Women in Horror: Meet the Crew of Brutal As Hell – Britt Hayes
As a part of our Women in Horror coverage this month we’re taking the time out to interview each of the lovely ladies of the site. We start the series with Britt Hayes. Britt Hayes has literally become my right hand gal around these parts. She is an indispensable editor and writer for us here at BrutalAsHell.com. Her style goes well beyond the average horror blogger or reviewer as she applies her broad knowledge of cinema to the genre in a way that is thought provoking, and she isn’t afraid to challenge the popular opinions of either filmmakers or fans. She’s sassy and opinionated, and her color commentary has positively influenced the way in which we look at and report upon news items. And so, without any further ado we give you Britt Hayes…
Marc: One of the big things that attracted me to you as a writer is that you have a ravenous interest in film, and a knowledge of film that goes well beyond the genre of horror. This immediately is noticeable in how you approach any given news article. For example – in your coverage of the upcoming film Let Me In, which is based on the novel Let the Right One In, you’ve taken the road less traveled, and while you haven’t come out and championed the film you’ve certainly given some serious thought on why the film deserves a fair shot, as opposed to the more common knee jerk reaction to disregard it. First – talk to me on why it’s important for horror fiends to take a broader scope of cinema, and talk about your approach in how you write a story like this.
Britt: First off, horror is how most movie nerds become movie nerds. It’s like the gateway drug. It’s an easy genre to get into, easy to collect films, gain knowledge and become somewhat of an authority. Most people who run a website that focuses on movie news and reviews will start with horror, and it’s apparent that they’re amateurs and this is their springboard. Everyone thinks they can start a movie site these days, and moreover, everyone thinks they can be a writer. The thing is – and I tell every aspiring writer this because it was said to me in elementary school – if writing is your passion, just keep doing it. You can only get better. Unfortunately, it’s not always true, but sometimes it’s easier to say than “you’re awful.”
I think it’s important for anyone who positions themselves in a place of authority to actually know what they’re talking about. If you’re an expert on grass, you wouldn’t just be an expert on St. Augustine or Bermuda. If you’re a baker, you’re not just an expert on cupcakes or cookies. Same with film. Sure, you can be more knowledgeable about horror than other genres, but the question is: are you a film nerd or not? You can be a horror fan and be completely ignorant when it comes to film. Personally, that’s not how I operate, and I don’t think that people who run horror websites should be that ignorant. Sadly, most people who run these sites or blogs are just that fucking dumb about movies, not to mention spelling and grammar. I digress.
You asked about my approach though in writing a story like my Let Me In article…and I don’t really have an approach. You mentioned knee jerk reactions, and what’s funny is that’s how my articles start. They’re always a knee jerk reaction, and while I’m writing, the wheels are still turning, and I add or subtract as I go along. I re-read a paragraph or two, then fix it if I need to. I even talk out loud to myself and kind of argue points to myself. I also always try to see the other side(s) of things, and why those different points of view are valid or invalid, or maybe how the other side is more beneficial. Sometimes I change my mind completely in just a few minutes.
Marc: What non-horror films would you recommend to said horror fiends to broaden their appreciation of the horror genre? For me I must admit that Jean-Luc Godard is a director whose films must be experienced in order to appreciate most modern French horror, and in particular – Une Femme est Une Femme (A Woman is a Woman), though most would argue for Breathless.
Britt: Jean Luc Godard is a genius. As for Godard’s films, I’d say Pierrot le fou is my favorite. It’s got this pop feeling to it, but it’s a great story, and I think it and Godard’s other films have influenced many directors today. The most recent example is Park Chan Wook’s Thirst, where I felt there was a little bit of a Godard influence. Plus, Pierrot le fou has Jean-Paul Belmondo, and he was a fucking fox in his day. I actually just found Le Magnifique on DVD at my local Movie Exchange for $34. I was super psyched about that. I never figured the kind of person who would buy that movie would be the kind of person to sell it to a used DVD store.
Godard did something very different with film in his time, some of the choices in scenes, like in Pierrot when Marianne is in the kitchen making Ferdinand breakfast and the camera does this long one-shot, and you see this dead body, and the camera just keeps going. Ferdinand has no idea, but it’s the camera technique that’s so interesting because you feel like you’re part of that experience and yet not, almost a voyeur.
