Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Are Horror Fans Too Biased Towards Directors?

Last week I stumbled across an article on which posed an interesting question, Are Horror Fans Too Biased Toward Directors?

The article got me thinking and, for me, the answer is yes and no.

It is true that horror fans place a lot of emphasis on who is helming a project; I include myself in this statement. If you hear that a director whose previous body of work you have enjoyed is directing an up and coming film, then are you more likely to see it? Of course you are.

For example, my wife and I rented the film ‘Bug’ when it was first released on DVD. For anybody who isn’t familiar with ‘Bug’ it’s a paranoid, thriller about a war veteran who believes he is infested by bugs with the line between delusion and reality gets more distorted the closer you get to the end. It didn’t sound like mine, nor my wife’s idea of a great film but, we were swayed by the director…William Friedkin. 

Friedkin also directed The Exorcist, one of my wife’s favourite films. Truth be told I probably would still not have seen this film had it not been for him and that would be a shame because the film is actually pretty good. It starts slowly and draws you in. The performances are great and with a budget that stretches to one room and a shed load of aluminium foil.

Similarly, the name Uwe Boll sends shivers down my spin and I tend to avoid his films, subconsciously or otherwise. I know for a fact I’m not the only one that feels this.

In a perfect world we would all allow a director to “start with a blank slate” but, there comes a point when it’s like giving your girlfriend another chance after she sleeps with your best friend every time she’s drunk. There has to be a line drawn for when enough is enough before you both end up on Jerry Springer.

After one film I let it pass, after two films I forgave Boll. But after repeated offences I kicked him out and promised never to go back to him again.

One or two ‘offences’ I can overlook (Tarantino’s ‘Death Proof’ being an excellent case in point) but repeat offences breaks the bond of trust between the film maker and the viewer, sometimes beyond repair. By the same token a director with a history of rubbish films may create a stand out film that’s a must see. Boll’s next film may be a fantastical epic horror, the kind of film that comes around once in a generation and changes the genre forever, like a horror version of Citizen Kane. However, it will most likely be dross.

A question to think about on this front is; is M. Night Shyamalan a great director with one or two blips, or a rubbish director with a few lucky, shining stars?

So, certainly, the director of a film can be a massive influence on the way we view a film. However, it isn’t only horror fans who feel this way.

Quentin Tarantino is shown massive bias by the cinema going public (again, myself included). A ‘QT’ film is always eagerly anticipated but rarely does he venture into the horror genre. The same can be said of Spielberg, Scorsese, Nolan, JJ Abrahams, Rodriguez, and others.

Such is the draw of these directors, whom work mostly outside of the horror genre, that they can make or break a film before they have even shouted action.

Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s totally your own free will which makes you think like this though. Film makers and advertisers know this. How many times have you heard “From the director of…”? Or “From the man that brought you…”? Producers, those in Hollywood especially, know that a director can influence you decision making and use it as bait to lure you to the cinema. “Hey, remember you liked this guy’s last film? Well, this one must be good too right?”

So, the question is did we decide we liked certain directors and it got used against us or did we get told we liked them and went along for the ride?

I personally think the reason horror fans appear more bias toward some directors is merely because we know who the directors are. The mainstream public don’t know who directs a lot of films, mostly because they don’t care. If you just want to watch things blow up then it doesn’t matter who’s blowing them up but, with horror the suspense is everything and some directors get it right, some don’t. It’s like a comedian with timing, two people can tell the same joke and one can make it the funniest thing you have ever heard but, the other may make it as funny as genital warts. With horror if one scene loses its tension and looks a bit silly, the whole film can fall apart and look little more than a farce.

Maybe the problem is we are looking at a niche group of people and comparing them to the mainstream when we should be looking at another niche. Maybe it’s just that we horror fans are more affected by who the director of the film is than the mainstream cinema goer because we know who the director is more often. What about film fanatics in other genres, who know and care who the directors are, are they just as influenced?

Also, are we just as influenced by actors? I have watched films just because of one of the stars. If Robert Englund’s name is attached more I am are likely to watch than if Zak Effron is the star. Fright fans would surely rather watch a film with Emily Booth in than the same film starring Miley Cyrus. Yet, horror fans are willing to accept bad acting in lieu of a good story or fun time?

So, are horror fans too biased towards directors? Probably, yes. But, is it more than other knowledgeable film fans outside of mainstream cinema goers? I don’t think so.

Let me know what you think.

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