THE NEW FLESH is fun. Yeah, it’s a horror podcast, but hosts Brett Arnold and Joe Avella, a pair of filmmakers with comedy credentials, aren’t self-serious completists or VHS-era snobs. They don’t particularly have a favorite era of horror, and they aren’t beholden to those they feel encapsulate the genre. Horror, to them, isn’t something that’s capable of “peaking” or “plateauing.” Horror, to them, is something to hitch oneself to, an ever-evolving mass that unearths transcendence in the unlikeliest of places. As such, they’re not averse to watching the CABIN FEVER remake with an open mind. Maybe it’s great. It’s probably not (it’s not), but, ya know, maybe it’s great?
This is just one of the things that makes THE NEW FLESH such a great podcast for both horror enthusiasts and newbies looking for an entry point. Another is the duo’s sense of humor. Avella’s the skeptic, the potty-mouthed naysayer who relishes any opportunity to decry the sacred cows of Hammer Horror as “boring.” Arnold’s more amiable, the Andy to Avella’s Chucky. Together, the pair spend their hour-long episodes breaking down the latest in horror news before delving into a particular horror movie and, on occasion, its remake (and there’s always a remake, isn’t there?). It’s not comprehensive, nor is it all that focused, but it’s certainly knowledgeable and always funny. You’re not likely to find another horror podcast like it.
Because we’re fans (and fellow horror podcasters), we sat down with the duo to discuss the origins of THE NEW FLESH, their views on horror, and the films that made them love the genre.
Blumhouse.com: Let’s start simple: How did THE NEW FLESH come about?
Joe Avella: I got a job at Business Insider last January, Brett sat across from me. We struck up conversations early on and I’m sure I talked about horror movies or myself because that’s all I talk about. He was cool, then we realized we both have the same Earwolf Wolf Dead shirt, and started talking podcasts. Somewhere in there he mentioned he wanted to do a pod. It was good too because I needed an excuse to watch more horror so a show about it would do the trick!
Brett Arnold: I’ve been obsessed with podcasts for a while — first with This American Life, Doug Loves Movies and shows on Kevin Smith’s SModcast network. Eventually I transitioned to more comedy-centric pods like Comedy Bang Bang and all the Earwolf stuff, and I knew I wanted to be involved. So much so that I bugged the hell out of Jeff Ullrich once a semester, then the CEO of Earwolf, about working for the company and wound up interning at the Earwolf studio in LA for a summer. It gave me a first-hand look at how the sausage gets made, and I paid attention almost obsessively.
After that summer, I had the vague idea of starting a movie-centric podcast, but since there are so many, I knew I had to get a little more specific. I discovered that there weren’t many horror podcasts doing what I’d like to do, which is blend my enthusiasm for horror with my love of comedy.
Before actually deciding on a show, I knew I had to find a co-host. Without a person to bounce ideas and jokes off of, someone to banter with, the show would be trash. As soon as I met Joe at Business Insider, I knew we had our show. We’re both sarcastic assholes, and we can smell our own. Not our assholes, but the sarcasm. Whatever. I had bounced the idea around prior to meeting Joe with several people, but I never felt comfortable enough with the chemistry to go forward. As soon as we recorded episode one, I knew we had the rapport we needed to make it work.
BH.com: So, you’re obviously both horror fans. Were you raised on horror or did you discover it as adults? Did you have a gateway horror movie? What was the appeal?
BA: I was absolutely raised by horror, but not exclusively by my parents. Growing up, I had a neighbor that I would watch movies with, and he’d always take me to Blockbuster and pick out the weirdest, most fucked-up movies he could find. Being horrified by the giggling demons in EVIL DEAD is one of my first memories, oddly enough. I remember double-featuring that with THE TOXIC AVENGER, and thinking “I am way too young for this shit.” Those two movies are what I always reference as my starting line.
My parents further indulged me by taking me to see whatever horror movies I wanted growing up. They would always try to say no and get me to watch kids movies, but I’d always lean towards horror. I vividly remember renting the CHILD’S PLAY movies from Blockbuster and watching them with my mom and sister, absolutely loving it. My dad must have drawn the short straw as he is the one stuck taking me to see movies what seems like every Friday night. We saw everything, and most of them put him to sleep, so he never complained too much about the gore and/or nudity. And I turned out just fine!
