Love horror movies and want to meet some awesome people? If so, the SVA Horror Society is for you. Co-founded by BFA Film majors Santiago Saba Salem and Matthew Yturralde, the club meets weekly to screen and discuss scary movies, often inviting guest speakers such as actor and producer Larry Fessenden (Habit, Wendigo), David Howard Thornton (Art the Clown from Terrifier) and legendary grindhouse B-movie filmmaker and curator William Lustig (Maniac Cop) to have Q&As post-screening. Ten people came to the first Horror Society meeting in the spring of 2018. Now the club has over 130 members.
What’s the appeal? “Horror movies are fun to watch as a group,” Yturralde says. Screenings are carefully curated to complement the interests of the club’s members. “We poll everyone about their favorite genres, directors—and how scared they want to be on a scale of 1 to 10,” he says. What’s popular? “Horror-comedy, sci-fi and witch stuff.” Less popular are gore and torture films. “Gore for gore’s sake doesn’t play well.”
Most films are shown at the mini-theater in Room 502 at SVA’s 209 East 23rd Street location, but there are also outings to local theaters. ”When the new Halloween [produced by SVA alumnus Ryan Turek; BFA 1998 Film] movie was coming out, we realized a lot of people hadn’t seen the original. So we scheduled a screening of that, and then we went as a group to Union Square to see the new one right after.”
Another fun road trip was a creepy, comedic tour of Brooklyn with Madame Morbid’s Trolley Tours. The tickets were fully sponsored by the College. “We announced it on [the College’s newsletter] SVA Today, and within an hour, the tickets were gone, and we had a waitlist.” The tour operator has an SVA connection—its CEO is SVA alumnus Allison Huntington Chase (BFA 2010 Film and Video). They had such a great time, the club is thinking of future partnerships. “I am thinking of doing a screening on the trolley,” Yturralde says.
Fittingly, the club partnered with VASA (Visual Arts Student Association) for its popular Halloween party, taking over the ‘quiet lane’ section at Bowlmor Lanes, decorating it in spiders and roses and playing movies on all the screens. VASA oversees all clubs at SVA, helping them with budgets, promotion and other matters. “We get their full support,” says Matthew. The Horror Society even won VASA’s Club of the Year award, earning an extra $100 for its budget.
The club is open to all students at SVA. “I want people to meet each other—maybe they can partner up and make films together,” Yturralde says. “We actually have more non-filmmakers than filmmakers.”
In the spirit of Halloween, Yturralde—who is also a veteran and a member of SVA’s Veterans Coalition Of Arts—took some time to talk to us about what he thinks makes a good horror film and his top five favorite spooky movies.
What makes a good horror movie?
I think it comes down to the individual viewer. That’s what’s unique about our club. The films we pick are based on a survey handed out during our first meeting where we have people rate the level of fear they have of watching horror films, the decades and sub-genres they love and hate, etc. After a screening, half of the room could love the movie and half may hate it, and that’s okay. I personally enjoy original stories that surprise me in some way. It’s also a plus if it manages to scare me. I really enjoy foreign horror films and schlocky ’80s fare.
What are your top 5 favorite horror movies of all time, and why?
This is like asking me to Sophie’s Choice five of my 10,000 children. There are so many amazing films to choose from, but I’ll try.
1. Jaws (1975) - No film has affected society on a global scale as this film has. This film a masterpiece. Also, I grew up in San Diego, California, so the ocean was a big part of my life. Masochistic, I know.
2. An American Werewolf in London (1981) - Werewolves, comedy, blood, gore, and Rick Baker’s groundbreaking special-effects makeup. What else could someone ask for in a horror flick? Fun Fact: Baker received the first Academy Award for Special Effects Makeup for his work in this film.
3. Halloween (1978) - The greatest killer of all time, Michael Myers. You can thank John Carpenter for every slasher film chasing the tire tracks of this race car throughout the 1980s. Fun Fact: It’s not the first American slasher film. Black Christmas is. Extra Fun Fact: The director of Black Christmas, Bob Clark, also directed another iconic Christmas film, A Christmas Story.
4. Sleepy Hollow (1999) - This one is nostalgic for me. I was nine years old at my aunt’s house without my parents knowing and I was terrified, but I couldn’t stop watching the film. I love the world Tim Burton created. The movie felt like a campfire story to me.
5. Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988) - Honestly, many films could’ve made number five, but I needed to share some love for the Chiodo Brothers. It’s a total guilty pleasure for me and the score is fantastic. The Chiodo Brothers put a ton of sweat equity into this picture and it birthed them a cult classic. Who said hard work doesn’t pay off?
For people who are curious about joining the club, how can they go about that? And who should they contact?
We meet every Thursday at 7:15pm at 209 East 23rd Street in room 502. We also put out a weekly newsletter, letting members know what film we are showing and horror-related news in the New York area. We’ve got some exciting stuff planned for this year, so if you want to join, swing by one of our meetings or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to have some fresh blood!
A version of this article appears in the fall/winter 2019 issue of the SVA Style. Danielle Peters conducted the Q&A.