If ever there was an advocate, or, better still, an ambassador for horror cinema worldwide, it would have to be Mick Garris (4 December 1951, Santa Monica). As Garris quite rightly points out over the course of the following interview, the majority of his colleagues, active within the genre, have, for the most part, been motivated by a sincere appreciation for the narrative opportunities horror naturally encapsulates, but it is hard to find a director as involved as he has been, and continues to be, in the promotion of new talents, genuine themes, and potential the often belittled genre has to offer in interpreting and decoding the times in which we live. Since the seventies, the soft-spoken director of such films as Sleepwalkers (1992) and Quicksilver Highway (1997) has, through his television talk shows, interviews, and more recently his podcast, given a voice to a new way of interpreting horror, and if it is now true that the genre and many of its authors have been reinstated and are analyzed from a fresh new perspective, we owe it to people like Garris.
Just a superficial glance at the filmography of this California-born director is enough to realize how vast and tentacular his career has been: producer, director, writer, actor (he is married to actress Cynthia Garris, who has often appeared in small but pivotal roles in his films), journalist, and mentor. Not afraid of putting himself in controversial positions (“I knew from the start that by agreeing to make a TV adaptation of King’s novel The Shining, I would expose myself to a lot of hate”), and despite at times producing contrasting results, Garris’ career as a director has been one permeated with ambition, and the attempt to infuse each project and script with a new angle, a different take, always animated with an artisan’s attitude.
His unique path has led to him becoming a member of numerous horror “families”; in fact, Garris has left an at times significant mark in, among others, The Fly saga, the Psycho franchise, and the Critters series, more often than not having to compromise and bargain his way through rules and regulations that have jeopardized his intentions and general directorial vision. When the time came for him to start producing, he has instead given his directors complete creative control, a modus operandi which eventually gave birth to an unprecedented and possibly unrepeatable television phenomenon: Masters of Horror (2005–2007). But Mick Garris’ relationship with television and his importance to the history of the medium is something that is still waiting to be properly contextualized, because since his role as a story editor on Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories (1985–1987), passing through the Stephen King miniseries he is possibly best known for, right up to the aforementioned anthology series that brought together diverse and groundbreaking figures such as John Carpenter, Dario Argento, and Takashi Miike, Garris has nothing short of reshaped the face of horror on the small screen.
You, more so than your contemporaries active in the horror genre, started out as a fan, in a way. You were, and still are, known for being an expert and a film buff and took your first steps in the industry in this capacity, doing interviews, directing backstage documentaries…
Mick Garris: Yes, in fact, I have been a fan of horror since childhood, but I also started writing seriously when I was around twelve years old. I would write short stories, then I wrote for the school newspaper in high school, and in college I created my own film magazine entitled Arthur the Magazine. Not all of this was related exclusively to horror, but certainly, like most of the directors who subsequently specialized in this genre, I developed a love for it early on. Although, it has to be said that often horror is also the easiest path to start making films. Personally, I love it; I love the good stuff and hate the bad stuff, like everybody.
In the seventies, in Los Angeles, I started doing interviews for the Z Channel, the first pay TV channel, and I had guests on it like Christopher Lee and Steven Spielberg, people like that, and this gave me the opportunity to make myself known as an expert, someone who was knowledgeable on the genre, who had a culture relating to horror, but also as a person who approached it, hopefully, with a certain degree of intelligence and sensibility. I wasn’t animated by the “I want blood and guts!” approach. So, the first person to hire me as a writer was Steven Spielberg. I went from doing interviews and journalism to working in publicity at Universal, before that at Avco Embassy, but at Universal I kind of hired myself, let's say, as a documentary director, because I was cheaper than anyone else. I did the “making-of” for Gremlins (1984), The Goonies (1985), The Howling (1981), Escape from New York (1981), and The Fog (1979). Spielberg had been on my show on the Z Channel as a guest and had a good time; he enjoyed the experience—because interviews aren’t always a pleasurable experience.
Anyway, I found myself interviewing him again on the set of The Goonies in Oregon, on the first day of shooting that film, and therefore he knew me a little, but didn’t know me as a writer. Those who represented me at the time sent him something that I had written, also because then he had begun working on Amazing Stories (1985–1987), and they really liked what I had written; so, Steven called me to be the first to write something for the pilot, or at least try. I was thrilled because at that time I was on government assistance, trying to make a life for myself as a writer. In three days, I wrote a screenplay based on his ideas and the basic storyline he gave me, and they liked it very much. They bought it and asked me to get to work on another one right away, and before I could finish the second screenplay I received a phone call at home from Spielberg—as you can imagine, a very exciting phone call—who asked me to join the staff as a head writer or the story editor of Amazing Stories, write screenplays for the show, follow other scripts, do rewrites, edit... these sort of things. So, my passion for the medium got me close, but ultimately it was writing that opened the door to cinema and filmmaking.
