September 29, 2005
Know More Mister Nice Guy: Wherein Josh Jabcuga speaks with Mick Garris, horror writer/director extraordinaire, about orchestrating Showtime’s MASTERS OF HORROR series, and his views on John Carpenter, Dario Argento, directing for Stephen King’s upcoming TNT series, NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES, and writing alongside Cameron Crowe; also, Josh spills his guts about his own work on IDW’s upcoming horror anthology, DOOMED.
Joshua Jabcuga: Okay, so let me get this straight. MASTERS OF HORROR came about because of some dinners you were having?
Mick Garris: Well, sort of. Basically, you know, a lot of us who work in the genre run into each other at conventions, or we’ve been friends, or know friends of friends, and often it would be, “Oh, we all ought to get together and do a horror directors’ dinner or something.” I realized after a couple of years of us saying this that it was going to be me or nobody putting this together. So I spent about a week trying to work out a schedule for about a dozen of us to get together and have a dinner and make it very egalitarian, everybody pays their own way, no friends, partners and spouses and wives, non-director personnel. And we had a great time, so a couple of months later we did a second one and this one only took me about an hour to put together.
So we’ve done, I think, about five or six of them, and it’s informally turned into a discussion of whether we wanted to work together and not have anybody oversee us and do something our way. And I just thought it would be a great opportunity, but it was one of those Catch-22, cart-before-the-horses things. You needed somebody to propose a deal and get filmmakers to commit to it, and you need, in this case, the filmmakers to commit to it to be able to make a deal. And I thought maybe I could get these guys to put something on paper saying they’ll do it, so it happened very quickly once IDT came around.
Joshua Jabcuga: Did you go through the Showtime Channel because of your connections with them (having directed PSYCHO IV)?
Mick Garris: Well, none of the same people are there anymore that were there during PSYCHO IV. But we knew it had to be Pay TV without heavy censorship and without commercials because even though nobody had flat out said it, I didn’t think anybody would want to do another thing where they’d have to water things down and go with a commercial network and have everybody lift his leg and leave a yellow mark on it. It was going to be fully financed by IDT anyway, but if it was going to have a network involved, it would have to be HBO or Showtime. HBO really likes to own everything they do so they have all the ancillary rights, the DVDs, the all around the world stuff, so our show wasn’t attractive to them because it was being financed by the IDT Company. They were interested; they expressed very heavy interest for a few weeks until it became clear that they would not be involved. And Showtime was, I think, a very attractive alternative. They need us, and we needed a network, or wanted a network. They seemed really enthusiastic about it and not have the same kind of ownership requirements.
Joshua Jabcuga: Anchor Bay will be the DVD company releasing these?
Mick Garris: Yeah, Anchor Bay is owned by IDT. They actually finance the show and then Showtime came into it as a partner after the fact, but they are really, they are our partners, but they are our U.S. television distribution, and in Canada it’s on the Scream Channel, another pay network there.
Joshua Jabcuga: The DVDs will hit in February?
Mick Garris: I think that’s when they start, yeah.
Joshua Jabcuga: Will they provide exclusive content, sort of an ultra uncut version of the show?
Mick Garris: There may be a couple of them that have a few differences here and there, but Showtime has been pretty liberal about things. There are a few rules that were laid down and any of those rules we break will be on the DVD, but in addition to having the show on the DVD, there’s like an hour’s worth of behind-the-scenes material.
Joshua Jabcuga: Are you filming that yourself, because I know you’ve done it in the past.
Mick Garris: No, I thankfully don’t have to do that. I mean, I loved doing it but it’s extremely time-consuming. So we actually have people that IDT or Anchor Bay brought in that shoot two or three days out of every episode.
Joshua Jabcuga: Anchor Bay certainly has some terrific DVD releases. Great packages overall.
