David L Tamarin: I was just reading an interview with Vince Gilligan in Variety, creator of Breaking Bad, and he said basically there are two types of film violence, the kind that is glorified, where you shoot the bad guy and makes a joke, and then there is the realistic type. Where you see how it affects people. You see the suffering, and you also see how the violence affects the characters who commit the violence, and I wanted to know what your take on that is, on the role of violence in films.
Jeremy Kasten: I love coming at horror movie discussions from a scholarly standpoint and I think it’s important to do so. Treating horror in this way gets neglected so often. As we–the fanatics–all know the horror genre is often treated as though it’s a strictly puerile, useless entertainment. I think often the opposite is true. It’s all important to look at it, even, and especially, the puerile stuff.
I am a true fan. And I know in my heart that many disregarded genre films are trying to say something. Take The Last House on the Left, for example. It operates at multiple levels and was treated like trash for a long time. It’s upsetting but it has a purpose. Or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which made an important statement. One that was clearer, I think, at the time of the tumultuous 1970s. Urban vs rural and modern vs primitive.
I believe that there are two different kinds of genre films–and it can be difficult to separate them and their intentions. Even the nastiest of the nasty stuff is most often, at worst, self-consciously mean. You don’t make Salo without thinking about what you have to say–and that is what makes it a powerful film. Intention.
I shot my first film when I was 26. At the beginning of my career, my attitude was basically, ‘Gosh-golly I just love horror movies so much… and now I’m going to make my own horror movies’. They say it is very hard for young artists because they don’t have as much to say. In my case I can’t disagree. I know that I didn’t have as much to stay in my films then—and it think it made the films unfocused. I have learned that.
My films tend towards psychedelic horror. That hasn’t changed at all. But having a theme or message that means something to me–and moving that part of the horror genre forward—it’s very important to me now. I think you can see this in The Wizard of Gore. My cover of The Wizard of Gore is thematically about the audience—both the genre’s and the film’s. Likewise, my wraparounds for The Theatre Bizarre are about the audience’s bloodlust and whether their desires and thirsts are encouraging something dark. Something wrong.
The Wizard of Gore is very directly about that and I would argue that Herchel’s is, too. The Theatre Bizarre is ambivalent about that idea and I think that’s where The Dead Ones plays a funny game with the notion. It tries to set you up like, ‘Oh, it’s an exploitation film–school shooting horror movie! That’s disgusting. That’s just wrong’, and then, I hope, an audience can come out the other side of the film—a little bit changed. I think it’s what Kubrick saw in making A Clockwork Orange. Except in the last line of that movie he flips again. At the end you’re like, ‘Wow, nothing has changed. All that horror. It’s all the same!’
Read the rest of the interview in PHANTASMAGORIA Issue #19
Now on sale throughout the world: PHANTASMAGORIA Issue #19 Summer 2021! Featuring a brand new story by Graham Masterton, interviews with C.J. Campbell, Jesse D’Angelo, Sephera Giron, Jeremy Kasten and David A. Riley, and much, much more! amazon.com