AUSTIN (KXAN) - Every two months, a rotating cast of the top directors in horrorfilms meet for dinner to discuss the changing face of Hollywood andwhat it means for their genre. It was Guillermo del Toro, directorof “Pan’s Labyrinth,” that coined the term TheMasters of Horror to describe this group and their influence.
Guillermo del Toro was not in attendance at SXSW this year. ButSaturday’s “Directing the Dead: Genre Directors Spilltheir Guts” panel boasted some of the most notable directorsof the horror genre today.
Comprising the panel were Ti West (“House of theDevil”), Neil Marshall (“The Descent”), MattReeves (“Cloverfield”), Ruben Fleischer(“Zombieland”), Robert Rodriguez (“From Dusk TillDawn”) and emcee Scott Weinberg from Fearnet.com. Oscar nomineeQuentin Tarantino was scheduled on the program but unable to makeit to the panel.
With such a prolific showing of creative talent, the discussionflowed like…well, like fake blood in each one of theirmovies.
Weinberg’s first question invited the panelists to discusstheir experiences with appeasing the
Rodriquez revealed that when filming “PlanetTerror,” he intentionally “made several shots morebloody than intended for the final cut,” knowing that theMPAA would require him to scale it back. He also decreased thecolor saturation of the fake blood in the screening film sent tothe reviewers so they would not notice how much blood was reallybeing shown to audiences.
Fleischer revealed the difference between a “hard”and “soft” R-rating. His conundrum with“Zombieland” was that his zombies can only be defeatedthrough trauma to the head. Therefore, he accepted his R rating butworked to keep it on the “softer” end of the R-ratingspectrum.
Each of the directors expressed concern that early screeningaudiences regularly ask them for more nudity and violence in theirmovies, but none ever feel motivated by this common request.
Another hot trend in horror films today is recreating horrormovie classics for new audiences. Each of the directors agreed thatremakes can be done correctly, but rarely are given the time andcare that make them as good as the original. Most stated they wouldmuch rather develop their own stories than re-shoot someoneelse’s idea.
One exception caused quite a stir in the audience. Reevesrevealed that his latest project is adapting the Swedish vampirefilm “Let the Right One In” for an American audience.Said Reeves, “We are telling a different interpretation ofthe same basic story. But it can also be successful because of therespect and commitment we are showing to the original sourcematerial.”
3-D technology like that used in last year’s “MyBloody Valentine” and James Cameron’s“Avatar” will continue to shake up the horror genre inthe years to come. Rodriguez used 3-D in his 2003 movie “SpyKids 3-D: Game Over” and intends to use it to fuller effectin the future.
Similarly, none of the directors wish to see traditional horrormovie makeup go away, but they know a good combination of CGI and“practical” makeup effects are the only way to stayrelevant in the movie business. Marshall stated, “We aremerely enhancing reality, not replacing it entirely.”
It is undeniable that serial killers, giant monsters andscreaming ingénues will continue to appear on film screens foryears to come. According to Reeves, “Horror films—whendone correctly—have the power to comment upon the fears andhopes of our society better than most other genres.”
Luckily, the new Masters of Horror are committed to overseeingthem to guarantee they are done correctly.
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