Bret Easton Ellis on the Problem With Modern Studio Horror Movies

Spoiler alert: This article discusses plot points from “The Barbarian”.

Bret Easton Ellis’ work is often steeped in horror — he wrote the 1991 hit novel “American Psycho,” the script for the 2020 slasher film “Smiley Face Killers,” and the upcoming semi-autobiographical killer novel “The Shards,” which is coming out . in January. Beyond his written output – eight novels, a book of essays and many texts produced and yet to be produced – Ellis is also a bold cultural commentator who likes to talk about pop culture, often involving horror movies, in “Bret Easton”. Ellis Podcast.”

As horror film fans continue to check out this year’s offerings, Various types spoke to Ellis about his horror film history, what scares him the most and what the future of the genre might look like.

Ellis believes that the new generation of studio horror films often make one key mistake.

“Especially in the 1970s, horror movies had no stories or answers to explain their horror,” he said. “Why is Regan possessed by the devil in ‘The Exorcist?’ We don’t know. Why is the shark sailing the Amity? [in ‘Jaws’]? You don’t know. Where did Carrie White get her strength? I do not know. You could go on with the plot of this movie, and what made it even scarier was that it wasn’t explained. I always find that when a horror movie goes too far into the backstory, in terms of explaining why these people do what they do, or why the monster does what it does, it diminishes the shock.

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“I think ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ is a good example. We don’t know what that family is. We get hints about what happened to them, but we don’t get any explanation at all about what created Leatherface. For some reason, I find it particularly terrifying in ways that others don’t. movies in the ‘Chainsaw’ franchise. The sequels clearly explain why things happened, and the backstories are usually just plain crazy.”

Ellis underscores his point by analyzing horror movies, “Barbarian” high and low.

“I love the movie,” he said. “I think it has a nice, slow build with a big shock in it, and then it becomes this completely different movie. We’re very interested in how these two movies will come together and let us know why this happened. I had a friend who loved it too, but again I thought that in its third act it was very telling . It was no longer scary to him, and there was something about it, Mother. It was even scarier just to think of this thing sitting there and going off to hunt at night.”

In addition, Ellis and his colleagues agreed that the finale pulled the punches in a unique way for this season.

“This friend, the filmmaker, told me that this is when the movie also left him, as he did not have the courage to believe it, which means that the character Justin Long had to be punished in some way and the girl. I had to live,” he said. “I was hoping for a more hopeless ending, because it seemed like ‘Barbarian’ coming that way. It seemed like a throwback to ’70s horror, and I loved the majesty of the monster. I wasn’t afraid to look stupid or stupid, and it was scary and I loved that it wasn’t CGI. It was very scary, real, realistic, with- analog.”

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Ellis noted that while studio money may be overly diluted in contemporary culture, a healthy underground scene is able to keep rebellious ideas alive and well.

“I like to think it goes around,” Ellis said. “Well, we’re going through this now, and we’re pushing after that, and then we’re going to have a grittier, smaller-minded mindset. [in horror]. We’re not going to worry too much about certain tropes and go back to beauty and horror. “

One of the recent movies Ellis has been cited as bringing back an edgy, horror classic is “Terrifier 2,” which he heard about through word of mouth.

“I was complaining about the lack of horror movies,” he said. “But somebody was saying to me, ‘You know Bret, if you really want to get it, you can get the most horror movies.’ They are out there. You just have to look for them. They may not be on public display, but believe me, you can find them.’”

Ellis continues, recalling a conversation with Miramax CEO Bill Block on his podcast.

“I go back to what Bill Block said about how there will always be a need for people to face that darkness and see those images, even if they are repelled or compelled by them,” Ellis said. So I don’t know if it’s ever going away, it’s just that it’s going to be in a business environment, which doesn’t seem to want anything to do with anything like this except the dirty, unpleasant stuff. things. I hope there will be some changes, but there is a lot of content where I think you can find whatever you want. “

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Reflecting on the impact horror movies had on him growing up, Ellis saw them as a way to cope with the harsh world around him.

He said: “Being a child of the 1970s, horror movies were a big deal for me. “I don’t know why, but there were a lot of them and I was drawn to them. I think they were a reflection of what I was going through personally, because my childhood was really a free world made up entirely of adults, and there was nothing sugary about it. There was a kind of gritty truth to everything, and you were never treated like a child. The world was designed for adults – you’re basically left to your own devices, and discover how terrifying the world can be in different ways.

“Horror movies in the 1970s had the appeal of portraying a troubled home: My parents’ marriage was in disarray, my father was an alcoholic, I realized I was gay. Many issues have been swirling around, and horror movies have served as the most obvious way to acknowledge or relate to whatever anxiety and fear I was going through in myself. They reassured me, in a strange way.”


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