Interview: Ruben Pla Discusses THE HORROR CROWD

Actor-turned-director, Ruben Pla’s The Horror Crowd is a hugely entertaining and (strangely) emotional documentary which takes a look at the filmmakers behind film’s darkest genre. 

As an actor, Pla has starred in such genre films as Insidious and Contracted and The Horror Crowd marks his directing debut. The documentary includes a vast array of interviews with people such as Mike Mendez (Don’t Kill It) Oren Peli Paranormal Activity), Russell Mulcahy (Highlander, Razorback) and Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II) who discuss their love and appreciation of horror movies. Overall, there are 37 interview subjects in the ninety minute film. 

The Horror Crowd gets its world premiere at FrightFest Digital Edition on 29 August 2020 and Movies In Focus had an opportunity to talk with Pla about the film over Zoom. He was an absolute pleasure to interview – funny, engaging and full of heart. 

Enjoy…

Hi Ruben. Thank you for taking the time today. I really, really loved the movie, so it’s pleasure to be talking to you. How did the film come about?

Well, my pleasure, likewise. I was traveling in the horror circles of Hollywood about a decade ago and I started meeting people little by little. Then I started getting this idea that maybe I could make a little documentary about some people that I know. I’ll just shoot it on my phone, whatever do some scenes, see what happens. And I met with my buddy Hank Braxtan, who ended up being my co-producer and he goes – yeah, I like the idea. Why don’t we get you some cameras, because he worked in a production house, and some lights and sound kits. My wife could produce it too. I said YES! because I know his wife, Ariel who is wonderful. Arielle Brachfeld, ended up being my producing partner on it. And I’ve worked with the two of them repeatedly over the years. I just shot a movie that Hank directed and Arielle produced a little while ago. And then before that one, I shot another one which Hank directed an Arielle acted in it with me. So I’ve done like four, three features with Hank and like nine with Arielle. So they’re great. And that’s how it started. Just like that. Just an avalanche. 

Obviously you knew a lot of the people that you were interviewing, but there were a lot of interview subjects. Was it difficult pinning everyone down? 

No. The answer is no, because they all wanted to do it. I literally started calling them one by one and they were saying yes, yes, yes. Except for anyone who was out of town, of course. They all wanted to do it. I want it to reveal to the audience – to you guys, you know, their secrets, their passions, their loves their families, their favorite horror movies and what inspired them as a kid to get into filmmaking or be actors or whatever. It was really easy peasy to get them on board. There was no issue there. 

How much prep did you do before hand, because obviously you have a story that you’re telling, but did you know the story that you wanted to tell going in, or did that come in the edit room?

I’m all about structure, all about structure. So I had to get a good structure once I had the interviews and figure out – oh, okay…Race relations here. Women in horror, there, and first horror movie influences here – and that works like that. And then, you know, the Jumpcut Cafe and horror trivia there. I just started sculpting, like clay, you know. It was a pleasure. It was just a pleasure to assemble, edit and interview.

Was there a lot of stuff that you had to leave or was that pretty much everything you did? 

Yeah. Yeah. I had more than 30 hours, close to 40 hours of footage. Niall, I’m not kidding you. And got it down to 90 to snip, snip, snip, snip, snip, snip. I had stuff to make five movies. I mean literally, and it was all good stuff. It wasn’t like, Oh, that’s boring, that’s boring. But I have to bring it down to the bare bones, what I needed. The last thing I like to see is a documentary which just drones on and the people and the camera stays on one person for 10 minutes. I’m like, I don’t want to do that. And so you see what I did – I intercut a lot of, people talking about the same subject in a different way, different angle. 

Some people repeating what the other guy just said, like when I watched Alien, I’m watching with my shirt over my eyes, like this. You know? So it was just so fascinating how similar different people say different things. So yeah, it was a pleasure. 

Some of the people you could have just listened to for hours. Everyone was so passionate and the stories were so great. 

My I ask you specifically Niall, who did you think you could listen to for a long time? , 

Russell Mulcahy, the director of Highlander. 

Russell Mulcahy. Yeah. Yeah, Niall, you hit the nail on the head with Russell. I mean, come on. The guy is not only a living legend, you know, directing Highlander, Resident Evil: Extinction, Razorback, his calling card into the film world world, which he got by directing the Duran Duran music video. The producer saw this music video and goes, Hey, that’s really like cinematic and it’s shot in the jungle and the whole thing. And we were doing this thing with Razorback. You want to come to Australia? He goes, yeah! I just thought that was fantastic – and he’s so sweet and funny and smart and witty. And he talks about getting his first camera at age 10. Oh geez. A delight, an utter delight. 

I could have just watched him for an hour and a half. You know, that’s not to belittle anyone else. It was just these great stories, you know, 

Believe me. I totally understand what you’re saying that. And the reason I asked you that is that, in the back of my mind here, I’m just kind of percolating. Maybe I’ll do a sequel and I’ll just focus on one or two or maybe three of them and we’ll perhaps follow them around on the set and whatever. Just a thought. And he was one of the ones I’m obviously considering, you know, so that’s good. You said that anybody else that you could listen to for a while? 

