The Horror Crowd is director Ruben Pla’s, himself a prolific actor who’s appeared in the likes of XX, Insidious, and Big Ass Spider, attempt at explaining why the titular group, all friends of his, love horror and why they were drawn to the genre in the first place. The resulting documentary, which is messy and unfocused but well-intentioned at a push, aims to answer the age-old question of why diehard horror fans are attracted to scary, messed up movies to the extent it often becomes their entire job and/or personality. Mostly, though, it’s just a way for Pla to show off how many semi-famous people he knows.
The focus here is on modern filmmakers, so anybody expecting to see the likes of Carpenter or Craven will be disappointed (mostly because Craven is dead, so he’d have to take part via some kind of séance). It’s a worthy way to focus such an endeavour, because many of the featured interviewees won’t have had their time to shine in front of the camera before. Unfortunately, Pla can’t resist putting himself in the frame too, often sitting alongside his subjects or even, in certain cases, ensuring the camera cuts back to him as he listens to a response (he directs one shot, and leaves it in, for reasons known only to him).
It’s a grating choice that highlights the fundamental flaw at the heart of The Horror Crowd; if Pla had his way, he would be the one being interviewed, not the one asking the questions. This is evidenced by how he repeatedly cuts across people mid-answer to either anticipate what they’re going to say or to agree, which might be how he behaves with actors, directors, whoever in a social setting but isn’t appropriate for an interview. Pla seems like an affable chap, and his enthusiasm for the genre is palpable, but there’s no point in gathering all these interesting people together for a documentary if you’re not going to let them talk.
The gathered subjects are a mostly impressive bunch, from actress and director Brea Grant (who also wrote a horror-themed combic-book at some stage, though it’s not discussed), to Oren Peli, Shaked Berenson, and Jeffrey Reddick. The Horror Crowd is mostly composed of white men, but the likes of Grant, Lin Shaye, and Chelsea Stardust get a decent look in, along with Reddick and Demon Knight director Ernest R. Dickerson, too. There are a couple additions that aren’t really justified, however, while there’s a general argument to be made that there are very few truly great horror movies among this group.
The “women in horror” segment is rushed, like everything else, with unnecessary interstitial titles popping up to signal each chapter change basically every two minutes, making it impossible for any topic to truly be delved into in a meaningful way. Bizarrely, a segment about relationships between people who both like horror goes on for what feels like forever and is incredibly cringe-worthy. Likewise, it’s hilarious to see dudes whose movies feature nun rape and women changing their bras at the side of the road for no apparent reason waxing lyrical about how much the genre desperately needs to change (one even suggests the same movie is being made over and over again, in spite of the fact his most famous offering is 100 percent a throwback to the boobs ‘n’ blood glory days – and a bad one at that).
There’s some interesting, nerdy info shared here (“there are two types of people; Rocky Horror people and non-Rocky Horror people” quips one participant early on) but it’s packaged in a really annoying way, while the production values are shocking. At one point, an interview is conducted outside on a swinging chair, which is a baffling choice particularly with so many experienced filmmakers involved in the project. In spite of proclaiming itself to be made by horror fanatics for horror fanatics, plenty of the anecdotes are basic, surface-level stuff any serious fan will already know. On the other hand, Grant is initially introduced as having starred in Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, which feels like a neg considering all the huge roles she’s had in other horror movies since that particular film.
There’s an overall lack of focus, as though The Horror Crowd was strung together on the sly with a looming deadline fast approaching. Pla strains to connect Peli with Highlander director Russell Mulcahy, even though nothing is gleaned from doing so, while he also includes a long-ass, run-on question without the answer at another juncture. Maybe he just hasn’t got a clue, but it stands to reason that if Pla is as close to all these people as he claims to be, maybe he could’ve asked for some pointers on how to properly construct a story that makes sense. The material is there, Pla just has no idea how to assemble it coherently.
Everyone involved is a great talker, even if it’s a strange mix of people overall (there’s a gaping hole where Rebekah McKendry should be, for example). The Horror Crowd is actually kind of clique-y in the end, even though that clearly wasn’t the intention, with more emphasis placed on where all the cool kids used to hang out than on how they actually made it in the industry in the first place. It begs the uncomfortable question – is this whole thing a humble-brag? And, if so, who is it supposed to be impressing? Teenage boys who don’t know any better? A wasted opportunity at best, an embarrassingly desperate grasp at relevancy at worst.
WICKED RATING: 3/10