In this interview with The Horror Crowd’s director, writer and editor Ruben Pla, we discuss the history of the horror industry and Pla’s own opinions on what’s to come.
The Horror Crowd is a get-together documentary, filmed sporadically over Ruben Pla’s meetups with horror-minded friends. It’s a welcoming overview of the genre greats’ history, inspirations, reflections, and aspirations. Compiling interviews from writers, directors, and actors, Pla’s feature length documentary debut is a testament to the strength of the once-maligned horror genre community. We spoke with Pla on the distribution challenges he faced, the inspiration for the project, and more. As the FrightFest premiere of his darling draws near, here’s what Pla had to say about the filmmaking industry.
The Horror Crowd: Unexpected Challenges and Decisions
As a first-time director, editor, and producer of a feature length production, what were the most notable challenges you faced in both getting the project off the ground and completing it, in light of current world affairs?
The current pandemic didn’t affect the making of The Horror Crowd, as it was completed before the virus hit. Since the situation in the world we live in has been drastically altered, I’ve been submitting and pitching the film to festivals entirely online. The way the pandemic has affected the film is that it will, for now, be viewed virtually and not in a theater with a live audience, but we’re hoping that will change soon.
You have directed two short films previously (Head & The Kill). Why did you choose to create a documentary for your first feature length project?
That’s an interesting question! I guess I could have gone with a narrative film for my first feature. While traveling, the idea came to me to interview the people in the circles I was traveling in. I started asking if they wanted to be in the film and they all did, so it just snowballed from there. I have several narrative scripts I’ve written that are ready to go, so if the opportunity to direct a narrative feature presents itself, I’m all set to dive into that.
Within The Horror Crowd, you mention the very curated and interconnected community at the heart of the horror genre. As places like the Jumpcut Café have closed doors, and the COVID pandemic has massively altered film distribution/communities, what new pathways and opportunities do you see unveiling themselves during this unprecedented restructuring?
A lot more online opportunities will present themselves, for sure. There was already a high demand for new content during the recent, and current, lockdowns, but I think even more will be available in the future. Of course, films in theaters will always be around, especially big studio productions, but, for the independent filmmaker, the new horizon will have plenty of opportunities.
The Horror Crowd: New Horizons and Accessibility
A vast majority of the creators you interview cite the 1970’s-80’s classics of the genre as their first love/influence (The Exorcist, Alien, The Hills have Eyes, etc.). With the modern accessibility of film creation (younger creators, affordable technology, streaming), what are your personal thoughts on what the modern “classics” are and how they will influence future creators?
Oh, there’s no question in my mind: the classics you mentioned, and many others, will always be there to influence new filmmakers. If a horror film, or any kind of film, has a quality script, great direction, and terrific actors, it will always be around to inspire people.
A major focus of The Horror Crowd is the stigma of being a horror creator. Many of the creators you interview cite tensions between family members, racial profiling, and general ostracization as a “rite of passage” into the horror community. As stigmas around genre film continue to erode, welcoming new creators and fans, how do you see the horror community changing from an anti-mainstream label to something more accessible?
There’s been such a change during the last ten years in how horror films are perceived. I think it started around the time Insidious was released…and it’s not just because I’m in it! The script was original, the direction was expertly moody, and the actors were terrific (except for that one incompetent doctor guy…). In the last decade, horror films have become so much more accepted by the mainstream viewing audience. Look at superhero films: the explosion of that genre was because, for the most part, the movies were well-made, and they were fun. When I was growing up, you never would have thought a crossover like that could happen. It’s now the same thing with horror.
The Horror Crowd
Lastly, what’s next for you? Do/did you feel particularly inspired by any of your interviewees to take on new projects, either in acting or directing?
I have several polished scripts ready to go, everything from horror to fantasy to comedy. I don’t like to limit myself in what I take on, whether it’s acting, writing, or directing. During this quarantine, I shot a horror short that I’m very happy with. I can’t wait to get into assembling it. Also, I’m bicoastal now, so as soon as Los Angeles and New York open up, I’ll be out there, getting involved in new projects. Meanwhile, I hope all of you out there will enjoy The Horror Crowd.