is freaking me out!” He had to keep stopping Insidious and had to watch it in sections because he said it was freaking him out too much. I remember asking Norton because he was watching it at night and he said, “I had to turn it off, but then I watched it during the day and I was okay.” Insidious delivers man; it’s fucking scary.

Joe DeRosa

Joe DeRosa

DIABOLIQUE: Well, I remember from the podcast whenever you and Robert would talk about Insidious, specifically, and Robert would always lose his mind about “day ghosts.” That always would really make me laugh. But I know what you’re talking about with the serious actors taking horror seriously again. It’s almost like a cycle, in a way, because if you look at the horror movies in the ‘70s, like JAWS, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, there’s not a single actor in those films who is not taking the story completely seriously. In the ‘80s and early ‘90s, I think that as horror movies became a saturated market and were watered down, actors started taking it less seriously, but I think that nowadays, because there’s so many filmmakers and actors who were influenced by those serious horror movies in the ‘70s, I think horror films now, by and large, are getting talent that takes those films seriously.

On a personal note, I really enjoyed The Conjuring. I stated in my review that I think people will speak about The Conjuring in the same way that they speak about The Exorcist in 10-20 years. It’s really terrifying, in my opinion.

DEROSA: That’s great. The Exorcist is my favorite horror movie of all time. It still disturbs me. I won’t watch The Exorcist by myself still. I’ve owned it for years and I love it. It’s my favorite horror movie ever and I don’t know if it will ever get topped, but I will not watch it by myself. It freaks me out too much.

I actually am going to see The Conjuring tomorrow. My friend that I grew up with is coming to visit me tonight and we actually wrote an anthology horror screenplay together in the style of Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside, Trick ‘r’ Treat, etc. We are both really excited about The Conjuring and it just so happens to be out the week that he’s coming to visit me. Coincidentally, when I last visited him, the new Evil Dead opened and that was awesome, too. I really liked the Evil Dead remake a lot. It was a lot of fun and it made me cringe. Jesus Christ!

DIABOLIQUE: The Evil Dead remake was a brutal ride. I actually remember that when I saw Evil Dead (2013) for the first time, it was at a critics screening, but I knew I had to see it again just for the audience reactions when I knew what would be coming. I remember seeing that when I got to the theater to see it for the second time, the entire row next to my friends and I was just 8-year-old/9-year-old kids with one pair of parents at the end. That was literally the best case scenario to seeing Evil Dead (2013): next to frightened children watching a woman cut off her arm with a turkey carver.

DEROSA: Yeah, I loved it. I was actually at dinner the other day and I remember that there was a family at the table next to me and the young son had an Evil Dead t-shirt on, and I was thinking, “That’s really cool that that kid gets horror like that at that early of an age.” He was wearing that t-shirt the way most kids would of a band or something. That was really cool, but I was also like, “Jesus, he’s young.” I mean, I guess in the ‘80s, people would have said A Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th were violent for that time, but Evil Dead (2013) was just rough.

My friend, Jerry Rogan, who is a great stand-up comic and a horror movie fan, said during the bathroom scene with the piece of glass, “If it gets any worse than this, I’m going to have to leave the theater. This is brutal.” And I said, “Really?!” because he’s one of the people that, when I saw Antichrist, and I was going, “Jesus, that really fucked me up,” he was going, “Yeah, right, whatever. You ain’t seen nothing.” So Evil Dead (2013) took him to a place past Antichrist. [laughs]

DIABOLIQUE: Well, specifically, I think the reason that bathroom scene is so effective isn’t even exactly as much as what you see as it is that you hear her doing what she’s doing as he’s entering the room. From that point on, you have a “worst case scenario” mindset with that moment, and when it tops that expectations, it shakes you up.

