A lot has changed since Alan Jones from Total Film coined the term Splat Pack referring to a group of gory movie makers who sought to stretch the boundaries of what would be considered acceptable in an R rated film. The sea of blood and guts that rolled across the cinema screen starting in 2002 gradually pulled back to low tide. PG-13 became the new R rating once again and the MPAA decided to pull itself up by its bootstraps to enforce its code. For the Splat Pack, originally consisting of Rob Zombie, Eli Roth (the Frank Sinatra of the Pack according to Quentin Tarantino), James Wan, Leigh Whannell, Robert Rodriquez (added later by association), Greg McLean, Neil Marshall, Alexadre Aja and Darren Lynn Bousman, filmmaking has gone as usual, and each has made a substantial contribution to the horror genre in a positive way, testing the limits of our stomach and enforcing a new norm in the cinema shock, but lately it’s been getting just a little harder to get a movie into the theater with full release that has the same gratuity. Vampire movies have gone to the kids and our once brutal slash and hack genre sees red more than it sees black. Sure there are exceptions to this rule, and the bell weather of cable television suggests that audiences are ready to handle the gore. The success of The Walking Dead should help assert that. The fact stands that the film industry at large started taking its brutal works, throwing them on a direct to DVD path with limited theatrical release even including the releases of the time tested, moneymaking members of the gruesome garrison of gratuity. The last stand at the metaphorical nightly performances at The Sands in Vegas has ended. The Splat Pack has gone a bit soft… but there is another. A new class of Splat Pack is ready to emerge and the screens should prepare adequate clean up procedure. The screens will drip blood again.
Since 2010 the horror business has seen a new harvest of splatter-teers. This is a group of filmmakers that often work together to create the gore you crave and seem to be filling both the small and large screen with their best efforts to gross you out. Now while I will admit that a few of the old splat pack are still full functioning members, the productions seem to have recessed to a level, less gory. The new group, the Splat Pack Junior Class, are infiltrating the public awareness and creating box office headway. Let’s look at some potential members that are currently pledging this decades’ class of charismatic celebrities with a penchant for excess. These are only suggestions and all reader comments are encouraged. Who’s on your list? Who makes the Splat Pack Junior Class? Comment below, Facebook or Twitter.
2013 has been a year of MORE. More gore. More blood per frame. More off putting kills. The remake of Evil Dead is the embodiment of that trend, and it’s helmed by Fede Alvarez, a virtually unknown director, who has rejuvenated cinema grotesque and successfully rebooted a seemingly untouchable franchise with one film. There has been no official announcement as to whom will helm the next installment of Evil Dead, but I’d put money on Alvarez again. He knows what freaks you the fuck out and puts it on screen and makes his producers money doing it.
Green has been around for some time creating one of the most beloved new horror slash and hack series in recent years, Hatchet. Hatchet and its sequels have become fan favorites with inspired kills, practical effects with an emphasis on throw latex around and having a plot that simply drives the gore. It’s not torture porn because it has a narrative, but working for Green and co. must be an effects guy’s dream job. While Hatchet was released in 2006, a sequel in 2009 and then he moved to the producer’s chair for the third installment released just this year. His contribution to the anthology film Chillerama displays his versatility and horror comic genius that gives way to his new effort along with fellow Splat Pack Junior Class member Joe Lynch, Holliston. While I find these episodes hit or miss their love of the gore and excess as well as attempts to poke fun at the stereotypes with in the horror genre are lasting criticisms of what both Green and Lynch do best. Want a brutal good time? Make sure to enjoy Frozen. Your days on the sky lift maybe numbered. Also note, B.J. McDonnell, director of Hatchet III, excellent effort!
Steven R. Monroe
Anyone in the horror community will tell you that there are just some movies you’re not supposed to fuck with. Shining example: I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE. How can you remake rape revenge perfection and expect the horror fans to respect you? Seems like one big cash grab right? Wrong. Steven R. Monroe is the man who made I Spit on Your Grave from 2010 a true homage to the original picture, upping the level of revenge one can expect from a heroine and creating a new picture from an old classic premise. It’s difficult to watch in the best way possible just as the original was, but truly unique. His follow up effort, Mongolian Death Worm is a complete 180 within the scope of horror fiction focusing on giant monster worms that truly look like something Kevin Bacon might have been fighting over a decade earlier. Let’s see what he delivers next.
Srdjan created A Serbian Film. A Serbian Film that many deem a movie so filled with excess gore, sex and boundary breaking material that it cannot be unseen. At first I would say that that assertion is absolutely correct, however with time I have recognized it for the somewhat comedic effect that it was meant to have. It’s a filthy movie with a mind- fucking premise that makes the squeamish run for the door, but it has achieved a great deal of cult success. Whether you love it, hate it, wish it banned or think that Life and Death of a Porno Gang was the better social criticism of life in Eastern Europe, this movie challenges the audience and creates small children out of the most hardcore horror fan. The gore lives… if you liken this to torture porn you’re probably belittling it, but you’re not far off.