Mick Garris: They’re terrific. They could not have been more supportive. Everybody that we pitched the show to wanted to do it, but Anchor Bay, or, IDT, the owners of Anchor Bay, were the first ones to actually say, right after the pitch, “O.K., how much is this? Let’s make a deal.” So there were other companies that were very interested in it like Lion’s Gate and some others who just didn’t act quickly enough because usually nothing happens quickly in this business. IDT is a major corporation; mainly they are a huge telecom network. They are the forth-biggest telecom network in the world, and they do a lot of phone cards and long distance services, but they also own Anchor Bay, and a bunch of film production companies.
Joshua Jabcuga: I know you’re directing your short story “Chocolate.”
Mick Garris: Right.
Joshua Jabcuga: And you have another writing credit on the series?
Mick Garris: Yeah. “Haekel’s Tale.” It’s actually an adaptation of a Clive Barker short story. I did the script for it. The short story hasn’t been published yet but it’s coming out next month in a collection called DARK DELICACIES.
Joshua Jabcuga: MASTERS OF HORROR is your baby, like your freak baby in “Life in the Cinema” (a short story published in a collection under the same name, by Gauntlet Press, available at www.GauntletPress.com).
Mick Garris: (laughs) I’m glad you read that.
Joshua Jabcuga: I loved that. I was disappointed that you weren’t bringing that one to the show.
Mick Garris: I considered it and I actually started writing the script. I wrote about five pages and realized, I don’t know how to do this.
Joshua Jabcuga: Really?
Mick Garris: It was just really difficult because there’s a lot of time that has to jump. You know, the guy’s career going up and down and, you know, getting down into the bottom until he discovers the baby. There’s too much stuff that has to be glossed over to be filmed. One of the reasons I wrote the short story in the first place was because there would be no interference by studios, by casts, by networks, by censorships, or even special effects in making a mutant baby that really lived and breathed like a live mutant baby.
Joshua Jabcuga: That was for the short story collection that David J. Schow edited, wasn’t it?
Mick Garris: SILVER SCREAM, yeah.
Joshua Jabcuga: How long have you known David?
Mick Garris: I’ve known David for twenty-some years. We’ve been really good friends for a long time and in fact, the next episode that starts shooting of MASTERS OF HORROR is a David J. Schow story, and he wrote the script and Larry Cohen is directing.
Joshua Jabcuga: Your style, and his, definitely have a distinct west coast vibe to it.
Mick Garris: Well I was actually born in L.A. I’m one of the rare natives, especially rare natives with graying hair.
Joshua Jabcuga: It seems like you both have a lot of the same common interests… maybe a penchant for Mexican wrestling. I could definitely see in your work that you were a native. You couldn’t be a tourist and carry off the authenticity in your work like you have.
Mick Garris: (laughing) Yeah, it’s funny. One of our favorite places to have lunch when we first met back in the eighties was a little Mexican restaurant called Ernie’s in North Hollywood that comes up often in our discussions.
Joshua Jabcuga: Getting back to your short story collection, the piece “A Life in the Cinema” in particular… that had a very particular wherewithal to it, almost meta narrative. It’s coming from a guy who has seen the belly of the beast of the industry.
Mick Garris: Well, it’s interesting because, you know, people who meet me generally get the idea that I’m very kind of…well adjusted and easy going. And I kind of drew upon some real angst, because I think the guy who tells the story is a real asshole. I wanted him to be sort of like a Sammy Glick, if you’re familiar with the Budd Schulberg novel, WHAT MAKES SAMMY RUN, but sort of a horrific Sammy Glick who has no idea of his own arrogance. And he was definitely patterned on one or two people I met back in the Eighties.
Joshua Jabcuga: Which is scary.
Mick Garris: Which is scary. But interestingly enough, when I did my book collection, I wrote the sequel, “Starfucker,” twelve years later, those are now the first two chapters of my first novel. I’ve reworked them somewhat but the novel is called DEVELOPMENT HELL coming out later this year.
Joshua Jabcuga: Really?
Mick Garris: Yeah… a nice hardcover and the whole thing. It is that character if you can stand him for three hundred pages. I’m really happy with it. It came out really well and it goes one step beyond “Starfucker.”
Joshua Jabcuga: Are you concerned, being involved in the film industry, that people will think DEVELOPMENT HELL will have its share of autobiographical elements?
