An almost lifelong lover of horror films, David Hughes founded horror fanzine Skeleton Crew as a media studies project. He passed, but when the fanzine turned professional in 1990, and Hughes became editor – soliciting contributions from Stephen King, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Shaun Hutson and many others – it went to his head; he got fired for writing an editorial about censorship. Unbowed and unbroken (and now unwaged), Hughes launched a new career as a movie marketeer, thanks to horror author Christopher Fowler and his company, The Creative Partnership.
Nearly 25 years and one huge horror revival later, Hughes decided to find something else to satisfy his blood-lust: the dedicated VOD platform TheHorrorShow.TV. Described by VODzilla.co as "the iTunes of horror", TheHorrorShow.TV is now one of the fastest-growing VOD destinations in the UK, carrying almost 200 films (to stream and/or download) from cult classics by the likes of Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento and Mario Bava, to new releases and the odd UK exclusive (some of them very odd), with more being added regularly.
We caught up with Hughes to find out more, and to see what's in store for the future.
STARBURST: To begin with, what inspired you to launch TheHorrorShow.TV?
David Hughes: Two things inspired me to start it; one, I suddenly wondered "what happened to all the good horror films I've seen at FrightFest, Sitges etc. over the years, but have never seen the light of a UK projector? And two: Netflix and iTunes didn't seem to be much interested in horror – iTunes had the triple-A titles, and Netflix will pick up some horror here and there, but neither really caters to the more dedicate horror fan. I hoped that we'd fill a void left by the other Video on Demand platforms.
That's brilliant, as there's lots of great undiscovered films. How did you set about compiling the initial 'hit list' of films? Were there any particular titles you felt you should get?
We sold ourselves as "created for horror fans, curated by horror fans", so the main criteria was to pick a wide variety of films from cult favourites, such as most of Arrow's catalogue of Fulci, Argento, Bava etc, to more extreme films - The Human Centipede for example - new releases, Birth of the Living Dead, The Pit, Mr Jones, etc, and, perhaps most importantly, exclusives, i.e. films not available elsewhere like Separation and Daylight.
Still from DAYLIGHT, available now on TheHorrorShow.TV
We think it's great those unreleased films are getting exposure. Several are unrated, do you envisage a problem with that at some point with the BBFC?
We've worked in partnership with the BBFC from the beginning, although we do have one or two unrated films on the site, most of our films are BBFC certified. We do, however, pride ourselves on having the highest quality and fully uncut versions of the films we carry, although films like A Serbian Film will be based on UK versions. The unrated films we carry do not contain content that would concern the BBFC.
Mentioning A Serbian Film there, would you say that was the most extreme film on the site at the moment or are there others which our readers may have not discovered?
A Serbian Film, Pieces, The Human Centipede films and UK exclusive Outtake Reel, the Lucio Fulci films... these would be the most extreme films of one kind or another – but I think it's important that we cater to all tastes, including those who prefer supernatural/psychological horror to 'shock and gore', so there's a good mix.
Still from OUTTAKE REEL, available now on TheHorrorShow.TV
Absolutely, on that subject do you envisage delving deeper into horror history and adding some pre-'60s films perhaps?
We'd love to carry as broad a range of films as possible, however at the moment we are somewhat at the mercy of the individual distributor deals we are doing, and those tend to be with a view to building as large and diverse a catalogue as possible. But we are also on the lookout for hard-to-find films and more UK exclusives, so that when we make the move to a subscription model, which will run parallel with the current pay-as-you-go offering, we will have a truly diverse and rich selection.
So a 'Netflix/Amazon Prime' style package is planned for the future? That sounds great. Are there any plans to expand the viewing options, e.g. a TV or tablet app?
Yes, we'll be offering a subscription service for a very competitive £4.99 per month, hopefully by the end of the year. It does mean re-negotiating all of our distribution deals, but we're ironing out the details quickly. We are indeed working on smart TV/Xbox/PlayStation apps, however our films can be viewed on virtually anything with a web connection, from mobile phones - ideal for our Short Stack short film collection - to iOS and Android tablets, through PCs, Macs, laptops and smart TVs.
That sounds really promising, and great value. Are you considering another volume of Short Stack? That was particularly brilliant, and an excellent way to catch some of the shorts people who can't get to festivals may have missed.
We'd love to compile another Short Stack, and are definitely on the lookout for high quality short horror films - with 100% of the proceeds going back to the filmmakers. We're about half way to the next set of 10!
HIM INDOORS, available as part of TheHorrorShow.TV's exclusive SHORT STACK collection
Really pleased to hear that! What are your views on the current state of the horror genre? Do you think it's relying too much on the found footage and zombie tropes or can you see it shifting away from that?
Well, we carry a fair few 'found footage' and zombie films, and just when you think each subgenre is exhausted, they throw up a new gem, such as Willow Creek, Daylight or The Sacrament, the latter being not strictly 'found footage', but with much in common. Sure, there's an over-reliance on those relatively easy-to-shoot styles, but hopefully the glut of product on the market will force new filmmakers to come up with new and better ideas, and begin to move away from their over-reliance on these kinds of films. I do think 2014 will be a disappointing year for cinema-released horror films, but there are some fantastic films creeping out on home entertainment formats, including, and in some cases exclusively to, Video on Demand, which I think is going to make it if not exactly a vintage year, then certainly a very strong one.
We totally agree, particularly great films like Birth of the Living Dead, which otherwise would have struggled to find a distributor. VOD certainly seems to be the future, even if dinosaurs like ourselves still prefer physical media. But with the Net still a hot bed of piracy, what are your thoughts/fears over that? VOD/streaming seems to have taken off with people, who are getting used to iTunes, etc. Do you think it's just a case of educating people into getting used to paying for products again?
Our view is that pirates will pirate, but hopefully people will see the value in paying between 99p and £3.49 to stream a great horror film in high quality with no ads, etc. on a sophisticated platform like TheHorrorShow.TV – and also that paying, say, £6.99-£9.99 for a high quality digital copy of a film is a great way to build a horror collection without building shelves! We're all still fans of physical copies of films, but we don't always want to wait for the physical release – sometimes we just want to see a film as soon as humanly, and hopefully legally, possible. And VOD is a fantastic way to join the conversation as early as possible; to see the films we'd normally have to wait months or even years to see through conventional distribution methods.
Finally, is there anything else you'd like to let our readers know about?
Among the new developments we're excited about is our new blog www.TheHorrorShow.TV/blog for which former FEARnet critic Scott Weinberg is now writing reviews of all the latest releases. We're also doing a weekly "VODcast" which is a great way to have various horror personalities pick their favourite films from the site, or take a look at new releases. And with nearly 200 films on the site, a little guidance can be quite helpful. And we'd like to offer STARBURST readers and exclusive offer: if they rent/stream any film by July 31st and you'll receive a promo code to get another rental ABSOLUTELY FREE!
Wonderful! Thank you very much David for talking to us, and good luck for the future!
You can find out more, browse the films available, and sign up to rent or stream some fantastic horror films over at The HorrorShow.TV website.