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Podcasts for Shut-Ins:
Tune In, Hunker Down

March 19th, 2020

I’ve been trying to track down a piece that I heard on NPR following the 9-11 attacks. I can’t remember who delivered it, but the voice in my memory sounds like Scott Simon. It was a reflective piece about the uncertainty felt in the aftermath of the attacks, a time when the country was bracing for an uncertain future.

As I recall, the commentator contrasted the moment with bombings in Europe during WWII, when people would hunker down and await the all-clear. The piece ended with the question: Will there ever be an all-clear this time?

That question seems even more relevant now.

Today, as we adjust to a world profoundly different from the one we knew a couple of weeks ago, it may be difficult to believe things will ever return to a semblance of normal. Yet, though there are never guarantees, the odds are in our favor if we follow the guidelines offered by the CDC and other reliable sources — all of which urge avoiding close contact as much as possible.

Unfortunately, isolation leads to other problems, not the least of which is a sense of disconnection and boredom.  If you’re lucky enough to be able to work from home, you already have part of the day covered. But what do you do with your downtime?

Books have always worked for me, and being able to download them from reliable vendors (a.k.a ones-that-pay-the-authors) makes it possible to access virtually anything without leaving the home. It’s the same with movies, where Universal is now making its latest theatrical releases available on your favorite streaming services. But lately, I’ve been turning to podcasts, where the conversations provide a sense of social connection. And unlike reading books and watching movies, I can tune in while walking, working out, cleaning my office, or doing home repairs that are not as easy to ignore as they used to be.

So what have I been listening to? Glad you asked. Here (in no particular order) are a few that work for me. Your mileage may vary, but all are worth a test drive.

First up is Inside the Hive from Vanity Fair. Hosted by tech-writer Nick Bilton, the blog covers technology, politics, and current events, with each show centering on a one-hour (give or take) conversation with writers, journalists, scientists, and political commentators. If you’re interested in checking it out, you might start with an episode from October titled “Sam Harris Explains Why There’s No Free Will” — just the thing to divert the mind from the fight-or-flight drive that seems to be running our lives today. Or, if you’re looking for an up-to-the-minute conversation about the current health crisis, you’ll want to check out this week’s show, where screenwriter Scott Burns (Contagion) is slated to talk about pandemics and other things related to the biggest challenge of the twenty-first century.

You’ll find it all at Vanity Fair, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. The interview with Scott Burns drops on Friday, March 20.

And if you want more conversation on the current state of affairs – and particularly if you like the Sam Harris interview on Inside the Hive – you’ll want to check out the most recent installments of Making Sense, where neuroscientist, philosopher, and best-selling author Sam Harris interviews Yale professor Nicholas A. Christakis (Episode 190), Johns Hopkins disease specialist Amesh Adalja (Episode 191), and psychologist Paul Bloom (Episode 192).

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a break from the challenges of the day, you might download Gilbert Gottfried’s Amazing Colossal Podcast with Frank Santopadre, in which a hyperkinetic comedian (Gottfried) and a television writer (Santopadre) interview screenwriters, songwriters, comedians, directors, actors, and other folks who helped shape pop culture in the twentieth century.

Some of the best conversations are with people you may not have heard from in a while, like Michael Nesmith (guitarist for the Monkees) or Ron Dante (frontman for the Archies). The conversations are free-ranging and spontaneous, with the most interesting ones held together by Santopadre’s encyclopedic knowledge of each guest’s career. And Gottfried is hysterical, although there are times when he goes completely off the rails (as in a recent interview with Tony and Oscar-nominated Amy Ryan). You might find him an acquired taste, but when his antics work, there’s no one funnier.

And if you’re a horror fan, you might try Post Mortem with Mick Garris, which features interviews with some of the biggest names in scary movies. Currently produced by Fangoria, the podcast has featured conversations with Stephen King, Barbara Crampton, John Carpenter, and others. As a writer, director, and producer in his own right, Garris always makes the interviews sound like conversations between friends.

Of particular interest to readers of this blog might be the Post Mortem episode “Live at the Fantasia Film Festival,” recorded following the world premiere of Nightmare Cinema. It features directors Joe Dante, Ryuhei Kitamura and Alejandro Brugués along with writers Richard Christian Matheson, Sandra Becerril and the 21st-Century Scop himself in an hour-long conversation moderated by Fangoria’s own Tony Timpone. Pull up a chair and join us.

Also in the horror vein, there’s The Wicked Library, now in its 10th season of delivering novelette-length fiction for the ears. This year’s season kicks off just with the release of a new story by British writer Christopher Long. Read by Louie Pollard, scored by Nico Vetesse, and produced by 9th Story Studios, “Shiny Entrails” provides an interesting blend of psychological and ecological horror that rewards repeated listening. I found it a welcome diversion from the real horrors in the news streams of the day.

That’s some of what I’ve been listening to, but there’s lots more where that came from. Good thing too because it looks like it could be a while before we get the all-clear. Until then — hunker down, tune in … and scop on!