Mick Garris: People always do, especially when you’re a filmmaker and you name your first book after the short story “A Life in the Cinema.” They think it’s an autobiography and that’s fine. My mom knows what I’m like, my wife knows what I’m like, my friends know what I’m like. But I like surprising people. People always say, “Oh, he’s such a soft-spoken, nice guy.” That’s why I named my company Nice Guy Productions. When I was in my dating years, the girls always said, “Oh, you’re such a nice guy.” It was the last thing you wanted to hear. (Both laugh)
Joshua Jabcuga: Or the other famous one that you didn’t want to hear from girls is, “Oh, he’s too good-looking to be straight.” It’s one of the two.
Mick Garris: Or the “You’re like a brother to me.” Yeah, fuck!
Joshua Jabcuga: Getting back to your short story, “Chocolate,” your collection a LIFE IN THE CINEMA also contains a script for that story. Is that the same script you ended up using for MASTERS OF HORROR?
Mick Garris: Well that’s a feature-length screenplay of like a hundred and thirty pages—
Joshua Jabcuga: Right. And for MASTERS OF HORROR you were dealing with sixty minutes?
Mick Garris: Sixty. It was a lot harder to shrink it down into a sixty, fifty-nine page script than it would have been to start from scratch. But I was committed to doing it, so you’ll probably recognize everything from that script, and maybe not even notice what’s missing. Knowing that story, and knowing that script, you know that Henry Thomas is playing a very bold role.
Joshua Jabcuga: Why did you go with “Chocolate”?
Mick Garris: Uh, I was just trying to think what would be something that would be my own. I’d been trying to make it into a feature for years, and that’s why I ended up publishing the screenplay, as an example of adapting one of my own stories into screenplay form. It never got made. It had almost been made many times; it’d gotten me a lot of work. I put it in the book because I thought, “Fuck it! It’s never gonna come out.” When this show came up, after I realized that “A Life in the Cinema” was not going to at least be my first one, that it wasn’t working for me, I thought, I really want to tell this story and although it may not be as horrific as a Richard Matheson story or an H.P. Lovecraft story, something truly in the full-on classic horror mode, it is horrific in a different way. I was encouraging every one of the filmmakers to make it as much of their own as possible. So that’s the reason I went with that. And all of the shows are so different from one another. You won’t tune in twice and feel like you’re going to see the same thing.
Joshua Jabcuga: When was “Chocolate” written?
Mick Garris: I wrote it well over twenty years ago.
Joshua Jabcuga: I’m so glad you said that because when I was rereading it the other night, I got the sense that it was a very twisted version of BEING JOHN MALCOVICH.
Mick Garris: (laughing) Yeah, they ripped me off!
Joshua Jabcuga: It’s like a combination of GHOST meets BEING JOHN MALCOVICH meets something more sinister. Everybody always wants to know where a writer’s ideas originated from, but what were some of the seeds behind this one?
Mick Garris: You know, usually I don’t have an answer other than pricking my imagination. In this case, it’s a couple of things. Mainly it came from a dream that I had. I rarely remember dreaming.
Joshua Jabcuga: Like the character says in the story.
Mick Garris: Right. That’s right. But in this case it woke me up and I dreamed, not that I had killed someone, but that I had experienced someone brutally killing someone, and I felt the blood running down my arm. And I was very pleased because my reaction was total revulsion rather than excitement or titillation. But that was what really launched this as well as meeting my wife after that, which kind of opened up an emotional door that had not been opened as wide.
Joshua Jabcuga: Well, it’s like the character says in the story, you don’t know what you’re missing if you’ve never had it.
Mick Garris: Right.
Joshua Jabcuga: And one of the other themes was basically how love chooses you, I guess.
Mick Garris: Yeah. That’s kind of my favorite line, even though it’s not in the movie.
Joshua Jabcuga: Really?
Mick Garris: Yeah. “Love chooses you.”
