Toronto Filmmaker Tal Zimerman Asks, Why Horror?

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Toronto Filmmaker Tal Zimerman Asks, Why Horror?

The director of a new documentary on the psychology of horror entertainment hopes to scare up some Kickstarter support.

Filmmaker Tal Zimerman (photo courtesy of Tal Zimerman)

Filmmaker Tal Zimerman.

Ever since he was a child, Toronto actor and filmmaker Tal Zimerman has loved to be scared—and now, at age 38, he wants to know why. To that end, he has launched a Kickstarter campaign for his feature documentary project, Why Horror?. For the film, Zimerman has already interviewed some of the biggest names in the field about what the horror genre—including, but not limited to, horror film—means to them, what attracted them to it, and why some people enjoy being frightened while others will do anything to avoid it.

Other filmmakers might be inclined to take a more dispassionate approach, but for Zimerman this is very much an exploration of his own inner workings. “You’ve got to ask yourself, what purpose is this serving? Why does this have such a great appeal for me? I don’t know if you have to necessarily do that as a fan, but it’s within my nature to investigate that.”

According to Zimerman, it was, of all films, the Carl Reiner comedy Summer School that truly ignited his interest in horror. In it, two prankish kids play around with gory makeup effects to gross out their classmates. “As 12-year-old kid I thought, ‘Holy crap, that’s the coolest thing in the world!’ I had already seen a few movies like Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead—I had very progressive and supportive parents—but this was what got me to go out and buy a copy of Fangoria magazine and start reading compulsively about the craft of horror filmmaking.”

Zimerman already has the cable station Super Channel signed on as a broadcaster for his documentary, which is helping other pieces of the production fall into place. The $30,000 he hopes to raise through Kickstarter would allow for more travel and more interviews, broadening the scope of his film. He has already spoken to noted directors John Carpenter, Eli Roth, George A. Romero, Rodrigo Gudino, Don Coscarelli, Ben Wheatley, and Alex de la Iglesia, writers Steve Niles, Liisa Ladouceur, Kier-la Janisse, Elvis Mitchell, TIFF Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes, and Toronto magazine editors Dave Alexander (Rue Morgue) and Chris Alexander (Fangoria), among others.

“We also interviewed a social psychologist named Joseph Hayes, whose focus is observing people’s responses to their anxieties over death,” added Zimerman. “He said he saw horror culture as not unlike other cultures that openly embrace our finality—that it makes perfect sense in a culture that does not want to deal with death, that is constantly trying to escape death, that there are ways that death will ‘bubble through’ into the conversation.”

We asked Zimerman for a few Halloween horror movie recommendations, and he did not disappoint: “My top three ‘you probably haven’t seen this yet’ films are Jodorosky’s Santa Sangre for its unique psychedelic touch mixed with a Dario Argento-esque giallo atmosphere; the Japanese film Jigoku, for its amazing art direction and early gory imagery; and the Australian movie The Loved Ones, because it’s the best horror film of the last 15 years, and takes a lot of common tropes and subverts them to insane levels.”

The Why Horror? Kickstarter campaign finishes on Friday, November 8, at 5 p.m. You can contribute to it right here.

Photo courtesy of Tal Zimerman.

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