Of course, I can only talk about horror films as a consumer, not a creator. I have no idea about the practical difficulties of producing a script, finding the right location, hiring actors, where to park the catering wagon and so on. I’ve no idea about the business side of it, the financing, distribution, marketing, the handshakes in boardrooms and backrooms.
And if I didn’t know that making a film was complicated, I could guess by the matryoshka of logos at the beginning. At least it gives you time to bet what the opening shot’s going to be, though. Aerial shot of a city? Children in a playground? Or (worst case scenario), a car pulling up at night and the headlights going off?
Not that I particularly watch horror films. I’m not a genrist (if that’s even a word, and if it is, it shouldn’t be). I mean, if you were invited back to someone’s house, and they said make yourself at home, and went off into the kitchen to fix some drinks, and you glanced around the shelves, and noticed box sets of Saw and Human Centipede and the like, you’d really start to wonder why he was taking so long in the kitchen.
Anyway, I’ve always thought the idea of genres was odd. For example, I recommended Annihilation to someone at work, and they said they wouldn’t watch it because they didn’t like Sci-Fi. They might just as well say they wouldn’t watch The Witch because it was shot in Pennsylvania (which might be justified, I don’t know). The thing is, Jaws and Babe are both good films in the same way (animal husbandry aside). They both have characters you care about, solid, dramatic scenarios, and a through-line that draws you from the beginning to the end in a satisfying way. I’ll get as much of a kick watching Oslo, August 31st as I will High School Musical, although I’ll feel less like singing after Oslo.
By the way, I can’t help blushing at the mention of High School Musical, because of something that happened to me in New York.
As a family we’d won some flights there (which was embarrassing in itself, as Kath helped organise the raffle). One of the things we did was visit Times Square, to see if we could get tickets for a show. Whilst we were standing in the middle of it all, looking round, a guy came over.
‘Hey!’ he said. ‘Have you seen High School Musical?’
‘Yeah! We love that show!’
He knelt down and pointed across the square.
‘You see that guy over there’, he said, lowering his voice in a stagey, confidential way. ‘D’you know who that is?’
The guy he was pointing to nodded and waved back.
‘That’s Corbin Bleu! Wanna go meet him?’
We said sure. He led us over.
Corbin was in a khaki combat jacket and jeans, his hair cropped short, looking uncomfortable, like someone whose cover had been blown.
‘Hi!’ he said. ‘Great to meet you.’
‘I thought you were great in High School Musical’ I said.
‘Wow! Thank you so much!’
‘Yeah. Really good.’
‘Do you like musicals?’
‘I do. I’ve seen a lot.’
‘Well I’m in one now. It’s called Godspell. D’you know it?’
There are moments in these interactions – markers, if you will – bobbing up and down in the choppy conversational waters, red and white stripes, flashing lights on top. Maybe a bell. The point is, you can’t miss them. And you really don’t need to be a maritime expert to know they mean danger. Pass by here and get wrecked. Something like that.
I mean – I’d heard of Godspell. It made me think of David Essex, for some reason, although maybe that was Evita. Time was passing and the bell was clanging. All I had to do was say I’d heard of it, for Godspell’s sake! But I hesitated. You see – in my defence – I didn’t think Corbin was having such a great time. I couldn’t bring myself to make it all worse by saying that I didn’t know Godspell – although, in retrospect, it would’ve given him the opportunity to say that I’d probably like it because of this or that. Whatever the reason, in the heat of the moment, instead of coming clean, I lied.
‘Yeah, I know Godspell.’
‘Have you seen a production?’
‘Yeah! It was great.’
‘When was that?’
‘Oh – a while ago now. In London.’
‘Wow! That’s fantastic! Who played Jesus?’
‘It was a long time ago now. I can’t – really – remember.’
Corbin’s minder was moving in again, no doubt already having pegged us as no-buy schmucks, and ready with the next couple of punters. We shook hands. Corbin posed for a selfie with the girls. And that was that.
A digression from the opening topic of horror films – but is it?
I mean – The Witch was pretty unsettling, I’ll admit. Particularly when the spooky rabbit stops chewing and stares directly at the lens.
If you ever see the film, take a good look at that rabbit. Because THAT was my expression when Corbin Bleu asked me about Godspell.