Craig created Tucker and Dale vs Evil after a career in the movie industry that was not altogether horror based if at all. In creating two loveable redneck heroes that must fight not only the forces of evil, but of stereotyping, judgmental humanity as well, he has created what equates to a physical horror comedy effort that likes to spray the red stuff. He has mastered the art of the wood chipper kill which, until recently, had slowly faded out from common use in horror films and provide the audience with an excuse to be entertained by some truly stringy body shreds. We’re waiting for a follow up from this 2010 effort that will seal the deal, but his contribution to the horror comedy splatter genre definitely keeps him in the forefront.
Nothing says a gory good time like Laid to Rest and the sequel Chrome Skull: Laid to Rest 2. These movies bring out the big knife and the masked, unkillable killer who stalks his victims intensity and a generous dose of even handed blood gush. Rob’s been in Hollywood for quite some time working on television shows but in 2009 he made the jump into hyper gore space. Will we get a third installment in this potential franchise and where will he pop up next? Gore groupies need to know. You can’t work on Teen Wolf forever!
Lynch’s work on the show Holliston has been creating the ideal environment for horror sitcoms (and not simply action/dramas) to thrive. The reason we have him on this list is his work on Wrong Turn 2 and Chillerama. Wrong Turn 2 is a fan favorite sequel, gory and off putting in the best hillbilly horror way. His work on the Chillerama wrap story is gory and gruesome, colorful and sick. This is true horror entertainment. Chillerama grained a tremendous cult following as screenings popped up through the country, eventually making its way to Netflix Instant where it hit and excited new viewers.
Ah yes… the man who wanted to build a better centipede in an according to Harrison (of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine) way. Tom Six has made people queasy, He has single-handedly made ass to mouth a popular catch phrase in the horror community which might have been considered somewhat of a faux pas before Human Centipede, but afterward, you might here your kids say it on the goddamn playground. I even made a Human Centipede series of pumpkins for a carving contest at work complete with fecal matter and people laughed. He followed it up with a sequel that was considered to be absolutely gonzo violent, sexually perverse and hit all the rungs down the social more ladder. With a third installment on the way, you simply have to ask how long it will be before your significant other has you cupping their anus with your dentures.
Adam Wingard is one of my absolute favorite up and coming filmmakers. He’s been making movies since 2004, but with his release of V/H/S and its sequel we’ve seen just how powerful a found footage movie can be. His efforts are effects driven with a focus on keeping things practical as opposed to turning to the computer and his upcoming film (that has already been on the festival circuit for some time) You’re Next is set to blow your ever-loving mind. I have not screened this movie at this time, but a trusted reviewer, Heather Seebach from *Viewer Discretion Advised says it’s got teeth. Let’s hope this gives us a shot at V/H/S/3 on a more wide release.
The freshest face in the class comes straight off a recent viewing of Frankenstein’s Army. Here’s a guy who can make a found footage movie have a solid, fun narrative without you a stomach ache or inspiring nausea, but can turn around and give us class A special effects, makeup and creature design. There’s blood and guts and new zombots, half human half machine cyborg like warriors. This is the Dr. Frankenstein of the Splat Pack. This guy probably mixes his Bloody Mary’s with real blood and then uses an eyeballs instead of an live for garnish. If Raaphorst gets a budget, you may never dig out of the organ pile.
Here we have a true breakout case, and one that is the equivalent of harvesting true horror movie making talent from the streets. Eisener won a contest with his fake trailer for Hobo with a Shotgun in 2007 during a Grindhouse movie related contest. The trailer is fun and bloody to be certain and eventually inspired a full length movie starring Rutger Hauer that is part of horror cult history. The images in that movie are unforgettable, and movies like Hobo with a Shotgun are creating new horror fans of a much younger age (new meat!). Before Hobo with a Shotgun was released Eisener created one of the funniest and splatter packed shorts in Treevenge, a movie that takes its score from Cannibal Holocaust and its plot from the depths of your worst Egg Nog, Christmas Hangovers. His contribution to the ABC’s of Death, another short, is one of the strangest segments in the film and his contribution to the anthology, V/H/S/2 is terrifying and also features a scene with a dog that you might have to look away from (if you don’t… get ready for more nightmares and therapy). He is the absolute king of horror short slaughter pounding more blood per minute into his short films than most directors put into a lifetime worth of work.
