Homo and horror collide as out filmmaker Shawn Ewert slices his way into the movies
RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
For some people, every day is Halloween.
The monsters and nightmares stick around all year long and they are just fine with that.
Definitely Shawn Ewert is. Actually, if it wasn’t for those nightmares, he might be out of his profession as a horror film director.
“If I’m working around the house, I’ll throw in any scary movie for the background,” he says. “It’s just another day.”
When a “cool aunt” showed him A Nightmare on Elm Street, it scared him like it should any 5-year-old. Now 32, he admits he can’t get enough of it. So he decided to turn his photography work into filmmaking.
“I love film in general but because of that, horror has special place for me,” he says. “I watched a lot of Hitchcock growing up. He wasn’t going for gore — he was all about story. That’s what it is for me. If I don’t care about story, I don’t care about the film.”
In junior high, his writing began to manifest as his outlet for his “freakiness:” No one read his stuff for fear they would freak out. In the back of his mind, though, he wondered what his stories would actually look like.
“I knew those stories would be so much cooler if I could watch,” he says. “All I thought was how could I make this on the screen. I’d love to show to somebody someday the way I see all this in my head.”
Ewert rolls his eyes at the thought of reminiscing over high school. Like many gay youth, they weren’t the best of times for him. He came out to a select few, but was publicly outed by the girl he dated. Still, Ewert came out relatively unscathed — even in a Mesquite high school.
But his second family was in the horror film fan community, and it’s there he found solace and even acceptance. Unlike comedy or musicals, there isn’t an actual community of fans, but those who like scary movies — who really like them — come together and Ewert found a home. When he began his coming out process on his own terms, he found acceptance among his brethren.
“For me, the horror community is pretty accepting,” he says. “Horror fans can connect to so many other people that it’s almost a family atmosphere. In that group, you’re less of a freak and that made it easier to come out to those people.”
Fast-forward to June 2010. Ewert’s production company, Right Left Turn Productions, screened his short Jack’s Bad Day at the first Fears for Queers film festival in Addison. The one-day event featured all gay filmmakers in the horror genre. His 20-minute film is about a serial killer who comes up short in his murderous proclivity. Ewert calls it a horror-comedy.
“The stuff we’ve made so far has been tongue-in-cheek,” he says. “There’s a certain comedy to Jack’s Bad Day. All his victims die right before he kills them. What it would it mean for a serial killer to have that kind of day?”
He’s wrapping up his second short The Sleepover, a 10-minute-long film that leaves the comedy out in favor of sheer fear. “Oh gosh, it’s a horrifying story about a serial killer of little girls,” he says.
So where’s the gay stuff? Ewert doesn’t see things that way. Although he’s gay and a filmmaker, his films aren’t going to “be gay” just because he is. Got it?
“The problem I have with most LGBT films is the filmmakers make them as gay as possible without much of a story,” he says. “They make films that are so narrow just to fit one community. I want to see the gay community in my films. I also want to have appeal to everyone. And I don’t write gay-centric necessarily, but I do have a script I couldn’t stop writing.”
That would be his latest short, Out Come the Wolves, and it’s both scary and topical. Ewert’s first gay horror piece is about one kid’s revenge on bullies. But Wolves is also personal to him because his own run-ins were far scarier than any movie.
“I used a lot of language in the film that if someone were to say to me and I would be pretty upset,” he says. “When a truckload of guys once chased and threatened me, it was my first dose of reality that they could literally take someone’s life. That made its way into this film. This is revenge for me.”
He’s taking baby steps with his short films, but his first full-length feature is in sight. Ewert has scripts and ideas ready to put on camera. If he runs out of ideas, well, all he has to do is go to sleep.
“Almost everything I’ve done has come out of a dream, or as close to a dream as I can remember,” Ewert says.
Or maybe he means nightmare.
For more on Ewert’s films, visit RightLeftTurnProductions.com.
Horror filmmaker Shawn Ewert knows his scary movies. He also knows what’s so gay about many of them. He breaks down some of his favorites for us here.
The Hunger – “David Bowie is in the film. Oh, and the really hot romance between Susan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve.”
The Lost Boys – “They only wanted Michael as part of the crew. The girl — secondary.”
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 – “I keep this in a special place with the coming out story and so much homoeroticism.”
Fright Night – “Evil Ed’s ostracism from the rest of the kids, finds a “home”/acceptance with a sexy older man/vampire.”
Interview With the Vampire – “OK, really? Do I have to spell this one out?”
Psycho – “Overbearing mother, issues with women, liked to stuff things. Gay.”
Dracula – “ Oh, Vlad totally had it bad for Jonathan Harker”.
Night of the Creeps – “Yeah, at the end he gets the girl, but only after his “roommate” is killed by one of the phallic aliens that gets you by going through your mouth.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010