FrightFest 2020: The Horror Crowd review

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A new documentary about the world of horror, that captures the sense of community around it, here’s our review of The Horror Crowd.

What The Horror Crowd achieves, more than anything, is recreating the feel of talking to horror fans. That feeling of coming out of a cinema auditorium after a film, blinking away the light that’s now flooding your eyes, and just talking to the other people who have seen it. Really digging into a horror movie with horror movie fans is a joy (or a brutally frustrating nightmare, depending on how aligned your tastes are!).

After all, even in a packed auditorium, there’s still a degree of isolation in how we experience films. It’s only after the credits have rolled that it truly becomes a social, communal experience, where we connect with other people.

What a welcome addition, then, The Horror Crowd is to the Digital FrightFest 2020 line-up. While attendees will no doubt turn to social media and messaging applications to attempt to recreate the community element of the festival as they watch the films remotely rather than in a packed out West End multiplex, this film offers an alternative proxy to the experience of standing outside the cinema and having a chat about the films.

In touching on that feeling of connection, and this may seem like an odd connection to make, but the documentary serves to recreate the feel of camaraderie in a way that’s not a million miles from the Jackass movies. That’s no easy feat, nor a reference point I expected to touch on.

The documentary is directed by Ruben Pla, who uses his own experiences as a soft narrative framing to walk us through the world of horror filmmakers. Pla strikes an excellent balance of, well, himself. He doesn’t overly insert himself into proceedings, but lets his clear enjoyment at talking to his horror friends spread across the screen and into the audience.

The film serves as a snapshot of the horror scene. Who the hell is making these movies we’ve been watching, and what the hell happened to them that made them want to make such violent, miserable films?

The Horror Crowd has a lineup of b-movie heroes as interview subjects (and a few big names, too), with standout contributions from Russell Mulcahy, Ernest Dickerson, Adam Robitel and Darren Lynn Bousman, while Oren Peli threatens to steal the entire documentary when talking about The Blair Witch Project. “Before that movie I didn’t know any idiot could make a movie,” he explains. “I can be that idiot!”

It’s a documentary with personality at its core. As such, you may not come out of it with any great revelations about the nature of horror. Rather, it’s insights are into people and come through a series of thoughtful and entertaining anecdotes. From conversations about passion projects to interviews with partners, it’s an illuminating look at, well, the horror crowd.

It’s got some fun quirks to it. Like, I enjoy Tales From The Crypt as much as the next guy (UK horror fans can and should find Bordello Of Blood on Netflix) but I think the documentary might be overselling The Demon Knights' place in horror history a touch. And that’s not a criticism, it’s a little bit of personality the movie has that I like. Then there’s the stand out moment where we see a picture of Saw sequel director Darren Lynn Bousman’s puppy and it’s honestly the best moment in the entire documentary. In any documentary.

While the film is particularly well constructed, with interviews interwoven in a way that must have taken some real organisation in the edit, it also feels like it runs a bit long. In particular, it reaches a logical end point about fifteen minutes before the film ends up finishing. The section that follows, about a café that horror filmmakers used to frequent, is interesting but is focused on something much of the audience will feel detached from. For a film that really thrives when it’s digging into the horror community, it feels oddly exclusive and misplaced. It would perhaps better serve a purpose as the subject of a separate documentary rather than as a part of this one.

Still, The Horror Crowd is a fun and enjoyable documentary that’ll have you grinning for much of its run time.

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