Arriving today on VOD and DVD is All the Creatures Were Stirring, a holiday-themed anthology from co-writers and co-directors Rebekah and David Ian McKendry. A true delight that offers up endless yuletide surprises, All the Creatures Were Stirring features a cavalcade of onscreen talent, and some wickedly fun segments that will undoubtedly have viewers feeling festive by the end.
Daily Dead recently had the opportunity to speak with Rebekah McKendry about her experiences working on All the Creatures Were Stirring, and she discussed the collaborative process she shares with her husband, David, not wanting to play it safe with their ambitious anthology, being in production while nine months pregnant, and more.
I love Christmas movies and I love anthologies, so All the Creatures hit all the right beats for me, and I had so much fun with this film, so congratulations.
Oh my gosh, thank you so much! Dave and I—when the two of us write together—we make horror comedies. Even if we're trying to make the most scary thing in the world, it still comes out a comedy. So I'm glad that people are receiving it and that it's fun.
Well, let's talk a little about the process of putting this all together, because it's super, super ambitious for you guys. Not only do you have the wraparound segments, but then there are also a bunch of different stories that are all unique, but they all feel like they're a part of this cohesive unit all the same. Can you discuss what the writing approach to this film was like?
Rebekah McKendry: When Morgan [Peter Brown] and Joe [Wicker] approached us about wanting to do a film with us, we threw, like, five different feature ideas at them. And then we really sat down with them and started examining what we could do in our very specific budget range, and what we already had access to that would kind of cut some corners cost-wise. What locations did we have access to? What actors did we definitely want to work with?
Dave and I, just being in the horror industry for so long, had a list of people that we were like, "Oh, we definitely want Graham Skipper in it," and, "Oh, I've wanted to work with Jocelin Donahue forever." So we knew people that we wanted to work with, and after discussing everything for a while, we came to the consensus that if we do a Christmas horror anthology, we have access to the locations we would most likely use, and it gives us a chance to work with a lot of people that we've been wanting to work with. And it really let us try a lot of things visually, which we really wanted to do.
At that point, knowing that was kind of the direction we were going in, when we pitched it, Dave and I had three segments written. And I think we only ended up using one of them, the alien segment. That was part of our original pitches, from the final segment. And from there, Dave and I just started churning out segments as much as possible. I think we probably created 20, so we have a sequel ready to go [laughs].
And then we just looked at all 20, and we started choosing ones that didn't feel like the other ones. We did not want two that focused on shopping, and we did not want two that had this specific look to them, and really just selecting the ones that we could fit in the budget was always a concern, but also the ones that were unlike anything else. Then Dave and I just started writing them.
My mom, who sees the writing process in person when she comes out to visit, is completely shocked by the way that we do it. We argue for a full day about what is supposed to happen in the script, until we both realize that we are both incredibly wrong, and then together we'll come up with an idea that we both tolerate. So that's basically what our writing process is; we're gonna argue about what we think is right for a couple hours before we go, "Oh no, I was totally wrong and here's what we probably should do."
When you're working at this budgetary level, it seems like the easy way out would have been to do a one-location shoot, with four or five actors, and keep it very contained. What I really love about this is that you guys just go for it, and you're using completely different locations throughout the whole thing, with very different setups, too, and new actors for each story. Was it conscientious on your guys' part that you didn't want to do what folks would expect, or was it pushing yourself?
Rebekah McKendry: Wanting to push ourselves was the biggest thing. Because Dave and I, when we brought the original pitches, we actually had one that was six people, one room, and for an hour and half where crazy shit happens, and it gets trippy. But we had that script, which is what we kind of considered to be the standard, indie, super low-budget horror film—you know, one location with five people.
But we really wanted to try something a little bit different. We always were like, "You know, we can circle back to that one." Since we had access to people, we had some of the locations that we already knew of. We knew that theater, we knew that we could get it for what we could work with, and we already had some of these stories ready to go, we just wanted to try something a little more ambitious for our first film, and just see what we could do.
And Dave and I—especially because we are such huge horror fans—we wanted something that not only worked on its own, but that we could definitely replicate some of the styles that we had grown to love. Our reindeer segment leans heavily on giallo films, with the funky editing and the black gloves—there's a reason he's a photographer and she's a fashion model. We just really wanted it to replicate one of the ’70s giallo murder mysteries, so much so that I had our DP [Cameron Cannon] watch Tenebrae and Torso, and a couple other films, too. So yeah, we knew that we wanted to play around with these different styles, and we also knew that we wanted it to feel quick, to change rapidly. Because Dave and I do tend to do comedies, we wanted this to feel like it was evolving at every moment.
I know we're really close on time, but I wanted to ask since you mentioned that you have all these other stories that you weren’t able to use, have you guys thought about doing a sequel yet? Or is it more of a situation where you are waiting to see how this goes?
Rebekah McKendry: We would love to do a sequel; right now we're kind of waiting to see how this goes. Dave and I are both working on other projects, we're attached to other stuff, and I just wrapped a feature that Dave did a writing pass on called Granny's Home, which is a straight-up thriller, kind of Stepfather-ish, we'll call it. And I just wrapped that.
So, we're on to other projects now, but we would love to come back to this and do another one, just because it was so fun shooting it, and we had a blast with the team. Morgan and Joe are amazing—they're like family now—and anything that we could do to get the magic going again, we would jump at.
I read a story yesterday that you were nine months pregnant doing this movie, which is insane to me, but considering just who you are, I can believe that you’d be on set every day until you gave birth. I’m guessing because this was such a community endeavor, in terms of bringing the horror community in to make this movie, and you're getting to work with your husband, too, this was probably like one big family affair for you then, which probably made everything much easier, too.
Rebekah McKendry: Oh my gosh, it was. I mean, the people that we were working with were friends. A lot of them we'd worked with before, like Amanda Fuller, Chase Williamson, and Morgan have all been in stuff we've done previously. And then there were people that we knew we wanted to work with from the get-go, like Jesse Merlin.
But I was pregnant for the first half of the shoot, and then we had to take off about a month or so while I recouped from the birth, and then we were right back to filming. I didn't even think that it was that unusual, I didn't even think about it. I was like, "Yeah of course women work through their pregnancies, there's no question about that." Until we were there, and people kept saying, "I've never seen a pregnant woman on set before—this is weird." And I was like, "Man!" It seems weird to me that you don't see pregnant women on set; because of course, we would work through this. It’s what we do.