-Andrew van den Houten
You know what we need? We need a horror film that is going to rip our collective face off. We don't need more of the numbing torture-porn or completely gratuitous boob-fest films that have been so prevalent in the last five years or so. What we need is a return to the classic horror films that provide a solid plot, just enough splatter, just enough gore, and just enough of the unnatural to jangle our sensibilities.
The list is short, but there are a few films of late that have hit or come close to hitting that mark. HATCHET scratched the surface of that elusive old-school chill. DRAG ME TO HELL definitely brought back the kind of splattercamp horror that wrecked us when we were kids. JACK BROOKS MONSTER SLAYER is another example of that 80s-vintage flavor of pre-CGI, but well-written horror film.
According to the above criteria, it looks like the next potentially "respectable" horror film to drop will be a little cannibalistic ditty called OFFSPRING.
When I finished interviewing Andrew van den Houten, the director of OFFSPRING, I hopped on my Twitter account and announced it to the Mediasaurs followers, embedding a link to his site. In one of the responses I got, an old high school friend tweeted, "Awesome! Glad you didn't get eaten!" Andrew has created a film that generates the giddy quality of wary anticipation you get when you expect a film to hit those proper horror notes.
OFFSPRING is written by Jack Ketchum who has been famously referred to by Stephen King as "probably the scariest guy in America." With a story by a man of such a reputation, the tale of "survivors of a feral, flesh-eating clan...chowing their way through the locals" is surely going to deliver the gore that ensures this film a hard R. It is not for kids.
Andrew van den Houten says that OFFSPRING is for, "anyone who appreciates classic horror, a juicy storyline and blood, guts, and gore." This is what a genre besieged with horrible PG-13 Japanese remakes and sadistic straight-to-DVD, back-alley, torture-rack fests needs. OFFSPRING is a film from a guy who cites as his favorite directors Cronenberg, Lynch, Hitchcock, Lumet and Spielberg in one sentence. He also cites the original HALLOWEEN as his all-time favorite horror film.
Assuming that like me, audiences are growing tired of torture-porn and it will soon lose prominence, I asked Andrew what he thinks audiences will be looking for from the horror genre. "[P]eople are more into thrillers, psychological horror and slashers," Andrew says. He recognizes Hollywood's obsession with remakes noting, "remakes are good, but if it is redundant or unneccessary, then it sucks" and citing AMITYVILLE HORROR as an example of one of those mistakes. He closed his opinion on Hollywood remakes with the interesting suggestion that someone should re-do THE LORD OF THE FLIES and do it straight from the book.
The press coverage for OFFSPRING has been fantastic for an independent horror film. A Google search for the film turns up Youtube clips, IMDB references and all of the horror website power-brokers from Bloody Disgusting to Fangoria.
Sure, there is superior marketing for this film afoot, but Andrew van den Houten has been working hard pumping out a horror movie a year and getting attention for some time. You can secure his films HEADSPACE, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (another Ketchum story) and HOME MOVIE through a mixture of Amazon.com, Best Buy, Blockbuster, and Hollywood Video. The marketing is a dizzying whirligig of companies that you have heard of and others that you have not. But the truth of the matter is that there is a ground-level buzz about Andrew's MODERNCINE and the films that they are bringing to the table.
Andrew van den Houten directed his first feature length film, HEADSPACE in 2006. He is a graduate of Emerson college and is only 29. In order to finance HEADSPACE he hit up 49 investors including friends and family. It was a rough road, and production was stopped three times as the money ran out. Then he would show what he had accomplished so far and get the money rolling again. It took five months to film a 42 day shoot. However, HEADSPACE went on to win best screenplay and best cinematography awards at the New York City Horror Festival.
My biggest question for Andrew was how did he secure Sean Young (BLADE RUNNER) or Mark Margolis (the "espacio" bomber from SCARFACE) for HEADSPACE? The truth of the matter is that van den Houten was still flying high on the critical success of a short film called SURVEILLANCES which he produced in 2003. "If you want to see our range," he says, "you should see our short films" of which he produced five and directed two. Through the notoriety he achieved for his work on short films, he was able to get the attention of people in the business and make connections that led to working with such actors as Young and Margolis.
But Andrew's filmwork is broader than horror. For instance he recently produced an R-Rated comedy called MADE FOR EACH OTHER. Furthermore, he informed me that his company is looking into producing another comedy.
In five years, he plans to be producing and/or directing two to three movies a year and possibly a TV show as well.
Based on Andrew's accomplishments in the horror genre so far, his commitment to the classic elements of horror, and what I have seen of it so far, I am betting all-in that OFFSPRING will deliver what I believe horror fans are hungry for: splatter, the unnatural, and a decent plot. OFFSPRING is currently showing at film festivals, and there is more information on screenings at its official site.