Wil Wheaton Interview
As an avid follower of author/actor Wil Wheaton's blog for the past several years, I've read all about his interest in science fiction, gaming, comic books, and other geeky pursuits. But until a casual conversation I had with him at Phoenix Comicon this year, I had no idea that he was also a fellow horror fan. Later that day, Wil graciously took a few minutes of his time to talk with me about his love of horror and some of his favorite films in the genre.
Classic-Horror: You told me earlier today that you're actually a huge horror geek.
Wil Wheaton: I am. Classic horror. I really dislike the new kind of torture porn horror that seems to be really popular with the damn kids today. But, like, classic psychological thrillers and all the zombie movies from the 70s and 80s. And there's absolutely place in my heart for the slasher movies that were like our date films when we were teenagers and stuff. But I really like movies that like, are technically horror but have a lot more depth to them. Movies like Near Dark that are more psychological than anything else.
C-H: Also, Near Dark is like a Western with vampires...
Wil: And you know what I love about Near Dark so much -- and I think it's the best vampire movie ever made. They never once refer to themselves as vampires and they never really talk about it being vampires. And everybody talks about the scene where Bill Paxton goes, "I hate it when they ain't been shaved." That's a great scene and stuff, but I think the best scene in that whole movie, man, is when they get in the van and Jesse's trying to pull the tape across the window of the van. You just feel like they're a family and they're just trying to survive and they're trying to keep themselves alive and stuff. It's just this classic story of... (laughs) it's The Grapes of Wrath with vampires. It's this classic story of survival in the West, but it's like that... And the transfusion thing was kind of lame, but whatever.
C-H: Well, they had to get out of it somehow.
Wil: By that point, well, it's not what the movie is about, so it's okay.
C-H: Right, they sold you on everything else, so let's just give them that.
Wil: Let's not be greedy.
C-H: So how did you start out with horror?
Wil: I don't know. I've just always liked it, as long as I can remember. I just thought scary movies were cool. I really liked scary books. And it's fun to be scared! I grew up in a really comfortable suburban life and when I have nothing to legitimately be afraid of, it's fun to be scared of things that go bump in the night?
C-H: Who were some of your horror heroes?
Wil: Well, I'm 36, so I am the exact right age for Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, the standard go-to guys. I love the classic Universal monsters. I don't like the movies very much; the movies kind of let me down a little bit, in retrospect. They're not as big as they've been built up in my mind. But the characters themselves are so iconic and wonderful. I don't like what Universal has done with them. Universal's kind of made them poochie now.
C-H: Van Helsing was a piece of crap.
Wil: It was utter dogs**t. But I love The Invisible Man, thought The Creature from the Black Lagoon was great. My son and I watch all kinds of B-movies on Chiller all the time, but we kind of Mystery Science Theater 'em. We watch movies that are like, so bad they're good. It's a lot of fun.
C-H: Your first convention convention was a Fangoria con.
Wil: My very first convention was Fangoria's Weekend of Horrors at the Ambassador Hotel in LA. I was probably in fifth or sixth grade when my friend Bobby and I went to that show. This is how long ago it was -- I had twenty dollars with me and it lasted me all day. I bought, like, a bunch of magazines and at that time we were super-into Robotech. There was some dealer there that had a whole bunch of Robotech mechs and stuff that you could transform and everything. And we came home with just so much swag and it was a great great day.
C-H: We know you've done one horror film and we won't really get into The Curse, because it's The Curse...
Wil: Because it's absolute s**t and I wish I hadn't done it?
C-H: That's one of many reasons.
Wil: Thanks I appreciate it.
C-H: Despite that experience, do you think you might look into doing another horror project in the future?
Wil: It depends on the quality of it. I mean if it's something that is a dark, psychological, maybe supernatural kind of thing, then I would absolutely be interested in it. But movies that are gory for the sake of being gory do absolutely nothing for me. And look, nothing against people who enjoy that sort of thing, I just don't. And also, practically? Those movies are f**king hard to make. It's so uncomfortable to be covered in blood and s**t. It's just not fun. So, as with everything else, if the project was right and it was something I was excited about, then yes, of course I'd be interested.
C-H: Just to wrap up, could you give us two or three of your favorite horror films of all time?
Wil: Well, we've already talked about Near Dark. I'm embarrassed to say, there's a place for Motel Hell with me.
(at this point, I engage Wil in a high-five of horror geek awesomeness)
Wil: There's a thing about Motel Hell, it's a terrible movie. It's horrible. But there's a level of plausibility to it, y'know? One of the things that's always really freaked me out about some of these movies... You drive through little towns and who knows, if you turned left and got off the road, maybe you don't ever get back on the road. It has that quality to it. It's really freaky and scary and disturbing. I don't know if you would count Event Horizon as a horror movie?
C-H: Oh yeah. Definitely.
Wil: Absolutely love Event Horizon. Absolutely love Alien. And then some of the older, 50s Hitchcockian style movies that show less and imply more.
Wil: Love Psycho.
C-H: One of the greatest films of all time.
Wil: Yeah. Well, I know that saying Psycho is great is like saying that puppies are cute and OK Computer is the greatest album in history. It's like, okay, tell us something we don't already know.
C-H: But at the same time, there's great movies and then there's movies that you can go through shot-by-shot and be like, "That's genius and that's genius..."
Wil: There are movies that, in addition to watching them for pleasure, you should watch them and study them, because you can learn from them. You learn so much from the original Dawn of the Dead.
C-H: There are so many layers.
Wil: He does so much in that movie when he's not doing things. It's really great.
C-H: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us, Wil.
Wil: It's been a pleasure.
Photo by Erin Dow.