Five horrific questions with screenwriter Doug Kaufman

Winners of the 2015 International Horror Hotel screenplay contest, including Doug Kaufman, third from the left. (That's Skippy the Clown in the front row.)
 As with any horror film, there’s a lot of tragedy in screenwriter Doug Kaufman’s scripts. But there’s a lot of life, too. You wouldn’t expect it any less from an artist who experienced more life than most of us in his first 14 years.
“I was born and raised by my mom in Chicago,” Kaufman says. He now lives in Detroit. After his mom remarried a railroad professional, Kaufman began what became a series of moves across the country. “We bounced back and forth between Chicago and Boston at least eight times. And when we found a place to live, we moved [in the city] several times. There was a period of 11 years where we moved a total of 19 times.”

The moves made it difficult for Kaufman to establish long-term friendships. And he was always the new kid in school. As he entered his teens, Kaufman ran into alcohol and drugs.

The only constant was writing. He wrote three novels by the time he was 12 years old and discovered screenwriting as he grew older. In 2015, Kaufman entered the International Horror Hotel screenplay contest with his script, “Abigail,” based on the King Diamond album. The script was awarded an Honorable Mention.

“When I went to Horror Hotel in 2015 to pick up the award, I met so many great people in film and I ‘caught the bug,’” Kaufman says. “I wanted to be involved in any way possible.”

So he wrote some more. And some more. And some more. Now, his horror script “Twincarnation” - which placed in the 2016 Horror Hotel contest - is moving from page to screen.

“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs and all arounds,” Kaufman says with a smile. “But, hey, that’s part of the molding process for a creative, right?”

We agree. Which is why we wanted to ask Kaufman our annual five horrific questions. Here's what he had to share.

Five horrific questions with screenwriter Doug Kaufman

MMM: What’s makes a horror movie scary?
Doug Kaufman (DK): A believable story-line! Some scary movies out there, you know, or at least THINK you know, there is NO WAY what they are telling could happen and they end up being comedies instead of horror.
Like, a lot of the Paranormal Activity and Insidious type movies. Are there demonic possessions and possible hauntings? Sure. But in the way they are told, to me, they are not believable. I just chuckle at them.
With a believable story line, it forces you to use your mind and really think about it - and THAT'S what makes it scary. Great example would be Misery - a crazed fan of an author happens to find the object of her obsession and torments him. When someone "makes it big," that same type of scenario always plays out in their minds - they always have to be on the lookout for those crazed fans.
THAT is the "mind-fuck" and that's what makes that particular movie scary. A lot of the classic 1950s and 1960s movies were like that. A believable story line - something that doesn't have to use blood and guts - forces the audience to think and use their imagination.
MMM: What’s the scariest movie you ever saw?
DK: This goes back to when I was 8 years old and saw Phantasm for the first time. Scared the bejeezus outta both my mom and myself. And we don't scare easy. Since then, nothing has come close to that same feeling.
MMM: Who is your horror inspiration?
DK: There are so many that I really can't name just one. However, as a writer, I'm a huge fan of Stephen King and the way he tells a story.
Doesn't always have to be a whole bunch of blood and guts and every word moves the story along. A lot of times you either see a "lull" in movies or books where not much is happening - very few of those from King. Brilliant writer.
Another one I'm a huge fan of is Agatha Christie - not horror I know - but I love her storytelling too.
MMM: Why do we like to be scared?
DK: Because it's an emotion that most of us hardly feel unless we’re watching a movie. It gets the blood pumping. Makes you jump out of your seat. A great story will put you on such an emotional roller coaster, it turns into a thrill ride. And when the ride is over, you sit there and have to catch your breath. The whole time you have a smile from ear to ear and are happy with what you just experienced.
MMM: What movie would you like to turn into a horror movie? And how would you do it?
DK: Hmmm. Probably Bruce Almighty. Bruce becomes very vengeful and kills the people he hates. Mass destruction. Creates a war with God. God has a hell of a time repairing the damage done by Bruce. Even then, God can't repair some things. Probably turn it into this whole good vs evil movie.
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