JA: We’d go to the video store every weekend growing up and I would go straight to the horror section. Every time. I’d just look at every box, look at their cover and back art, read their descriptions. Get super freaked out. It was a big thrill for me. My parents didn’t really care what we rented so I had no problem seeing all the horror I wanted growing up. Especially the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movies. After college I got a job at a Blockbuster and all the staff and I would do is talk about horror. It became my obsession from then on.
Not sure exactly how to describe the appeal, but to me I find the best horror movies are the best movies. Or the most enjoyable to watch. Like the best horror film is better than the best comedy or drama. I’d say my gateway flicks were DREAM WARRIORS, THE THING, DAWN OF THE DEAD, EVIL DEAD 2, and the first three HALLOWEEN flicks. Especially SEASON OF THE WITCH. I was obsessed with it as a kid.
BH.com: Would you describe yourselves as horror completists? Do you try and consume everything? Or would you say your tastes veer towards any certain era or sub-genre? Joe, I know from listening that you’re not a fan of some of the old-school classics.
JA: Yeah, fuck all that old-school black and white BS.
BA: Joe hates everything. I tend to like things more than he does, but I’m still fairly hard to please. The difference between Joe and I is that if I hear some no-name, terrible-sounding horror flick is playing at the IFC Center I’ll go. Joe would never.
JA: Never ever. My time is too valuable!
BA: Please make a note that Joe’s time is anything but valuable.
I try my best to consume anything and everything, from new releases to classics I may have missed. I don’t have any one particular sub-genre of horror that I gravitate towards. As long as it’s “good,” I’ll take a ghost story, haunted house flick, or a torture-filled gore-fest no problem. I’ve had about enough of horror remakes, though. We’ve been covering a lot of them on the show recently and 9 times out of 10, they’re just terrible and totally miss the point.
JA: I’m not a completist, and, to be honest, I think horror fans use that as an excuse to support lazy trash. I don’t veer towards any specific era or genre. I just like stuff that’s good and have no tolerance for shit movies, horror or otherwise. Brett sees everything and it drives me mad!
BH.com: In your eyes, then, what elements need to coalesce for a horror movie to resonate? Can a bad story be redeemed by great gore effects? Or vice versa? What are some examples of great modern horror movies?
JA: Googles “coalesce”.
Story is everything. If it’s bad, your movie is bad. There’s a million well-produced, well-made, big-budget terrible horror films. Vice versa? I guess, maybe? Bad effects can really take you out of a film. We reviewed THE HALLOW, which we both enjoyed. Won’t give away any spoilers, but some creatures show up, and they looked kinda ehhh. Made me like the flick less. So both have to be great for it to work.
I should note some great horror films have little to no gore effects and are still enjoyable. Recently we liked THE LAST SHIFT, which had a modest budget. CREEP and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY are good examples of that, too.
BA: Story is important, but I wouldn’t say it’s “everything.” There are plenty of watchable slashers that don’t really have the best or most original story. I think the trick is that a story in a horror movie doesn’t have to be overdone. The simpler, the better.
HALLOWEEN is about a guy that stalks babysitters with no explanation. Until the sequels, of course, which sort of ruins the mystique. NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET’s premise is basic and amazing: what if real life horror could happen in your dreams? FRIDAY THE 13TH was originally a “sleepaway camp” revenge movie and not much else.
One of my favorite horror movies of the past decade is HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, which, story-wise, is just about a girl spending a night in a creepy old house to “babysit” some senior citizen. That film works on so many levels in spite of its simplicity.
JA: Off the top of my head, some recent great modern horror: CABIN IN THE WOODS, THE HOST, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, THE DESCENT, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, BONE TOMAHAWK, the first VHS film.
BA: Great modern horror: THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, INSIDE, MARTYRS, STARRY EYES, OCULUS, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, LAST SHIFT, MAGIC MAGIC, YOU’RE NEXT.
JA: OCULUS?! That giant mirror movie? Hell no.
BA: It’s great! As are so many other Blumhouse releases.
JA: See what I have to deal with?
BA: Joe, you are the worst.