Speaking of your films as a director, inevitably one of the first to get mentioned is Sleepwalkers (1992)…
Mick Garris: Yes… not my favorite, may I add…
I'm not surprised. The memory one has of the film is often better than the film itself, which always disappoints a little. It almost seems like something is missing. All the ingredients are there, among which is an excellent soundtrack and some strong narrative elements. Did you have absolute control over the project?
Mick Garris: Up to a certain point... Certainly, King never stepped in, never even came to the set, except once to shoot his cameo. It was the first experience of working together and we mostly talked on the phone during pre-production. Let's say this project came before King developed respect for the screenwriter's work. During the making of The Stand (1994), he often told me how much he had developed, and I helped impress how much writing a script is important and a craft as important and worthy as the work of a novelist. Before, he saw writing for cinema as a lower art form and Sleepwalkers is certainly less sophisticated than his books; it is a little more superficial. There are interesting things going on, and some taboos are broken, but what is missing from these that can be found in his books is the richness of the human beings.
I was aware of all this even at the time: the fact that we were making a film more fiercely linked to the genre and something much less profound than The Stand or The Shining, for example. People who don't like horror can still enter the world of The Stand because despite the presence of decidedly horrific elements, and those certainly are very present, there is a great humanity at the core that allows you to tap into its world. You can make films for just the Fangoria crowd, and God bless you, but for a film to be able to accompany you in a process of awareness, especially in a phase of personal growth and maturity, there must be something that doesn’t just try to tickle our most superficial fears, but also the internal ones which are the universal ones that unite us all, I think.
In addition to having a vaguely good-natured family dimension in your works, in the sense that there is a bit of Batteries Not Included (1987) in many of your films, together with a doomed relationship, I would be inclined to say that your films are as much horror as they are love stories.
Mick Garris: Ah… you are the first person who tells me this, who notices it, and I appreciate it very much. Let's start by saying that most people get in touch with horror during their teenage years, and at that age your biggest fears are tied to relationships that go beyond the sexual aspect, the sex sphere—which, mind you, is terrifying in itself, for somebody who is starting to get closer to adulthood. That is a scary place to be, even for people that have long left their teenage years behind them. Exploring these territories when you are transitioning between childhood and adulthood is sometimes frightening; you are juggling a lot, among which a lot of confusion and hormones. I think that love stories within horror, the doomed relationship, as in the case of Bag of Bones, is the great untapped subgenre of horror, because horror at its most intimate can also be its most powerful expression.
Take something like “Chocolate”, my first episode for Masters of Horror (2005–2007), which was based on a short story I had written twenty years earlier; in the States the Fangoria readers, the horror fans, hated it... hated it. Because it was not a splatter movie, there was no madman, no crazed killer brandishing a knife, there is no body count. I mean, there are deaths, but it was something a little more complex, even in regards to sexuality that takes a strange turn when Henry Thomas' character experiences this woman he’s connected with making love with her lover, and this freaks people out because it is not the default, go-to scheme—boy meets girl, go on a date, have sex, and get butchered—but passion is an extremely important emotion, and when it is mixed with horror it really gives you a potent result, which is what I look for and is what attracted me, for example, to Bag of Bones (2012).
You know, when I read King’s novel, it immediately became my favorite in a long, long time, precisely because of this combination of emotions. Losing someone close to you can change your vision of horror. I have lost several close relatives over the years, my father for example. We all lose our parents, but I also lost a younger brother back in the early nineties and then some years ago my older brother also. These events really inform your sensitivity and inevitably change your perspective on life. Death is no longer fun or amusing when you have lost a loved one, and your vision of it changes radically, but having lived these experiences, having felt this pain allows you, perhaps, to have greater awareness in talking about certain things. Having gray hair is perhaps not so terrible for a horror director if there really is a love for the genre and you are not just there trying to satisfy the horde of teenagers.
Well, horror is undoubtedly therapeutic...
