HST catches up and swaps stories with Chris Alexander the Editor In Chief of the worlds most notorious Horror mag, FANGORIA. From hammer hits to cult classics, you know Chris knows his horror shit inside out, so its with a very humbling pleasure i was lucky enough to pick his brains. So tune in, turn on, drop out.
HST: I was super hyped with seeing Nat Portman on the latest cover of your magazine, rocking it out for black swan. I was also surprised, I guess the Aronofskys take on Ballet and super ego is ultimately a thriller but is this dark and twisted film a new world for the typical horror film directors to explore?
CHRIS: I hope not, because let’s face it not everyone is Darren Aronofsky and they’ll fuck it up. BLACK SWAN is unique to Aronofsky’s sensibilities, his language of cinema…horror films that pretend they’re something else…SWAN is an amalgam of the best of Lynch, Polanksi, Argento and Godard and the signature blending of these ingredients is something that Aronofsky can truly claim his own. Plus SWAN also succeeds – like all of DA’s flicks do – because of the evocative, hypnotic score by Clint Mansell. What I DO hope the success of SWAN signals is for filmmakers and audiences to stop putting such strict parameters on what a horror film can be. I hope the gates have been kicked open enough to allow filmmakers toiling in the genre to make first and foremost GOOD FILMS that challenge and play with conventions before they try to create product….not that product is entirely a bad thing, some of my all time favorite films product, junk food genre films…but you get my drift: many people will say “Oh I hate horror movies, but I LOVED Black Swan…” Well, guess what SWAN is a horror movie, as much as SAW 7 is but for different reasons…
HST: I know it gets tossed around like a tatty on prom night, but is this there a new “breed” of film emerging – where would you like to see our genre go? I would personally like more “spit on your grave” type madness, or a mix between Lynch and Korine. That would be a fucking mash up!
CHRIS: I’m an old soul, a child of the past, someone who knows that there are certain base ingredients to storytelling and human sensory stimulation. So I like horror films that exploit the id but do it with grace and audio/visual flair….I don’t care what the sub genre or content is…if the attitude is confident and bold I’m interested. And listen, I don’t want horror to be one or two things, it’s MANY things – it should be a full meal….I love DAWN OF THE DEAD as much as I love STRAW DOGS or THE DEVILS or FRIGHT NIGHT or HORROR OF DRACULA or THE TEXAS CHAINASAW MASACRE or NIGHT OF THE HUNTER….all are horror films, all radically different and all inspiring different reactions. And all are welcome and loved. Plus, today trends are tomorrows footnote so I tend not to anticipate or follow “what’s hot”…..
HST: Tell me a little about the Raging Boll, which involved you going toe to toe in a boxing ring, as a critic against film maker Uwe Boll. . Where you the only dude balls enough to get in the stage and get the scrap on?
CHRIS: There were four of us. I went the longest and had fun. I did it because it was an Andy Kaufman bit of media terrorism, a freak show like no other that I had to be part of for the sake of being a part of it. Boll punched to kill, So did I. Spat fake blood on him too. Audience roared when I did that. Wore rubber bat wings and a silver El Santo mask. It was mental and sometimes I forget I did it because it WAS so mental…..and the funny thing is that Uwe and I became friends instantly. He even writes for FANGORIA…wrote a nice little essay on THE SHINING for issue 300!
HST: You have taught film history at the Toronto Film College and Sheridan College and had lectures on film around the world over. Fair to say your passion for film has taken you many places in its time. What experience stood out as one of the more personally rewarding?
CHRIS: To me it’s ALL teaching – anytime I can talk or write about what moves me, what I love. Anytime I can communicate my heart, soul and mind to another or other human beings and have an impact, or be understood, is rewarding. I love teaching, I love being able to open doors of thought or inspire debate. And I do that in every medium I hope, with success. Or at least try my best to. As far as my favorite of my gigs? Man, I have had so many jobs and incarnations of myself but running FANGORIA is the greatest gift I have ever received. It’s given me such a large stage to stand on and allowed me to virtually explode with passion in the pages of a magazine that has been my bible since I was a child. It’s surreal, wonderful and rewarding. And when it passes – because it will, everything does – I’ll be ready to take what I’ve learned from it to whatever other venue I latch on to.
HST: You have three children, are they allowed to stay up late and watch “Critters” after dark the way i was? Or is it Roger Corman and Edward D. Wood, Jr renaissance nights.?
CHRIS: My kids are really young as of this writing, but they have seen KING KONG, select UNIVERSAL MONSTER flicks, a few key werewolf transformations and tons of old TV like THE TWILIGHT and OUTER LIMITS and tons of the wilder, LITTLE RASCALS shorts (they love HIDE AND GO SHRIEK, where Alfalfa, Buckwheat and Porky end up in the carnival spook house). Right now, I will show them monsters and the visual flair of horror, but try to avoid anything with severe emotional impact….I want them to love film and fantasy and not obsesses over real life dramas and catastrophes that await them…yet. Every year however we’ll ratchet it up a notch…
HST: I normally ask people if they believe in god during a HST interview, but instead I’m going to ask you this. Do insects really have souls?
