Completely immersing themselves in the horror genre is a terrifying thought for many casual movie fans. But for dedicated horror enthusiasts, from filmmakers to actors and viewers, there are many diverse reasons why they’re attract to a genre that so continuously frightens them. The distinct motivations that inspire people to so thoroughly enjoy horror projects, from movies to television shows, books and video games, arise from their personal backgrounds and life experiences, which is explored in the new documentary, ‘The Horror Crowd.’
The film was directed, produced and edited by Ruben Pla. The movie is now playing on digital and VOD, courtesy of Buffalo 8 Productions.
‘The Horror Crowd’ features an all-star cast of actors and filmmakers who discuss the Hollywood horror community, including ‘Final Destination’ series creator-writer-executive producer, Jeffrey Reddick. The wide-ranging topics they focus on include women in horror, race relations, not fitting in as a child for liking the genre and the unique community and support that exist in the space.
Together, the filmmakers also share their connections with fellow horror creators, as well as fans. They also discuss why they chose, and still choose, to be involved with the horror genre and its tangential community. Despite the dark and scary implications of the genre, the community behind it is supportive of each other. The chosen family is bonded by living their lives as outliers.
Reddick generously took the time recently to talk about appearing in ‘The Horror Crowd,’ as well as his overall career in the horror genre, during an exclusive interview over Zoom. Among other things, the filmmaker discussed that he was in part inspired to appear in the documentary because he’s a part of Los Angeles’ titular horror crowd, so he was interested in sharing his experiences of being a part of the group with genre fans. The ‘Final Destination’ franchise creator also shared that he was happy to collaborate on the new movie with Pla, in part because of his open and honest nature and their longtime friendship.
The conversation began with Reddick explaining why he decided to appear in the documentary, and discussing his experiences creating, penning and executive producing the ‘Final Destination’ franchise. “There is a horror crowd here in Los Angeles, basically made of filmmakers, including directors, writers, producers, actors and actresses and fans. We hang out all of the time and watch movies, and go see each other’s work. It’s a fun, supportive community,” he shared.
“Ruben’s also been a really good friend of mine for a long time, and we were talking about the horror community. The people who are involved in horror are very nice, genuine people. There’s always this assumption when we go to horror conventions that we’re really weird and scary,” the scribe divulged with a laugh. “We’re like, ‘No, we’re just nerds like a lot of the horror fans.’”
“So Ruben had the idea to speak to the community that we formed in a documentary, which also folds into the fact that there’s a horror fan community out there that’s so dedicated and passionate,” Reddick continued. “So making the documentary was a great way to talk about how horror helps form communities amongst the creators and fans, and how those communities help support each other.
“So when Ruben asked me to do it, I couldn’t say no, since we’ve been friends for so long. I thought he came up with a really fun and interesting way to get into the minds of the horror community…and dig deeper into some of our personal stories, and show why we relate to the genre so much and why we love it,” the filmmaker also mentioned.
“I also like how the film also shows our connections, as filmmakers, to the fans. Those connections get us through the hard times because it’s a rocky business to work in. But going to conventions and meeting fans is a great soul boost, so Ruben wanted to get that story out there,” Reddick added.
Further speaking of Pla, Reddick then delved into what his experience was like of collaborating with the director on the documentary. “Throughout the years, I’ve always found that the horror community is one of the nicest and most welcoming communities I’ve ever been involved with. So when I met Ruben, I found him to be such a genuine, good guy. I found that a lot in the horror community, but you don’t find that a lot in Hollywood as a whole,” the writer admitted with a laugh.
“It’s not that Hollywood is filled with bad people, but a lo of people out here are here with a specific goal of staring and developing a career. That’s where their focus is, as opposed to building genuine connections with people,” Reddick explained.
“Ruben is someone I connected with immediately because he was very open and honest. We really hit it off and stayed in touch, and we really support each other’s work when we can. It’s been a nice, organic friendship that’s evolved over the years,” the scribe added.
Reddick then shared what inspired him to pursue a career in writing horror genre scripts. “I grew up as a horror fan. When you get older, you then start to psychoanalyze everything. So as an adult, I started to think the reasons why people are drawn to watching horror films, especially in the theater, is that it offers a safe way to scream out some of those fears that you have,” he shared.
“That’s why I think horror writers are so nice; they’ve worked through their traumas from childhood by creating their projects,” the filmmaker divulged. “As a horror writer, you love going to a theater and hearing the audience’s reactions to those fears. Also, if people see something on streaming nowadays, they can reach out on social media and say, ‘This scared me.’ That puts a smile on your face because then you feel as though you’ve done your job.