BH.com: What can one expect from a typical episode of THE NEW FLESH? Where would you say the podcast’s focus lies?
JA: Lively chat! Hilarious banter! I say we’re replicating what it’s like to talk to your friends about horror. We joke, we go off on tangents, but we’re funny so it’s all good.
BA: The focus is on a complete lack of focus. We go all over the place.
We do have a fairly rigid structure though: we do quick horror news hits up top, talking about anything/everything horror-related that happened in the past week, followed by Joe and I discussing the movies we watched that week–horror or otherwise–and then we hone in on whatever movie or movies are the centerpiece of the discussion.
Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of episodes revolving around classic horror movies and their remakes, and we have a lot of fun picking apart why it’s so damned hard to make remakes work.
I think can expect to laugh a decent amount, no matter which episode you choose, as well as maybe learn a little something about a horror movie or horror movement. We keep things loose, though, and the real fun of the podcast comes from our bullshitting and banter, which people seem to enjoy.
BH.com: You recently interviewed Mark Neveldine and, curiously, a dude from Umphrey’s Mcgee. Who else would you be interested in getting on the show? What aspects of the horror process–directing, acting, writing, effects–are you most interested in hearing about from your guests?
BA: We’ve been incredibly lucky with the guests we landed so far. Those episodes are easy favorites. Down the line, when the podcast becomes more of a full-time gig than a side passion project, I’d love to interview cast and/or crew members who worked on some classic horror movies to talk about the experience of what it was like to actually make some of these movies.
I love hearing about the entire filmmaking process, from the initial words on a page to a fully staffed, budgeted production, and there are so many great horror voices out there that can speak to the on-set antics and mania that can go on. Especially in the 80s, when everything was being censored and all that.
The only thing holding us back from having a guest every week is the fact that Joe and I both work full-time and can’t commit the time/energy to rigorously plan and schedule. There are so many great, accessible folks in NYC we’d love to have.
We have tentative plans to do an episode with Patrick Brice, who did CREEP (and also the hilarious comedy THE OVERNIGHT). We’ll be having on comedian Geoff Tate in June. I think soon enough we’ll start having a third person, a comedian, every week — I can’t help but feel it’s a wasted opportunity since we both are indebted in that scene and have tons of hilarious friends to talk to.
JA: Mark was amazing. I’m a huge CRANK fanboy so it was pretty surreal to have him in my tiny Bushwick apartment. I’m down for anyone in horror who wants to come on the show. I love talking shop and hearing behind-the-scenes stories.Would love to talk to Jeremy Saulnier. YO JEREMY HIT US UP ON TWITTER!
Selfishly, I want to hear about all things production related because i myself am a filmmaker and producer. So I always try to pump people for info and tips.
BH.com: It’s list time.
– Your top 10 favorite horror movies
– Favorite horror filmmaker
– Favorite onscreen death
– Favorite movie monster (interpret monster however you like)
– Horror franchise you wish had stopped after the first movie
– Horror movie you wish they’d turn into a franchise
BA: Top 10 favorite horror movies:
- The Shining
- The Thing
- Dawn of the Dead
- Evil Dead
- Don’t Look Now
Favorite horror filmmaker: David Cronenberg
Favorite onscreen death: the “You’re not the babysitter” Greta Gerwig death in HOUSE OF THE DEVIL
Favorite movie monster: Goldblum as The Fly
Horror franchise you wish had stopped after the first movie: HELLRAISER
Horror movie you wish they’d turn into a franchise: PONTYPOOL. A wonderful minimalist film that will never get old to me. There’s so much to explore! Although explaining it may ruin it…
JA: Top 10 favorite horror movies:
- THE THING
- THEY LIVE
- DAWN OF THE DEAD
- LOST BOYS
- THE SHINING
- EVIL DEAD 2
- AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON
Favorite horror filmmaker: John Carpenter
Favorite onscreen death: Samuel L Jackson. DEEP BLUE SEA. I can watch that over and over forever.
Favorite movie monster: The blob. Why has no one rebooted THE BLOB? It seems like a no-brainer.
Horror franchise you wish had stopped after the first movie: SAW SAW SAW SAW!!!!!
Horror movie you wish they’d turn into a franchise: None.