I had the pleasure of meeting Jason Thorson on-line, via an ad he put out on Craigslist for horror writers. Hey, when has replying to a Craigslist ad ever gotten anyone in trouble? Wait... uh....
I was lucky enough not to get roped into some weird occult or receive any vile picture texts from Mr. Thorson. Instead, I was given the opportunity to write for an awesome horror webzine that has provided me with the chance to do what I love most- write, learn and research gobs of horror goodness.
Ravenous Monster is barely a year old and has already carved a nice niche in the horror webzine world, thanks to the dedication of Jason. As a writer, he's blunt and insightful. As an editor, he's diligent and always willing to offer some tips- not solely to make the article look as good as it possibly can, but also to help a writer like me hone my skills.
Did I mention he's also a heavy metal drummer and all around horror aficionado? Care to learn more about the man, the myth, and the legend of Jason Thorson?
1. As a self-proclaimed horror fanatic, what drew you into the world of horror? What are some of your earliest memories of horror changing your life?
Let’s see if I can do this without writing a War and Peace-length treatise. All drama, at its core, is propelled by a hope-versus-fear dynamic. We hope Adrian reciprocates Rocky’s romantic overtures and that Rocky puts up a respectable fight against Apollo Creed in his chance of a lifetime boxing match. We fear that Rocky gets his ass whooped and Adrian tells him to go fuck himself. We hope Luke can save Leia from the clutches of Darth Vader and put down The Empire. We fear that The Empire crushes the Rebels and Darth Vader does the same to Luke, Leia, Han, Ben, et al. The tension created by those two opposing emotions is what compels us to consume stories of all types. It’s what creates plot, suspense, empathy, etc. In the horror genre, the fear element is very literal and much more pronounced and it’s often manifested viscerally – we hope Sally Hardesty can escape the house of horrors in eastern Texas, but we fear she’ll be gutted by a chainsaw and her face worn by a homicidal redneck. Horror done well is storytelling on steroids and, to me, it’s exhilarating.
I come from an extremely film- and fiction-literate family. My older brother is a writer and a film expert, my mother teaches college in the theater department, and my dad has an intuitive understanding and appreciation for good movies and television. Oddly, no one else in my family is a horror fan, but they’re definitely responsible for my love of “story”. As far as how I first got bit by the bug, or monster as it were, it’s a little complex and difficult to pinpoint. I was born in the wake of the massive hype of Jaws. I’m a shark fanatic and pseudo-expert to this day. The annual airing of The Wizard of Oz was a family tradition and I went ape shit over the Wicked Witch of the West. They also used to show the horrible Dino De Laurentiis-produced King Kong remake every year too and I used to love it. I was all about Scooby-do as well. I was a monster fanatic.
When I got a little older, like 8, I found the slasher flicks that were all the rage at the time and those blew my mind. This was also at the very beginning of home video and movie renting. I started reading Fangoria in 1985 when I was 9 and I haven’t missed an issue since. My mom wasn’t super happy about my weird love of violent movies, but she’s always been very liberal and open-minded and she’s an artist so she was supportive nonetheless. So, the short version is that after falling in love with innocuous horror as a very young kid, the relatively graphic horror films like Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street begot more graphic horror and I ended up trying to see everything out there.
2. What led you to create Ravenous Monster?
I’d been freelancing for years, covering movies, music, books, comics, and the like for various alt-rags and websites and I still contribute to most of them. Because of my background, I’ve always had a thorough knowledge of and a lot to say about horror films and I felt like I was doing it pretty well. However, I started to feel like my coverage wasn’t getting to the desired audience as well as I would have liked. A lot of my stuff was posted on sites that specialized in other horror media, but not necessarily horror movies. So, I decided I’d start a horror magazine online, the quality, content, and visibility of which I’d control. So far, so good.
3. As a fan of the genre, what makes for a great horror film in your eyes?
The same things that make a great drama, or a great western, or a great mystery, only it obviously has to emphasize the fear factor. One of things I set out to do with Ravenous Monster is to hold the genre’s feet to the fire. I want to showcase brilliant horror, expose bad horror, and discuss what works, what doesn’t, and why. The same way I’m annoyed by mainstream critics who automatically dock pints from a movie if it’s a horror flick, I’m equally annoyed by fanboy bloggers who give a pass to shitty movies because they’re horror flicks. Horror that succeeds by all critical measures is both rare and especially gratifying. There’s something about this genre, the way it taps into your fight-or-flight system and has the potential to physically and emotionally wipe you out, that when it manages to spin a moving story that speaks to the human condition while also scaring the shit out of you, fans come out the other side of that a little more potently excited and inspired than they do with successful movies from other genres.
4. Rattle off a few underrated horror films our fellow horror geeks must see.
There’s an exciting thing happening in places where horror has either never been allowed to exist before now, or has been suppressed for a long time. For example, places such as Italy, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and France are putting out the most amazing horror flicks. In those countries, horror is either brand new or brand new again. The filmmakers there have years of experience making sophisticated movies for a sophisticated, adult audience. Now that horror is available, these same filmmakers are making sophisticated horror films designed to last as opposed to the studio-backed horror in the states that’s designed to be disposable once the easy money stops trickling in.
I suggest fans get a hold of Martyrs, Inside, Let the Right One In – the Swedish version based on the novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, not the American remake, [REC], Monsters, Frontier(s), and I’ll throw an American anthology flick from the 1940’s in here – Dead of Night. Honestly, horror enthusiasts should try to see horror from every era and from everywhere. Film is a relatively new art form so it’s not impossible to experience the best examples of horror that exist. It’s important to understand what’s always worked and why.
