***SPOILER! Please remember as you read this that I’m fundamentally a bitter, mean-spirited turnip who’s secretly devastated he’ll never know love…*** 

I have a good friend who perplexes me.  

As much as I like her, and I like her a lot, we’re not really alike.  

I love to read. But more, I love books. I love the tactile nature of the reading experience, the feel of the page between my fingers, the smell of the paper. It sparks my synapses, fires my memory.  

Growing up, one of my favourite writers was Stephen King. Now, not so much. I loved him during his booze and blow binge of the ’70s and ’80s when he was writing the likes of ‘Salem’s Lot, The Shining, The Dead Zone, Different Seasons…Since he got sober, other than maybe Gerald’s Game, he hasn’t really written anything good. I mean, I’m happy he’s happy and healthy. I really don’t want to see him choke on his vomit or blow a head gasket or for his heart to explode like a tin of Spam in a microwave. But back then, he was a man possessed by demons he could only exorcise through writing.  

And I’ll always associate King (and James Herbert, and Michael Moorcock, and those V and biker novels) with those pulpy, rough feeling New English Library paperbacks. Just glimpsing one of those cracked, peeling, dog-eared covers in a charity shop takes me back thirty years, plonks me on a Spanish beach reading Misery, a hospital bed reading ‘Salem’s Lot, a cramped coach stinking of fags, eggy farts and stale lager reading The Stand through the night, a snowy playground wishing like Charlie in Firestarter I too could set bullies like John Burns’ feet on fire (John Burns was an actual bully I went to school with. John, I know it’s unlikely, but if you’re reading this, I sincerely hope you spontaneously combust). 

My friend…well, she reads, but not so much. She doesn’t watch films. Or TV. Doesn’t much care for the theatre. She’d much rather listen to someone tell her what they think of books, or films, or TV. Politics. Popular culture. She pretty much just listens to podcasts. Open-ended true crime tales of on-the-loose serial killers breathless recounted by “citizen” journalists you’re glad you can’t see coz you know they’re sporting a semi. Tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists who think the rich are lizards and the Pharaohs were ETs. Comedians recounting scabrous dating disasters. Sex workers arguing online about the benefits of ASMR. Factoids. Bret Easton Ellis archly being, well, Bret Easton Ellis.  

I just don’t get podcasts. For every Serial or This American Life there’s a host of UK C-listers interviewing their mates (I really don’t give a crap who David Tennant’s talking to…) or Gemma Collins rabbiting on about nothing or some Queer Eye telling me what kinda cactus defines me.  

Screw that!  

Maybe I’m a snob (probably). Maybe I’m old (definitely). But most podcasts, to me are just an hour of folk shouting at cows, opening their mouths and letting their bellies rumble. And film podcasts are the worst! We all love horror…but you haven’t known true horror like a bunch of guys in their 40s arguing over how true Batman’s fighting style in the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer is to the comics! 

What does this, any of this, have to do with actor-turned-debut director Ruben Pla’s documentary The Horror Crowd? Well, while it’s charming and nowhere near as tedious as listening to Gemma Collins or middle-aged men arguing about the reality of how a kids’ superhero would throw a punch, The Horror Crowd is less a documentary, more a filmed podcast as Pla raids his address book to snatch a few moments with, well, if I’m being a bitch, a loosely connected bunch of horror’s has-beens, also-rans and never-wases, united only by the fact that they all know Ruben (slightly) and they all think Lin Shaye totally rocks. And who doesn’t think Lin Shaye totally rocks? 

“Deep into that darkness peering, 

Long I stood there, wondering, fearing,  

Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal 

Ever dared to dream before” 

Beginning with a quote from Edgar Allan Poe it neither gets to grips with or lives up to, and lacking a narrative spine or through-structure, The Horror Crowd’s opening scenes pose the questions “Fear…the most primal of human emotions. Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolfman… The Exorcist, Jaws, Alien. What made the creators of these films dream up the nightmares that kept us up at night? Were they as strange and twisted as their creations? And what about today’s creators of horror? Who are the minds behind the macabre of present day? Are they dark and weird individuals? Or do they have normal, everyday lives? With friends and families? There are so many layers to these filmmakers…And some of them are weird! But weird is in the eye of the beholder…” 

WTF Ruben! Sure, there’s some questionable eye make-up choices but you’re not exactly breaking bread with Fred Vogel, Jörg Buttgereit or Srđan Spasojević here; the weirdest you really get is chatting with that bloke that directed a couple of Saw movies then decided to make a rock opera about the trade in illegal organs starring Giles from Buffy.  

Singularly failing to offer any answers to the questions it poses, The Horror Crowd prefers instead to rattle through a bunch of pleasant, if shallow and unforgivably aimless, interviews under a bunch of random titles like “Being the Weird Kid” with the likes of the chunky monkey from Heroes who’s had bit parts in JJ Abrams flicks, that fella that did Paranormal Activity and Highlander director Russell Mulcahy, looking increasingly like a hipster Les Patterson these days and obviously befuddled as to why he’s being asked questions about Razorback and Resident Evil. 

More a bunch of DVD extras strung loosely together than an actual documentary, if you always wanted to watch Ernest Dickerson search his brain for some kind of, any kind of, anecdote about the Demon Knight shoot 25 years ago, you’ll probably enjoy The Horror Crowd.    

Arrow Video Frightfest Digital Review: The Horror Crowd
2.0Overall Score
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