INTERVIEW WITH LESLIE RICE OF TERROR OBSCURA
Leslie Rice, aka the Fear Fan, is the writer/director and star of the web series Terror Obscura, a review show that tackles the horror genre. Mr. Rice takes a more analytical approach than most reviewers, and he opts to review entire franchises, giving each installment in a series its own episode. Also, he offers shorter, truncated reviews on a show called Fright Bites, to appease fans in between episodes of Terror Obscura. The following is an interview I conducted with Mr. Rice, wherein we discuss the philosophy of horror, what's up next for both shows, and which horror icon would survive in a fight to the death.
Thee Satanophile: What do you think makes horror unique? What separates it from genres that include similar themes of murder or crime (i.e. drama, sci-fi)?
Leslie Rice: Well, that's a very interesting question, and I think it can best be answered by defining the term 'Horror'. If you were to go through each of the other genres and evaluate them, you would eventually be able to boil them down to a single term or phrase that describes what feelings or thoughts they were meant to inspire. For example, you might get something along the lines of 'speculation' when you talk about Sci-fi, or 'excitement' when discussing Fantasy. When discussing Horror though, the primary goal is to inspire 'Fear'. Think about it - you can have any of those other genres, but whenever that element of Fear creeps in, they become a hyphenate. "Sci-fi horror." "Horror Comedy."
Thee Satanophile: Would you say, then, that other genres, like comedy for example, essentially contain elements of horror? Furthermore, if we can equate horror with conflict, then horror is the jumpoff for narrative storytelling in all genres. Hell, when Mr. Hooper died on Sesame Street, was that not a form of horror narrative?
Leslie Rice: Ha ha! While I admit that's an interesting idea, I think that saying all genres contain elements of horror is like saying that you and I contain elements of an elephant seal - we're made of the same stuff, but what really matters is how it's put together. All narrative storytelling requires conflict, but what makes horror... well... 'Horror'... is the consistency of that conflict - man vs. fear. When you look at every single horror movie, what you'll find lying under the surface is a particular fear, or combination thereof. What if my kid turns out to be a terrible person (The Good Son, The Bad Seed, Children of the Damned)? What if everyone really IS out to get me (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Faculty, Invaders from Mars)? What if the Boogeyman actually IS real (Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.)? While everything contains the POTENTIAL for horror, it's only when they begin to focus on one of those questions that you get a true horror story. Like you said though, most things do contain some trace elements of fear, and I think that's why so many other genres mesh so well with horror- because it's already got the seeds there. It's not really TOO surprising given that fear is one of the oldest human emotions.
Thee Satanophile: What was the first horror film you watched as a kid? Also, what's the last movie you saw that authentically scared you?
Leslie Rice: Looking back, it's difficult for me to say what the FIRST was, but I DO recall the ones that first managed to scare the crap out of me. While I always liked the classic Universal Monster movies as a kid, the first thing I remember actually scaring me is the Disney version of Sleepy Hollow. There was just something about that insane cackle and how damn RELENTLESS he was. No matter what poor Ichabod Crane did to get away, that sword was always just a few seconds away from taking a little too much off the top. If I had to give you a runner up, it was Forbidden Planet, although that's not technically a horror movie. There was something about the Id Monster that messed with me.There, it wasn't just the fact that it was invisible, or that it was invincible, it was that godawful ROARING sound it made. Awesome stuff. As for things that've scared me recently, I've got to admit that it's been slim pickings as far as stuff that's actually FRIGHTENED me to the point where I was legitimately scared. There have been plenty of films that startled me or made me a little uneasy, but I'd say the best bang for my buck in the last few years were the Insidious movies. THOSE are films that know how to use atmosphere, creative setups, and yes, the occasional jump scare to great effect. There have also been some pretty good smaller, independent films, but since I generally watch those on the small screen, I'm afraid their impact is lessened considerably...
Thee Satanophile: Let's play death match! Round one is The Tall Man vs. Pinhead.
Leslie Rice: That's an interesting one... Since Pinhead is primarily concerned with the souls and flesh of the living while the other is a collector of the bodies of the dead, it's kind of hard to think of a reason they would come into conflict, but if they did, I guess we'd have to look at what they have to work with.
