Horror Film Director

Holiday Traditions

Posted on January 8th, by Darren Lynn Bousman in blog, film, general, inspiration, news, Rambling, Rants and Ramblings. 5 comments

First Birthday

I have a secret… My Birthday is on Saturday. I will be 35, going on ancient. This Birthday will probably be the hardest Birthday I will have suffered through, not because I feel any older, but because I realized an entire year has passed and I didn’t know it.  I didn’t realize it…


A stopwatch? A clock? A calendar?

I don’t have a traditional job… I don’t wake up at a traditional hour, and I don’t go to sleep at a traditional time… Friday is no more exciting to me than Monday… Every day of the week has the same importance as the one that came before or after.  Call it a champagne problem of being a director, or that of not having a job.

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Maybe when I was younger, the idea of not having a 9-5 would have been awesome… I mean, it sounds great, right? I am my own boss the majority of the time. I wake up when I want, I nap when I want, I eat when I want… I am beholden to no man… Well, IT IS great until you wake up one morning and realize it’s Christmas, and you have no recollection of where the last 365 days have vanished…

Days blend together, weeks, and even months.  I can ignore birthdays, and most holidays… But Christmas… Christmas, that is one holiday that can not be ignored.  Christmas is a holiday that forces you to pay attention, as its footprint is everywhere, and on everything.


Ever since I can remember, my family has celebrated every single Holiday / Birthday / Event with passion and fervor…


Growing up, there wasn’t a single Holiday that didn’t get our house decorated in some festive fashion… On Thanksgiving it was cutouts of Pilgrims, and Turkeys… Old Corn on the cobs would decorate every end table.  When Saint Patrick’s Day rolled around, my mother would figure out some way to serve green food, green drinks; even the plates would be green…

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Easter… My parents would make a day out of dying eggs, and being together as a family.



I would wake up to Eggs hidden everywhere – – a great many of those eggs were plastic and filled with money.  As a kid, I didn’t understand the importance of these decorative holidays…

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But my folks ALWAYS went all out.  ALWAYS. I credit my love of horror to them.  When October sneaked in, my parents would turn our living area into a fun house of all that is macabre.  Black cats, witches and gouls.   Monsters, and severed limbs… They spared no expense.  On the Decorations, on my Halloween Costumes.  Every Year, Halloween was an EVENT at the Bousman’s.  Every door donned a skeleton.  Every window, a carefully placed decal of spiders or tombstones.

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But this is a blog about traditions, not decorations… My father had a tradition he started when I was in grade school… Every Halloween he would take me and a group of my friends to THE EDGE OF HELL Haunted House.

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Now, for those of you who are from Kansas City, you understand the level of haunts Downtown KC offers… For those of  you who aren’t from Kansas, imagine Halloween Horror Nights:  that is DISNEY compared to the haunts in Kansas…  These Haunted Houses were extreme, and they made me fall in love with horror.

Halloween became the first time I can actively remember counting down time…  By my father taking me to these haunted houses, I literally would COUNT the days until the following Halloween…  I found myself actively conscious of “time”.  And more importantly, the passage of it. He would repeat this EVERY single year until I left for college. But, as important as the month of October was in our family, nothing, and I repeat nothing compared to December.


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They say you are a product of your environment… If that be true, I should only be making CHRISTMAS HORROR MOVIES – because those two Holidays ruled the Bousman Household. Christmas however was a different beast.   It was in a league all of it’s own. My Parents would start decorating our house right after Thanksgiving, and it was never half ass.


They came correct. For someone on the outside, it is hard to understand the level of commitment the Bousman clan pays to Christmas.

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North Pole ain’t got nothing on us…. But again, this isn’t about decorations… This is about traditions.

Christmas became magical… It wasn’t about the presents, but the mood my parents presented in our house. For 18 years, we celebrated each and every holiday, New Years, and Birthday as if it were our last.  And each Holiday came with traditions that we did year after year as a family.  They became things as a child I would actively look forward to.  I could plan for it.  I could count on it.