Joshua Jabcuga: When I was speaking with you back in July in San Diego at the MASTERS OF HORROR launch party, you were saying how it wasn’t going to be something like TALES FROM THE CRYPT, a brand name, so to speak, but that each “Master” would add their own fingerprints to the MASTERS OF HORROR series.
Mick Garris: Right. Exactly, exactly. I wanted their fingerprints on it rather than mine.
Joshua Jabcuga: How much are you involved? You’re producing it, right?
Mick Garris: I’m producing it but my job as the producer, other than helping decide what material we do develop, is to give encouragement and freedom to the filmmakers to do things the way they want as long as it’s done on budget and on schedule and to help them, if there are things that are too expensive to do, to help come up with ideas to do them in a way that we can afford, without feeling compromised. Mainly, at this point, it’s being a cheerleader, but early on, it was helping choose the material. About half the filmmakers either wrote, or had their scripts developed by friends of theirs around stories they wanted to adapt. And about half of them we developed and then they chose from them. Like John Carpenter chose from a script, “Cigarette Burns.” He fell in love with it. Whereas John Landis and his son Max wrote his episode.
Joshua Jabcuga: It seems like the majority of the filmmakers involved would know how to work on a shoestring budget. I think the last time we spoke you said the budget was like a million-eight per episode.
Mick Garris: Yeah, it’s come up to about a million-nine.
Joshua Jabcuga: When you’re talking about guys like Lucky McKee, and Corman, you know, these guys know how to get around budget concerns.
Mick Garris: Every one of these filmmakers has been there.
Joshua Jabcuga: I’m thinking maybe Argento and Carpenter might have problems because they’ve been removed from that scene for so long now.
Mick Garris: You would think, but not at all. Carpenter was among the most easy going to get it out. It was really fantastic. And Argento, you know, he’s worked very cheaply too. And working in Canada, other than working in Rome, but there’s just a deeper production base there. There’s so much production in Vancouver and we ended up getting some of the best people in all of Canada. Argento, and Carpenter, particularly, were really great.
Joshua Jabcuga: I know Showtime was filming THE CHRIS ISAAK SHOW in Vancouver.
Mick Garris: Yeah.
Joshua Jabcuga: Did they use the same crew?
Mick Garris: No, Showtime really didn’t put the crew together. We did that independently. You go with the best people available at the time who are interested in the project. And we were able to grab from some really great people.
Joshua Jabcuga: You would think people would be honored to be working with “the Masters.”
Mick Garris: Well, you’re either into the genre or you’re not. And a lot of people, when you’re working in the crew position, it’s often whatever pays the best. And our show isn’t paying the best, but there was a lot of excitement to work with basically a group of feature film directors.
Joshua Jabcuga: It’s a prestige thing more than anything else.
Mick Garris: I would like to think so. There are those of us who are not into the genre who would disagree with you but I certainly think that’s the case. And the people we’ve got working for us, we’ve got a couple of great directors of photography, our composers, everybody is bringing in their own composers. Dario (Argento) did his, he got a full orchestral score recorded in Rome by Claudio Simonetti from GOBLIN, and it’s a great score. But how could it live up to expectations? It could only disappoint, right?
Joshua Jabcuga: I think people at this point are just relieved to be seeing this type of dream project out there. Most of the time they never seem to get off the ground.
Mick Garris: Yeah. It’s pretty awesome. I’d been trying to get it going for years, literally, and it happened very, very quickly.
Joshua Jabcuga: I may have misheard this, but is it true that you’re looking at another season already, with talent like F.Paul Wilson?
Mick Garris: We are. It’s not official. Let’s just say chances are very good that there will be another batch of thirteen and we are looking at some material.
Joshua Jabcuga: Now, speaking from the writing side, we have to bring up Stephen King.
Mick Garris: Yep. He has own anthology series, NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES, being made (for TNT), so right now any of his short material is going in that direction.
Joshua Jabcuga: And you directed his story “Home Delivery”?
