Reed Alexander: The Writer
Reed did not go into great detail about his childhood; however, generic details can be found on his website (reedalexandershorrorreview.com).
What he did share, is that he has been writing for roughly 15 years.
He published pieces of short fiction (“Inside” and “Not in My Country”) in Artpost Magazine, as well as two novels (Bend or Break and The Flagellant) with Page Publishing.
In addition to his publications, Reed has maintained his blog, Reed Alexander’s Horror Review, for the last 8 years.
Reed Alexander: The Critic
Despite this stuffy title, Reed does not take himself too seriously and advises others to do the same.
Here’s the thing about being a critic, people really shouldn’t take your criticism that seriously.
Reed does not believe in true objectivity. He develops the bulk of his critiques based on the most obvious social and political aspects of the plot.
The rest of the review is completely opinionated.
Not 100 percent sold on his nonchalant attitude toward being a critic, I challenged Reed, asking him about his outlook on the “stuffy, old white-guy” connotation of his title.
He told me that he makes a point not to be the guy who purposefully looks for things to hate in a piece. He theorized that this attitude is probably due to the type of political program he was exposed to in college.
From that experience, he developed his personal philosophy on morals: that they are a fluid human construct and as such, can be tailored to best suite any given society.
Reed’s sense of morality is ultimate social and political equality.
In his reviews, Reed attacks people, things or ideas that attack other individuals or groups (check out Reed Alexander’s Mental Vomit). Reed claimed that if he is ever hyper critical in his reviews, it is for a purpose.
As much as he enjoys his work, Reed disclosed that literary criticism was never really on his career radar.
From his outrageously funny and truthful review blog, he was able to build an audience before he published his first book.
I was never intending the review to be part of my career, but it ended up that way.
Reed Alexander and Horror
Not the biggest fan of horror myself, I could not help but ask Reed what about the genre appeals to him.
Part of the fascination began when he was 5 years old. Reed was blown away by his first horror movie, Aliens.
Apart from the nostalgia, Reed feels that horror is the one genre with the most substance.
I feel like horror runs the gambit of all different kinds of substance like action, romance, culture, social economics, politics etc. Social confessions are telling. Spanning from the producers and writers, to the fandom, horror is an open window to human psychology.
Reed also enjoys action, historical fiction, historical reproductions and comic book movies.
But getting back to horror, one of Reeds chief slogans is I watch sh*t horror movies, so you don’t have to.
Out of the roughly 800 horror movies that he has watched and reviewed over the course of his career, Reed claimed that the majority of them were bad.
According to Reed, there are two kinds of bad movies. Good-Bad and Bad-Bad. In other words, those that are intentionally made bad, and those which were intended on being good and just sucked.
Out of these groups, Reed says that sometimes there is that rare gem . . . like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” that are so bad that they turn out to be a stroke of f#@king genius.
So What Makes a Good Horror Piece?
As a critic, Reed mentioned that it is much easier for him to say what doesn’t work than what does.
Below is a small list of mistakes that Reed identified as horror sins.
1.) Treading water
Too much set up is boring
Reed has a 30 minute rule, in which he will stop watching a film if nothing significant has taken place in the first 1/3 of the piece.
Reed went on to describe a scene 45 minutes or so into “Mandy,” where it was just 3 dudes sitting in a van killing time and messing with each other. I felt like the director was just toying with the audience at that point.
2.) Poor execution
Reed gave the example of In the Tall Grass by Stephen King and Joe Hill, in which the circular plot made the execution unavoidably bad despite the interesting story-line.
The piece thrived on the plot going round and round in circles. Boring.
When new concepts run dry, the industry tends to fall back on tired, old concepts like the damsel in distress cliché.
The industry has been leaning on this too much since the 80’s. Prior to, you have strong females who are real, powerful and well-developed characters. For example, characters like Linda Hamilton in “Terminator”.
Reed said that not all modern movies fall victim to this drought of inspiration. For example, Jordan Peele’s “Us,” did a wonderful job of developing the protagonist.
Adelaide Wilson, had a stunning, robust, well-developed character. She split her personality and was clever as both the protagonist and antagonist.
Unfortunately, not all modern pieces model this contemporary portrayal.
A full list of the tired clichés, that will kill any piece, can be found on Reed’s website.
4.) Overuse of jump-scares
Reed indicated that the problem is not the jump-scare in and of itself, but the ones that are undeserved. An example of a film with good jump-scares is the tension built in the 2004 remake of “Dawn of the Dead.”
There are many jump-scares, but they were earned through the plot and tension developed during the story.
5.) Overuse of demonic possession
Since “The Exorcist,” people have lost track of demonic possession being used for a purpose in the plot.
Exorcism horror is used to discover the motivations of an alien creature.
Films these days use demons and demonic possession for shock value, in lieu of creating a dynamic plot. Sometimes the inclusion of demons appears solely to be an excuse to use CGI and to flaunt artistic prosthetic pieces.
Reed said that in general, tension is what makes horror effective. Tension makes a piece engaging, even if the audience does not know what is really happening or if nothing happens at all.
Horror is more about what you don’t know than what you do know.
Reed Alexander’s Tips for Writers
1.) Get your name out there
Find your niche and the accompanying community.
Talk with people; offer to beta read their work, and offer constructive criticism.
I got published by meeting people and reviewing their work. One of those people happened to be a publisher and offered to publish my first piece.
2.) Get used to hearing the word “no”
You are going to hear “no” sooo much and that’s okay.
Reed suggests that all writers open up and listen to the criticism that is offered to them.
Don’t let criticism break your spirits. Use your sense of logic to determine which critiques are valid and which are not.
3.) Keep writing
Despite the criticism that Reed dishes out, he has also received his share of “no’s.”
And still, he writes.
See Reed Alexander’s latest work here.