The Horror Crowd

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Horror Crowd
"The film is beautifully edited, at times coming across like one long conversation between people in different places." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

It's a difficult thing to pull off a documentary about a filmmaking community with out it coming across as, well, luvvie. Ruben Pla's portrait of Hollywood's horror directors, producers, writers and stars is impressive in this regard, largely thanks to its wit, energy and irreverent sense of humour.

There are a lot of big names, here emphasising just how much talent has come out of - or been drawn to - this area. Russell Mulcahy looks back over the long years of his career, telling stories about Freddie Mercury and some serious partying. Lin Shaye demonstrates her familiar gift for finding humour in curious little incidents. Oren Peli talks about his excitement on first seeing The Blair Witch Project: "Until that moment... I didn't know that any idiot can go out and get a video camera and make a movie. I can be that idiot."

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Composed in large part of interviews - not quite talking heads, as we see quite a lot of people's domestic spaces and, often, their collections of horror paraphernalia - the film is beautifully edited, at times coming across like one long conversation between people in different places (something that will no doubt have felt familiar to those watching it at this year's virtual format Frightfest). The quality of the cinematography is impressive given the variety of locations involved, helping them to blend smoothly together, and though they then contrast sharply with archive material from a favourite venue once central to the scene, this only helps to enhance the nostalgic charm of the latter.

The intimacy of many of the stories told here, and the way it explores the relationships between different figures, gives the viewer the sense of being invited into a family home or becoming part of the titular crowd themselves. Indeed, many horror fans are probably not very far removed from it. If you watch it as an outsider, unaware of who most of these people are, you're still likely to find it engaging. There's no much beyond names to connect the various creative talents with their work so you may want to take notes to give yourself the option of exploring later.

Essentially, this is an insider's ethnography. Whilst it lacks critical distance it succeeds very well in capturing what it sets out to - the magic that happens when members of the group are together. If horror is your thing, it's liable to leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling. If not, it may at least persuade you that its main players are, for all their eccentricities, just like everyone else when it comes to the joy they find in like-minded company.

Reviewed on: 30 Aug 2020
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A documentary about the Hollywood horror community.

Director: Ruben Pla

Starring: Lin Shaye, Greg Grunberg, Russell Mulcahy, Clare Kramer

Year: 2020

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: US


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