The Soska Sisters, Jen and Sylvia Soska
They broke ground with Dead Hooker in a Trunk creating an immediate following and horror community recognition with their low budget but practical effects driven horror comedy that features its fair share of the red stuff. With their follow up effort American Mary featuring amateur, cosmetic, underground surgery, sex changes and torture via body modification, you’ve got a movie that earns the name torture porn but for all the best and right reasons. The Soskas do fucked up well. They disturb your stomach and they creep into your brain, taking only the parts they want leaving you with a new, disturbed world. Yeah, they’re hotties too. That only adds to the cult of Soska-ism that is creating solid horror.
By an overwhelming margin, it seems that the 2012 horror movie of the year was Cabin in the Woods which is a superior meta horror effort that is good gonzo gory fun, a box office success and long time coming. It was worth every minute that we had to wait to see its release especially as a big screen success. While not the effects in Goddard’s movies are practical, they work, creating nightmare-scapes on an near unimagined scale. Good things for Goddard in his future if he stays in the community that loves him. (and loved your work Whedon’s Buffy series as well). If anyone can do an Evil Dead sequel its Goddard. He almost has made an Evil Dead already.
How Marcus Dunstan isn’t included in the original Splat Pack must solely be due to his writing efforts on some of the goriest film in the last decade rather than his place in the director’s chair. While he wrote Feast and its sequels, Saw IV, V, VI, 3D and Piranha 3DD, he directed 2009’s The Collector which is as torture porn with a delightful twist, as mind-bending as you will see them. It has a pulse that resonates well with fans of the Splat Pack’s senior class efforts. His sequel, while not my personal favorite picture, is brutal, effects driven and continues to capitalize on the disturbing imagery and concepts that made its predecessor a success.
This list certainly has a bunch of folks who made shorts for V/H/S and V/H/S/2. Gareth Evans helped to create one of the most memorable shorts in the young anthology series with Safe Haven alongside Timo Tjahjanto. His previous effort is the one that his fans gobble up like Thanksgiving turkey. The Raid: Redemption is an off the wall action picture with so much action its difficult to keep track of who the protagonist has already dispatched. While this film isn’t first and a foremost a horror picture, the aggravated assault on the viewer is enough evidence for inclusion into the next class. The sequel to The Raid is coming. How many more people need to die before you are taken with this director’s pulse pounding efforts?
Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero
These are the fellas behind the REC series. Need I say more? These pictures actually terrify me and use a unique vision of the transition process from human to zombie/demon thing completely with plenty of flesh ripping and blood a-go-go. Each film tests the audience’s tolerance for how much they can stand, mastering the found footage style and putting the gore right in your lap. They continue their efforts on the series in REC IV coming soon, but make sure to catch the previous installments. They’ve even seen their work remade in Quarantine, not hardcore enough, but its sequel turns it back on (though not directed by Plaza and Balaguero).
I can tell you very little about Franck, but he made an absolutely gut wrenching remake of Maniac starring Elijah Wood. The movie victimizes its audience, attacking ferociously while making you feel strange sympathy for our killer. This is a must watch. The music is amazing to boot (even though that has nothing to do with the gore content). There’s nothing like a bloody mannequin or two to make you feel uneasy. If anything this film feels less like a true remake of Maniac, but feels like kin to Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer in its disregard for the audiences finer sensibilities.
Steven C. Miller
Miller created quite a stir when he helmed the remake of Silent Night Deadly Night, Silent Night, dividing audiences who weren’t sure that the remake lived up to iconic imagery and fan-loved kills of the original picture. It was one of my personal favorite films of 2012, and certainly brought the effects with some creative kills that left no hemoglobin unturned. He painted a dark vision of Christmas that is as blood red as Santa’s suit. His other efforts, Aggression Scale and Automaton Transfusion are considered by many fans to be excellent films and with his new feature Under the Bed, he’s created a dark reality that every one has feared at one time or another (their own bedroom). Under the Bed features at least one fabulous case of body destruction that will have your finger on rewind. I rewatched the aforementioned scene at least three times with mouth agape and clapped to myself quietly. He’s scheduled to do a host of new pictures, but the remake of Motel Hell has to secure his place in the Junior Class of Splat Pack stardom.
The great part about creating a list like this is that it is ever evolving. The old Splat Pack, Senior class, is still making movies with the release of Lords of Salem this past year from Rob Zombie, Green Inferno hitting the festival circuit from Eli Roth and Roth’s acting/producing role in Aftershock, Alexadnre Aja is putting out Horns and helped get us the amazing new Maniac remake. Bousman’s still making movies. James Wan is on fire with his new release of The Conjuring even though it’s barely got any blood or gore to speak of. Perhaps the movie I look forward to only second to Green Inferno is Wolf Creek 2. There’s just something wrong with Greg McLean and we love him for it! Let’s see how this next decade plays out and when the ratings board will flip the switch giving gore the green light turning the movie industry on its ass again. Do we have a Junior Splat Pack here and who gets to be Sammie David Jr?