Paul Blom - Interviewed
We chat to the Queen Alien birthmother of the Horrorfest. Not that Paul is a queen. Or a mother.
I’m meeting with Paul Blom, godfather of film festivals in Cape Town.
He joins me at a cafe and sits down, relaxed. I order a black coffee and refuse sugar like it’s no big deal. Paul orders a strawberry milkshake.
Paul is relaxed and comfortable, despite revealing to be, as it turns out, incredibly busy.
I start with the interview.
So, let’s start with this: What is your day job?
Obviously with the Horrorfest, y’know, you don’t do it to sustain you, you do it because you love it. People don’t really cater for these things so, we have to do it. I’ve been doing entertainment writing since ’97, mainly movie writing, music, gaming-related stuff. Magazines, my own website; I’ve been a video editor since the 90’s, I occasionally do a little video production, I’ve got the Teriminatrix music thing (Paul’s band), and besides the Horrorfest I’ve started doing extra film festivals, like the X-fest, the Sound On Screen, Daring Doccies documentary film festival, Cinemaniacs - once-off things where we’ll screen live concerts, or Zeitgeist screenings, things like that. So, it’s a mixture of movies, music and writing.
Seems like most of the film festivals in Cape Town, then, is you?
Well, the cool ones! Yeah look, you have your socio-political, and gay and lesbian festivals, so we just thought we’d cater for the guys who like the kind of things we do. I mean, I like any kind of film because I like all kinds of movies. But we definitely cater for the alternative crowd.
Do you ever get any negative feedback from the Horrorfest?
Once there was a guy complaining about the Zeitgeist and and X-fest movies we were screening and we basically told him that we were creating a platform for people to do something different. We don’t make ’em, and we’re not there to judge the movies, or make sure they have morally uplifting end - if you see a movie has an age restriction, let that be an indication and, y’know, don’t go watch it if it’ll offend you.
Do you feel like Cape Town has a stronger community for this kind of thing than, other places in South Africa? You wrote about, for example, those kids who shot everyone in Krugersdorp and "devil music" was blamed...
Well, I’m not a goth, but I know many people who are, and, well, most of those guys are kind of older and you don’t see them anymore... I mean, it’s a niche thing, that’s why it’s alternative. I guess it’s, well, easier to stay at home and listen to exactly what you want to than to going to a club where they’ll, ah, play Type O Negative again. So in those areas people are more, well, more outgoing from that population, this kind of off-set, alternative population, I mean - but it’s easier to just park off at home or go to the beach when the weather is nice and not go see a 12 o’clock movie at the Horrorfest on a Saturday afternoon, huh? But, well, luckily we’ve never really had an empty theatre. There’s always been at least a couple of guys who show up for a screening.
What’s the general kind of age group you guys mostly get for the Horrorfest?
Well a couple of younger guys pull through, we get a few guys who look like they can’t be older than fifteen or sixteen; it’s a nice round selection but it’s mainly sort of middle-aged adults, regular viewers.
South Africa isn’t really a country that had a background of people raised on B-monster movies and bad day-time TV; do you feel people here miss out on true nostalgia from really old horror and monster movies?
Well, I grew up in the seventies, and the 80’s was when horror movies really kicked off, big time, as well as big blockbuster action movies, you know, that stuff. But y’know, I like everything, and it’s very cool to go dig into all the older stuff, and check out the B-movies, and we try and include as many of those in the festivals as we can. Eh, I just grew up on movies in general and I like all kinds of flicks. I don’t really have an aversion to anything, really - well, okay, I must stay, if it has something to do with a wedding, then I’d kind of, ah, avoid those!
They’ve been rumoring a new Ghostbusters movie for ages...
Two years ago they were going to do Ghostbusters in 3D, I’m sure they’ll do it eventually.
How do you feel about 3D, anyway?
Eh, the gimmick’s kind of worn off on me, although we are doing Orlok the Vampire in 3D this year! Some guys converted it and ordered the glasses, so that’s gonna be fun! Well the thing about 3D though is, in this, nothing is going to pop out at you, it’ll just have, well, a little more depth. I mean the cool thing with movies like Resident Evil is that they went out their way to create specific effects for 3D, things that jump out. But that Avatar movie... haha. It’s just kind of worn off me by now. Like Alice in Wonderland, I feel like I would’ve wanted to see without the 3D. Especially with the bright Tim Burton colours - when there’s nothing happening for five minutes you start realizing that you’re just watching a slightly darker movie, with glasses. But I understand the reason for the gimmick, you have to do something to get people into theaters. These days everyone has a DVD player and it’s easy to watch things at home. That’s why the Horrorfest tries to be more social, we really try and make it an event -we get many regulars who pull through, and they’re alway excited for when the time comes around and it’s a great little community. So, people do have to keep coming up with new things to audiences interested, I guess.
Yeah, I really think 3D movies should be shot with specific effects for 3D. Like they did in the 80’s. Where 3D belongs.
Hmm, I’m actually gonna see Pirahna in 3D tonight, that could be cool. Well, it’s James Cameron’s remake. The piranhas fly or something this time.
Have you seen Sharktopus?
It started off as a short made about a CGI... shark. Crossed with an octopus. And it was so bad it became a feature-length movie!
Haha, that sounds like fun! Yeah, we love getting stuff like that. You need humor, you really can’t have too many serious, bleak movies.
What do you feel like you get more of in the festival, genuinely scary flicks or do you like to feature more cheesy B-movies?
