Wednesday, 24 July 2013

An Interview With Dr Blood

Dr Blood has been haunting the internet for the best part of 16 years in some way or another, writing no nonsense horror reviews on his website Dr Blood's Video Vault. His method of writing and opinions have earned him as much hate as most people have had hot dinners. Does he care? Not really.

Though he does have many supporters, including myself. I find his honesty quite appealing, compared to a lot of sites I have read where I question the validity of their reviews (I won't point any fingers).

Currently living in America, but hailing from the UK, I find I have some things in common since we're from the same country. Most of the other horror pages I read are from the States, and I think I look at horror from a slightly different angle than most of my American friends.

Dr Blood has very generously allowed me to give him an interview. Here's his thoughts.....

Do you remember your first foray into horror? What turned you over to the dark side? 

It was the Mysterons from Gerry Anderson's "Captain Scarlet" TV series. I remember being absolutely terrified of the voiceover at the start of that programme when I was only 3 or 4 years old. I was always too scared to watch it when it was first shown, so I never even knew what it was about until the reruns in the early 2000's. If you think about it, it's a kids' show with creepy human puppets, which features a hero who dies in every episode and his nemesis who's a reanimated corpse! It's really quite horrific! Alternatively, the first horror movie I ever watched was "Satan's Triangle" (1975), and I pissed the bed afterwards.

What turned me to the dark side was just life in general. The more interactions I had with other people, the more misanthropic I became, but I suppose you really want to know what got me into horror movies?

The simple answer is storytelling, especially when it's a ghost story. I've always been interested in the supernatural, and I have absolutely no explanation for why that is other than how I was made. Maybe it's a product of natural human curiosity about life's mysteries. Maybe there's just something very wrong with me.

When did you decide you wanted to write about horror? Was it the first subject that made sense to write about or did you ever think about doing anything else?

In 1994, I was invited to write movie reviews for a semi-famous vampire fanzine which no longer exists. Even though I only wrote short capsule reviews of two or three sentences for each movie, I did a lot of them over three years. When the magazine ended and the internet came along, I started putting my reviews online as a hobby. My first website was launched in 1997, but technology was different back then, and there wasn't the bandwidth or webspace available to do much. The Microsoft Publisher versions of "Dr Blood's Video Vault" weren't very good, but my slide down the slippery slope had begun.

I always thought it would be cool to be a horror fiction writer like James Herbert, but I didn't have the imagination, talent, or patience for it. The trouble was that I was more of a reader/consumer than a writer/producer when I was younger, and I was lazy with it. The deciding factor was that there were only about half a dozen horror sites in 1997, and I thought I had something better to offer with the reviews I already had stored on my computer. I didn't have really, but like everything, it was a learning process. As I said, I was lazy, and websites were a lot more static than they are now. I don't think the IMDb or Amazon had even started, and there certainly wasn't a British horror site where you could look things up quickly and/or buy videos, and so, eventually, I got caught up in the "e-commerce" game. Through being a Blackstar affiliate, I started to make a small fortune every month from VHS sales, but that didn't last for long. I wasted that money on my own VHS collection, paying hosting fees for my website, and my enormous telephone bill, but I suppose I was a pioneer in a way.

The blog version of my site is a completely different ball game. I went offline completely between 2003 and 2006 for personal reasons (bereavement), and when I rejoined the net, there were all these slickly branded upstarts which I could never compete with. After a couple of years of frustration, I took my old site down and relaunched with Blogger. Now I just write about whatever I want, whenever I want, although it's usually horror of some kind.

Which style of horror film is your favourite, and which would you be glad to see the back of?

Anything supernatural does it for me. Whether it be ghosts, demons, witchcraft, werewolves or vampires, that's horror to me. If there's an all encompassing "style" of horror film then it's probably Hammer--I'm in my comfort zone with Hammer vampires--but as I've got older, I like a lot of Spanish movies now.

I'm not into slashers (or the giallo that preceded them), so I'd be glad to see the back of those. I pretty much hate all the zombies and faux found footage movies too. Oh, and aliens! I despise horror movies about aliens!

You occasionally do a podcast. Is that something you'd like to do more of?

Not really. I was really getting into it about 5 years ago, but then some asshole (I know who!) reported a year's worth of my podcasts because I was swearing on them, and the hosting site's admin took them down. I logged in to make another "show", saw half my stuff gone, and just gave up. Karma's a bitch though, and that audio hosting site doesn't exist anymore. I'm glad they failed, they had too many petty rules anyway.

