Recently, we had the privilege of attending a special event hosted by the Los Angeles Natural History Museum (NHM), which featured a conversation with horror icons Roger Corman and Andy Muschietti. The event was held to mark the opening of the museum’s newest Natural History of Horror exhibit, which examines the historical and scientific origins of some of the genre’s most famous monsters, including Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and The Creature From the Black Lagoon.
The exhibit features an impressive collection of actual historical artifacts, combined with original film props and interactive displays. Visitors are treated to unique experiences such as recreating old school Hollywood sound design and simulating the effects of an electrical current on a prosthetic dead frog’s leg. This exhibit is a dream-come-true for fans of the Universal Monster films, though there’s something for just about every type of horror fan. Having grown up with the Universal Monster movies myself, I was in awe of some of the original props from Universal’s Dracula, Frankenstein, and Creature From the Black Lagoon. Aside from the cinematic history, NHM is careful to include plenty of historical context that adds a new level of depth and understanding of these timeless tales. For these reasons, this exhibit is an invaluable experience.
After visiting the new exhibit, guests patiently waited for the conversation portion of the event to begin. While waiting, we were treated to video displays featuring behind-the-scenes footage from the making of the IT films. Also on display were original costumes and props from the IT movies, including the original Pennywise costume. The conversation was held in the atmospheric African Mammal Hall and was moderated by writer and pop culture enthusiast Anthony Breznican.
Once horror legend Roger Corman and IT director Andy Muschietti took the stage, the audience viewed two film reels exploring the careers of the speakers. The discussion revolved around the past, present, and future of horror films, and moderator Anthony Breznican was careful to allow Corman and Muschietti freedom to discuss topics as their own leisure. The conversation flowed naturally, and mostly revolved around horror’s definitive tropes and stylistic origins. Corman spoke at length about the art of horror filmmaking, particularly focusing on building tension and suspense.
Muschietti spoke of his first experiences watching horror films as a child, and how they came to shape the filmmaker he is today, while Corman discussed his experiences in World War II, and how anxieties of the Atomic Age fed into his own artistic expressions. The filmmakers also discussed their ties to the legendary horror authors that have inspired some of their most famous films. Corman spoke of how he came to discover Edgar Allan Poe’s work, and Muschietti discussed his affinity for Stephen King.
The entire room, including Muschietti, seemed transfixed by the 93-year-old Corman, who boasts a career that spans across seven decades and features collaborators such as Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, and many more. Corman is lucid and sharp as ever, never missing a beat throughout the evening. Even as the audience peppered him with confusing questions during the Q&A portion, Corman displayed a profound awareness of both current and historic events, and a deep understanding of the horror genre. It was clear to me, and to everyone else in the room that we were in the presence of a true legend.
While Muschietti’s career in the genre is still only just beginning, he also spoke of the horror genre with a poetic conviction. He took time to talk about how early childhood fears of tall, lanky figures inspired his earliest short film Mama, and how he continues to try and express those fears through his art. It was an insightful look into the mind behind some of the most memorable horror images conjured up in recent history.
Overall, the experience is one I won’t soon forget, and I left the discussion feeling truly enlightened. These sorts of events and exhibits give me hope for the future of this genre, and it’s good to know that there are fresh talents such as Andy Muschietti out there to create new nightmares, with legendary mentors such as Roger Corman there to help guide them. The Natural History of Horror exhibit is now open at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum and will remain open until April 19th, 2020. Definitely check it out if you have the chance, I can’t recommend it enough.