Throughout America, "every state has a story," and the especially disturbing ones are explored in the new Quibi series 50 States of Fright. From Gunpowder & Sky's ALTER, 50 States of Fright recently premiered on Quibi with the three-part episode "The Golden Arm," co-written (with his brother Ivan Raimi) and directed by Sam Raimi (who also executive produces the series).

Daily Dead recently had the pleasure of joining other journalists on a conference call with Raimi, who discussed the challenges and joys of working on a short-form story, teaming up with Gunpowder & Sky and Quibi for 50 States of Fright, and how the series has a wide regional appeal for filmmakers and viewers alike who are interested in local urban legends.

Sam Raimi on the challenges and advantages of working on 50 States of Fright:

The challenge of working in this format was the limited time to shoot, like any television program would have. Even though this is a new format, that limitation is the same. And limited resources. These are not big-budget films. They're fairly precise with the budgeting. You have like a TV budget and with 50 States of Fright... it was like making nine independent films... There were a lot of expenses that you don't have on TV on somewhat of a TV budget.

It came down to not relying on visual effects or big-budget spectacle, but trying to get back to the basics of telling a simple story. That was both the challenge given by the format and the limitations of the budget, but also the advantage is that we knew that audiences dig good stories, and that's where we put our focus, trying to entertain with simple characters and plot and simple story construction to try and please the audience.

Raimi on how his episode was shot:

My episode was not shot vertically, it was just shot in the standard, approximately 1.85 format. It was cropped in post.

Raimi on how 50 States of Frights found a home on Quibi:

It was really all the producers that came to me with the idea for 50 States of Frights. They were working for a company called Gunpowder & Sky, and they said, "We think that this is a really good format for a TV show, each week telling the horror story of a different state. All the lore that every state must have, there would probably be on or two stories for every State of the Union." And I recognized when the producers came to me, I had seen in the state of Michigan there are even some books that I see in tourist spots. That's my home state, and in local tourist spots you'll see like "Ghost Stories of Michigan," a little pamphlet that a local writer has published. And I've seen something similar in the state of Illinois, and I realized when they presented the idea to me, there must be writers and stories for every state, I realized how true that was. I saw how instantly people would think, "Oh, I want to see the story from my state. I hope they use the stories I've heard as lore in my state," or, "That's a neighboring state's story, I wonder what happened there." So I recognized they had a great idea, and then we took it together to Quibi, to Jeffrey Katzenberg, we pitched it to him and he said, "Great." We hadn't thought of the short format of Quibi at the time. It was just going to be an anthology TV series, and he said, "It sounds perfect for what I'm doing." We started to work with Quibi and that's really how the show came to be.

Raimi on the urban legend that scared him as a kid:

This was one of them. This story scared me as a kid. I remember hearing it around a campfire in Michigan. It was a little different, but basically the same thing. I know there's a lot of versions of The Golden Arm. This terrified me.

But also there is one that I've heard everywhere, I don't think it's a Michigan story, the one about the couple that go out kissing in their car. They drive to a deserted spot and they realize the car has died. When they want to leave, the car has gone out, and one of them says, "Okay, I'm going to walk to the gas station, stay here." So the guy goes off and leaves the partner in the car. The partner starts to hear some stuff in the woods, and the guy won't come back, the guy who went to the gas station. And then there's this tapping, tap-tap-tapping. They call the police and the police say, "Don't get out of the car." "Why not?" They slowly cover their eyes as they're led from the car, but they turn around and look and the guy who left for the gas station is strung up over the car and his blood is tap-tap-tapping on the roof of the car. Something in the woods had grabbed him and strung him up without the other person ever seeing. So that was one that really scared me.

Raimi on how his team approached the design of the arm prosthetic for Rachel Brosnahan's character:

There were local effects artists, and there were a lot of them in Vancouver where I worked. Some guys and girls drafted it up, other people made the molds, other people did the designs on the arm, and then we did a group that did the cast of this thing. I loved working with the Vancouver crew. It was all done in a flash, really fast like a TV episode. I went up there, we quickly did prep, put a few things together, and then shot and came home and cut it together in a very short amount of time. One of my requests, as strange as a request as it might be, "Could it be an appealing thing?" Could the designer make it something that was desirable and not off-putting. Together the team that designed and casted it did a very nice job. I think part of what helped them achieve their goal was that we had in contrast the first artificial limb that Rachel's character wore, and we were able to make that a little more cold and unappealing, so that in comparison, the golden arm seemed more welcoming.

What also what helped the appeal was our director of photography put a beautiful golden-hued light on it, and he made sure the sun was streaming in that barn, and most of it is just sold through Rachel's performance. That made her happy, and I think that's what left the impression on the audience that it was a pretty thing.

Raimi on how other filmmakers have wanted to get involved with 50 States of Fright:

How it's been expanding is when writers and directors hear about the show, it seems like every one of them is coming up to the producers and saying, "Hey, I'm from Iowa, can I tell my little ghost story that we used to tell back home?" Or somebody comes from New York and says, "There's this story of this haunted bridge I want to tell. I grew up with that in New York."

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.