I don't think much of podcasts now, especially the ones which go on for hours and who think that they've got a "radio show". The truth is, they're just the modern equivalent of someone tape-recording a phone conversation most of the time. Podcasts are best left to people who can't read or write for whatever reason. Audio books are cool. I might make audio books for the blind if there was a financial reward in it for me. Hell, I'd probably make audio books for the deaf if someone paid me to do it!

You also run or help run several other pages on the web. Are there any you'd like to promote at the moment?

The last time I counted it was almost into three figures, but I'm not going to be "That Guy" and list them all. I hate people who do that!

I think "The Horror Cats" deserves a mention because everyone thought it was a genius idea at the time. Unfortunately, it never caught on. "The Horror Cats" even got nominated for a Lammy Award this year but lost out to a site about movie posters. I'm still slightly bitter about that since the category was "Best Movie Element Blog", and out of the five nominees, only "The Horror Cats" and a blog about "Exploding Helicopters" were actual "movie elements". Posters aren't movie elements unless they are physically in a movie, and the winning site was just about bog-standard advertising posters like you find on the side of a cinema. Ah, but what can you do? Only a handful of people voted anyway. So, yeah, "The Horror Cats" or my main blog are the only two sites I want to promote. I've got more blogs and message boards as well, but Facebook killed the latter off. They aren't worth mentioning except for completeness.

We have talked a lot on several sites, particularly Twitter. In all that time, I have never known your identity. Not that I'm bothered at all! Several other bloggers use this technique also. Do you think it's important to the writing to have a bit of anonymity or is there another reason?

I've been using the nom de plume of Dr Blood for so long now that, for all intents and purposes, I am Dr Blood. It's about convenience more than anything else. It's certainly not about anonymity. There are hundreds of people online and in real life who know me by my given name and my pseudonym, but it can get confusing to go by both online if you start doubling them up, e.g. two Facebooks, two Twitter accounts, etc. etc. So I just stick to Dr Blood now, it's easier to remember, and it's a good name for writing about horror, don't you think?

You are known for writing in a very no nonsense fashion. I find it very refreshing, but there are some out there who don't see eye to eye with you a lot of the time. You get some downright abuse but you aren't afraid to give it back! Does this ever send you into dismay, or does it make you stronger as a writer?

Thanks for noticing and enjoying. You can blame my style (for what it's worth) on years of trolling chat rooms when they were popular. AOL and iChat hated me! I've been around for such a long time that there's nothing that anyone can say to me which I haven't already spitefully said to someone else, in most cases before the most recent person saying it to me was even born. It doesn't bother me since I'm never going to meet any of these people in real life. If someone gets too out of line, I can just delete him or her from my life with a click. The only thing that's annoying is when cliques on message boards gang up to use the flagging systems to silence me, It just shows that they've lost the argument. I've been banned from more message boards than most people ever belong to, but the friends I've made on them beforehand have stayed with me.

I wish I could say that the arguments have made me a better writer, but nothing makes me stronger or weaker as a writer other than how many Monster energy drinks I've consumed. All my grammatical skills go out the window when I'm tired, and I don't have many grammatical skills to begin with. I'm always second-guessing myself, and I rarely use any "ten dollar" multisyllabic words because I simply don't know them, but I'm always honest and I think people like that.

This is a belief that we both share. Horror is dead. Why do you think this?

Two years ago, I wrote "12 Reasons Why Horror Has Died" as my definitive answer on the subject. For those who aren't familiar with that viral post, basically, horror is dead because of a mixture of cheap technology and bad education. In other words, horror is dead because of lazy filmmakers with entitlement issues who think it's easy to make a horror movie and rake in the profits. Unfortunately for them and their audience, what used to work on rare occasions has perpetuated a slew of unimaginative shit which put everyone off taking the genre seriously or having the desire to make anything more than mediocre. Now all we have left is clones, remakes, sequels, PG-13 horrors designed to turn the movie theatres into expensive daycare centres for cellphone-wielding tweenagers with ADHD, and the hobby horror movies which invariably look like YouTube videos. I'm sure that I'm not the only one who doesn't find horror entertaining anymore, thus, even if the horror genre isn't truly dead, it might as well be for those who used to love it when it was good.

Have there been any films that you have seen recently that give you a glimmer of hope for the future of horror?

Nope, I can barely get through any of them without wanting to kick the TV screen in.

What direction do you think would be good for horror to take and what would you like to see more more of?

I think it should just stop. We've already got over 100 years of horror movies to go through and every possible permutation of every story has already been told hundreds of times over. Horror isn't even about scares and the dictionary definition anymore, the industry just uses the term to quantify something as a "genre" when the qualities of the product are usually otherwise.

