SXSW Panel Recap: The Bleeding Edge: A New Generation of Horror
Is horror more diverse than the rest of cinema? Maybe.
By Richard Whittaker,
4:46PM, Wed. Mar. 14, 2018
"This is a racist question," said Jason Blum. No, wait, he had good reason to say that.
The man behind horror heavy hitters Blumhouse is producing some of the most nakedly political movies in modern cinema, like Get Out and The Purge franchise. "My sensibility as someone who hates Donald Trump is in a lot of the work that I do," adding that he was unabashed about the work of his company reflecting his stances on politics, race, sex.
So his initial comment was in response to the first question he was asked at "The Bleeding Edge: A New Generation of Horror" by Two Sentence Horror Stories creator Vera Miao: "How does your identity as a fill-in-the-black shape your identity as a filmmaker?" As a female Asian-American filmmaker, that's a question she gets asked all the time, and so she turned it back around on the rest of the panel – all white, all male.
For Blum, that white and male is seen as the default for filmmakers, and that somehow all others are forced to explain how some aspect of their identity frames all their work. So rather than answer directly, he told a quick story. "My mother said to me, did you ask Jordan [Peele] what he thought of Black Panther, and I said mom, did you not see Get Out? That's exactly what that film is about."
Leigh Whannell, who is in Austin with darkly comedic cyber-thriller Upgrade concurred. "I just never have been asked, how does being an Australian shape your view?"
That all said, Whannell added, "Horror's pretty good with dversity," at least in comparison to the rest of the industry. Take his Insidious franchise: Outside of horror, he said, "You just don't see a woman of Lin Shaye's age as the lead in a wide-release movie."
Miao backed the idea of taking race or gender out of the equation for once (she said, "I would like to have a panel about process"), but noted there's a balance between trying to just be a horror filmmaker, and being a creative whose work is shaped by their own personal experience. After all, she said, she was drawn to watching forest-set slashers as a way of processing the fears of her parents as Asian immigrants in a foreign nation. "The fundamental fear of being in the woods with a bunch of white people is that you're going to die."
Whannell agreed whole-heartedly that "who you are as a person ends up in the work." In his case, he said, "I've noticed a trend with me that every film I've made is about someone who's sick or dying."
Steven Susco, whose Unfriended: Dark Web got its world premiere in Friday night, added that "we have very primal fears." However, his latest film is based on that most contemporary of terrors, the techno-horror. He explained that it came from an earlier project, in which for research he talked to members of the intelligence community about state-level hacking "and found out some really alarming things about how they can access phones."
However, what the government is up to was not what scared him or them the most. He recalled that the spooks told him, "The person who you need to be really alarmed about is the 20-year-old in the basement who can do it better than we can, and is just bored."