DEROSA: Yeah, I loved the Evil Dead remake, and there are rumors, I don’t know if they’re true, but they are supposedly direct quotes from people involved in both franchises that Sam Raimi is working on Army of Darkness 2 and that the next Evil Dead 2 is going to come out next year and that the two films are going to cross over and converge storylines for the seventh Evil Dead. I don’t know if it’s true but I hope that it is because I don’t remember seeing any cell phones, and the nerdy bookworm guy is dressed like it’s 1983 and Ash’s car is there. I know Raimi tries to put that car in all of his movies, but Ash’s abandoned car is in front of that cabin. So I was thinking, “Man, I think they might be really doing this. Maybe this takes place after Ash got sucked up into that fucking wormhole at Evil Dead II.” I don’t know but it’d be pretty fucking cool if it did.

DIABOLIQUE: I’ve heard the same rumors. I’m not sure if they’re true but that little post-credit scene would definitely give some credence to the possibility of bringing together those universes.

DEROSA: There’s a post-credit scene?!

DIABOLIQUE: Yeah, there’s a post-credit sequence with Bruce Campbell in silhouette, supposedly as Ash. Since that hit, there’s been many rumors about both of those films timelines melding in the future. I think this Evil Dead (2013) is supposed to be modern, but considering they can work with things like wormholes and the canonical timeline, that seems like what could possibly happen from there.

DEROSA: Jesus. I just got chills when you told me that Ash thing. I didn’t even know there was anything after the credits! I didn’t even read anything online about that. It’s actually Bruce Campbell? It’s really him, not just some thing that looks like him?

DIABOLIQUE: Yes, 100% sure. He’s commented on it in the past, although I’m not sure if it really means anything.

DEROSA: Jesus, dude. I’ll have to check it out.

DIABOLIQUE: Going back to your fandom of anthology films, how have you received the modern anthology films that have been coming out lately, like V/H/S?

DEROSA: I will go on record, as I have before, and say that I thought V/H/S was terrible. It made me angry how little sense half of it made. I thought the last story (“10/31/98”) was well done, and I thought the first story (“Amateur Night”) was well done. The last story was the most clever of all five, and I appreciated that there was a twist in that one and it made more sense that it was all on camera. But I did not like that movie. I just didn’t like it.

I’m trying not to unfairly criticize things as much as I used to, and I try not to go at other people because your work is your work; it’s not my business to say if something was bad or not. But from a critical standpoint, there was no justification for half of the things that happened in V/H/S. I’m getting tired of found footage, and like 3D, it’s getting overdone. It just keeps going and going and going, and I was never a big fan of it. I was never a big Blair Witch fan, and I respected it but it just didn’t do it for me. I really liked Paranormal Activity, but I didn’t like the sequels. Again, it’s not like they were bad, they just weren’t for me.

To be fair, when I saw V/H/S, I just wasn’t into the found footage thing anymore. But it was a found footage horror movie and they had a lot of young guys directing stuff that I wanted to see, like Ti West. I really liked The House of the Devil, but I didn’t like The Innkeepers. I understand what he was going for, and I got that he was trying to make a 1970’s style horror movie in the way The House of the Devil was where there’s a lot of build up and everything culminates in the end. But I wasn’t captivated by The Innkeepers the same way I was captivated by The House of the Devil, where it really drew me in there and made me think, “What the fuck is going to happen?” I didn’t feel that with The Innkeepers. I appreciated that it was comedic and then turned that element on its ear, but it just didn’t hold me the way The House of The Devil did.

The same goes for [Ti West’s] story in V/H/S; I understood it and I got what the twist was but I didn’t understand why it happened. There was such little rising action to justify that guy’s wife doing that, besides one comment about stealing from him before. It just wasn’t enough. So it’s like, “Okay, she kills him, and there’s this whole lesbian affair that happened before, and I’m just supposed to accept that?” I just didn’t buy it. It wasn’t believable to me. And the segment where they go up to the lake and the people are killed? It’s like, “Why?” There’s no justification for it to be found footage.

DIABOLIQUE: Fair points, but at the same time, I’d recommend that you see V/H/S/2 before writing off the franchise. V/H/S is a really divisive horror movie, especially the underground horror community, but V/H/S/2 is a really relentless, ambitious and overall really fun horror film in its own right. Whereas some fans may say that there are a select few home runs amongst the original batch of V/H/S segments, V/H/S/2 is almost a home run every single time.