A World of Nightmares:
Latest Festival News and Reviews

October 21st, 2018

Two weeks after its UK Premiere at Grimmfest, Nightmare Cinema is continuing its run of successful festival screenings, winning fans and garnering strong reviews in the process.

In an earlier post, I listed some of the screenings scheduled for October and November. Since then, new screenings have been announced in Dublin, Melbourne, and New York City — all of which should (hopefully) bring us closer to a big west-coast premiere and a release to theatres and home video.

A few months ago, following Nightmare Cinema‘s world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, I posted links to some of the film’s initial reviews here and here.

At left, a banner featuring Grimmfest Guest of Honor Barbara Crampton stands at the foot of an escalator leading to the Odeon Cinema. The renovated industrial site bears a resemblance to the L.A. locations for “This Way to Egress.” (Poster: Uncle Frank Productions)

This month, as a result of Nightmare Cinema‘s prominence on the film-festival circuit, the blogosphere is again buzzing with audience reactions, making this a good time for assembling another list of reviews.

Since many of the recent screenings have been in places like Latin America, Spain, France, and Austria, some of the blurbs below are translations. All are accompanied by links to the original posts. If you are proficient in any of the languages, feel free to submit corrections in the comment section below or on Facebook and Twitter (via the buttons at the top of this page).

At right: Writer Sandra Becerril and Producer/Director/Writer Mick Garris at Macabro in Mexico. (Photo: Sergio Becerril)

So here they are, a sampling of the latest round of viewer reactions from festival screenings:

“The most notable segments are the most aware of their nature: ‘Mirari,’ a grotesque look at the culture of aesthetic surgery, directed by Joe Dante; and the first episode, a parody of slasher cinema […], which Alejandro Brugues (Juan of the Dead) directs with conviction. Also very remarkable is ‘This Way to Egress’ by David Slade (Hard Candy), shot in elegant black and white, very morbid and dreamlike.” – espinof.com

At left: Sarah Withers in Alejandro Brugues’s slasher parody “The Thing in the Woods.” (Photo: Michael Moriatis)

“‘The Thing in the Woods,’ by Alejandro Burgués, is absolutely hilarious and one of the most original […]. ‘This Way to Egress,’ by David Slade, is based on the gritty […] aesthetic to which he accustomed us in his collaborations on Hannibal and American Gods. But my personal winner would undoubtedly be ‘Mashit,’ by Ryuhei Kitamura, a story of wild exorcisms […] that is an absolute catharsis to see.’ — almasocuras.com

At right: Director Ryuhei Kitamura at a live recording of Post Mortem with Mick Garris, following Nightmare Cinema‘s World Premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival. (Photo: Julie Delisle)

“The most disturbing entry is David Slade’s surreal black-and-white chiller […], which stars Elizabeth Reaser as a mother who seems to be experiencing apocalyptic hallucinations as she passes time in a doctor’s waiting area with her two sons. The situation doesn’t improve when she finally sees Doctor Salvador (Adam Godley), who seems entirely unruffled by what she tells him. Augmented by some unsettling effects work, the resolution is genuinely nightmarish and all the more effective for being under-explained.” — Nerdly.com

Director David Slade and director of photography Jo Willems set up a shot on the waiting-room set of “This Way to Egress.” (Photo: 21st-Century Scop)

“David Slade tells the story […] of a woman on the verge of nervous collapse, whose sense of reality seems to slip away more and more. Slade blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction in an oppressive way and delivers the darkest as well as the aesthetically most impressive contribution of the film.” — Uncut Movies

At right: Director David Slade, producer Joe Russo, and A.D. Joe Moore on the set of “This Way to Egress.” (Photo: Michael Moriatis)

“‘This Way to Egress’ is the episode that stands out. This is not only because it is completely black and white and shows more dynamic images than any other episode. The at-first-glance, quite-simple behavior of the woman, who seeks help because she cannot cope, reveals in her few dialogue scenes […] a little masterpiece that I would have liked to see in feature length.” – 100 Years of Terror

A technician walks a nightmarish corridor on one of the “Egress” sets. (Photo: Joe Russo)

“An anthology of five horror shorts from some very accomplished horror directors, all linked by a quirky and interesting host. These included a body horror/plastic surgery story, possession in a corrupt Catholic school, and my personal favorite “Egress”: a heart-wrenching black-and-white short concerning a mother’s descent into depression and disassociation during a difficult time in her life.” —  Visit Manchester

“Perfect for Black Mirror fans, Nightmare Cinema is a creepy anthology that ticks every box if you take your horror with a pinch of satire, gore and a whole lot of creep.” — Fraghero.com

“Without doubt the greatest horror anthology of the past thirty years […].” – Cult of Monster

At right: Mick Garris shooting Nightmare Cinema‘s wrap-around segments in the Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena. (Photo: Michael Moriatis)

Yeah! You gotta love that last review. And the buzz is still building. For now, I’ll leave you with an interview recorded at our UK Premiere, in which I tell Grimmfest programmer Simeon Halligan a bit of the story behind the writing and development of “This Way to Egress.” Check it out, and stop back here soon for more festival news and perhaps some details about the upcoming release to theatres and home video. Until this, scop on!

