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As the 90s ended, the horror genre needed help. Enter the group of directors lovingly coined 'The Splat Pack', and with them, a wave of new horror films that pushed the envelope and got results. This documentary covers the group, featuring interviews with the 'members' and other personalities.
When Alan Jones coined a particular group of directors 'The Splat Pack' back in 2006, that was the same year Alex Aja's THE HILLS HAVE EYES remake and Darren Lynn Bousman's SAW III hit theatres. Of course, looking at those films, Jones wasn't just making a passing remark. Both of those films were brutal and bloody, just like the films of the rest of the Splat Pack members: Neil Marshall, Greg McLean, Eli Roth, James Wan, Leigh Whannell and Rob Zombie. Now, as a sort of retrospective documentary on the rise of the new breed of horror films, directors Mark Henry and Frank H. Woodward have cobbled together THE SPLAT PACK, featuring interviews with members of the 'group' and their films, along with other folks associated with the genre.
Right away, the thing I liked about the documentary was the fact that they started right at the beginning. The 'pre-Splat Pack', if you will. Going over Wes Craven's SCREAM trilogy and praising it for being inventive as a slasher film, but also pointing out how the franchise started a negative turn in the horror genre. SCREAM's success started the unfortunate effect of having a series of movies made with, as director Adam Green put it, 'the cast of whatever WB show there was [at the time]' (remember VALENTINE and DISTURBING BEHAVIOUR?). From there, the doc touches on the 'coincidental' success of a string of PG-13 horror films (coincidental when you think about who was directing and who was starring). It's a great introduction for setting the stage for what was to come. From there, the documentary goes through the entire cycle, including the backlash from some critics (which is always fun to hear). The guys even thought enough to touch on the whole reboot/remake/reimagining craze that has eclipsed the genre and made many a horror fan groan in frustration.
Out of all the directors they interviewed, it's difficult to say who was the most fun and interesting to listen to. Eli Roth was doing his schtick of being the salesman, while Greg McLean basically made me want to watch WOLF CREEK all over again. The guy is sharp on what to do with the camera. Alex Aja is either really brilliant, (namely story of how he was approached to put the 'twist' in HIGH TENSION in the last half-hour and shot it down) or really crazy (the infamous HILLS HAVE EYES bird scene was almost a kitty blender scene). Darren Lynn Bousman, on the other hand, tells about how thankful he was to get the chance to direct SAW II, and even acknowledges the bad reviews he got which labeled the SAW sequels as being masochistic and disturbing, to which he claimed that he 'succeeded' in doing what he set out to do. Overall, everyone offered some great insight and stories.
Anything that I didn't like? Well for starters, Eli Roth seemed to get the most focus out of all the directors. In one way, it makes sense, since the guy is a genuine pitchman for the genre. But in doing so, I felt the focus threatened to shift away from the group, and onto Roth. And then there's Harry Knowles. Say what you will, the guy knows his stuff. Problem is, if you know his history, it puts a damper on things whenever he's onscreen. Other quibbles involve a lack of participation from every Splat Pack member. James Wan is mentioned a couple of times, but it's all SAW-related, and is nowhere to be heard from in the doc. Same with Rob Zombie and Leigh Whannell. Granted, Zombie might have been too busy at the time, and Wan is reluctant to be even labeled as a 'member', but where's Leigh? Also, at 46 minutes, the doc felt like it needed some more meat to it. Perhaps that's where the missing directors should go?
When it's all said and done, THE SPLAT PACK was an enjoyable and informative documentary, not only for what it set out to do, but also for the genre itself, particularly the indie side of things. You had input from not only the group themselves, but critics and industry heavyweights (yes, I mean you, Greg Nicotero). While it's a shame that not every member was included in the documentary for one reason or another, and the fact that it feels like this documentary leaves you wanting just that much more, this is still one you should see and support.
A fun little romp that's good to the last bloody drop. THE SPLAT PACK is a well-constructed, accessible and knowledgeable piece that deserves love from horror fans, regardless of whether or not you're a fan of the Splat Pack themselves.