DEROSA: Alright. I’ll check it out. You’ve sold me on it.

Joe DeRosa and "Cheat" co-authors Robert Kelly and Bill Burr

Joe DeRosa and “Cheat” co-authors Robert Kelly and Bill Burr

DIABOLIQUE: So what do you think is the biggest difference between the horror that you embraced while growing up and the horror that’s coming to theaters now?

DEROSA: I think, and this is why I love Insidious and Sinister so much, and also Paranormal Activity, as I sit here and say I’m not a found footage fan, is that those movies went back to relying on atmosphere and creating characters that you actually had concern for. I think horror was in a real rut for a long time where everything was “knee-jerk”, you know? All the scares were piano stabs and something jumping out. It was just that over and over and over again, and if it wasn’t that, it got really into the J-horror influence for a while. Asian horror is great, but every horror movie can’t be a girl with jet black hair crawling on the ceiling and walls bleeding black blood or whatever. That got old after a while and a lot of American horror movies were just doing that because of the success of The Ring, which was based on Ringu. Everyone tried to copy it, and they made money with The Grudge and it all became the same thing after a couple of years.

The other repetitious thing that happened was an emphasis on gore but not realistic looking gore. Once it turned into CGI gore, it was just stupid. I knew that it was fake because it looks fake. Don’t show me CGI blood; it doesn’t look real, it looks like computerized drops of red on a real person and that looks stupid. I mean, you can get away with it a little bit, like how Sam Raimi did some CGI stuff in Drag Me To Hell, which I loved in the unrated, unedited version. I did not like the R-rated theatrical version [of Drag Me To Hell], and the unrated DVD version was 20 times better.

Raimi does a little CGI stuff in there and it wasn’t too noticeable so it’s fine, but, like at the end of Texas Chainsaw 3D, where the guy gets pulled into the meat-grinding machine, was one of the worst special effects I’ve ever seen. It just looks so fake and it takes you out of [the film]. So you go from a horror movie like the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre, made in the 1970s for no-budget, where film critics have said one of the reasons that the movie is so scary is that it feels like you’re watching a documentary and you’re watching it and going, “This girl just got put onto a meat hook and I believe it,” to this modern day version of it where there’s these CGI blood effects and I’m not scared because I’m taken out of it.

With Texas Chainsaw 3D, I have never in my life seen a horror movie that had me on the hook- no pun intended- for so long and then lost me so hard. The first hour of that movie, I was glued to the screen and in the last 35 minutes, I was like, “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. When is the twist going to come where they’ll be like, ‘Ah, stupid, you thought we were going with this but we weren’t!’” When that twist never came, I was like, “My god, they’re going in this direction with this?” I couldn’t fucking believe it.

But then I watched the DVD featurette [for Texas Chainsaw 3D] and then I saw the producer of Texas Chainsaw 3D say, “We wanted Leatherface to be an antihero. We wanted you to have sympathy for him, and you know what? Is what he did to those teenagers in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre horrible, horrific and depraved? Of course it is; Murder is terrible. But you know what’s worse? What those people due to his family as vigilantes by burning his house down, because guess what? This is America and everybody deserves due process.” A FUCKING PRODUCER OF THAT MOVIE SAID THAT.

I was like, “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me! You want me to think of JUSTICE for LEATHERFACE?! What the fuck is going on right now?” So that’s the other thing about new horror is that there’s this political correctness that’s shaped into it so we’re supposed to understand the motives behind everybody. I don’t give a shit! So Sinister, Insidious, Paranormal Activity, Evil Dead (2013); these movies were such a fucking relief. Thank God we’re back to atmosphere and true gore the way it’s supposed to look. We’re back to genuine scares with characters that we want to see what happens [to them] where you don’t want to see one guy die and maybe want to see someone else die because he’s a dick.

We’re getting back to that vibe and horror movies have been pulling out all the stops thanks to James Wan and those guys. My hat’s off to those guys, and my hat goes off to Ti West too! I don’t like everything he’s done but that doesn’t mean I think it’s bad. I’m just not as into his approach as some of these other guys. But my hat goes off to Ti West because he makes real horror movies and he makes him in the way that he thinks they should be made.

