In many ways, Eduardo Sanchez is one of the most important horror directors of the past twenty years. When he and his team of collaborators unleashed the film “The Blair Witch Project” out into the world in the summer of 1999, it became a cultural phenomenon and spawned countless “found footage” horror films that have become a staple of the genre. He has worked tirelessly since then to find new ways to scare audiences and got behind the camera as a part of the new anthology horror film, “Portals,” released in select theaters and On Demand last weekend.
The new film follows several different stories revolving around mysterious rectangular black holes that appear all around the world and cause those who encounter them to act erratic and dangerously when they come face-to-face with them. Different directors, such as Gregg Hale and Liam O’Donnell, wrote and directed scenes for the film, much like indie-horror anthology series, “V/H/S.” Sanchez first tried his hand in this style with the second installment of that franchise and got into the fun and mischievous spirit.
“The whole point of the fun that we had on ‘V/H/S 2’ and the fun that we had on this one is that there is kind of a foundational construct. But they pretty much let you do what you want to do as long as it doesn’t interfere with the other stories. They did a very good job at figuring out where all of the stories fit together. Especially for anthologies, you need to get in there and get out. You don’t have a lot of time for character development and explaining the entire crazy story. It has to be a simple story,” says Sanchez. “We wanted to introduce it and bring the question to the audience. What would you do if this happened? What would you do if something mysterious like this appeared in your room or in your workplace?”
That kind of “anything goes” attitude was something that connected with audiences when Sanchez first came onto the scene 20 years ago with “Blair Witch.” I ask if Sanchez has been able to feel the importance of the big bang that movie set off all of those years ago.
“I never thought I would make a movie that would have such an impact or staying power. It’s hard to talk about it because it’s hard to stay humble and real about it because, for us, we made that movie like we make every other movie. We put our heart and soul into it and it just happened with this movie that the planets aligned. It’s still a big part of our lives and I’m super grateful for that,” says Sanchez as he reminisces about the film’s legacy.
For as big of a seismic shift that film created after its release, Sanchez believes that all of the most influential horror films have come from those who have created out in the fringes, and that the indie scene is as thriving as it has ever been.
“The thing about the horror genre,” explains Sanchez, “is the ingenuity almost has to come from the independent world. Once you get into studio filmmaking, even low budget studio filmmaking, there are rules that you have to follow. Unless you’re Jordan Peele or James Wan who can basically do what they want in the horror genre now. There are very few filmmakers like that. A lot of ingenuity has to come from those who don’t have anybody telling them ‘you can’t do that.’ For ‘Blair Witch,’ we tried to sell that movie but nobody would let us into their offices to pitch that movie. It has to come from people putting together money and going out there and shooting it. You almost have to have nothing to lose to do what George Romero did, or John Carpenter did or what we did. Not to compare us with George Romero and John Carpenter! The really good nuggety and juicy stuff is going to come from the indie world. There’s less rules. For me, horror is all about pushing the envelope and crossing the line. Once you get mainstream, it gets harder to cross that line.”