CHRIS: As much as any of us do. I have great empathy for all living things. Whether house fly or human, we all have the same basic drive – to avoid pain and death, to have purpose, to make more of us…humans are arrogant in that we invented religion and society to give us special purpose and elevate us above nature itself. We are certainly the most evolved test model of living thing on an intellectual level, but or value ultimately has no more or less worth that anything on this planet. As far as the title of my old album (I love that disc and hope to actually re-release all that stuff one day), the line is a hybrid from Mario Bava’s PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES and a key bit of dialogue from Cronenberg’s remake of THE FLY….
HST: You said on your sites bio you are a “lifelong cineaste… [into] …weird romance, arcane sexuality, and spacey, strange sounds”. We are a fan of all them things. Especially sex. Horney teens and getting butchered with a meat cleaver go hand in hand right? There has always been that strange hold, along the fine line?
CHRIS: We are at our most vulnerable during sex and death. Both spike physical reactions that are removed from our intellect. Both are linked. On a cerebral level, the only two important events in a person’s life are his birth and his death….they are the only things of real gravitas in our lifespan, the rest is just icing and distraction. Since I believe horror to be the strongest medium to mirror the essence of the human condition, it’s a natural that sexuality and terror of death should be hand in hand, always – or dick in vag (or other orifices take your pick or preference). When a naked, sexually active person – a person at their most exposed – is violated and snuffed, it evokes a primal reaction like no other in filmed entertainment.
HST: Do you think the internet has exacerbated that emotional horror, straying away from what i would interoperate art, into hard core aggression. Especially along the lines of the sexual taboo.
CHRIS: Today’s taboo is quaint tomorrow. The internet has de-mystified many aspects of human sexuality previously left in the dark and to the imagination. It’s harder to shock today because people aren’t as naive or ignorant. Type any degrading act into Google and you’ll find videos of it. Anything. But is that shocking? On what level? It all exists. When people fuck, they say an do the wildest of things then when they’re finished fucking, the pretend they’re removed from it all. Then when they see it on the net, they are shocked.
I think having things be so rough and intense will come full circle. People will start to crave mystery. I know porn bores me generally. Watching a mechanical jackhammer or gynecological exam in a cheap, over lit room is dull. We need lies after getting too much truth. It’s our nature.
HST: Chris, I have a lot of respect for you man, but I simply CANT agree with the wolf man in your list for the top films of 2010. Haha, How much has critic got to do with taste and how much with formula?
CHRIS: I worship Hammer horror and WOLF MAN had that atmosphere and straight faced gothic ham in spades. And it gets better and better on repeat viewings. My take on film criticism is this: if I know someone who is intelligent and they can articulate persuasively why they like a film, then it has value no matter my view on it. I think there are no good or bad film critics, just good writers and bad writers, or smart people and simpleton’s. And it’s all subjective – especially horror, that most personal of genres. Another thing we must remember when watching a picture is that the movies we LOVE, that are part of our DNA, tended to fall onto our eyes at key moments in our lives. Whose to say that a 12 year old kid who saw the WOLF MAN today after only knowing teen fantasy pablum like TWILIGHT wouldn’t have their minds blown much like our were when we saw THE HOWLING for the first time?
HST: but your top 2 are simply spot on. The Black Swan and The Human Centipede. How was your gut feeling during Human Centipede. I don’t think I have seen such a likably horrible villain for some years. What a disgustingly brilliant piece of cinema!
CHRIS: Yes. A black comedy with the best, most demented – and because it was so broad, underrated – turn from Dieter Laser. It was funny because of the absurdity but the horror was freakishly real. The victims hopelessness and trauma was real. I think it was a really bold, really special work of art actually.
HST: Is the black glove killer a nom de plume? or is it an alter ego?
CHRIS: Dario Argento/Italian horror obsession. I was sitting around one day and thought, visually wouldn’t the words black glove killer look REALLY awesome stuck together: blackglovekiller. Like one sexy word. So I made an album called that and my email address…I get plenty of questions from non-horror people about that, they think I’m your garden variety psychopath.
HST: “..to love cinema is to love all of cinema.” – No exceptions?
CHRIS: In order to be a successful opera singer you have to know and understand all the liberal arts. In order to be a successful authority on horror films, I believe you have to be open to all genres and to know film history. And yes, I promise you this: EVERY film has at least ONE moment in it that will inspire you or offer something dynamic. It has to happen. Movies are like people. Every single person you meet no matter how dull or insipid or revolting will always offer you some sort of pleasant surprise, something that you can learn from….