“To me, horror is about entertaining people and getting them to think a little bit. Like with ‘Final Destination,’ it’s not a preachy movie at all. But it definitely taps into that fear of death, and the idea that we only have a limited time on this planet, so we should live it to the fullest,” Reddick explained.
“I think horror lets me exorcise some of my demons and shine a light on some stuff that I think is important, without ever being preachy about it. It also lets you have fun,” the writer added.
Reddick then further delved into what inspired him to create, and write the script for the first film in, the ‘Final Destination’ franchise. “The filmmaker who’s inspired me the most throughout my career is Wes Craven. The original ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ is still my favorite movie of all time. It showed me that you could do more with horror,” he revealed.
“Up until that time, my friends and I, as teenagers, wanted to see blood, but we were very fascinated with the overall genre. But in ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street,’ as well as in all of Wes Craven’s early works, he was always saying something underneath the obvious theme,” the filmmaker noted.
“‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ showed me that you could have a movie that had layers to it. Nancy Thompson, as played by the amazing Heather Langenkamp, is still my favorite final girl to this day,” Reddick shared.
“If you look back, she was one of the first ones who didn’t just run from the killer, fall a couple of times and then stab the killer; in the end, she knew something was going on and started researching. She booby-trapped her house, went after Freddy and pulled him out,” the scribe pointed out. “So she as one of the first truly active final girls that I had seen in the genre.
“That movie cemented my love of the genre, and it also led me to working at New Line Cinema. They produced ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street,’ and they ended up also producing ‘Final Destination.’ I love working with that studio,” Reddick divulged.
“The idea for ‘Final Destination’ stared while I was reading an article about a woman who was on vacation, and her mother told her not to take the flight she was scheduled to be on the next day because she had a bad feeling about it. So the woman changed her flight, and the flight she was originally supposed to be on crashed,” the scribe revealed.
“So that put the original idea for the story in my head. But a lot of times you have a cool idea but don’t know how you’re going to turn it into a story,” Reddick admitted. “So my first attempt at creating the story was to create a spec script for ‘The X Files.’ I sent it to my agent, and used it as a set-up for an ‘X-Files’ episode, but it never actually went to ‘The X Files.’
“Then my friends at New Line Cinema said, ‘This is a great idea for a feature.’ So I ended up developing it with some producers who had a deal at New Line. It went through many iterations,” the filmmaker shared. “The ironic thing is that it ended up being directed by James Wong, who also did some rewrites on it with Glen Morgan, who directed some of my favorite episodes of ‘The X Files.’ So having them involved on ‘Final Destination’ made things come full-circle.
“Developing ‘Final Destination’ was interesting because I was working at the studio and was behind the scenes the whole time. But New Line was unsure on how the movie would be received because we didn’t have a physical killer in the film. That was kind of our only butting heads issue during the whole process,” Reddick revealed.
“They said, ‘We don’t get it. How do you fight a killer when it’s death?’ I said, ‘That’s the whole point,’” the writer pointed out. “Luckily, when James and Glen came on board, they fought that same fight, to make sure that we never showed a physical form for death.
“I think that allowed the movie to appeal to people who don’t have any specific religious backgrounds. Since we didn’t show a specific physical manifestation of death, the movie can appeal to anybody, no matter what faith you have, or if you don’t have any religious faith, or whatever country you’re from,” Reddick further noted.
“It then became a word-of-mouth hit, and that’s why I’m always eternally grateful for fans,” the filmmaker then gratefully said. “New Line Cinema put some marketing money behind it, but they were still unsure about it. So it opened at number three at the box office, while most horror movies open big and then drop 50 percent during the week.
“But when we started getting the box office returns during the opening week, we saw that it was staying steady. But the end of the week, it actually went up, so it became a word-of-mouth hit,” Reddick recalled. “So people were talking about it, and then their friends were going to see it.
“It was a great experience to have had. Every day we’d get the box office returns and I’d say, ‘I hope it’s doing good,’ and it was actually doing better. Everyone at New Line was like, ‘We’ve got something special here,’” the scribe shared.
“I think that’s really thanks to the fans and the filmmakers, as well. I think not showing death was crucial. I think if we showed a monster or Grim Reaper figure, the movie would have still appealed to the hardcore horror audience, but I don’t think it would have had the crossover that this film had,” Reddick admitted.
One aspect of the horror genre that ‘The Horror Crowd’ focuses on is the fact that genre fans embrace the fact that successful movies turn into long-lasting franchises, like the ‘Final Destination’ series. “With horror films, you always know that they’re going to make a sequel if the first one does well. So I hoped that ‘Final Destination’ would do well enough to warrant a sequel, and plotted out a story for a sequel, vaguely at first,” the filmmaker shared. “Once we saw how good it was doing, I put more detail into it.