All right - let's start with the Tall Man! He's an extra dimensional being who can be killed, but no matter how gruesome the death, he can simply send another one of his multiversal doubles through to take his place, provided there's a gate nearby. Then there's his arsenal- A finite number of 'turned' replicants and human collaborators as well as a theoretically unlimited supply of dwarf minions and HK spheres as well as the occasional master sphere. On top of that, there's his own prodigious size, strength and transformative abilities to consider.
Then, there's the cenobites! Acolytes of a dark god, shapers of flesh and bringers of both pleasure and pain. Capable of appearing at any point after being summoned and arguably invulnerable to anything other than losing the favor of Leviathan or having the Lament Configuration's alignment altered. They bring with the blades, stabbing weapons, and the hooks that their leader can summon from the shadows.
So, who would win? Well, the Tall Man has the advantage of numbers and not having a soul, as well as some experience with interdimensional travel. The Cenobites on the other hand... Well, I tend to disregard pretty much anything from the second movie on, so really the only way I can see them coming out on top is by recruiting and converting enough new cenobites to send them out and close all the gates at once. So yeah, I'm giving this one to good ol' Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man.
Thee Satanophile: Round two! Peter (Dawn of the Dead 1978) vs. Daryl Dixon.
Leslie Rice: Sweet picks! As for Peter vs. Daryl... Peter. Because Ken Foree, motherfuckers.
Thee Satanophile: Can't argue with that. Round three! Count Jackula vs the Horror Guru.
Leslie Rice: Shit... Another tough one, lol! Well, if they both do one another in, there'd have to be SOMEONE to step in and fill the gap... (Conspicuously adjusts collar with a wink.)
Thee Satanophile: Who are your favorite producers in the "reviewsphere"?
Leslie Rice: Well, I refuse to play favorites with my friends on the Booth, and I can honestly say that I love all their work equally. Of the larger, better known critics, I'd probably say my top 3 are Doug, Phelan, and Brad. I'm always looking at others who are just starting out, or who have managed to carve out their own fanbases, and I'm always amazed by the amount of effort and love people put out for their work.
Thee Satanophile: In your Friday the 13th Part 3 review, you tackle the Jason-as-a-rapist controversy, but I noticed you didn't mention Tracie Savage's character Debbie's alleged pregnancy.
Leslie Rice: Yeah... Video was already 35 min... Didn't want to push it too far and besides, I didn't have much to say on it since it didn't affect things too much.
Thee Satanophile: I had always taken that character's comments about being pregnant as sarcasm; her and her boyfriend were constantly ribbing each other. If her character was intended to be pregnant, though, I think that would make her death more savage.
Leslie Rice: Yeah, she says it a couple of times, but he doesn't ever ACT like she's pregnant, so who knows?
Thee Satanophile: If I'm not mistaken, A Nightmare on Elm Street is your favorite franchise, am I right?
Leslie Rice: Hmn... Let's just say favorite 'straight' horror franchise.
Thee Satanophile: OK... which do you prefer... Freddy as a child molester/killer, or Freddy as just a killer?
Leslie Rice: Well, while it was never explicitly stated in the original series, it WAS heavily implied that he was a kiddie fiddler. Also, that WAS Craven's original intention, so I don't think there's ever been much of a separation for me.
Thee Satanophile: In your opinion, what was the first slasher film? Some people say Halloween, but there was Black Christmas and Psycho before it. Before Psycho, there was Peeping Tom and going back even earlier, Fritz Lang's M and The Phantom of the Opera... whose canoe attack scenes were aped later (many times) by the Friday the 13th series.
Leslie Rice: Well, everything draws it's inspiration from everything else, so it IS really difficult to tell where things start or end. Hell, arguably Cain and Abel were the first slasher villains. Still, if you define the modern 'Slasher Movie' as a deranged killer stalking multiple victims and doing away with them in creative fashion on screen- I'd say Halloween is the first true modern slasher film in that it established so many conventions of the Genre. Still, honorable mention to all the others.
Thee Satanophile: Where can my readers can find your show?
Leslie Rice: Thanks again for the promotion, and I really appreciate your featuring me on your blog!
Thee Satanophile: No problem! I love the show, looking forward to more Friday the 13th reviews. What's next on your agenda?
Leslie Rice: Thanks! I'm doing an editorial on why Masks are so important in horror and a Fright Bites on Gremlins 2, then I'll be tackling (Friday the 13th) Part IV.