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World Builders and Myth Makers


I get a lot of email from young film makers and horror fans asking advice of all kinds. But recently I got one that rocked my world.

All it said was "What do you want to be when you grow up?" in the body of the letter. I saved it, printed it and I'll never forget it.  My first response, being the sort of a Peter Pan in an arrested state of development, that I am, was "I hope I never grow up."

But while it's a cute answer, it's really a bullshit answer. If you never grow up, you'll never fully be able to communicate accurately the feelings of magic and fantasy of childhood or your real CREATIVITY. Barry, Dahl, Baum, Sendak.... those guys were crazy fucking mature. It was their maturity and gift of communication that allowed them to express those fantastical visions.

So, back to the email.

What do I want to be when I grow up?

The context of the email was regarding film, screenwriting, and what kind of creator I hoped to be, or thought I was.

After a few minutes, I knew exactly what the answer was.

I want to be a world builder, and a creator of mythology. Sounds lofty, but what it really boils down to is, I like to create worlds where I can go escape to. Not that real life is that bad for me, but I just like to go away and play in these other worlds, and most likely, so do you if you're reading this.

It's one of the reasons I don't like or support the idea of remakes, redo's, re-imaginings or any of that other branded bullshit they're shoving in our face these days.  If you're a creator, create your OWN world, damn it.

I've been spending my whole adult life writing and directing professionally, and I've strived for a decade to create a world I could truly call my own. One that's been created from scratch, from the ground up, with its own rules, its own values, its own currency, its own vocabulary, its own gods and demons, its own kind of heroes with unique skills, weaknesses and abilities... And this year I think I finally did it. I finally created something that I can wholly call my own. It's the horror webseries Camera Obscura. We didn't have much money, so it's not Avatar or LoTR, but with a little imagination, and the best creative team I've ever worked with, we built a world.

The thing about world building is that step one is that it's not OUR world. This rules out a lot of horror films, because they're so rooted in the maniac with a knife/axe/scalpel. But a lot of horror falls smack dab into the realm of world building.

Who are the greatest world builders today in horror film? Well... I dunno about you, but I learn by watching films and reading fiction, so if you're like me, and you want to know what world building is, you watch and learn from the masters.... So here's my top 10 favorite horror worlds on film.

My criteria for these films was simply that they involved another horrific world, or they take our hero INTO a horrific new world. I have trouble picking favorites, so they'r in no particular order. But if any of the titles are new to you, I can safely say you are in for a treat...

  1. Hellraiser (1987 Clive Barker)
  2. Nightmare on Elm Street (1984 Wes Craven)
  3. Scanners (1981 David Cronenberg)
  4. Jacob's Ladder (1990 Adrian Lynn)
  5. Alien (1979 Ridley Scott)
  6. Dawn of the Dead (1978 George Romero)
  7. Ringu (1998 Hideo Nakata)
  8. The Howling (1981 Joe Dante)
  9. The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988 Wes Craven)
  10. The Mist (2007 Frank Darabont)
  11. Phantasm (1979 Don Coscarelli)
  12. SAW (2004 James Wan)
  13. Videodrome (1983 David Cronenberg)
  14. Vampire Hunter D (the 1985 AND the 2000 versions are great)
  15. Creepshow (1982 George Romero)
  16. Evil Dead Series (Sam Raimi)
  17. The Wickerman (1973 Robyn Hardy)
  18. Planet of the Vampires (1965 Mario Bava)
  19. Suspiria (1977 Dario Argento)
  20. 28 Days Later (2002 Danny Boyle)
  21. Hellsing (2001 Kohta Hirano)

John Carpenter gets a special mention for having created so many worlds (some horror, some not): They Live, Escape from New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Thing, Prince of Darkness and In the Mouth of Madness.

So next time someone asks you what you want to be when you grow up, remember it takes a grown up's abilities to capture a child's perspective.

Gaudium Per Atrox.