Don’t Sleep: Nightmares are coming!

October 14th, 2017

They enter the Rialto only to have their darkest fears brought to life by The Projectionist – a ghostly figure who holds the horrifying futures of all who attend his screenings. And by the time the viewers realize the truth, escape is no longer an option. For once the ticket is torn, all fates are sealed.

That’s the premise of Nightmare Cinema, a film project that began coming together when producer-director Mick Garris first assembled his team of writers, directors, and producers in the fall of 2015.

The goal: gather some of the most exciting practitioners of dark cinema and give them free reign to create a series of short horror films, mini nightmares for the Rialto Projectionist to queue up and screen for each unlucky patron.

If you’ve been following this blog or reading the trades, you’ll recall the buzz from two years ago, starting with an official announcement at the Morbido Film Fest in Mexico, a fitting venue to unveil an international roster of talent that includes Alejandro Brugues (Cuba), Ryuhei Kitamura (Japan), David Slade (U.K.), and Sandra Becerril (Mexico). Check out the clip below, and don’t worry if you don’t speak Spanish. Most of the video is in English.

Additional announcements followed the Morbido unveiling. Some appeared here at 21st-Century Scop, others appeared in the trades. Here are a few links from Fall 2015:

After that initial buzz, further developments were kept under the radar until Mick announced the latest details at last month’s Son of Monsterpalooza in Burbank. There, accompanied by fellow directors Joe Dante and Alejandro Brugues, Mick lifted the veil on the project once again, this time announcing that it was being prepped for a 2018 release.

Following Son of Monsterpalooza, the press is once again humming with details, including the casting of Golden Globe and BAFTA Award winner Mickey Rourke as The Projectionist and Richard Chamberlain as Dr. Mirari, a key character in a segment penned by horror master Richard Christian Matheson.

Also in the news is the announcement that Cinelou Films (the development, financing, and production company behind Jennifer Aniston’s award-nominated Cake and the upcoming Iraq-war drama The Yellow Birds) has teamed with Fortitude International to coordinate the film’s release.

And just this week, at Podcast One’s Post Mortem with Mick Garris, director David Slade can be heard talking about his life in film — an impressive career that has brought us Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night, Twilight Eclipse, Hannibal, and American Gods. David and Mick cover all of those productions, and although I was pretty sure I already knew a lot about them, David managed to reveal quite a few intriguing revelations during the hour-plus podcast.

Bottomline: if you’re a fan of dark cinema, you’re going to love listening to David’s interview on Post Mortem. Give it a click. And while you’re at it, take a moment to subscribe to the series. It’s free … and the interviews are priceless.

Naturally, David also talks about This Way to Egress (a.k.a. “Traumatic Descent”) and the seventeen-year journey that finally put it in the hands of The Projectionist at the Rialto.  It’s a journey that I’ve written about in the past, covering the first ten-years in the introduction to my book This Way to Egress, and it was great hearing David recount the entire tale from his perspective,  including the recent turn of events that led to our new screenplay becoming part of Nightmare Cinema.

(BTW — That’s David and me in the above-right photo, a sureal forward-and-backward view courtesy of a conveniently-placed mirror in an L.A. bistro.)

It’s great to have things coming together on this project. I was on set for filming this past June, and a few weeks ago I screened a rough cut of the Egress segment. It was intense. Even without the final score or completed effects, I found it profoundly unsettling and moving. As David says in his Post Mortem interview: “It really surprised me how intense it was.”

As of this writing, Nightmare Cinema is moving toward a release in early 2018. But the story won’t end there. As Mick tells Simon Thompson in a recent Forbes interview, there are plans “to create more […] Nightmare Cinemas either as feature films or as a TV series.”

And so the journey will continue.

For now, there are certain to be more exciting developments as our release date approaches. When news breaks, I’ll be sure to report it here.

Until then, scop on … and stay awake for the nightmares!

Images & Videos

  • Promotional image for Nightmare Cinema.
  • Nancy Leopardi (line producer), David Slade (director), Joe Dante (director), Joe Russo (producer), Mick Garris (producer, director, writer) Ryuhei Kitamura (director), Alejandro Bruges (director). Photo taken in the Rialto Theatre. June 2017.
  • Joe Dante and Mick Garris reveal plans for Nightmare Cinema at the Morbido Film Festival. Puebla, Mexico. October 2015.
  • Joe Dante, Mick Garris, and Alejandro Brugues announce the completion of Nightmare Cinema at Son of Monsterpalooza. Burbank, CA. September 2017.
  • David Slade and Mick Garris in the Podcast One Studio. October 2017.
  • Two David Slades (frontward and backward) with The 21st-Century Scop (background, far left). November 2010.
  • The 21st-Century Scop with Mick Garris. December 2016.
  • Nightmare Cinema teaser.