Mick Garris: I will. It hasn’t happened yet. I think they’re just starting the first episode now. They’re doing eight of them. Their budgets are about double what ours are and they’re shooting in Australia. I can’t believe this travel year for me is insane. Tomorrow I go to New York. Monday I go from New York to Vancouver. Then I come home for a week. Then I go to Japan for Takashi Miike’s episode (for MASTERS OF HORROR), then I come back for a couple of days, then I go back up to Vancouver for the end of production, then I go home for a week, then I go to a film festival in Italy where they’re showing six of our episodes, and then in January, going to Australia to shoot “Home Delivery.”
Joshua Jabcuga: Is this coming full circle for you?
Mick Garris: Well, it’s weird because it’s more than full circle. I’m working more now than I ever have and also doing stuff of my own. You rarely get the opportunity to do that. When you’re a director-for-hire, particularly when your most well known stuff is television, it’s high end television, but it’s so hard to put a personal cinematic mark on television, the budgets are so low, and the schedules so fast, and all that. THE STAND and THE SHINING were very successful things but it’s really hard to be a personal filmmaker in that regard when you’re just trying to get the performances as well as possible.
Joshua Jabcuga: The association with Stephen King, was that a blessing and a curse, and are you glad that maybe now you’re finally out of that shadow a little bit?
Mick Garris: Well, you know, Steve King is one of my best friends and I love him to death. There is no happier experience than working with him. He is a hundred percent supportive. He never once said, “Here you ought to shoot it this way,” or “Here you ought to have the actors do it that way.” He’s basically a cheerleader and I kind of learned that through him, to help the MASTERS OF HORROR. So there is no curse. It’s definitely a blessing. But, you know, it is true that people think of me as just the Stephen King guy, you know, being his lackey, which couldn’t be further from the truth when you’re in the trenches shooting a movie. It’s sort of like this band discovered by THE BEATLES called BADFINGER. They put them out on their label, Apple Records, they had a bunch of hit records, and it was a huge blessing but it was also a total curse for them to try to live in the shadow of THE BEATLES. It’s not entirely analogous to that, but my shows mostly have been known more for people other than the director. My early work with Steven Spielberg (AMAZING STORIES), and later Stephen King, and that’s great, that’s fine. It’s been nothing but fantastic opportunities that I’m happy to say continue. DESPERATION (Garris’ film adaptation of another King novel for ABC to air during the crucial ratings sweeps season) has been getting unbelievably well received and it’s not even going to air until May.
Joshua Jabcuga: Sam Hamm is involved with MASTERS OF HORROR. Is he the same writer responsible for the infamous first, and many consider far superior draft, of Tim Burton’s BATMAN?
Mick Garris: That’s him. And it’s a great one. It’s going to be a very controversial episode. It’s based on a short story by Dale Bailey and it won a bunch of awards. Joe Dante (director of GREMLINS) brought Sam onboard. It’s about the American soldiers who died in Iraq rising up from their graves to vote out the president who consigned them to their death. It’s satirical. It may not be as horrifying as some of the other shows but it’s a zombie show and not enough of the media has any balls when it comes to taking a counter position toward our administration. And Joe is very politically active, as I am. And we’re all thrilled to be doing this. It may be a cry in the wilderness but at least there’s mounting opposition brewing for our administration.
Joshua Jabcuga: Obviously you can get away with this on Showtime, but I heard that with the Stephen King story your directing for TNT, you’re going to involve the President somehow?
Mick Garris: Well, it was very coincidental. In my script for “Home Delivery,” which was written months before “Home Coming,” it had some of the things that Sam wrote into his script for “Home Coming” months later. It was very political. Where did you hear that? I’m curious because I don’t know anybody who’s heard about it but I definitely do have to temper some of the political elements in my episode for NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES.
Joshua Jabcuga: I don’t reveal my sources, but let’s just say I do my homework, and I read everything I can get my hands on. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere.
Mick Garris: I had no idea anybody even knew that. It’s definitely being tempered.
Joshua Jabcuga: Will there be any female talent involved in the future, names like Shirley Jackson, P.D. Cacek, Ann Rivers Siddons, Elizabeth Massie…?
