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With horror displaying its continued dominance at the box office — Nope, Smile, Scream, Barbarian, Halloween Ends and The Black Phone were all among the top 40 releases of 2022 before M3GAN launched the new year with a $30 million opening — James A. Janisse is eagerly riding the gory wave.
The content creator founded the popular YouTube channel Dead Meat in 2017 and saw his subscriber base reach 5.94 million by the end of 2022, up from 4.5 million two years earlier. The content — which includes interviews with directors and actors, podcasts and trivia-filled looks at films — has logged more than 2 billion views.
A Detroit-area native who moved to L.A. in 2012, Janisse (also known as Dead Meat James) is not only the host but also president and executive producer of Dead Meat, which he co-owns with his wife, Chelsea Rebecca. In 2018, Rebecca founded the Dead Meat Podcast, which is now on its 182nd episode.
Janisse’s approach combines a love of horror with a sense of humor, creating entertainment that’s also educational for devoted horror fans and the horror-curious.
Director Mike Flanagan (The Haunting of Hill House, Doctor Sleep) is a fan. “It’s not just commentary, it’s not just critique, it’s excellent entertainment in its own right, and beautifully produced by James and Chelsea,” he tells THR.
Janisse — who credits Scream for drawing him into the genre (though when he first watched it as a kid, “the opening scene was so scary that I ran out of the living room and hid from the rest of the movie,” he says) — believes horror is massively popular today because of “the high quality of horror movies in the past five-ish years.” Janisse continues: “It started in 2017 when the critical success of Get Out, and the commercial success of It brought a double whammy of attention to the genre. Horror seems to get popular when the real world feels the scariest. There are plenty of reasons for people to seek expression of their fear in a safe, cinematic way.”
The most popular show on Dead Meat is The Kill Count, a series of videos in which Janisse ticks off the deaths in a film while introducing behind-the-scenes facts, giving viewers a deeper understanding and appreciation of the art and technicalities of horror. Films that have received recent Kill Count treatment include Prey, Gremlins, Malignant, Bride of Chucky and Dude Bro Party Massacre III.
Janisse, 33, shares that 60 percent of Dead Meat’s annual revenue comes from ads on YouTube; other sources of income include sponsorship deals (25 percent), donations from supporters on Patreon (8 percent) and ads and sponsorships for the Dead Meat podcast (5 percent).
Last year, streaming service Shudder sponsored the first Dead Meat Horror Awards (chosen by Janisse and Rebecca), in which horror stars like The Nun‘s Bonnie Aarons announced the winners. And Dead Meat is developing a horror feature comedy directed by Max Deleo and written by Nick Skardarasy that is “centered on growing up and what that means for old college friendships,” he says. As for why Dead Meat continues to grow, Janisse notes that “horror fans can sense when someone’s a genuine fan. They can tell I really love what I’m talking about.”
Update: Clarified that Chelsea Rebecca started the Dead Meat Podcast in 2018.
This story first appeared in the Jan. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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