Susan Tran: Hi everyone, I just wanted to introduce you to Mick Garris, he’s an executive producer and a director for the Masters of Horror series. It’s going to be premiering this Friday, October 27th at 10:00 p.m. on Showtime. I’d like to turn this over to Mick so he can talk a little bit about the series and the directors involved [inaudible].
Mick Garris: Hello. I’ve never done one of these 15 people on a line at the same time before, I hope it doesn’t get too unwieldy. And a lot of you I’ve spoken to before, we know each other from way back, and hello to the people I’ve never met before. I’m not going to make any kind of grand and glorious statement of any kind, just want to thank you guy, because, I mean, mostly you are fan sites who are into the genre and the fans are the people that this show is all about.
And the fact that we’re back for a second season is, largely you guys are to blame, so it’s your fault. But this year, I think, is even more adventurous than last year. We’ve got Toby Hooper back with the damn thing from the Ambrose Bierce story, Richard Christian Matheson did the adaptation, and Family, which was John Landis, written by Brant Hanley.
I wrote one called The V Word, that Ernest Dickerson directed, with Michael Ironside, and Sounds Like was one by Brad Anderson, based on a short story. Pro Life is an original by John Carpenter, who’s back this year; Dario Argento came back this year with a story by F. Paul Wilson called Pelts – it’s our wettest episode of the year, I guarantee – Tom Holland did We Scream for Ice Cream, we all scream for ice cream, which was scripted by David Schow from a John Ferris story; Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat is Stuart Gordon’s film this year; Joe Danté did the The Screwfly Solution; I adapted an original story that Clive Barker wrote for the series and for me, called Valerie on the Stairs.
The Washingtonians is directed by Peter Medak, based on a story by Bentley Little; Right to Die is an original by John Esposito, directed by Rob Schmidt; and then our Japanese film this year is Dream Cruise by Norio Tsuruta. So that is the lineup for this season, and rather than blather on at my own speed, I’d much rather just answer questions from everybody.
Jack Reher: The current trend of grind house horror films coming into light with Tarantino and Rodriguez, and Eli Roth. What is your take on those, versus the classics?
Mick Garris: Well, I think to – horror is all about a visceral response. And the visceral response becomes increasingly difficult over the course of the years. I don’t think the original Dracula is going to cause a whole lot of goose bumps. However, a movie like The Sixth Sense, where you see virtually no blood, no violence, is incredibly powerful, a really great horror film that is genuinely frightening and suspenseful. I think there’s a great tradition of the [Palecki] independence, the guys who have to grab attention by screaming the loudest, that led to the grind house cinema of the ’70s that I think that Rodriguez and Tarantino are glorifying because there was so much vitality and life and wildness, and this unbridled sense of “We can do whatever we want to do.” And screaming for attention like a kid crying for its bottle.
I think horror is supposed to be rude. It’s supposed to break the rules, and it’s one of the reasons that it has such a large adolescent and young adult audience, is because it’s a breakaway genre. It is to movies what rock and roll is to classical music.
Jack Reher: Do you think there are any more taboos that haven’t been broken, like Hitchcock broke it by having a toilet flush onscreen. But now when Takashi’s Masters of Horror was banned and then they released it on DVD, what do you think is the next taboo to be broken?
Mick Garris: I don’t know. I think Imprint goes as far as I want to see, and even a little further in some cases. I’m sure there are taboos to break that I would not want to imagine. I would imagine that one day a snuff film will become a reality. I don’t know if it will ever be broadly distributed or available legally, but I’m sure that that’s going to exist, and is it just a matter of time? I don’t know. There are certainly taboos that are going to be broken that none of us are going to be happy with at one point.
Jack Reher: Do you think that we’re gravitating away from the central character? Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in Halloween was great. Janet Leigh’s character was great. Are we getting away from the female-driven horror, thriller, psychological – however you want to call it. This current trend, you’ve got When A Stranger Calls, PG-13, I mean the Carol Kane original was great. Do you see any breakout actresses of this generation, as far as that goes?
Mick Garris: Well, you know, this year, it’s hard to say. I think The Descent had a lot of really interesting female characters at the heart of it, and I don’t think they were all expendable cartoon characters. The best of them are always going to be more character-driven. But who was it who said 90% of everything is awful? Most studios are going to try to replicate what has been successful for them in the past. And I don’t think most studios understand or respect, or even enjoy horror films themselves, so they can’t tell a good one from a bad one. They can only judge it by the box office.
I’m a life long aficionado of the genre, and for me and my own personal taste, I know what I think makes a good story and a bad one. And for me, a well-told horror story is just a well-told story. It happens to be in that genre, but when I’m making a film, I don’t think, “Oh, this is a horror film, so I have to do this.” I just want to tell the story the best way I know how.