Mick Garris: Absolutely, yes. The horror genre is therapeutic, and it is wonderful to be able to deal with it in that way, to be able to vent one's anxieties. It is those people who repress their fears that most frighten me. There are also substantial differences between American and European sensitivity. Speaking of “Chocolate”, when it was screened in Turin, together with some other of the episodes, it received a standing ovation, but if you show it to fifteen-year-old Americans, they immediately go nuts… "That's not horror, what is this stuff doing on Masters of Horror?" When there are personal emotions, when one experiences certain events such as loss and love—I’ve been married for thirty years and very happily for that matter—one's films are sometimes enriched with a certain intimacy, especially the characters are fueled with this deepening process you’ve gone through. The more you flesh out your characters, the more the story works, and in the case of horror it becomes more frightening. This is not often on display in horror movies now, but when it is the results are films like Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), The Devil's Backbone (2001), or David Cronenberg's films. Alan, the protagonist of Riding the Bullet (2004), is a good example of this: he is losing his mother…
You have often said that Riding the Bullet is your most personal film.
Mick Garris: Yes, it is, despite being adapted from Stephen King. I grew up in a broken home and many scenes in the film are extrapolated from my own childhood. The second half is pure Stephen King, right from the novel, but, for example, the idea of having most of the action set in 1969 was mine. In the film, the protagonist must make life and death choices regarding his mother, but by setting the film that year they become the world’s life and death choices, what was happening at that specific moment in time: things were changing—the riots in the ghettos, the war in Vietnam. People asked questions about the concept of peace and war. It becomes a bigger question by placing the story in that timeframe, and I drew a lot on how I felt during that transitional period in college, trying to be an artist. Initially, I was also interested in painting as well as writing. It is an attempt to go deeper than to look at the classic external iconography that one usually finds in films: everything is usually simplified, and this is what the studios want because it is easier to sell.
You mentioned Cronenberg before...
Mick Garris: The early Cronenberg films lacked a lot of emotion: films like Shivers (1975) or Rabid (1977) were fantastic, I absolutely love them—they are very detached emotionally, very scientific in a way. I love that period, but in The Dead Zone (1983), the character of Johnny Smith is incredibly emotional. That was a big change of perspective for Cronenberg. The performance by Christopher Walken breaks your heart and that is something that I had never experienced in a Cronenberg film before; also The Fly (1986), and then Dead Ringers (1988), which, despite being quite a chilly film in some ways is incredibly adult in terms of emotional development. It tackles such repressed emotional issues, which are rarely noticeable. When I wrote The Fly II (1989) this is the Cronenberg I had in mind…
Exactly what I wanted to ask you. The Fly II (1989) is a film that does not stand the comparison with the first and has several problems, but is not entirely devoid of ideas. How much of yours is there in that film?
Mick Garris: I don't like it, I can’t say in all honesty I do… Originally, I wanted something much more in line with Cronenberg's film, with which I felt a connection. I don't think there is much of me in that movie. There were many writers after me.
Among these, we find Frank Darabont. There is no need to emphasize the irony...
Mick Garris: Yes, he came right after me, and then it was the turn of the Wheat brothers and we've become good friends over the years. We met right on The Fly II. I broke away from that to direct Critters 2 (1988)…
Ah, The Main Course!
Mick Garris: [Laughs] Yes! The story that had to be told!
However, the series has a big cult following...
Mick Garris: I'll tell you, I'm very proud of that movie. I think it's one of the best movies out there with a “two” in the title, considering it's a sequel to a movie that's a Gremlins rip-off.
Who can forget the huge ball of Critters rolling down the mountain! It’s the most iconic moment of the film. It was even on some of the film’s posters.
Mick Garris: [Laughs] I love that ball and the skeletons it leaves behind!
Let's return briefly to The Fly II. What did you have in mind for the story?
Mick Garris: In all honesty I haven’t seen the film since it was released; some of my memories are a little hazy. I had written something that I thought was much more interesting than what essentially became a teenage monster movie. It had to do with the right to abortion rights and saw this child grow up in a highly religious environment, bordering on fanaticism, you know, “Don’t abort your kid, we’ll raise it in a good Christian home,” and of course all that goes wrong. The final result never felt like a movie of mine. Something lingered on, which I contributed to, like some aspects of Lee Richardson’s character and the relationship the lead has with this dog… but after the two drafts I wrote I abandoned it, and another year passed before they made the film.