He’s making his vision, whereas I bought Final Destination 5 on blind faith, despite not being into the other ones, because Roger Ebert said it was the best of the series and the deaths were really creative. But I watched 15 minutes of it and shut it off because the deaths looked fake. It doesn’t look fucking real. When the support beam on the bridge snaps and impales the kid, it looks like a video game. I can’t get into that, and to add to that, I don’t really give a fuck about these characters because the script doesn’t have enough depth to it for me to care.

One of the best lessons about horror films that I ever learned was from listening to Quentin Tarantino on the From Dusk ‘til Dawn DVD, where he said, “From Dusk ‘til Dawn is two movies, and the reason it’s two movies is because the mistake that most horror movies make is that they don’t take the time to let you give a shit about the characters. Our characters are dicks, but they’re cool dicks, so you kind of like them, so by the time things go haywire with the vampires, you care.”

DIABOLIQUE: From Dusk ‘til Dawn is also interesting in that case because very early in the film, they establish that the Gecko brothers can fend for themselves in that first scene with Michael Parks, and when vampires come into the equation, there’s a greater risk because if all these badasses can be torn apart by these creatures, then that makes these two dangerous guys desperate and the family even more outmatched. The fact that this family is also willing to bond with these psychopaths also further brings out their humanity, to a certain extent.

DEROSA: Yeah, it’s well done from so many angles because you know you can’t fuck with George Clooney’s character, but when he’s doing that speech and loading that gun, going, “What I saw out there are fucking vampires. Now I don’t believe in fucking vampires,” and that whole thing, it’s fucking awesome and when he gets Harvey Keitel to say he’s mean motherfucking servant of God, you get excited because you know these guys are going to go to the wall with these vampires.

Also, with that opening scene you mentioned, one of the things that makes them such badass characters is the fact that they’re up against Michael Parks. Michael Parks, in that three-minute scene, etches himself out to be somebody you don’t fuck with either. So when they take him down, immediately you know these guys aren’t fucking around. Michael Parks, in that scene, does quite possibly my favorite thing I’ve ever seen an actor do, ever, in anything, but it’s so simple. He’s talking to that cashier about the bank robbery that just happened and he just stares at the cashier and goes, “When I catch up with them boys, it’s gonna be…” and he doesn’t finish the sentence. He just nods his head up and down, and you know exactly what he means. With a head nod, you know this guy is gonna fucking kill these guys. That was a really awesome movie.

DIABOLIQUE: One unique aspect about the horror genre is that the theatrical experience can be many different things, whether it be communal, interactive or even volatile. Do you have any unique in-theater horror movie experiences you haven’t forgotten, where for better or for worse?

DEROSA: Yeah. I remember when I saw The Sixth Sense and the camera turned and the girl was throwing up, next to Haley Joel Osment. That made me physically crawl up into my seat because it startled me so much, and I was with my friend who is coming up today and he made fun of me for a fucking week about that. Even during the movie, he made fun of me.

I also remember seeing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning on a date- not on a first date, I’m not a psycho [laughs]- but I saw it with a girl I was dating and I remember she literally had her head buried in my chest the whole time; she couldn’t even look at the screen. And I remember thinking, “This is such a cliché. This is like the scene in the horror movie right before our characters get killed, and I’m the guy who is like, ‘C’mon baby, it ain’t scary!’” That was a funny one.

Oh! This is a funny one. Remember when they rereleased The Exorcist when they added footage to it? I remember we went to see that, and we were all freaked out, so we went back to the place where the buddies that I saw it with were living. So we were sitting there, talking about how the movie was so scary, and all of the sudden, our friend, who we didn’t know where he had went, came down the stairs on his back in the way Linda Blair does. He almost pulled it off, but he didn’t; it was a mess, but it fucking scared the shit out of me. It was hilarious that he did that, you know?