Lin Shaye. I just thought she would be engaging, but again, you get drawn into what she’s saying that you could again happily listen to her all evening. 

Who’s Lin Shaye? I’m kidding! She’s fantastic. Of course. I mean, she’s one of the centerpieces of the documentary and she’s wonderful. I’ve known her 10 years, since Insidious. We met, we hit it off and became friends and went to parties together, dinner and she’s wonderful. And she reveals so much in the documentary. I mean, you know that segment, the dark side, a lot of stuff, Russell himself too, he talks about, you know, I have a darkside and it comes out in my movies. But Lin says, yes, I have a dark side. She goes, you know, I can be like, not very nice and she looks at the camera. I’m like, okay! Don’t scare me Lin. You know? And she goes, you know, I can be jealous. People don’t always do that and reveal that kind of stuff. But she just said, here we go – take it. Well, that’s it. And it was great 

You’re friends with these people and suddenly you’re making a documentary. How does the relationship change between you and them whilst you’re filming 

It pretty much strengthens it because I’m finding out these incredible things about them and they’re revealing them to me because they trust me and I felt, wow, they trusted me with this information, you know? And it wasn’t like I was trying to, you know, pry it out of them or trick them. Like some interviewers do Gotcha! interviews,. You know, forget that. I don’t do that. I knew them. I liked them. I respected them and I wanted to find out. And I said, what about this? And growing up and this and the darkside, you know, whatever it is and they reveal it. So it definitely strengthened it to do this movie with them. And I think they’re going to be happy. All 38 – it’s 38 interviews, 38, including me. So it’s 37 interviews in the movie and I think they’re all going to be pretty happy because I don’t try to make anybody look bad. 

It’s obviously a documentary made by somebody and people who love horror films and it’s for fans of horror. I think that comes across and I think the audience that it’s aimed at are going to absolutely adore it. 

Yeah. Thank you. I love that word adore. Yeah. I hope they adore it. This is one of my favorite words actually in the world. Not just love it and not just like it. They adore it. I think so. I’m making it, I’m putting it together and I go, this is not just for horror fans. Of course it is. I mean horror fans are going to adore it, but the average person, the layman, I think it’s going to cross over because you know it’s not really about horror kills and cutting the heads off – it’s about the people. It’s about the horror crowd and you know, that tightness and then the community and helping each other. As we talk about in the beginning, that’s all, it’s all about helping Mike Mendez shoot a promotional trailer for a movie he’s trying to get off the ground and I meet James Wan on a set and then, you know, a few weeks later, Hey, Rubin, you want to be an Insidious?

I mean, you just never know. You just never know by helping somebody who you like and respect of course, where it’s going to lead. And it led to me meeting Hank and Arielle just on and on and on. I think it will cross over to the general public because it’s about friendship, clearly clubs, like the Jumpcut Cafe. Everybody has their clubs, their Cheers, as we call it in the movie. So I think a lot of people lay people will relate to it. Yes. 

How has the pandemic effected the release of The Horror Crowd or is everything just going to plan?

It’s doing the festival circuit right now. So we’re going to hopefully, hopefully get distributors either out of Fight Fest, or one of the other festivals. When it gets distribution, we’ll see how it affects it. Right now, I’m just doing the festival circuit. I’m just doing the pitching. I spent all day long, pitching the movie to festivals, submitting it to other festivals. The pandemic has affected people, production. It’s affected more shooting. It’s starting to open up a little bit. Now I heard that Dwayne Johnson started going back to his next movie. I think things that are already shot and you’re submitting or whatever, I don’t think it’s affecting that in the festival circuit. 

Everything’s sort of gone online with all these festivals as well, which I think actually widens it out so you don’t have to be in one location necessarily to take part in it. 

You’re absolutely correct. I mean, people don’t have to go to London, to Fright Fest to see it. Everybody in the UK and Northern Ireland could just click on their website and watch this movie. Watch The Horror Crowd maybe. Or whatever movie they want to see. So yeah. It’s going to have a wider audience. 

What’s next in the pipeline for you?

As soon as New York and Los Angeles – I’m bi-costal right now – I go back and forth. We’ll be going back and forth when things open up, as soon as they both open up, I’ll be going out there and auditioning. I’m usually booking things, you know, regularly. So as soon as the audition started and the meetings start, I’ll be going out there and try and get that next project. 

I am in James Wan’s next film called Malignant. He cast me on that, so I’ll be in that one. Soon as that releases, obviously it’s not released yet. But, I like that Insidious and Malignant, nice bookends. 

Ruben. It’s been an absolute pleasure today talking with you and I hope that the film is really well received when it screens and hopefully there’s a few more of them. 

Thank you so much. I really appreciate that. And you were a delight, I really enjoyed it too. Thank you. Cheers.