Mick Garris: Well, we are wide open to it. We actually asked Mary Harron to do an episode because we did want there to be female involvement as well. There aren’t many female filmmakers in the genre. I loved AMERICAN PSYCHO. I thought it was great. But she doesn’t want to be identified with horror. I think stories by people like Poppy Z. Brite would be great.
Joshua Jabcuga: For you, is Hollywood sort of like that girl that you hate, but she’s so seductive in her ways that you can’t stop calling her for more?
Mick Garris: (laughing) What’s weird is although I was born and raised in L.A., no one in my family did this. And I started out as a musician. I’ve had a really great time with this. I’ve worked with some really great people. I’ve had some bad times, too, but I’m not a part of Hollywood. I don’t do the Hollywood parties. I don’t hang with Hollywood people. My wife and myself have a very private life and we don’t have a lot to do with “the biz.” I love the work but these days almost none of the work is in L.A. and you know, at this point, I’m pretty much working with the people I want to work with. I’m in a position to say no to the people I don’t want to work with. Have I worked with assholes? Yes, and that’s unavoidable, but the work itself is so much fun, even though it’s really hard work and can be so frustrating, it’s so rewarding and you’re surrounded by people you like to work with. So it’s more about the work than the town. I’m really not a Hollywood guy. There are a lot of people, who all they do is go to screenings, and parties, and after parties, and premieres and things like that, but I don’t really go to any of them.
Joshua Jabcuga: Reading some of your work, someone could see where you like a lot of the elements of the city, almost like it’s that accident you can’t turn your eyes away from.
Mick Garris: Yeah, it’s home, just like you probably see Buffalo.
Joshua Jabcuga: Myself, because I’m in Buffalo, I’m pretty far removed from Hollywood. How do you make it in the business without being in New York City or L.A.? You certainly can accomplish a lot these days using the Internet alone, but that, coupled with talent, only gets you so far sometimes.
Mick Garris: Well, it’s really luck and timing and talent, all of those things. You may only get one chance and if you fuck it up, forget it. But at this point, you know, for the first time, it’s a matter of being in the right place where somebody would be receptive to your talent. And it’s different for every single person. For me I finally, finally got an agent based on a spec script that I had done. And I was doing a “making of” documentary for Spielberg when he told me AMAZING STORIES was happening, because he asked me what I was doing, and I told him, and he said, “Well, you must do a bunch of these ‘making of’s’.” And I said, “Well, I’m trying not to. I’m trying to make a go of it as a writer.” And he said, “Well, really! We’re doing this show called AMAZING STORIES.” And I was the first one hired to write a script of it.
Joshua Jabcuga: You did like, eight, or something like that, didn’t you?
Mick Garris: I wrote or co-wrote ten of them. But the first one was a spec script, well, not a spec script, but a, “Let’s see what you can do, kid.” They liked it enough, I wrote it in three days, turned it in, they liked it enough to ask me to do another one right away and halfway through that one, Spielberg called me and asked if I’d be the story editor. And so, fortunately I was able to deliver what people were interested in getting at the right place at the right time. Had I not been interviewing him for the GOONIES documentary, even though I had met him before, that opportunity may never had happened because my agent had sent them a spec script which got fantastic coverage but didn’t lead to them hiring me, but that combination of that and them saying, “Hey, let’s give Mick a try,” or maybe Steven just came across the coverage and said, “Oh, you know, I just saw him on the set of the GOONIES, let’s give him a try.” So that was my opportunity, and when that opportunity knocks, you open the door, or you may never get another chance.
Joshua Jabcuga: Could you ever see yourself not having a career that would allow you to express yourself creatively?
Mick Garris: Well I’ve been doing it for twenty-some years, so I can’t imagine it. You know, I’d worked in record stores. I’d been a publicist for a while. But even when I was eighteen years old, I was in a rock ‘n roll band, and it was all original music, and all very original music, by the way… unconventional. So I can’t imagine it.
Joshua Jabcuga: F.Paul Wilson had been in a band, too.
Mick Garris: Really? Our band opened for THE KINKS and some others. In my music journalist days… well, Cameron Crowe and I both wrote for the San Diego Door. So the first half of ALMOST FAMOUS is my life too, only I was a couple years older than him.