DIABOLIQUE: Considering your knowledge and fandom of horror films, is there any trope or aspect of a horror movie that once you seen, you’re out of and finished with the movie?

DEROSA: Ah, yes. I’m so glad that you asked that. The second they bring in somebody from an exotic island that knows everything about what’s going on and can explain it in one scene, I’m like, “Fuck. You.” That is the cheapest, shittiest, laziest fucking device to explain what’s going on in a horror movie. And here’s the thing: I don’t necessarily blame the screenwriters for that. My theory is that it’s the same result of studio influence as any other genre trope. Like, the studio would go, “You have to get through this quick! The audiences aren’t going to follow or stay invested, so we need to explain this in one scene.” But as soon as I see some Jamaican lady come in and go, “Let me tell y’all what y’all up against, man,” it’s cheap, it’s racist; everything about that annoys me.

I’m not getting all PC here, but it really is one of the most racist things you can do in a horror movie, too. It’s like going, “Oh, on THERE island, THEY believe that mysterious things still happen! THEY don’t have the internet yet!” It’s so fucking ridiculous. I hate it. That’s my big one. That’s my biggest pet peeve about horror movies.

Joe DeRosa on "Red Eye"

Joe DeRosa on “Red Eye”

DIABOLIQUE: I think they’ve been doing the same thing for years with the Hollywood interpretation of priests in horror films. One of the reasons The Exorcist works so well is that Karras and Merrin are actual human beings with flaws and temptations and disbeliefs, but since then, it seems that horror films only portray priests as these passive-aggressive, dependent people.

DEROSA: Yeah, and what they did in Insidious was, and they did the same thing in Poltergeist, where they bring in a paranormal expert and they practically explain what it is and if the people don’t believe them, then you go on that journey. That’s a very good execution of [that concept], as opposed to something like Jeepers Creepers, when they’re at the police station- and goddamnit, I wanted to like Jeepers Creepers, too. People I know who like horror movies told me it was great and I’m a Justin Long fan, so I wanted to like that movie, but they’re in that police station, trying to figure out what’s going on, and that lady walks in and just starts explaining it because she happens to be psychic and lives in this town where this horrible beast lives, although she doesn’t leave the town. She’s there just in case two unassuming teenagers come through and need everything explained to them. It’s just so dumb.

And also, let’s talk about Jeepers Creepers, because this is my other pet peeve, with two examples of it: inhuman things doing human things. It’s like, “Oh, so this demon drives a truck? He has to go to the Getty and put gas in it? He has to gas up his truck, right? Also, he listens to music? Where does he get the music from? Does he go to flea markets and buys old vinyl from people selling records?” And then, at the end of Blair Witch 2, where the police files are perfectly organized, incriminating the victims and disproving the existence of the Witch. So it’s like the Blair Witch went to Kinkos or Staples and got Manilla envelopes and paper clips to put these things together, or in House on Haunted Hill (1999), where the house signed up for a hotmail account and emailed everybody to come to the house.

It’s stuff like that that drives me fucking crazy. I love how all these new movies are coming out where demons are up on technology, like in The Ring, when it knew that VHS was still pretty common and DVD hadn’t taken over just yet, so it got itself into a VHS tape and it probably could have figured out how to get into a Blu-ray if it needed to. It’s so stupid to me.

DIABOLIQUE: From a comedian’s standpoint, you especially tend to divulge into some pretty dark subjects from time to time. Do you think that having that mentality of a comedian that puts light on darker things in life makes you more inclined to enjoy horror films?

DEROSA: I don’t know. I don’t think one pushes another. I think it’s just a personality type. The reason my personality goes into some darker places sometimes, like when I talk about death in a funny way, is the same reason I like and can stomach horror movies, which is that it comes from the same personality type where I don’t necessarily take those two subjects too seriously. Don’t get me wrong: death terrifies me, and it’s my greatest fear. When I think about it, I have to physically shake the thought out of my body.

[Death is] terrifying to me, and I’m also horrifically devastated when somebody I love or know dies or when I see a tragedy happen. It really upsets me and I become really angry at the world and humanity and stuff, so I have a great respect for life and a great fear of death. At the same time, given my personality type, my fears and respects don’t prevent me from discussing those subjects in a particular way, and that particular way is entertaining.

