It's official: We're living in a golden age of horror anthologies. True, the long-moribund subgenre isn't every fright fan's cup of tea, but those who like variety in one double-hour package have enjoyed a wealth of opportunities over the last few years and especially 2013.
For movie watchers, few things can be more frustrating than films that begin with a sequence of immense promise, only to show over the remainder that the emperor truly wears no clothes. Two new examples come from the horror realm.
Until now, Ethan Hawke was having a wonderful year. Before Midnight, the third leg of his trilogy with director Richard Linklater and actress Julie Delpy, brought waves of critical acclaim and talk of another Oscar nomination for their collaborative screenplay, while The Purge turned a meager investment into a highly profitable box-office take.
Neither a chain of spice stores nor a Food Network program, The Seasoning House is a bleak-as-nuclear-winter thriller set during the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. A deaf girl named Angel (Brit teen Rosie Day) is taken from her home by soldiers who shoot her mother dead.
Paul Schrader’s The Canyons opens and closes with a montage of abandoned movie theaters. For this film in particular, that choice strikes one as symbolic in several ways: not only as a comment on the state of the industry, but on the state of The Canyons itself. You’re unlikely to find many 2013 films this empty.
Best known for directing Saw II through IV, Darren Lynn Bousman has two movies out right now with the near-simultaneous home-video release of Mother’s Day and 11-11-11. Missed them in theaters? So did most of America, and here’s why ...
R&R: Do you miss those Saw weekends, where those huge grosses come in? Because these two movies, unfortunately, haven't enjoyed a wide theatrical release. And I think Mother's Day certainly deserved one.
Bousman: Please put that in your write-up! Mother's Day is a sad story — a very sad story. It was a movie that tested through the roof, that I thought was going to put me back on the map in a big way, and it didn't get released. There are many reasons why — part of it had to do with subject matter, part of it had to do with distribution fumbles, part of it had to do with bank issues — one thing after another after another.
And it killed me. As an artist and filmmaker, you're proud of what you do and you want people to see it, but things happen and you've just got to deal with it. So I've sat on it for three years now, knowing no one would get to see it. I loved that Saw got released on 3,000 screens and everyone wanted to see the movie.
That said, I've kind of got a new avenue to vent my frustrations in that we're doing, that's called The Devil's Carnival. I'm self-distributing it, and basically, it's kind of an “F you” to The Man who sits up there and says, "Your movie has to X, Y and Z, or no one's going to see it."
I just don't believe that. I was told that Repo! The Genetic Opera was a non-commercial movie that nobody wanted to see, and we went out touring the country with it and found our audience. We assembled an army.
Same with Devil's Carnival. We ourselves are putting it in theaters. It will be in more theaters than my last three movies combined. We're selling out every single night, the lines wrap around blocks, and it's an awesome feeling to take control back and see that there is an audience. It's not as simple as just putting a trailer out — you have to find them, 100 percent literally. We're driving thousands of miles across the U.S. and Canada, stopping into these theaters and making friends for life.
I'm still very proud of Mother's Day. I just wish that more filmmakers would do this, to show that … Mother's Day didn't have to die. It could show in 200 theaters the same way as Devil's Carnival. If Devil's Carnival, which is a little rock opera and not mainstream at all, could sell out these theaters in these cities, then Mother's Day, which is much more commercial and mainstream, could as well. I hope people will find it on DVD and embrace it.
R&R: I hope they will, too, because I thought you got a terrific performance out of Rebecca De Mornay.
Bousman: I agree. It was one of those things that just clicked. I jokingly said to her numerous times, hopefully not insulting her, "This is your John Travolta in Pulp Fiction." Because that movie put him back on the map. It's a shame more people aren't getting to see her as Mother — she's beyond fantastic.
R&R: Does it bother you that your name may be forever linked with the Saw movies, no matter what you do, no matter what you might make in the future?
Bousman: It's cool, it's fine. Saw gave me my start. They believed in me when no one else did. That's forever part of me, and I wear that badge with pride. That said, I think what I'm doing now surpasses that. The reality is, I just showed up for Saw. Regardless of whether I made a good movie or a bad movie, it would open on 3,000 screens and went on to make a lot of money.
Now, I think I made good Saw films. I'm proud of the work I did. But the reality is, I showed up. I was lucky. I think right now, this challenging the system — the way people perceive movies have to be put out. We have no publicity team on this movie. It's Twitter and Facebook. I've learned never to be complacent again, to let a movie go into obscurity. If I believe in a movie, I will pick it up and I will do the fight.
R&R: Have you given up on other offers, or are you determined to do only your own projects from here on out?
Bousman: Listen, I am ready and willing to sell out, 100 percent. I would love to do another big studio movie. Nothing would make me happier. But the reality is, the movies that speak to me are very unconventional. And I've found a niche that drives me. So the question is, will they let me make another movie? I hope so. But I'm not going to sit around and wait. I'll keep making things that inspire me.
R&R: You seem to be perfectly happy to stay working in the horror genre. Do you have a desire to venture outside that world?
Bousman: I'm writing an action script right now, basically a thriller. I'd like to journey outside, but I don't think I'm ever going to go that far away from it. I love the macabre, I love the dark, I love the twisted. —Rod Lott