Joshua Jabcuga: Did he nail that era with ALMOST FAMOUS?
Mick Garris: He did, although it’s a little rose-colored. It was a bit dirtier than that. It was more R-rated than the movie, but he really got most of it so well. He’s a wonderful filmmaker and a really good guy. You know, I interviewed Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix and all these people right before they died.
Joshua Jabcuga: Jack Ketchum was a music journalist at one time, too. I believe he wrote for CREAM.
Mick Garris: I did too. I wrote a couple things for CREAM myself, and in fact, I went to high school with Lester Bangs. Lester was a senior when I was a freshman in high school. I remember walking to school. I didn’t know him well, but one day, somehow my brother and I ended up walking to school with him, and he was telling me why I should like Negro music, because I didn’t like Negro music at the time. You know, I was twelve years old.
Joshua Jabcuga: And what about Mr. Ketchum? His stories seem like a perfect fit for MASTERS OF HORROR. Any chances of lining up a Jack Ketchum story for the series?
Mick Garris: I’d love to have a Jack Ketchum story. I'm a big fan of Dallas' work (Ketchum's nom de plume).
Joshua Jabcuga: So you were always writing at one time or another?
Mick Garris: Yeah. I started writing fiction when I was twelve. And I drew, too, but that never really went anywhere. My father had studied, and was attempting to be a professional artist but was never able to get his foot in the door, so I get a little of that from him.
Joshua Jabcuga: Were you always into horror?
Mick Garris: Yeah. I mean, I love every kind of film. Not all of the novels I read are horror. I love every kind. And I used to say, I’d rather not be defined by the genre, but it’s probably too late at this time. And I’m proud of the work I’ve done in the genre and I’m just happy enough to be recognized for doing anything well by some people.
Joshua Jabcuga: Some people say “genre writers” like it’s a bad thing.
Mick Garris: I love it.
Joshua Jabcuga: Look at some of these writers. Some of the best work out there is by genre writers.
Mick Garris: Well, look at King and Barker and Matheson, I mean, all these great talents. There’s a top hat and tuxedo on the genre these days because it makes a lot of money. Unfortunately, that’s the main reason. You know, there’s more imagination there than in most other genres.
Joshua Jabcuga: And you can also really say things about the world and the times. It’s the genre that allows you to offer political commentary on the world…
Mick Garris: Without preaching.
Joshua Jabcuga: Right. Look at something like Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD.
Mick Garris: Oh yeah, or THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Did you see AMERICAN NIGHTMARE? It’s the documentary about the horror films of the '70s all being rooted in the activism of the '60s. I think IFC did it. It’s fantastic. It’s really good.
Joshua Jabcuga: Chris Ryall, the editor here at the site, is also the editor-in-chief at IDW Comics, and he tells me that they’re doing the official comic adaptations of MASTERS OF HORROR.
Mick Garris: I had just seen the contract. I think that’s great. Unfortunately, “Chocolate” is not the best story to adapt for a comic book, so I don’t think that’s going to be one of the stories adapted. I know they’re doing a two-parter with (Don) Coscarelli’s (of PHANTASM fame--the story will be in issues 1 and 2, an adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale's INCIDENT ON AND OFF A MOUNTAIN ROAD, adapted by Chris Ryall and Jeremy Haun--Ed.) and then I think with Stuart Gordon (of RE-ANIMATOR fame). You know, “Life in the Cinema” actually was adapted in a comic book, in a thing called NIGHTMARE THEATER. Philip Nutman did the script.
Joshua Jabcuga: He wrote the book WET WORK (available at www.overlookconnection.com).
Mick Garris: Yeah. I’ve known Philip for a long time.
Joshua Jabcuga: But nothing from him for MASTERS OF HORROR?
Mick Garris: Not yet. He was busy. He did a small feature of his own just recently that he wrote and produced, and they just shot. I think they finished shooting about a month ago. Finally, he broke that glass ceiling.