I don’t think Godard’s films are necessarily a prerequisite to enjoy modern French horror, but they do broaden your understanding of French film culture. What’s interesting is that something like Martyrs was actually very difficult for Pascal Laugier to get in theaters over there. They dont’ have something like the MPAA, so instead they do things like only play the films at midnight or some other undesirable hour, or they put it in the theater for a really short period of time. It’s their way of stifling the director and showing their disapproval.
Marc: Hollywood is the flogging horse upon which many horror bloggers love to take out their aggressions. It would seem that according to the majority, every filmmaker that operates outside their boundaries is automatically doing it better. So play devil’s advocate – What do you think Hollywood is doing RIGHT with horror?
Britt: That’s a really hard question to play devil’s advocate with. I think what Universal’s doing is smart by reinvigorating their classic monsters. Everything is remake remake remake, and they’re actually interested in not really remaking these films or characters, but bringing them back in new ways. I haven’t seen Wolfman yet, and I’ve been trying to stay away from reviews because I don’t want to have my expectations tampered with. That’s hard, of course, working for this site because I edit all the reviews and features, so editing Ben’s review today kind of fucked with my expectations a bit. We’ll see.
Hollywood has never handled horror well. It’s like this bastard stepchild, and if they can’t compare it to something else that people love like, “If you loved Blair Witch, you’ll love this!” then they don’t know how to market it. They want to edit the trailers to be more palatable and attract the same audience as whatever’s the big hit for that time period. Saw or Paranormal Activity, or whatever. Now they’ve got 3D, which I really think is just a passing fad, like it always has been. At least I hope it is, but I am seriously looking forward to Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D. Piranha was one of my favorite horror films as a kid and it used to come on TV like, once a month. I also love Aja, though I thought Mirrors was pretty awful.
Marc: What is Hollywood screwing up royally?
Britt: I think I got ahead of myself in my last answer. Well, I think I have two big complaints with Hollywood:
1. The recycling factory has got to stop. These remakes, reimaginings, reboots, and whatever else they’re calling them are getting out of hand. I understand that familiarity breeds content sheep, but I know there are people out there with original ideas just waiting for a chance. Hollywood has gotten too scared to take chances, and it’s why we’re getting the same shit shoveled in our faces over and over again. Endless sequels, prequels, remakes. What happened to just being content with one story? I love stories that have an ending that leaves you wanting more, especially when you’ve got great character development, but sometimes it’s nice not knowing what happens after. It’s good to make up your own sequel or prequel, but we’re lazy and we want studios to beat the dead horse.
2. Poor marketing. There’s nothing worse than a studio having no idea how to market their own film. I think a good example of this was Fight Club. Some commercials were boasting the action, others the comedy, and in some it was a psychological thriller. They didn’t know how to market the film at all. If it isn’t a straight genre, an easy love story or comedy, they don’t know what to do. This is how films end up failing. I think more responsibility needs to be laid at the feet of the marketing teams for studios. They treat audiences like they’re stupid, too. That’s the other thing that really bothers me because it’s like talking to a child – if you talk to a child like a baby, they’re not going to respond with actual words and they’ll act infantile. Same with marketing. If you keep marketing stupid films in stupid ways to people, you’re just breeding stupidity. And then the audience starts to think this is what they should expect, and Paul Blart or The Love Guru is a good movie because the big screen said I should like it. They laugh at dumber things and become dumber people because of it. And that’s not just the studio making dumb films, but it’s also the marketing teams patronizing audiences by showing Jessica Alba making out with Bradley Cooper while a Beyonce ballad plays, and Alba is some ditzy girl who needs to find herself, and the only way she can do it is with the help of a bad boy with a warm and fuzzy hidden side. This sells tickets to dumb mouth breathers and their girlfriends who’ll just spend the 90 minutes texting their dumb friends anyway.
Marc: What is your opinion on this whole 3-D fad?
