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“Barbara” director: “original horror works” | WGN 720 Radio

LOS ANGELES (AP) — With the box office success of “Smile,” “Black Phone” and his “Barbara” this year, writer-director Zach Kreger says it’s clear that “the original horror movie is working right now.”

While the genre has long relied on franchises like Halloween, Saw and The Conjuring, Kreger says young filmmakers are finding horror features “creatively fertile territory” for exploring unexpectedly complex themes.

Kreger’s solo directorial debut was hailed as a late-summer hit, grossing over $42 million worldwide on a modest $4.5 million production budget.

Now streaming, it follows a young woman (Georgina Campbell) who finds her Airbnb rental in a dilapidated Detroit neighborhood strangely occupied by a stranger (Bill Skarsgård). It goes on to subvert a number of horror traditions and find an audience outside of traditional genre fans.

“There aren’t many places for adults who crave the new and innovative to go,” Kreger said. “Studios only invest in big superhero IPs, which for me as a 40-year-old doesn’t really appeal to me.”

He struggled to find a studio to back his film. Kreger said he sought out the production companies associated with every horror film that had been made in the past 15 years, and then sent his script to all of them. No one agreed to finance the project.

Contemplating selling his house and going into debt to pay for the film himself, Kreger found BoulderLight Pictures, a small production company based in Los Angeles. “They were the first people to read it and weren’t afraid of the change in tone,” he said.

Another horror directorial debut, Smile topped the box office within two weeks of its release in September and grossed more than $169 million worldwide. He studies the ripple effects of trauma.

Kreger is optimistic about audiences’ growing appetite for horror films that strive to deliver more than horror and gore, a trend he believes is due to films like Jordan Peele’s Get Out and Ari Astaire’s Hereditary.

“You feed somebody Doritos, but then you put broccoli in there,” Kreger said. “Varvara” does not have a social program. It really isn’t. But there are things in there that I think can start conversations.”

“Barbarian” star Justin Long has praised the often surprising ability of a horror film to explore deeper questions, citing the film “Saint-Maude” and its exploration of mental illness. And even as an actor, he said the director’s themes were clearly woven into the story.

“There were moments where I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, wait, I think I just ate broccoli,'” Long said.


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