Independent film: do you like horror films? This local podcast will sink its claws into

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The “Speak All Evil” podcast hosts Dave Gutter, Kevin Kennie, Cat Smith and Trent Gay. Photo by Nick Dean

In the most recent episode of the Maine-made horror movie podcast “Speak All Evil,” one of the hosts, when discussing Kevin Smith’s much-maligned 2014 body horror film “Tusk.” , sums up horror fans with admirable insight. “You’re going to see a very judgmental audience in horror people, even though we’re consuming some of the worst trash ever put on film.”

The four hosts of “Speak All Evil” – Mainers Trent Gay, Cat Smith, Kevin Kennie and Dave Gutter (of Rustic Overtones fame) – understand this seeming contradiction intimately, having grown up immersed in darkness, the disreputable and sometimes contemptible. world of horror VHS and DVD. Listening to the quartet’s first-ever 2020 episode, “Love and Horror,” is hearing four people explain how horror movies latched onto them at a young age, thanks to the blessed inattention of bad babysitters and of lax parents. And, for that aging horror fan, this episode serves as a beacon that “Speak All Evil” enters my rotation of must-see movie podcasts. (Alongside Portland’s Own “Funbox Monster Podcast.”)

For the four now-adult friends, the now 140-episode podcast came out of their daily text channel, in which the future hosts shared reviews, recommendations and slams about their favorite and least favorite horrors.

“We had all worked on different things before, and it seemed like a fun, rewarding, and maybe more productive thing to do with our time,” Gay said.

Gutter added: “We got together on day one and laid out the spiel, which hasn’t changed since then. It felt so natural because we knew what we wanted to do from the start. The show can be a little meandering because it’s just us talking to each other.

Smith also noted that the enforced pandemic downtime has given them a boost. “The pandemic forced us,” he said, “there was nothing else to do, and we were bored to death, so we thought, why not get weird with this?”

Indeed, listening to Gay, Smith, Gutter and Kennie talk about horror movies is, as Kennie put it, “recording conversations we have at the (Westbrook pub) Profenno on a Monday night”. And truly, “Speak All Evil” is a conversation any horror fanatic with a taste for heated debate, insightful commentary, and a great sense of humor would be happy to join in.

In preparing for my interview with the hosts, I followed the high school book report’s last-minute catch-up method (first episode, last episode, middle two) and was hooked. The four hosts are thoughtful, feisty, incredibly knowledgeable, have literally seen it all, and come to the movies every week with an eye for the unique rewards — and limitations — inherent in the genre.

“I’m a movie fan first, but horror happens to be my favorite genre,” Gay said. “Now I’ve learned to appreciate the constraints of the genre. I like limitations, it’s a kind of folk music. It is transmitted and used as this kind of storytelling movements. People take these limitations that seem constraining, and they can do anything with it, from powerful to emotional to corny.

Speaking, Kennie added: “When you’re younger, watching horror movies is about testing yourself, proving your mettle. As you get older, real life gets scarier. Horror movies are becoming more of a comfort food.

Guster added with a laugh, “Now you got bills, but at least he’s not a guy with a chainsaw.”

Additionally, Gay notes that, for young filmmakers, horror is often a way to break into filmmaking, allowing them to show what they can do. “Sometimes they stay in that genre, and sometimes they break out and do other things. But some of those early horror movies are the best.

All four hosts share similar origin stories of early horror movie fans. Kennie points to his family’s allegiance to Maine horror icon Stephen King’s books as a gateway, with Gay adding how the King connection and the singularly chilling expanses of uncharted wilderness and checkered history and often bloody Maine add to the allure.

“Maine is a popular horror through and through, right up to colonial times,” Gay said. “It lends itself to a lot of very old and very scary things. We can really flex on any other state when it comes to horror. Smith added, “By proxy, King makes the state scary forever. There’s a pet cemetery on Mackworth Island, to cry out loud – you just know that thing is haunted.

Loving horror is a complex pleasure. Certain genre rules must be followed, but going against the boundaries imposed on them is a way for an artist to explore the unexpected. To really delve into horror movies is, as the hosts admit, to endure a lot of junk. But it is also to break into the unknown, on the margins with the filmmaker. And that’s where, sometimes, you can find really original and wonderful things.

I asked each of the “Speak All Evil” pundits for a flash series of the most overrated and underrated horror movies, and the resulting debate sparked the podcast’s signature mix of obscure genres, nerves of good humor and original and thoughtful ideas. Their picks, for the record, are as follows.

Smith says 1981’s slasher “The Burning” deserves more attention, when she never really got on board with “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” (“Kevin is going to kill me,” she joked.)

Kennie calls the Japanese original “The Ring” “massively overrated”, while sending curious fans to the A24 2019 “Saint Maud” offering. (He also says 2008’s “The Ruins,” directed by Mainer Carter Smith, is unfairly overlooked.)

Gay singles out “every “Halloween” sequel for overrated trash, while singling out the aforementioned “Tusk” as being unfairly slandered. (He also says horror fans who ignore foreign horror are sorely missed.)

And Gutter puts “Scream” in the overrated category while defending the 1981 film “Possession.” (Second – you just have to see that one for yourself.)

Podcasts are everywhere these days, with movie-related content making up a huge slice of the podcast pie. Finding a good podcast means focusing not just on a topic that interests you, but on a host (or, in this case, four hosts) on your wavelength, whose sensibilities align with yours while simultaneously challenging your perceptions. And make you laugh.

Maine’s “Speak All Evil” is an excellent horror movie podcast, blending humor, encyclopedic knowledge, and a relaxed yet lively chemistry between the four hosts and friends that’s as heartwarming as your 100th rewatch of John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” (You know who you are.) It’s like being in that bar with friends who really understand you and who share your love of the dark, the weird, and sometimes the wonderful.

You can tune into “Speak All Evil” on Spotify.


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