Britt: Like I said before, I think it’s just a fad. Congratulations, movie-going audiences, you are now enjoying technology that was popular sixty years ago. 3D was big in the early 50’s, and saw major resurgences throughout the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. It was only natural that it would come back. It always will because studios need something to rope idle audiences in with. We only advance so far in film technology every decade, and so they throw 3D out at us. It’s a gimmick. Would you watch My Bloody Valentine 3D at home with those blue and red paper glasses? No. And you wouldn’t watch it without the 3D because the film is made to be seen in 3D, so it’s just 90 minutes of shit flying at the screen. The only thing I can say about it this time is that Sony is releasing the 3D televisions this summer, which would make the way we view 3D films at home similar to the theater experience. They’re even introducing an all 3D all the time channel with new content just for the channel. If that catches on, then 3D might not go away any time soon.
It’s just sad because every studio thinks every big movie needs to be in 3D now in order to compete. There are some films I don’t want to see in 3D. It detracts from the character development and the actual film. And 3D seems to be very genre-friendly. Good for horror, animation, kids’ films, and science fiction/fantasy. And to be honest, I don’t know that I’d want to see Favreau’s Iron Man in 3D or even (and this is a new rumor) Abrams’ Star Trek sequel. Those films don’t need 3D. 3D is like a padded bra. It adds fluff and insurance, but when you take it off you’re flat. You’ve got nothing. And there are people I don’t want to see in 3D either. Could you imagine watching a new Paul Thomas Anderson film in 3D? Daniel Day Lewis and Philip Seymour Hoffman in 3D?! That’s like buying porn on Blu-ray. I don’t need to see every pore and sore.
Marc: What films are you looking forward to seeing this year?
Britt: Horror, or just in general? Horror-wise, I’m looking forward to the Nightmare on Elm Street remake. Really curious about it. I love Jackie Earle Haley. He was superb in Little Children, and if you haven’t seen it, I suggest you remedy that NOW. The remake of The Crazies looks interesting, but I’m not sure I’m sold yet, even though I love Timothy Olyphant. He plays such a good skeaze. Also Piranha 3D of course, Inception (more of a psych thriller, but we’ll definitely be covering it here, and Chris Nolan is the business). Let Me In, I’m actually wanting to see because they’re adapting from the book and it’s not a straight remake. The best example of this is John Carpenter’s The Thing, which wasn’t a remake of the film but an adaptation from the short story, but often gets called a remake because there was an adaptation before it. So I’m giving Let Me In a chance, and since I’ve seen Chloe Moretz in Kick-Ass, I think she’s a young star that’s willing to take on taboo material, sort of like Brooke Shields when she was younger. She was naked in Pretty Baby when she was 11! Not that Chloe Moretz should take her clothes off, but I think she’s pushing the envelope for her age, and it’s great.
Marc: What’s your opinion on this whole women in horror thing? Do women really need the representation, and if so – in what regards?
Britt: I don’t think we need that much help. It’s so easy to say or think that women are lesser than. And I’ve seen some sites out there run by women (I won’t name names, but there’s one in particular) that really plays into the negative female stereotypes. Having things like horror hunks of the month or whatever, and giving this precious female point of view. They might as well have Midol sponsoring them.
But there are other women writing out there for film sites that are just being themselves and proving themselves through strong writing, hard work, and a unique voice. Women are few and far between on internet film sites, which probably makes people think we need some help. Look, we’re just as capable, if not more so at times, than our male counterparts. We don’t need to be treated any differently. I like the idea of women in horror month because the industry is heavily dominated by men, but I don’t think it’s because women are trying and failing or just being ignored. I think women have held themselves back for so long because they don’t think they fit in, or maybe with horror, it’s not their thing. I know a lot of girls who hate horror films. I think it’s important to spotlight women in horror, though, because we do matter and we have a voice, and maybe people just need to be shown that while men have typically held the reigns, we’re here too and we give a shit about movies, and we know what we’re talking about. I think it’s just a matter of breaking down what’s familiar.
Marc: Well I’ll tell you what – you’re one gal who is making this site as hugely successful as it is. And I know for a fact that you can hold your own with any horror geek out there. For that matter – I know you could deliver a pounding to any cinema geek, period. I’m happy to have you on the crew and happy to be able to feature you! And thanks for taking the time to play along!