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Inside/Out - From the President

In case I wasn’t clear, I f***ing love horror

When someone asks me how long I’ve been writing, I use The Brothers Grunt, an animated series I worked on back in 1994, as my baseline. After all, this was the first writing job I ever had that resulted in an actual paycheque. I was also the producer on the series. Coincidence? Absolutely not. 

But if I really think about it, I’ve been writing since high school. First there was an aborted short film project for Grade 9 art class. Then there was the Grade 11 school play I co-wrote, a whole hour of British-style pantomime that my parents declared was “okay.” 

And all throughout, right up to that job in 1994 with that incredibly astute producer, were a myriad of grisly little short stories and scripts. I don’t say grisly because of the quality (even though that is accurate), I say “grisly” because they were all horror stories.

Why? Because I f***ing love horror. 

I also love fantasy. And science fiction. And every other sub-genre that branches out from these three umbrellas. But given my druthers (and someday, I hope someone gives me some druthers so I can finally see what the hell they actually are), I’ll always default to a horror film. Whether I’m watching it, or writing it. 

If you look at my CV, though, you’ll see that the majority of my work probably wouldn’t fall into the “genre” umbrella, let alone horror. Most of my work is fairly straightforward comedy and/or drama. Or is it? 

There’s the Being Ian script I wrote where Ian and his friends get trapped in their high school after a snowstorm and may have to resort to cannibalism to survive; there’s the Call Me Fitz episode where Fitz goes up against satanic cultists at the golf club; the Motive episode with a copycat serial killer reminiscent of a Dario Argento “giallo” film… 

Sure, these shows may be classified as comedies and dramas, but the inspiration for these stories (and many, many others) are straight out of horror movies.

Horror — and my love of it — is a vital ingredient in all of my writing. I would argue that horror is the “special sauce” I mix into my scripts. And when I actually get to write straight-up horror, that’s when I’m in my happy place. 

And yet, horror continues to be a genre that is still typically maligned by the entertainment industry. Science fiction and fantasy have taken a step forward, thanks in part to superheroes, Harry Potter, and any YA movie that puts teens into a post-apocalyptic thunderdome of some kind, but horror still gets treated like the heavy metal fan that showed up at an Enya concert, or your fart in the middle of a wedding. 

And I honestly don’t get it. Because if there was ever a “bullet-proof” or “evergreen” genre, it’s horror. 

You don’t need a big budget to make an effective horror movie. You don’t need name actors. You don’t need a lot of locations. You may not even need a big effects budget. 

The filmmakers that are making horror here are kicking ass. Karen Lam, the Soska Sisters, Doug Taylor, Astron-6 are the tip of the iceberg of the current crop of a feature film fraternity that dates back decades. Then there’s the horror on TV, including (but definitely not limited to) Emily Andras’s amazing Wynonna Earp

So many of the global entertainment industry’s top filmmakers cut their teeth in the trenches of low-budget horror. Hell, I still prefer some of those movies to their later efforts.

And it’s still a dream of mine to write and direct a grisly (hopefully not in script quality) horror film. So forget that old adage, write what you know. Write what you love. 

And in case I wasn’t clear, I f***ing love horror. 

— Dennis Heaton