Joshua Jabcuga: Great. There’s still so many, though, that deserve to have some more of the spotlight on them. Off the top of my head, I’m thinking of someone like Edward Lee.
Mick Garris: Oh, yeah! Well, like I said, the talent is only the first part. Luck and timing has to intersect with it.
Joshua Jabcuga: Well, it seems like this is your time to shine now with your MASTERS OF HORROR project on Showtime. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with me.
Mick Garris: My pleasure. It’s been great talking to you, Josh, and I hope you enjoy the show.
MASTERS OF HORROR premieres on Friday, October 28, at 10 PM on Showtime. Visit www.mastersofhorror.net for more info. Issue one of IDW Publishing's MASTERS OF HORROR comic book is due in December '05.
HAND OF DOOM
If you’ve been reading my interview with Mick Garris, you’re most likely a fan of the horror genre. If so, you DO NOT want to miss out on IDW Comics’ DOOMED, hitting comic shops in October. The fiends over at IDW are cooking up a balls-to-the-wall, take-no-prisoners, shit-your-pants revival of the horror anthology genre in comics. It harkens back to the days of Warren’s CREEPY and EERIE, and before them, EC COMICS, with TALES FROM THE CRYPT, SHOCK SUSPENSE STORIES, and cutting edge pre Code comics too numerous to mention. DOOMED is more than just an homage. It’s a rekindling. A bloody resurrection, if you will.
Each issue of DOOMED will feature four 15-page comic adaptations of stories originally penned by legendary genre masters such as David J. Schow, Richard Matheson, F. Paul Wilson, and Robert Bloch. I won’t even pretend for a nanosecond that I belong on the same page as any of those icons. Still, Chris Ryall asked me to do a piece for the book, and I’d be a damned fool to say no, and a liar if I said I wasn’t doing backflips at the chance. Think of it as a glorified cameo; however, it’s a great thrill for me to be even loosely associated with this project.
For the debut issue, I was given the opportunity to interview David J. Schow, author of countless classic short stories and several solid novels, and also the screenwriter for THE CROW and the upcoming prequel to THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Mr. Schow was very generous with his time. Likewise, IDW gave me plenty of room to work with, to get something that’s more in depth than the typical fluff job that the majority of horror magazines present these days (or entertainment mags in general, for that matter). Hopefully diehard Schow fans will learn something about the author that they never knew, and new readers will get the urge to pick up one of his books (you can’t call yourself a legitimate horror fan and not own at least a couple of his books!).
The interview section, the little corner of the dungeon with my name on it, will be called “Outlawed Legacies,” and I think, in my own assuredly biased opinion, that it may be the most comprehensive David J. Schow interview to ever see print. And again, this wouldn’t have been possible without the complete cooperation of Mr. Schow and IDW’s desire to give readers something to really sink their teeth into.
While I’m not involved with any of the quote-unquote comics in DOOMED (issue one features three adaptations written by Chris Ryall and one written by F. Paul Wilson, and subsequent issues will feature adaptations by Scott Tipton, among others), the real bloody meat and potatoes of the project, I can say that what I’ve seen is nothing short of spectacular. And this is because IDW has the guts to publish something like DOOMED. Now do you have the balls to buy it?
DOOMED #1 will be hitting comicbook stores in October, or order it directly at www.idwpublishing.com.
Praise for the writing of Josh Jabcuga, who pens Squib Central with ink made from his own blood, published every Thursday, exclusively at www.moviepoopshoot.com:
"You’re a bad influence on them, I’ll tell you right now." -Max Cavalera, lead singer of Soulfly, former lead singer of Brazilian death metal icons Sepultura.
I read your article and you my dear are a true
ASSHOLE!!! Wonder how you landed your job, desperation???"-Angie (last name unknown; article mentioned...unknown).
“Josh Jabcuga can take the 26 measly letters of our crude alphabet and capture the bi-polar soul of all that is classically yet disturbingly American. Then, when his typewriter is left to cool, he can turn right around…completely ready to trounce any drunk punk that’s got me backed into a corner.” –The Colonel J.D. Wilkes of The Legendary Shack*Shakers.
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