Over the decades, I have written several scripts of varying lengths. This will be the first feature-length venture. Oh boy! It's a challenge for someone more used to improvisation and short films that are elliptical compressions of documentary and poetry with a West London genetic time code.
As I look forward to a new challenge of constructing a cinematic story (we are only at first draft stage), I can see a lineage. The portrait of the artist as a young boy. I could harken back to 1970s and an early love of all things Gothic and Hammer. Here are the opening and closing lines from Tales From the Crypt. I wrote it as a 13 year old student in 1979.
"This tale begins when a group of people find themselves trapped in an underground passage, after being separated from a party that was being shown round an exhibition." One thousand nine hundred and fifty words later. "Silence falls on all the people, then they turn around and walk away. They walk up to a pit, fall into it. The pit is alight with fire."
I'm not sure how much is original here. But I can still feel the young author's hyperventilating ink: the excitement, the desire to frighten, defy elders. In another story, my teacher would write jokingly in the margins: Edgar Allen Gras or Bram Gras?
A massive influence was BBC2 horror double bills. These ran from 1975-83 and were a great introduction to classic fangs and Awhooooooooooooooooo! (a poor rendition of a Werewolf cry). They also juxtaposed old school with more contemporary horror. The films of George Romero really made an impact and sign posted more graphic developments in the genre. But there is still a charm to the suggestive qualities of films like Cat People (1942) and the sublime Brides of Frankenstein.
There was also my first cinema going in the late 70s and early 80s as I took in the silly craze for slasher movies. Well it started off promising but descended into copy-cat killings at the box office. However these poor offerings were being stored up while I navigated film theory at the University of Warwick and feasted on world cinema. Appreciating how horror and art have always been interlinked, invariably from a patriarchal perspective.
Only in the last few years, when researching the Elephant and Castle theatre and links between melodrama and horror, have I discovered the joys of Italian horror from the 60s and 70s. One case in point is Mario Bava, cinematographer turned film maker, able to conjure hypnotic and transgressive themes in the shake of a technicolour cocktail.
It's prudent for the artist slash author to reflect critically on what they are doing. So what can one possibly like in the horror genre? For me there is the common currency of its bloody tropes and how these get reinterpreted. Exquisite moments when you see the form transcended; for example, any number of scenes in Vampyr and the long tracking shot in Death Line. When a film ends with a bad taste in the mouth, but leaves all manner of subversive thoughts ricocheting around the the mind. For many viewers, experiencing horror becomes a test of endurance, the willingness to be outraged or shocked. I draw the line at recent torture porn movies. I have no heart for that. The gore or effects should always remain just the icing on the cake.
Note to self about taking risks - I will complete this horror screenplay, if it proves the death of me.
Critical reputation or not!