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article imageReview: ‘Why Horror?’ retorts “why not?” Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 23, 2014 in Entertainment
‘Why Horror’ collects a broad range of answers to a question that has been asked of fans countless times, but perhaps with different intentions.
When you’re a film fan, someone will undoubtedly ask, “What kind of films do you like?” If you respond by saying horror, unless the requester is a fan themselves, you’ll undoubtedly receive a puzzled look followed by an almost repulsed, “Why?” This reaction is acuter if you happen to be a female horror enthusiast. In Why Horror?, a fan sets out to answer this specific question.
Tal Zimmerman writes about the genre and traces his admiration for the film category back to childhood. His mother attests to his early love of all things dark and disgusting, though she lost her appetite for scary movies in her own youth. Now a father himself, Zimmerman wonders what it is about horror films that he and those that share his fondness are so attracted to. The film crew chronicles his journey as he discusses the possibilities with filmmakers, academics from the arts and sciences, and other fans.
The opening minutes of the documentary may appear familiar because this topic has been tackled numerous times from a variety of angles. Some focus on specific subgenres or periods of horror, while others attempt to cover the gamut. This film falls into the latter grouping. Therefore one has to wonder what this movie can say that hasn’t already been said before.
The subjects are very Toronto-centric. Those involved in the scene will recognize many faces. In an attempt to even out perspectives, Zimmerman travels to Japan to speak to resident filmmakers and fans. While exploring the prevalence of vengeful female spirits in the country’s genre pictures, Zimmerman discovers that local experiences are very similar to those of North American fans.
The film interviews the usual suspects, such as film horror icons George A. Romero, John Carpenter, Eli Roth, and the proprietors of popular horror magzines, Rue Morgue and Fangoria. But they also speak to some of the new emerging voices in the genre, including J.T. Petty, Alexandre Aja and the Soska Twins. The latter crowd’s insights into the genre are a bit fresher than some of the others’ who have been tapped for these discussions countless times.
For one segment of the film, Zimmerman’s brainwaves are monitored as he views movies within and outside of the genre to observe the internal responses created by these experiences. The experiment is then repeated with his mother, who has voiced her distaste for the genre, and the results are not what one would expect. The sentiment that humans are hardwired for violence is recurrent as is the comparison to the terrible events depicted on the nightly news. As one interviewee points out, we no longer kill other people in the arena for entertainment — now we do it in movies.
With the prevalence of horror stories in popular culture —just look at the primetime cable listings — this question is becoming slightly less standard. Rather than find one definitive response, the answer to the title’s inquiry appears to be subjective and broad. As a result this is a vastly personal journey in reply to that question, concluding with an especially personal statement. There are no ground-breakImmerveries or on-camera revelations. Instead the film appears to have a different objective: to show dedicated horror fans they’re not alone (and there’s nothing wrong with them).
Why Horror? is screening at the 2014 Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
Directors: Nicolas Kleiman and Rob Lindsay
Starring: Tal Zimmerman, John Carpenter and Eli Roth
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