And then I left for college… Suddenly these traditions I was raised on began to disappear.  And New Traditions took over.  I would go home for the major Holidays, but I was only spending one night maybe two with the family… When Halloween came around, there were no more haunted houses with me and my pops.  Gone were the days of Easter Egg hunts, and Green Eggs and Ham. I was growing up, and I was far too busy for novelty. But Christmas… Christmas never was short changed.  I went home EVERY Christmas without fail. And it was ALWAYS like retuning to the North Pole.


As I continued to get older, I lost more and more traditions, pretty much everything except Christmas. Suddenly I started to see how quickly time was passing.

Growing up in my parents house I had all of these benchmarks to remind me of time. My Birthday, Valentine’s Day, St. Patty’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc… I could see the passage of time though Holidays, and our traditions as a family.    These were benchmarks – things that made me slow down, and pay attention to what really mattered…  One thing that all of these Holidays had was FAMILY.


Christmas Eve was the day that entire family would get together.  I got to see cousins, nieces and nephews.  Aunts and Uncles, Grandparents and family friends.  We would all talk about the future, and where we saw ourselves the following year.  And then, the party would end, we would say our goodbyes, and we all knew, that come next year, the same time, the same place we would all reconvene.

Which brings us full circle… To my birthday.

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How did an entire year pass, and I not realize it? Isn’t a Birthday a measure of time?  Another year passed, one year older.

How is it that Christmas 2013 is what makes me feel ancient, not my Birthday?     Maybe because a great part of this year I have spent trying to forget.  I had an associate of mine die.  I had a movie shut down.   I spent four months of the year sick. And then, CHRISTMAS.  The one Holiday that forces me to remember who I am… Where I came from.

This year I drove home to Kansas, mainly because I wanted my dogs to come with me, and I hate flying them.  So I drove.  It gave me time to reflect…


What happened to 2013?  What happened to my motivation?  Where was the drive that put me where I am?  Up until 2013, I had big MILESTONE events in my life.  Each and every year.  Saw 2, Saw 3, Saw 4, Repo!, Mother’s Day, 11-11-11, The Barrens, The Devil’s Carnival.

2013, I had none…

When you don’t have a 9 – 5, or a schedule, you measure time differently.

To me, Holidays are the calendars I live my life by.   I realized on that drive home to icy cold Kansas that it seemed like only yesterday that I was celebrating Christmas 2012.   But it wasn’t yesterday… 364 days separating then from now.  I am one year older. What happened to all the promises I declared in 2012?  “Get in shape, become a father, write a new movie, make another Devil’s Carnival, shoot Abattoir, build a shed in our backyard, stop being a pessimistic asshole, clean out the storage locker… ”

ONE YEAR, and nothing I promised myself I did.   What will I talk about on Christmas Eve with family?  What will I tell my Nieces and Cousins when they ask, “So, what’s new?”

Dear readers, this was not out of laziness I promise you.  I just had no clue how much time was passing…

Stop reading my blog… seriously stop.  Look at the clock, watch as ONE full minute passes.  It’s longer than you think.  There’s a lot of things that can happen in that one minute.    Now imagine 525,600 minutes.  That’s how many minutes I feel like I wasted in 2013. Wasted maybe a strong word.  Let’s label it misused…

I arrived in Kansas late on the 22nd; I had driven almost 28 hours, I was depressed and delirious.

All of that self reflecting that make me grumpy and tired– –until I stepped in my parents house.  I walked up the stairs to my room, and hanging on the door, was a plastic, stupid bell, an ornament.


But, readers, this ornament is anything BUT stupid.  It is the most important Christmas decoration at my parents’ house.  It’s something that has been with me since I was born… It’s a reminder of who I am.  Where I am from… It’s crazy the importance we as people put on objects.  This one little object hanging on my door has a magical property to it.  Nostalgia.  It immediately took me back to this…

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It took me back, even further to this…


I was back home.