I feel we got close during this conversation to the very Cronenbergian idea of the separation of body and mind…
Mick Garris: Oh yes, there is a war between the two. The body and the mind often do not move in concert and it is often seen for example, in illness, through disease. And it is an element that I have tried to put in some of my films. I lost a brother who died of AIDS in 1992. To see this person so athletic, good-looking, dynamic, brilliant, who lived an adventurous life, who could have become a talented writer if he had lived and had not been so lazy, who loved to travel and in his way was wild and restless, never really wanted to buckle down and work… Seeing him deteriorate, being deprived of his physicality, seeing him progressively being eaten away by disease, knowing that this brilliant mind was still inside there, working in this sick body... well... this is a real horror story and it scares me more than any film full of latex and buckets of fake blood.
As we were saying before, losing someone like that just changes you; it deepens you, but also gives you a new perspective on life; it animates your horror stories to the jack-in-the-box to… what Stephen King does. Horror cinema is not about the monster in the closet, but about the people who live in the house where that closet is. Mostly, the body and mind are in tune and not at war, but when it is not so, it is a frightening and indeed a very Cronenbergian concept. The idea of the body taking unexpected paths and new dimensions sometimes becomes very ambiguous and makes for very good storytelling. It is an improvement when you become Brundlefly as Brundle himself experiences it, or instead it is a deterioration as we see it externally, not only madness, but also the disease that corrupts the body to the point of death. It is an interesting dichotomy… David Cronenberg lost his mother to cancer and this I believe deeply marked what he writes and directs in the same way that some of my losses have influenced my cinema.
Going back to your more recent films. Riding the Bullet was a flop…
Mick Garris: Yes, a tremendous flop. Nobody saw it; it was a disaster. Tremendous, in the same way that “Chocolate” was not understood by horror fans. It is a Stephen King film that deals much more with the heart than with the monster. The first shot, after the opening credits, is of a naked woman in front of a class and that is the end of any type of nudity or sexuality for the rest of the movie. In a way, it gets all that out of the way.
The movie was unable to find a distributor. It was a film done very, very cheaply, so in the end it was the producers themselves who distributed it. It was shown in only three cities in the United States, but what they foolishly did is that instead of sending it to two or three cinemas in each city, they sent it to every Southern California cinema: sixty-five throughout all of Southern California, which is a disproportionate number and without even a TV ad. So, nobody knew the movie was out there. There were just a few advertisements in newspapers and it just said Riding the Bullet, without mentioning Stephen King at all. No one went.
All of this was a test in the producer’s mind. If it went well in the three cities, then the film would have had a larger distribution, but that of course never happened. Then a television network bought the rights for six years and they massacred it, they cut the shit out of it; they arbitrarily removed fifteen minutes of film and until the film was released on DVD nobody had really seen it. On DVD the film went pretty well. Riding the Bullet is certainly the most personal film I’ve made and at the same time the least seen film I’ve made [laughs].
It might manage to find its place and audience as time goes by.
Mick Garris: I don’t know if that will happen, I’m not holding my breath, but it would be great. The problem is that people were expecting a horror movie and despite there being some horrific elements, it doesn’t follow the rules of the genre. The Beatles are a great symbol of what I’m talking about, in the film. They meant so much to me growing up, and people of my generation, and when they broke up it really felt like a sort of abandonment from a family member. Trying to get to see John Lennon performing in Toronto and being stopped, being interrupted by your mother’s illness, your mother’s potential death, is not only Freudian: it’s human. There are many elements which pertain to my upbringing. The Beatles were incredibly influential to all the people that are my age, especially if your dream was to become a rock ’n’ roll musician, like I did as a young man. There are many icons and symbols, generational and otherwise, in the film, and I was told continually, “Add more horror scenes,” which I did, but not enough for the horror geeks.
Over the years you’ve been part of different “horror families”: the Fly saga, the Critters series, Stephen King's cinema, and even the Psycho franchise. Among other things, ironically, both Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990) and Sleepwalkers, the next film, have a strongly Oedipal, incestuous subtext.
Mick Garris: Yes, yes, it's true, but ironically both are films that I didn't write. There was a time in which people noticed this in these two movies, which were made nearly back-to-back. I would go, “Don’t tell my mother!” [laughs]. Psycho IV is one of the reasons King chose me for Sleepwalkers, however. Columbia gave him the option to choose the director and they called me and another bunch of directors, and we were asked to show our latest works. I brought Psycho IV and he was initially very skeptical, you know, when he read the title. Then he saw it: “But maybe this guy could do a good job with this movie.” And certainly, the incestuous elements present in Psycho might have contributed to his choice.
Tell me more about Psycho IV.