So I’m able to write and watch horror stuff because I like it and it’s fun. Horror is a fantasy to me, and it’s a great escape and I think comedy, albeit the way I do it, is based on my personal stuff and is also an escape for me. It’s very freeing to go on stage and admit your deepest, darkest secrets in a room full of strangers and get it out of your system a little bit. So they’re strangely connected: one is reality-based and the other is fully fantastic.

Horror movies are my favorite movies to watch because they’re the only thing that I can watch that are a great escape for me because I don’t work in sci-fi and horror; I work in comedy. When I watch comedy movies, which I do, often, I’m dissecting it to a certain extent. When I watch dramas, which I often watch, I’m dissecting that as well because I’m listening to the dialogue and trying to see where it’s going. There’s always a part of my brain doing that as I’m watching it, but with horror, it’s a full escape. I turn it on, nothing is real, nothing is going to happen, and I just delve into it.

With my comedy, even though it’s based in real life and the things that I’m saying I find to be true, it’s still that same escape. I’m still terrified of death; it’s something I think about a lot and it upsets me every time and I wish I didn’t have to die, but it’s an escape for me to get on stage and make jokes about that because it lightens me up and lets me talk about it in a jokey way versus those moments where you sit on your couch for five minutes straight and go, “What if it happened tomorrow?” Your brain can really go crazy, and that’s not healthy, so I think it’s about the personality type.

It’s weird to me, too, because I find that people who are able to talk about [death] are the people who tend to have the fears of it. It’s funny because I know people who you could show Dawn of the Dead to and they’d be under the fucking couch, yet if you said to them, “Do you worry about dying?” They would go, “No. What? No, I’m alive. Why would I worry about that?” So it’s a very strange contradiction that both sides of that perspective have.

DIABOLIQUE: So, you’ve ventured into acting with Louie and Bored to Death, and you’ve also had your short film, Cheat, get into the Tribeca Film Festival and then later become a novel that you co-wrote with Bill Burr and Robert Kelly. Do you have any future projects coming up or currently in development?

DEROSA: Yeah, I’ve got a new comedy album, which is called You Will Die, and that comes out September 3rd for the digital release and it will be in stores for the physical release on October 1st. That’s my big plug right now, and I really want people to buy it and listen to it. It’s 2-discs and I’m really proud of it. I think it’s my best album to date.

As for the horror anthology, the script is done. We’re in the revision stages, just cleaning it up a bit, but it’s done and ready to be shopped, so we’re just trying to find the right place to shop it to. I don’t think it’s Hollywood, quite frankly. I’d love to get it to one of these direct-to-DVD companies or CHILLER or somebody, and tell them, “Look guys, for a reasonable budget, there’s a really cool horror movie here.” Who knows? That’d be really fucking cool, though.

Joe DeRosa

Joe DeRosa

To hear more from Joe, you can visit his official website, follow him on Twitter: @Joederosacomedy, and listen to either The Opie & Anthony Show or the You Know What Dude? podcast, in both of which Joe is a frequent guest. You can also see clips from his Comedy Central stand-up specials here, and you can purchase his previous comedy albums, The Depression Auction and Return of the Son of the Depression Auction on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and his official website. His book, Cheat: A Man’s Guide to Infidelity, is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and other major literature retailers, and if you purchase the book, you’ll gain exclusive access to the short film that inspired it, directed by DeRosa himself. As previously mentioned, you can preorder You Will Die on Amazon and iTunes, with the digital version releasing on September 3rd and the physical album hitting shelves October 1st.

Remember, you can learn more about the evolution of horror comedy in Issue #17 of Diabolique, now available for preorder and will be on shelves and available for Digital Download soon! Next week in Talking Terror, we speak to stand-up comedian and host of VH1’s That Metal Show, Jim Florentine, 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.

About Ken W. Hanley

Ken W. Hanley is the Web Editor for Fangoria Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Diabolique 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.

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