Jack Reher: I had a question about the desensitization of children and teenagers according to horror. I mean, they’re expecting so much more… What do you see happens next?
Mick Garris: Again, I don’t know what the next stage is. And the people who understand the genre the least think that It’s all about throwing entrails at the screen. Certainly that works for a while, but again, you’re right. The desensitization is important when that’s the kind of movie you make. Now, if you’re telling a story, again, I hate to trot out The Sixth Sense again, but that’s an incredibly suspenseful, extremely successful movie that doesn’t do any of that. And Brad Anderson’s Sounds Like is another one that doesn’t do much of that. So if you are making films that are all about the kills, or all about the splat, or all about the blood, then yeah, you have to keep going further and further and further.
And in the case of Masters of Horror, yeah, we go far, because it’s unfettered. Some of the filmmakers feel that that’s where they want to take it to get the reaction they’re going for. Dario Argento’s episode is a perfect example of that. It’s quite bloody and gruesome, and there’ s a grand tradition of Grand Guignon, and this is definitely following in that tradition.
But people, I think, — not everybody – but people like to be safely confronted by this fears. And the body – I don’t know how many of you have seen – probably most of you have seen Toby Hooper’s sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s one of the most wonderfully profane films I’ve ever seen. You know, it says, “You think the body’s a temple? No, the body is meat, and here’s how.” It just confronts you with it in ways that make you go Eeeeyow! And it’s so effective, and yet it’s really witty in the way that it does it.
So I’m not one who would ever call for any kind of ban against distasteful material, but I think there’s a great way to do it, and there’s a not so great way to do it. And I’m not going to be the arbiter of that.
Jack Reher: Your connection with Stephen King, how did that come about? I mean, your beginning with him, working with him?
Mick Garris: The first thing we did together was a movie called Sleepwalkers, which was a theatrical film. It was an original screenplay that he had written. And probably not a classic of the genre, but a scruffy little –
Jack Reher: I thought it was fun.
Mick Garris: Thank you. Well, King was really, really happy with the process, and we didn’t really meet until a day when he came out to do his cameo, where he’s actually in the same shot. Not only in the same scene, same shot with Clive Barker and Toby Hooper. And he was really happy with the movie, particularly before it had been tampered with by the MPAA. We had to go back five different times to get an R rating for that. But then when The Stand came about, he said, “If Brian dePalma doesn’t want to do it, do you?” I said, “Sure.” And so that turned into just an amazing experience, because he spent at least half of the time on location with us, and we had such a great time with that and the success of that, and we also created a really great personal friendship during the course of that. So that’s where that relationship came from, and it all started on that day at Sleepwalkers.
Which is ironic because my first book, Stephen King wrote the introduction, Clive Barker painted the cover, and Toby Hooper wrote the Afterword. And they’re all in that scene together in Sleepwalkers.
Jack Reher: You’ve done an outstanding job with the series, Mick, I got to tell you.
Mick Garris: Oh, thank you so much. You know, I watch it too. And these are… The good job that I’m able to do, is to keep my hands off of other people’s films and to keep other people’s hands off of them, and to allow – Showtime and Anchor Bay have allowed us to let people make movies this way. These people know better than anyone else how to make this films, and so I couldn’t be prouder of being involved with this show, and with these movies, these unbelievable filmmakers have gathered together to make. I mean, it’s quite humbling, and I often refer to myself as the [Zelig] of horror, because I find myself surrounded by all these great people.
Mick Garris: Has everyone seen Damn Thing?
Jack Reher: Yes.
Mick Garris: And the other two first ones, Family and V Word?
Unidentified Participant: Yes
Mick Garris: I really like Dance of the Dead, but I think the script is even stronger for Damn Thing, and I think the mood is – both of them are incredibly moody, but this one, I think there’s more story there, and I think the cast is wonderful. I think Sean Patrick Flannery did an amazing job with this. One of the great things about Toby Hooper is that he still directs like he’s in his 20s. He’s still trying to find new ways to tell a story cinematically, and he’s still energized every time out. And not everybody has that with them when they’ve made movies for 30, 35 years, as Toby has. It’s really fantastic to see.
Is that everything I can give you?
Susan Tran: No more questions.
Mick Garris: Well, thanks, everyone. Thanks to you guys, and again, it’s so important that you guys have helped us out. Just the fan sites have been so great, and there’s been so much interest. And I really appreciate the coverage and support that you’ve given us.
Jack Reher: Thank you.
Mick Garris: All right. And if anybody needs anything else just let me know, and I’ll be happy to help. Take care everybody.