“I’m very humbled that it turned into the franchise and it’s become part of the zeitgeist. That’s something I never could have expected. I still get memes almost every day from someone behind a log truck,” Reddick divulged with a smile. “To think that people would talk about having ‘Final Destination’ moments is something that you can’t ever expect, but it’s such a cool blessing.
“That’s a cool part of being part of the genre; being surrounded by the horror crowd, and having the support of fans and other filmmakers you get to meet is amazing. I think Ruben taps into that really well in the documentary,” the writer noted.
“Support is so important. Having a creative community that isn’t undermining each other or seeing each other as threats is also very important,” Reddick continued.
“But again, you can’t speak highly enough of the fanbase. Sometimes I go to really small conventions and people ask why I attend them. I’m like, “I want to meet and talk to the fans.’ That reminds you that your work has impacted people, and that’s all you can really hope for as a creator,” the filmmaker added.
‘The Horror Crowd’ also emphasizes the importance of featuring diverse people in the genre, both in front of, and behind, the camera. Reddick agrees that hiring diverse actors and crew members helps make the genre so beloved by fans.
“I think having diversity is very important…I come from a place where I got to work at a studio, and I know what the business was like when I started out there. There were so many talented female filmmakers and actresses, so many talented people of color filmmakers and so many talented LGBTQ filmmakers, but we did not have a seat at the table,” the scribe pointed out.
“When I wrote ‘Final Destination,’ I said, ‘It’s set in New York. I don’t need to cram anything in there, but New York is probably the most diverse city in the world, so we should have a class that reflects the reality of New York,” Reddick revealed. “So I was pushing for that, but we still ended up with a class of all-white kids, and that’s just not reality.
“So with this new push for diversity, we’re shining a light on the pool of the talent that’s always been there, but has often been overlooked,” the filmmaker noted.
“I’ve been in so many casting sessions where the best actor or actress was a person of color or a different ethnicity than white. The (casting departments) would say, ‘This person is the best person who’s come in to audition, but it’s going to be hard to sell a movie with this person in the lead, because people are going to think it’s an urban movie,” Reddick divulged.
“That was the mindset for so long in Hollywood, especially for lead characters, and it still is. When you still talk to investors, who get their financing internationally, unless it’s Denzel Washington or Zendaya, you’re still going to hear, ‘We’re going to have trouble selling this internationally because people are going to think it’s a Black movie, or an Indian or Middle Eastern movie,’ if you have some diversity in your lead character,” the writer revealed.
“People who don’t work in the business don’t see that side of it. So now all of a sudden, it’s culture shock to see people playing roles that they were never allowed to play in the past,” Reddick shared.
“So now there’s a push back now where people are like, ‘Oh, they’re just being woke.’ There’s also this idea that people who aren’t as talented are being hired over more talented people just because they’re a woman or they’re diverse,” the filmmaker pointed out.
“That’s just not the case. Again, there was a whole pool of talent that is just as good, or better, than other people. But because they came from a certain pond, that pond was never looked at. So the business is now shining a light on that pond, and bringing some new talent to the forefront, like Jordan Peele,” Reddick added.
Now that ‘The Horror Crowd’ is playing on digital and VOD, the scribe hopes that the audience takes away important messages about horror filmmakers. “I don’t want to speak for Ruben, but I definitely know what his intention was for this film. Hopefully, this documentary will deepen the connection between the fans and the people who are in it. We do open up a lot about our personal stories and tragedies that we’ve had in the past. My mom was hugely important to me, and I talk about her and her influence on me a lot in the documentary,” he said.
“So I think this documentary will give people insight into not just the typical stuff that you would normally see in this type of film, like, what was it like to be on set when they did this murder or bloody thing? This documentary is focused more on getting personal with the people in this community,” Reddick noted.
“Ruben’s such a good guy that you feel comfortable talking to him. So your conversations with him are deeper and more personal than what they would be if I was talking to someone I didn’t know who was making a documentary about ‘Final Destination,’” the filmmaker gushed about Pla.
“So I hope the audience come away with a deeper understanding of who we are as people. We have a very symbiotic relationship with not only each other as creators, but also with our fans. They’ll see themselves reflected in our stories, because we’re all humans at the end of the day,” Reddick continued.
“Creators are put on a pedestal sometimes, but we’re just regular people who are working at a job that we love. We’re very grateful to not only have that professional support, and we’re hugely grateful to have that fanbase to support us, as well,” the writer concluded.
Horror writer-director-producer and subject in the documentary, ‘The Horror Crowd’