If horror was to make a comeback, it would have to ditch all the PG-13 and comedy crap, get back to basics with the drama, and then really up the ante with the realism and the gore. The bar for shocking the audience was raised so high by "A Serbian Film" that it's now impossible to go that route without actually making a real snuff movie. As that can't be done outside of Live Leak, if you want  good fictional horror again, somebody will have to make something genuinely scary and aim it directly at intelligent adults rather than stupid teenagers.

You also have a dislike for indie horror. A lot of people get angry when you bring this up. I know you don't even constitute any of these films as indie. Can you clarify what it is that you dislike about them?

There's a big difference between a professional independent studio and Joe Bloggs down the road who just got a camcorder for Christmas. Although, technically, both can be labelled as "indie filmmakers", you can bet a pound to a pinch of shit that Mr. Christmas camera's efforts will be nothing but total arse.

In the studio situation, there are trained professionals, decent equipment, budgets, and quality control. Although it's not always the case, this at least helps to deliver a reasonably worthwhile product. Studios need all these things in place because they have investors to pay back, and if their product isn't good, it's the end of them as a business. That's why it's called "show business".

Joe Bloggs, on the other hand, can slap his beer-buddies hooning it up as zombies with his mum's makeup in the back garden onto a DVD-R and sell his crap for the same price as a studio movie knowing full well that it's not worth a penny. There's something very wrong with that and on so many levels. For anyone who has ever rented one of these camcorder movies instead of a real film from a video store, it reeks of fraud for one thing.

Another thing that seems to be happening a lot is people trying to fund their films via crowd funding websites. What's your views on this?

You can dress it up in all the fancy terms you like, but they're nothing but beggars. "Crowd funding", my arse! I suppose the dirty, alcoholic guy who we think lives in a cardboard box under the bridge is "crowd funding" when he sits in the town centre with his emaciated greyhound and asks, "Got any spare change, guvnor?" These lazy bastards who won't work to earn the money for their projects are exactly the same. Unless they are called Zach Braff, they probably don't all get to change their clothes and drive home in a Mercedes after their day in town, but they are still pulling the wool over people's eyes in other ways. Seriously, people who give to these things are stupid! If you want to make a film, treat it as a business. Spend a few years learning to be a filmmaker, draw up a business plan, hit a few banks, ask for investors who will, of course, want to see a return on their money, and stop trying to play filmmaker for a day with no effort, no responsibility and free money! Ninety percent of the time, these e-beggars never even try to make a film and just take the money and run. The other ten percent make something which looks like they drank the money that they were given before hiring Joe Bloggs with his Christmas camera. They'll never see any of my money ever.

What are your views on the horror community as it stands today? What are the good parts and what do you think is wrong with it?

I think what's left of the "horror community" is fractured beyond repair. It's full of negativity, poseurs and opportunists. Mind you, I don't believe that there ever was a "horror community" outside of the small ones which temporarily form around the various conventions. Horror has always been cliquey just like everything else in the world, but the American horror convention crowds are the best examples of the worst kind of horror fan. If your face doesn't fit or you don't have the right t-shirt, or even if your self harming ink isn't of the same icon that everyone likes, they'll shun you.

Online is a slightly different story as everyone seems to know everyone else and will mostly tolerate each other, which is a good thing, but there's always drama. Most of the trouble is caused by jealousy. Either somebody is jealous of someone else's collection of little dollies, how many Blu-rays they own, if their blog gets more pageviews, or something petty like that. Some of the drama is gender based, but that's more joking around than anything else. The "women in horror" hypocrites lack any sense of humour so they turn themselves into easy trollbait. It's hilarious watching them play the victim card, especially when the whiteknighting neckbeards rise out of their parents' basement to defend them!

We all know that nobody in the horror industry earns a lot of (or any) money out of it, so in the bottom ranks of fandom and writing, it's a level playing field. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing though. There are no "stars" in horror even if there are many people who think they should be and behave as if they are, but the money issue has a lot wrong with it. The backlash against Lianne Spiderbaby's plagiarism recently highlighted the seething, hypocritical and hypercritical mass which forms the core of the horror community. It's hard to say what the long term result of any of that will be, but human nature is what's really wrong with the horror community, and that will never change.

Many thanks again to Dr Blood for his time and very clear and concise answers. If you want to hear any more of his musing, you can follow him on his Twitter profile or at his blog Dr Blood's Video Vault.

Thanks for reading!