‘the original horror works’ – Boston 25 News

LOS ANGELES – (AP) – With the box office success of “Smile”, “The Black Phone” and its “Barbarian” this year, writer-director Zach Cregger says it’s clear “the original horror is working right now.”

Although the genre has long been based on franchises like “Halloween,” “Saw” and “The Conjuring,” Cregger says young filmmakers are finding spooky features “creatively fertile territory” to explore surprisingly complex themes.

Cregger’s solo directorial debut has been hailed like a late summer hitearning over $42 million worldwide on a modest production budget of $4.5 million.

Now available for streaming, it tells the story of a young woman (Georgina Campbell) who finds her Airbnb-rented home in a half-ruined Detroit neighborhood strangely occupied by a stranger (Bill Skarsgård). It continues to subvert a number of horror conventions and has found an audience outside of mainstream genre fans.

“Adults who crave new and groundbreaking things, there’s not a lot of places to go,” Cregger said. “Studios just put money into big IP superhero stuff, which for me as a 40-year-old man, I’m not really into that.”

He struggled to find a studio to support his film. Cregger said he researched the production companies associated with every horror movie made in the past 15 years, then sent them his script. None agreed to fund the project.

As he considered selling his house and going into debt to pay for the film himself, Cregger founded BoulderLight Pictures, a small production company based in Los Angeles. “It was the first people who read it who were undeterred by the change in tone,” he said.

Another horror debut, “Smile,” topped the box office for two weeks after its release in September and grossed over $169 million worldwide. It examines the ripple effects of trauma.

Cregger is optimistic about the growing public appetite for horror movies that yearn to deliver more than scary, gory jump-starts, a trend he says is indebted to films like Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and “Hereditary” by Ari Aster.

“You feed someone Doritos, but then you slip broccoli in there,” Cregger said. “’Barbarian’ has no social agenda. This is really not the case. But there are things in there that I think can start conversations.

‘Barbarian’ star Justin Long has praised horror’s often surprising ability to probe deeper questions, citing “Saint Maud” and its exploration of mental illness. And even as an actor, he said the director’s themes fit right into the story.

“There were times when I was like, ‘Oh yeah, wait a minute, I think I just ate broccoli,'” Long said.

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