Ted Wilson founded the Telluride Horror Show 14 years ago. So, it’s safe to say that he knows what to look for in a good horror movie.
Ahead of the festival’s opening night this Friday, Oct. 13, we asked Wilson what he wants to see more of in the indie horror genre — and what he wants to see less. His resounding answer for horror filmmakers? Throw restraint out the window.
Telluride Horror Show Founder Ted Wilson on Indie Horror
“Personally, one of the things I say — and speaking from our programmers, they say it as well — we really wish people would just go for it,” Wilson tells MovieMaker. “I feel like sometimes, what hampers what would otherwise be a decent horror movie is restraint.”
Wilson does acknowledge that there are many different subgenres in horror, and that not everyone who loves horror necessarily loves gore. But an unrestrained horror film doesn’t mean it has to be heavy on the disgusting and vile — it just shouldn’t be very buttoned up.
“This is something people can debate back and forth. It also depends on the story. Maybe the story calls for restraint. But as a horror fan, everyone’s kind of looking for that movie that just goes for it,” he adds.
All Wilson and his programmers are really looking for in a good horror film is to be disturbed.
“If my programmers and I watch a movie and it freaks us out, then we’re like, well, that’s good to go,” he says.
He points to Demián Rugna’s 2023 film When Evil Lurks as an example of a delightfully unrestrained horror flick.
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“That’s a movie that just goes for it, no holds barred,” he says. “If I could be a fatherly figure to young directors, I’d tell them, don’t hold back. Don’t be restrained. Because we want to be freaked out. We want to be scared. We want to be disturbed. That’s we’re all looking for as horror fans.”
The good news for indie horror filmmakers is that there also no need for restraint in choosing a subgenre of horror to go all in on. Whether it’s found footage films in the vein of The Blair Witch Project or a psychological horror film like Shutter Island, Wilson says you really can’t go wrong.
“Honestly, in the indie horror world, I would say that trends never die. For example, this year we we have at least two found footage movies. So all the sub genres of horror are still very much alive within the indie world,” he says. “With the studio films, those can tend to kind of follow what’s popular with the mainstream audience, whereas an indie world, any sub genre never goes away.”
At Telluride Horror Show, Wilson and his programming team like to curate a balanced slate of films across many different subgenres.
“We still do get a great slasher film, but then we still get these I would say more smartly written stories that don’t just go for the blood and guts. A movie like Falling Stars, one of the films we have this year, is a very, very well written movie in dealing with some bigger themes, rather than just people running from a mass killer in the woods,” he says. “Filmmakers are always typically coming up with ways to keep it all fresh.”
Ultimately, horror as a genre will always remain divisive, Wilson says. No matter how excellent a horror movie is, there will always be someone who can’t stomach it. T
hat’s what keeps horror especially indie horror, feeling like an underground movement. It might never be taken seriously at mainstream awards shows like the Oscars, where horror movies are historically underappreciated — and that’s okay.
“It’s still the punk in the room a little bit,” Wilson says. “As a fan, I think it’s cool. If the regular folks out there aren’t hip to it, they’re the ones missing out.”
But at Telluride Horror Show, the audience is all die-hard horror fans. Wilson lovingly describes them as “wide-eyed children” eager to be unnerved.
“It’s fun to watch the reactions of a new unreleased movie when you’ve got 300 people pouring out of a theater and it’s fun to see — some people are like, ‘That was amazing,’ and then of course, some people are like, ‘I hated that,'” he laughs. “You really never know.”
You can get tickets to this year’s Telluride Horror Show here.