It was like a massive reset button had been hit.  A fantastical place that forces me out of my bullshit Hollywood life, and puts me back with family.  Something familiar.  Something safe.  Something real…

My job is full of uncertainty.  I never know when I will be working.  I never know when I will be asked to hop on a plane… Even if I do hop on a plane, I never know if the movie will actually begin or something will transpire and push the movie.  I live most of my life in a suitcase.  It’s hard to feel settled.  Christmas is the one time of year, I know what will happen.


Even though their kids have grown up and moved out, my Mom and Dad still decorate their house and make sure that when we return we are aware of our past, and the traditions that made us who we are.   These are more than Holiday gift giving bonanzas.   They are reminders that no matter how shitty the past year was, there is hope for the future.


Every family has their own traditions.  Their own rituals they do year after year… We do them because they make us feel safe, but more importantly, we do them to pass them down so we never forget.     It has been a rough year.

But nothing my Dad’s jalapeno poppers couldn’t fix…


 Or my Mom’s insane Christmas Spread…


Or who can forget the Bousman’s annual Christmas Night shot off…


Or, the drunken pool tournament…



 wherein the loser has to take a shot of 151.


Leaving Kansas this year, I walk away with only ONE New Year’s Resolution… Stop being a whiny bitch… Get back in the driver’s seat, and regain the confidence I once had at 26…  More importantly, be conscious of TIME and its passage…  it’s easy to become distracted and wake up to find a year gone.

Christmas 2014 is coming quick… And I have a lot of things I plan on talking about come our annual  Christmas Eve gathering.

Driving home from Kansas, I can’t help but once again be impressed by the level of dedication my folks put into the Holidays.  They live alone, there are no more little kids running around and asking about Santa, or the Easter Bunny… They do all of this for us, not them… For us to remember… Every time I enter their house I am reminded of the past 35 years, and all the memories associated with every ornament, every Santa Claus Statue, every single Christmas spent there… This is a tradition I too want to pass down to my family, as we start creating some of our own.


***A big thank you to my mother for documenting our lives through pictures.

5 thoughts on “Holiday Traditions

  1. Darren, I have been following your work for many years now. I met you at Full Sail (one of Hannah’s friends). I was glad to see your Facebook post the other day in regards to giving up the lazy feelings and even more so inspired by this post here. It is refreshing to see even those more successful than you struggle with the same issues. Keep your head up and murder on!

  2. 2013 kicked everyone’s ass, it seems. This blog entry was really touching, though. You seem ready to tackle 2014 head-on, and I can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish 🙂

  3. I will turn the reverse of your age on Friday. I’ll be 53. I was having the same thoughts recently and your blog put it all into perspective. I was sick on Christmas, so I didn’t get to see my mom or sister, or share the meal with my husband and daughter. My husband brought me home food, but without the family to enjoy it with, it wasn’t the same. I was listening to TDC on my way home from getting groceries, so your next venture was already on my mind. Thanks for giving me the proverbial kick in the rump.Time for me to make some changes too.

  4. Nostalgia always gets me teary eyed. Thank you for sharing, and putting into words that feeling of timelessness that happens with … self employment.
    May 2014 be and feel more productive!

  5. Such a beautiful blog entry! Being also an artist and an independent one I definetely share your feelings and I also love to share Christmas with my family cause they always give me that hope I need to start another year. I´m certainly and definetely sure that being a director is way a difficult job and I only can tell you that the way we have it rough on life sometimes, there´s always one reason that´ll keep us fighting at the end of the day or of the year or starting a new year, in my case everytime I think I failed at something or didn´t get to nowhere with my art or I didn´t have enough resources, what gets me up again and ready to rock is to think in artists like you, who inspire me to believe in what I do no matter what conditions I´m in or if I wasn´t lucky enough since birth or just bringing my luck back everytime I stand and fight harder. You are an inspiration for a lot of us and the way we see you working harder and getting projects done one way or another with any resources you may have, will make us work harder too. I´m excited to see what will be your next project and even more to see it finished no matter what. The Devil´s Carnival was a dream that many of us had but you made it real for us, you gave it colours and movement and that´s what we love, that´s the director we like so much and that´s an inspiration for a lot of my music. Let´s keep on fighting yeah!

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