5. With an extensive background in literature and writing, what are some of your favorite works of horror literature?
Literature is so vast and various that it’s actually difficult to name what I consider my favorites. There’s never a time when I’m not in the process of reading a book, many of which are horror and dark fantasy, so I tend to shift my favorites toward whatever I’ve read lately and enjoyed a lot. I guess one staple on my list would have to be Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which is incredible. She was only 19 years old and so far ahead of her time that her biography is almost more sensational than her seminal monster story is.
Recently, I read The Passage by Justin Cronin and I thought it was fantastic. He offers a brilliant, unique take on vampires that’s the opposite of pulpy lightweight stuff like Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse Series. George R.R. Martin’s A song of Ice and Fire books are among the best stories I’ve encountered in any medium, though they’re not necessarily horror. HBO thought enough of them to adapt them into their Game of Thrones series, exposing them to even more people. Clive Barker’s short stories and novellas are pretty damned freaky. I went a long time resisting Steven King. The older I get, though, the less anti-mainstream I become, and I can now admit that when King is on, he’s very good. When he’s not on, well…. His last two books, Under the Dome and 11-22-63, I’ve enjoyed quite a bit as well as his recent collection of novellas – Full Dark, No Stars.
6. Who is your favorite horror villain? Who is your favorite horror hero? Why on both?
I love Leatherface. I grew up in Wisconsin where every kid since 1957 has been told about the disgusting things Ed Gein did. Leatherface is loosely based on Gein, as is Norman Bates and a million other bad guys, but none more so than Leatherface. And I love Ash. That character is both hysterical and weirdly relatable. And he’s a less-than-reluctant hero with a chainsaw for a hand and a boomstick. Come on!
7. Your band, Fogcrawler, has obvious nods to horror both in song titles and musical influence. Any upcoming events for the band?
As is often the case in the death metal/grindcore racket, we’re constantly suffering through lineup changes. We’re currently working in a new vocalist and I’ve assumed the duties of lyricist. I’ve taken the band in a decidedly sociopolitical direction and away from horror. I do have a one-man side project that’s just straight horror-inspired brutal, slamming deathgrind called Swallowed Whole. Unfortunately, there are no Fogcrawler events coming up, but I plan to book some shows around the region beginning early next spring.
8. What is the best new horror flick you've seen this year?
This year hasn’t been as strong as I would have hoped. I enjoyed Hobo with a Shotgun and Troll Hunter quite a bit, both of which were released this year for limited theatrical runs. I guess Hobo isn’t a horror movie, but exploitation flicks deserve some coverage in our evil little publications too.
9. If you could interview one horror icon, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I’d probably interview H.P. Lovecraft because he was a true enigma and his influence has had a profound effect across a wide range of media.
10. Who are some of your favorite men in horror?
I’ll just spit out a few off the top of my head, because I honestly have a huge list of people I rank among my favorites. I’m a fan of George Romero, Tom Savini, Rob Bottin, Bruce Campbell, Bill Mosely, Neil Marshall, Sid Haig. There’s so many I admire. I’ll stop there.
11. Who are some of your favorite ladies in horror?
The same applies here. To name a few at random, I’ll go with Kathryn Bigelow, Dee Wallace, Linda Blair, Debbie Rochon, Danielle Harris, Linnea Quigley, and I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Jamie Lee Curtis.
12. What is your favorite horror franchise?
There are certain entries in several franchises that I hold in high regard, but as far as a franchise that maintains a relatively consistent level of quality throughout, I’d have to go with Romero’s Living Dead canon.
13. Do you have any upcoming gigs, projects or news you'd like to plug?
I’m working on the manuscript for my first novel which I hope to finish next year. And please feel free to hate me for being cliché. I also plan on continuing to offer some of the best horror coverage on the net at RavenousMonster.com and I plan to record a new Fogcrawler album next year as well.
14. Let's do some word association.... ready, go!
a. Horror Remakes (feel free to rant a bit, or alot!)
All these remakes amount to a cynical and lazy fast-cash scheme that’s atrophying the horror genre. The only way to stop it is to demand and support original horror. Otherwise, the only horror that will be available in theaters twenty years from now will be remakes of remakes and we’ll be damned for eternity on an infinite loop of shittiness.
b. Censorship in horror films from governments, past and present. (The Evil Dead and such, Human Centipede II)
Censorship will never go away. The specifics change but the results are always the same. It’s based in our culture’s dogmatic adherence to ancient fairytales written by relatively primitive desert dwellers a couple thousand years ago. Like many of the cultural artifacts from then, censorship is irrational and unjustified. If you listen to the pious assholes who have a direct line to heaven and whose salaries are paid by my taxes, you’d know that Janet Jackson’s nipple damned at least 115,000 souls to hell. Censorship of anything should piss everyone off in a big way.
c. Best horror sequel ever.
Evil Dead 2
d. Jason Thorson's legacy in the horror world.
Hopefully, I’ll be known for contributing thoughtful and honest commentary as well as creative content. I love horror. I respect it and root for it and I expect it to continue to awe and inspire me. Hopefully, whatever I contribute to the world of horror will help it continue to do those things.
15. Any last words?
I’m innocent! Thanks, Justin.
Be sure to check out Ravenous Monster and I sincerely thank Jason for his time and tutelage.