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After creating one of the early gay horror shorts to gain
attention, NIGHT SHADOWS, out writer/director JT Seaton followed up with the
feature film GEORGE: A ZOMBIE INTERVENTION. Starring genre icon Lynn Lowry (THE
CRAZIES) and Peter Stickles (GINGERDEAD MAN 3: SATURDAY NIGHT CLEAVER), GEORGE takes
us to a party in a world where zombies are less end-of-the-world-infestation
and more a manageable condition.
In this first of two parts, I talk to Seaton about his early
influences, making Super 8 movies as a kid, and his first gay horror short.
FANGORIA: Who are your influences as a writer/director?
JT SEATON: Probably the most influential writer on my work
is H.P. Lovecraft. There’s just something about his writing and the mood he
creates. What I think is scary is the unexplainable, and the more you explain
something, the less frightening it becomes. And I think that’s one of the
things I like about Lovecraft. There are a lot of things that are unexplained.
There’s things the human brain can’t comprehend, and it drives people insane.
That kind of stuff I find scary.
For GEORGE: A ZOMBIE INTERVENTION,
probably like BBC and British farces are a big influence. And subtlety; just
like throwaway lines, throwaway humor. Stuff you don’t normally catch right off
the bat. Stuff you kind of hear later on in second or third viewings.
FANG: So if you’re a fan of the unexplained, are you a fan
of Japanese horror? I’m a big fan of Japanese horror, but so much of it is sort
of “Here are the scary things that are happening, and we’re not going to bother
having an explanation in the end…”
SEATON: [Laughs] That’s pretty much it, yeah. I am a fan of
the J-horror. I like the style of it. There’s something, just in the style
itself, that’s inherently creepy. But I’ve gotten to a point with J-horror
where a lot of them are starting to feel very similar, very much like each
other. It makes me wonder, “okay, we’ve seen the
girl-with-the-long-dark-hair-ghost quite a few times. What else can you do?”
FANG: They’ve done that to death, pardon the pun, and then
there’s the sub-genre of little-boy-child-who-is-creepy.
SEATON: Like JU-ON.
FANG: Yes! The GRUDGE movies, of which there are
approximately a billion. So what is your background? Where are you from?
SEATON: I am from the armpit of California, Bakersfield. So
yeah, I’m a California native, born and raised. That’s why I can’t imagine
myself living anywhere else, because I’m too predisposed to the climate of
California. Seriously, I can’t handle seasons. [Laughs] Seasons don’t work for
me. If things change too much, I’m like, “Hey, what’s going on? Snow? I don’t
even know what this is.” I want to be able to go to it, hang out for an hour or
two, then come back and get into shorts and a t-shirt.
FANG: As a kid were you reading FANGORIA or FAMOUS MONSTERS
and all that stuff? Were you a horror-obsessed kid? Or did that come later?
SEATON: I was
absolutely a horror-obsessed kid. I read FANGORIA magazine. I actually still
have several of my old issues that I bought way back when in a box in my
closet. My room in high school looked like a horror movie set. I had horror
movie posters on my wall. I had Halloween cobwebs in my room year round. I had
a waterbed back when waterbeds were popular. I don’t know if anybody still has
waterbeds any more. Do they still make waterbeds?
FANG: I don’t know, they were really popular, but then
landlords started catching on. They were like, “Wait a minute. This could
explode – no thank you.”
SEATON: I had a waterbed that had a big headboard, and I
used to collect horror masks, and I had all my masks on the headboard. So yeah,
I was very much a horror geek when I was a kid. And I made horror movies, too,
with my dad’s Super 8 movie camera, using the neighborhood kids as the actors.
And I also made stop motion animation films with my STAR WARS action figures. I
wish I still had those Super 8 horror films – I have no idea where they went.
FANG: Were you a self aware gay kid? Or did that come later?
SEATON: Well, I was aware in the sense of I knew what I was
attracted to. Did I accept it? No. [Laughs] Not for awhile. Partly because of
the time, and partly because of where I grew up. Bakersfield is a very
conservative, very “Red” patch in a big “Blue” state. Being gay in Bakersfield:
not an easy thing, and I don’t think it’s an easy thing today. I’ll go back to
Bakersfield, and I’ll run into people, and they’ll be talking to me and it turns
out they’re gay and not out; they’re afraid to be out in Bakersfield.
Bakersfield doesn’t always have the smartest people on the planet hanging out
in that town. People can get beat up. There are still hate crimes going on
there, as there are in many, many cities across this country and the world.
FANG: When you did accept your sexuality? Did you have a
period when you thought you were the only gay in the horror village like I did?
I felt like I was the only gay guy that liked horror movies for the longest
SEATON: I didn’t even really put the two together. It wasn’t
being a gay kid who liked horror films. It was, you know, I just liked horror
films and I was a gay kid. And it wasn’t really until I went to California
Institute of the Arts for my Masters that I kind of came to terms of accepting
who I was and all that kind of stuff. CalArts is a very, very liberal school;
lots of free love. [Laughs] Very 70s vibe in there. It really is its own world.
So I really felt safe in that environment to really be who I was, and not be
FANG: I saw NIGHT SHADOWS years ago. Even though you were making films since you were a kid, I assume
this was the first short of yours that made the rounds on the festival circuit.
SEATON: That’s right. I shot NIGHT SHADOWS in 2004? I think
is when I made it. And at the time, there really wasn’t any gay horror cinema
out there. There were two things when it came to gay horror cinema, either over
the top camp, like LA CAGE AUX ZOMBIES and the homoerotic horror of David
DeCoteau, who would claim he wasn’t making gay horror films, he was making
horror films for “the ladies.” But at the time, nobody was actually making a
serious, gay horror film with gay characters. And that’s what I wanted to do
with NIGHT SHADOWS, make a genuinely scary horror film in which the characters
just happened to be gay.
At that time in 2004 the internet was really starting to
kick in, and people were starting to actually use it for hookups, and meeting
people online for sex. It was all still fresh and new, and I used that element
to base the story on this hookup that does not seem to go so well.
It’s so funny, I showed NIGHT SHADOWS to a first date one
time, and there wasn’t a second date. I think it scared him a little bit. So
I’ve refrained after that from showing my films to first dates. Usually after
the third or fourth date mark, I finally start showing my movies. [Laughs]
NIGHT SHADOWS came out in 2004, and actually still plays – it played last year,
it played at a festival this year. It still gets around.
TO BE CONTINUED
Click here to watch JT Seaton’s gay horror short, NIGHT
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