We Are 40 #interview
Filmmaker Christian Remde is my Kevin Bacon. If I hadn’t met him one way, I would’ve six others during our lifetime. He’s an award-winning director, editor and motion graphics artist and founder of Palate Films. To me, he will always be that cool guy who let me write what I thought I knew about 70s cinema for his horror zine when I was sixteen.
WA40: Splat! was the zine I knew before I knew there were zines. When did you publish?
CR: Matthew Luhrman and I came up with the idea in late 1988 and it was published in the spring of 1989. Matthew was working on the school newspaper at the time, so he had experience putting together a weekly publication and we were both super into horror movies at the time, so it just seemed like a cool way to get further into this thing that we loved so much.
WA40: Was there an editorial platform? Or was it like, let’s just do this. And then you did.
CR: Matthew and I sat down and figured out what we wanted to talk about and how we were going to do that. For example, we came up with this insanely complicated rating system for movies. Instead of just giving a film 1–5 stars, we had three ratings for each movie, one for the amount of gore, one for how scary it was and one for the overall quality of the movie which made it very complicated, but also shows how much we really loved the movies. We both wrote reviews, Matthew wrote some editorial stuff and we managed to get an interview with Peter Jackson when he was making his first film, Bad Taste.
WA40: What, exactly, are splatter films?
CR: Splatter films are really just horror movies that amp up the gore aspect. Amityville Horror is a great horror movie, but it’s not particularly gory, just super scary. John Carpenter’s The Thing is a great example of a perfect blend of scary and gory and it’s one of the best. On the other end of that spectrum, Peter Jackson’s first movie, Bad Taste, is so over the top gory it’s just hilarious, but it’s not scary at all. But I’d say, the majority of splatter films are really just known for the gore, because everything else (the acting, camera, editing, story, etc.) are pretty lousy, so the gore is all its got going for it.
WA40: Who was the audience of Splat? Were there advertisers? How did Splat get in the hands of fans?
CR: We were really writing for people like us, horror fans who loved the gore. Once we finished it, we took boxes of them to a horror convention in Los Angeles and sold copies which was an incredible trip. I still can’t believe our parents let us go to LA by ourselves for a weekend and hang out, we were like 16 or 17 years-old. Splat also gave us some weird legitimacy once we were down there, so we ended up getting to hang out with a lot of our heroes like Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell, Greg Nicotero and lots of horror special effects people. Back then, all horror was still considered b-movies (even the bigger budget studio horror films), so anyone who was reverent and interested and writing about it was really embraced by the community.
We also managed to get Splat into some local comic book stores around the Bay Area, but I don’t know if it really sold well. I don’t think we had any advertisers for the first issue, though if we had ever done a 2nd issue, there were people who wanted to advertise.
WA40: Thirty-odd years later you are a filmmaker. Looking back, what was your draw to the genre in your teens? Are you influenced at all in your work today by the genre conventions?
CR: I had a very privileged upbringing in the 80’s, and I think horror movies in general were a way for me (and a lot of my friends) to examine emotions like terror from the safety of a movie theatre seat or my living room couch. I grew out of horror movies in my late-20’s and early 30’s, I think because the quality really went downhill, and now it’s really hard for me to watch the new horror movies as most of them create scares based on the suffering of the characters (really the whole torture-porn types of movies) and they’re just not fun anymore. Movies like Evil Dead, Poltergeist, The Thing, etc, they all had a sense of humor to them, almost bordering on slapstick in some cases, but now it seems to be more about dread and nihilism which is probably more of a reflection of the current political/social climate. When I was a kid, horror movies were a fun, over-the-top escape, but now they seem to hit too close to home.
I primarily make documentary films now for the food and travel industry, so I’m about as far away from splatter as you can get.
WA40: Do you have a stash of splatter VHS tapes? A Top 10 List that you’d recommend to newbies?
CR: I don’t have any of my old tapes, but I would say Bad Taste, The Thing (from 1982, not the prequel they made a few years ago), Hellraiser, Evil Dead 1 & 2 and George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead represent the best that the late-70s and early to mid-80s had to offer.
WA40: Do splatter films still exist, in a classic sense? Filmmakers like Tarantino revived exploitation cinema. Is From Dusk Till Dawn an early example of splatter going mainstream?
CR: Tarantino never shies away from blood and guts, and his films are probably as close to the splatter films of the 80’s as we have right now, but the real splatter films are now being made by kids with DSLR cameras in the woods behind their house, which is how people like Sam Raimi and Wes Craven got their start.
WA40: The production of Splat was possible given the desktop publishing era. Is digital filmmaking analogous to how you launched your current business?
CR: Absolutely. The [high school] newspaper (where we did a lot of our layout) had just moved to desktop publishing and my father owned a software store that had a desktop publishing center where we worked on the magazine. Without that ease of use, we would have never been able to create Splat.
The same thing is happening today with filmmaking where people have access to inexpensive, but really high quality cameras, lenses, editing software and distribution platforms. Someone can write, shoot, edit and distribute a film without many of the huge costs that went into a production just 10 years ago. Same thing happened to us with Splat, without the computers and laser printers, we never would have been able to make it.
WA40: Splatter titles and posters were, frankly, amazing — beyond camp. If you made a splatter film today, what would be the title? Describe the poster.
CR: A while back, I wrote a redneck vampire horror/comedy called Moonshine that I always wished I had made. In movies, vampires are always these beautiful, elegant creatures who have centuries of wisdom and exquisite taste in food and clothes. I wanted to make the total opposite of that, just horrible, inbred shitkickers who terrorized a group of Catholic kids and their priest who were on a class trip. The poster would be one of those great 80’s pieces of art with lots of religious imagery, fangs and blood.
WA40: I would totally donate to Kickstarter for that flick.
Summer Lopez is a writer living in California. Politics, entertainment, and memoir are equal parts her subject matter. She also publishes We Are 40, a zine for Generation X, and Lost in a Book, a kid lit review.