Mick Garris: I felt quite at ease with the idea of a sequel to the Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece because I came after two sequels and this distanced me enough from the first to not become the target of criticism and comparisons, which instead is what happened with The Shining (1997). All the Stanley Kubrick fans hated it before the film was even made just because I dared to make what they perceived as a remake. It's ridiculous to consider it a remake, really, it isn’t one at all. We stylistically did the exact opposite of what Kubrick did in his film.
With Psycho this problem did not arise; I felt bulletproof because of all the previous sequels. I just wanted to make a good movie, and it was an opportunity to do something interesting. I consider Hitchcock’s film a true masterpiece, of course, and I also loved the first sequel. Tony Perkins wanted to direct the fourth, since he had already done the third, but the studio had hated Psycho III and didn’t want him to make it. Tony was a very complex, and I’m going to say difficult, man. Imagine the first meeting with him, in which he had to approve this young director. John Landis was a mutual friend and came with me. It was a very interesting lunch. He ended up approving me, but he was acrimonious because he couldn't direct the film; he resented this fact, and in a way took it out on me. For the duration of the making, he would focus on minutiae, on wordplay…
For example, on one occasion I said, “I think it’s important not to play this role campy,” and he went, “‘Campy’, what do you mean with ‘campy’?” He was offended that I had used this term and gave me a one-hour monologue explaining the meaning of the term, while he had been undoubtedly campy in [Psycho] II and III, especially in the third… It was complicated and a little crazy and I would lie if I said there weren’t difficult moments and a certain degree of tension on set, but I learned a lot from him despite this. He had a difficult time in the beginning accepting the fact I had been hired to direct the visuals, but also the human beings of the film.
At the time I had never worked with such a famous actor and I was intimidated, extremely so, but I tried to do the job I was hired for and this included giving directions to an actor who knew the character much better than anyone else, even me. But a director sees external things that an actor cannot see, and that’s his function: he is the all-seeing eye who is responsible for the quality control. Tony was very eccentric, and sometimes he came to me and said things like, “Orson Welles would have directed this scene another way...” Damn, I was a kid at his second film as a director! But at lunchtime he mellowed and would tell me what it was like to work with people like William Wyler or Alfred Hitchcock and his old Hollywood experiences, and there was always something to learn.
It must be said that he was already ill and getting worse by the month when we worked together. When he saw the finished film at the Hitchcock Theater on the Universal lot, he was enthusiastic and complimented me. It was exciting and humbling to have Norman Bates in person telling you that your movie is the best of the sequels. “Certainly even better than anything I did…” “You don’t have to say this Tony, but I appreciate it.” Although we shot the film in Orlando, they did bring a lot of the original set and so it was like shooting in a museum. The bed you see in the film is Norman’s mother’s original bed from the first movie. You know, making that film was putting foot on sacred ground, but a ground that had been trodden on less sacredly than I did, and this sheltered me in a way, as I said before, from comparisons and criticism.
We mentioned him before, talking about your Masters episode: Henry Thomas. This is the first time you work with him.
Mick Garris: We saw quite a few kids for the role of young Norman Bates, but I remember when I met Henry at San Antonio in Texas, where he lived, walking into the restaurant and seeing this eighteen-year-old kid, I immediately said to myself, “We’ve found our Norman.” He was perfect: the wide shoulders, the head size, his height…
Just a “what if” scenario… Would you have considered working with Perkins again?
Mick Garris: There would have had to be some ground rules, although I don’t think it’s possible for somebody like him to have ground rules. He was very eccentric, very hard to contain, and by the time I met him I think he thought of himself as a director, which, of course, made things a lot harder for me.
You said that he would talk to you about his career. What do you recall about those conversations?
Mick Garris: Absolutely, he would often talk about old films of his and people he worked with or met during his career. He is most remembered for his role as Norman Bates, but Perkins has a wonderfully long and rich filmography. That said, he would often talk about films to drive some point of his home. Like, I don’t remember what film he mentioned, but it was something he co-starred in with Charles Bronson [Someone Behind the Door, 1971]. When it comes to reverse shots, you either shoot it clean or you do the over-the-shoulder, and usually when you do over-the-shoulder, the actor’s back is to you, and he feeds his lines to the other actor who is in the shot. He went on about how Bronson would behave like an asshole and refuse to stand in for the over-the-shoulder shots and they would have to use a double. Tony, to be honest, didn’t really want to be there when we were over his back, seeing we were going to cut away anyway; he would rather have his double standing in for him. I don’t think he was ballsy enough to ask this out loud; I could sense that is what he wanted, but I chose just to play dumb with him. The film's executive producer, Hilton Green, had been Hitchcock's first assistant director on the first movie, and he was also full of interesting stories.