Oh we do try and do a theme each year and that lets us plug in a whole variety of movies. Last year was vampires and werewolves, this year’s got a bit of a devil theme to it - you know, it’s our sixth year, so, hehe. Sonja and I do sometimes butt heads about what a horror movie actually is; Sonja’s adamant that it needs to be supernatural, but I reckon anything that horrific is, well, a horror. But I guess some people can find Leon Schuster horrific. Sonja reckons that movies about murders are more thrillers than horrors, but, look, any genre of horror: monsters, werewolves, vampires. We haven’t screened Frankenstein yet and we’d love to, but it’s about contact the right people to get the right kind of permission for screening rights and all that, and of course how much they want to charge you. It’s quite a headache.
So I guess there’s a lot of red tape to go through? What goes into organizing all of it?
Man, sometimes you actually just can’t. Especially guys in Asia. You don’t get replies. Their websites are all in Chinese or Korean or whatever and eventually you’ll find an email address if you get to translate the page, and you’ll send and email and just... not get a reply. And that’s it. And you can’t phone them either! So it’s really hard. We did have one cool Asian movie a few years ago, the original Eye, which is about the only Asian movie we’ve shown in the festival so far, and they wanted quite a lot of money for it! So, I had to explain to them exactly how much they could expect to get from a hundred-seater, once-off screening.... it just wasn’t gonna happen. And sometimes they just say now. Every year we have a wishlist of movies and the procedure is just to go through them and try for each one. We do get a lot of people sending us movies, which is great. Like this year, we have, hehe, The Taint, which is very much along the lines of Bad Taste. It’s hilarious.
So yeah, we are lucky in that people send us quite a lot of movies. Of course every year we do the soundtrack too, which is the biggest handful for us because we have to write the songs while we’re organizing everything else - it’s Phantom of the Opera this year.
We try and get at least one premiere a year too, we wanted to do Paranormal Activity 2 but that fell through. We do have Machete though! I was at the press screening last week and there was this reporter from Die Burger, Riana Malan, who’s this real conservative Afrikaans woman, who loved it! So, haha, that’s a good sign.
We do have a lot of costs. We have to courier all the films we request, and printing’s become very expensive - we’ve printed half the amount of posters we had last year and we’re still sitting with a pile of old posters from past screenings that we don’t know what to do with.
Do you feel like the festival’s been getting bigger?
Definitely. Facebook’s really helped - half of our connections are from outside of Cape Town - I mean, the group is 4,000-strong, but, well, that’s not to say 4,000 people are coming to the Horrorfest. But it’s good to have the support and for the word to spread!
Do you get a lot of international short film submissions?
Most of the short films are international! We typically get about a dozen local films, and the rest come from abroad. We really had to struggle to reach out to people and get films from them for the first Horrofest. But the year after that the word had spread and we got loads - now, every year, we actually have too many short films. I mean we don’t want to sit for six hours of it. Some of them are brilliant, yeah, but we do get a lot of, well, crappy ones.
This year we have two super-long short films, which we call mini-features, so we stuck them together and decided to screen them back-to-back. But it really is great to see the kind of variety we get; some are actually shot on 35mm film and they look like big-budget films! The reality is most of them are self-funded, and it’s really amazing to see what comes out of them.
Oh but this year we have the Indian creature feature, Kaalo, and the director’s actually scheduled to fly in and attend the screening, which would be great. Last your John Landis was supposed be here for American Werewolf in London, but ended up not being able to make it. This year we also wanted to try and get Eli Roth in for The Exorcist, and that didn’t work out at all. I mean, the Horrorfest is still a pretty small-scale thing, internationally. Fangoria weekends, for example, just gets everyone! So, eh, we work with what we get.
You used to write for Fangoria, didn’t you? What do you contribute?
Well whenever something cool shoots here, I cover it for them. I did Doomsday and Death Race 2, which I think is screening in December. I met Danny Trejo fro that! I posed with a picture of him, too. Have you checked out his IMDB page? Man, that guy has been in everything! He has a credit list of like 200 films. He was even in Fanboys!
He was in Fanboys? As what?
He was an indian shaman or something who gave them peyote.
Oh shit that WAS him!
Yeah! Well the Machete trailer appeared in Grindhouse a few years back, and apparently that’s been a movie Robert Rodriguez and Danny Trejo have been trying to make it for years. So the trailer worked, I guess!
Oh, we wrangled an X-box as a prize for the best Halloween dress-up this year. So, people have to impress us now - they gotta work for that X-box! Showing up in some fangs and a little bit of blood? Not gonna cut it.
What’s the story with the drinking game in one of the movies?
Oh, that’s Bonbons Rouge! It’s a French-Canadian movie, but a skull appears every time when there’s an ass-shot. So, the rule’s gonna be that every time you see the skull/ass shot, you take a drink!
Thank God for the Labia still letting people drink in their theatre.
Definitely. We’ve been looking at expanding the Horrorfest to places like Joburg, but there’s no place quite like the Labia. Taking it to NuMetro or Ster-Kinekor, mall theaters - it won’t be the same. Well, we tried to get in contact with an independent theatre in Joburg, I think they call it the Gem; this thing would probably go well in Joburg. People aren’t shy to go out, there’s quite a bit of a scene. We will, eventually.
Zombies - should they run or lurch?
Zombies? Haha, I guess they should stumble. I guess the 28 Days Later zombies aren’t really zombies, are they? Well, and the Resident Evil guys have a mutated virus, so that’s okay.
Rad. Thanks Paul!
Paul bids goodbye as he erupts in a puff of smoke, turns into a bat and flaps away, dropping a note to pay for his milkshake.
Find out more about the Horrorfest on the official site:
Ive been alerted to some clumsy mistakes made in this interview.
To clear up:
*Paul said, a few years back that he was expecting them to come up with a 3D Ghostbusters (before any reports of it being made);
*James Cameron has nothing to do with Piranha 3D, I was referring to him working on Part 2 - Flying Killers a few decades back;
*No offence or derision is aimed at Mariana Malan at all.