Do you think the film suffered a little bit from the fact it was conceived for television?
Mick Garris: The film was made for Showtime, the same network that later on did Masters of Horror. I don't watch television; I don't like it even though I think television has never been as good as it is now, but I don't watch many series. That said, I've always said to myself, “Most people watch movies at home, first on videotape, now on DVD, so why treat TV movies in a different way when that is the medium through which they watch movies in the first place?” At the time of the Psycho sequel, I hadn’t that much experience with television. All I knew is that movies made for television were usually more brightly lit and had more close-ups, but I didn’t think in those terms. For example, I hired a theatrical feature director of photography because I make films, regardless of where they will be shown, their platform, they are always movies to me. My attitude was “let's make a movie,” not “let’s make a TV movie.” That was our calling card.
Talking about television during different decades, what has changed? For example, between say, your Psycho and Bag of Bones?
Mick Garris: Before, a network would put all the money into the project, as it was with The Stand or The Shining, whereas now everything must be collected from various sources: DVD, international sales, and so on. We shot Bag of Bones in Alaska, during the month of June. Alaska has excellent incentives and benefits compared to other American states, but it doesn't have a film industry, so you have to bring everything and everyone to be able to shoot.
Mandatory question: what happened to Masters of Horror and Fear Itself (2008)?
Mick Garris: Masters of Horror lasted two seasons and has been a great success all over the world. It was truly my baby and it is probably the most important thing I have done, and the most ambitious thing I have been involved in. Being able to contact all these great filmmakers and tell them, “We don't have much money or time, but I can give you absolute creative control and you can choose any story you want.” There were two or three rules, but stuff nobody even thought of breaking.
The company who owned Anchor Bay that financed the show had licensed it to Showtime; they only paid 10% of the production costs to do it, and the rest was from international sales and DVD and all that… So, the company that owned Anchor Bay, in its second season, was bought by a company called Starz. After the second season, they decided they wanted to make more money immediately instead of letting the show grow and find its audience and following. As you probably know, these things take time; you sell it around the world and wait for it to grow. So, they sold it to Lionsgate. Showtime wanted to do a third season, but Lionsgate asked for double the license fee and this virtually ended everything. They went, “Why? We don’t want pay twice as much,” and passed on the offer. Lionsgate started looking for other places and a couple of times we got very close to an agreement, but in the end it went to NBC, one of the three or four most important commercial broadcasting networks in the States. A lot of advertising interruptions, many rules to follow… not the ideal context to be able to do the kind of hard-hitting thing we wanted to do with the artistic freedom we had had previously, all controlled by the directors. I wasn't interested, but I sat down with all the filmmakers and many wanted to try. “Let’s give it a try! It worked with The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits; why not?”
So, I found the title, which is mine: Fear Itself. Clearly, they didn't want it to be called Masters of Horror, being a different network. We developed thirteen excellent scripts. Then there was the great writers’ strike and I left in solidarity, being part of the union. The network asked me to stay on as a producer, but I had no intention of giving advice and supervising the work of non-union screenwriters on how to change our scripts. They hired a bunch of non-union writers to run the show, and each script got worse and was reading all the notes coming in from Lionsgate and NBC and I realized then and there that these filmmakers were not going to have the creative freedom I had promised them. Each draft was worse than the previous one, and then the news came in that the episodes would be made in Edmonton, Canada, and not in Vancouver where the most suitable structures are and where we shot all of the Masters of Horror episodes. My biggest fears were coming true. I made the decision to leave the project permanently. I didn't want to compromise what we had set out to do, and it was clear that it wasn't going to become something I could be proud of and I didn’t want to find myself in the position to have to make excuses for it.
Have you seen the series? What did you think of it?
Mick Garris: I haven't seen all the episodes. About five, I think. I really liked Stuart Gordon's “Eater”, which is really good. Yes, there are some interesting things... I had written “The Sacrifice” that [was going to] be directed by me. Breck Eisner, who ended up shooting, did a good job visually. Breck is a good director and tried to bring back some of the elements of my original story, but the script had been completely rewritten and I don't like what they turned it into. When I chose not to return, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, and Joe Dante followed me. I was the one who had previously protected their vision and I could no longer do that, and in solidarity they chose to follow me. It was a very emotional thing for me.
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