Recently we had the pleasure of sitting in on a teleconference with Masters of Horror creator Mick Garris. Having directed such things as The Fly II, Freddy's Nightmares, and the TV version of The Shining, it makes sense that Garris (who is also a prolific screenwriter and novelist), would eventually put together a series celebrating the masters of his beloved genre. He certainly had a lot to say when he sat down to discuss the second season of this very popular show.

Mick Garris: I've never done one of these 15 people on a line at the same time before, I hope it doesn't get too unwieldy. And a lot of you I've spoken to before, we know each other from way back, and hello to the people I've never met before. I'm not going to make any kind of grand and glorious statement of any kind, just want to thank you guy, because, I mean, mostly you are fan sites who are into the genre and the fans are the people that this show is all about. And the fact that we're back for a second season is, largely you guys are to blame, so it's your fault. But this year, I think, is even more adventurous than last year. We've got Toby Hooper back with the damn thing from the Ambrose Bierce story, Richard Christian Matheson did the adaptation, and Family, which was John Landis, written by Brant Hanley.

I wrote one called The V Word, that Ernest Dickerson directed, with Michael Ironside, and Sounds Like was one by Brad Anderson, based on a short story. Pro Life is an original by John Carpenter, who's back this year; Dario Argento came back this year with a story by F. Paul Wilson called Pelts - it's our wettest episode of the year, I guarantee - Tom Holland did We Scream for Ice Cream, we all scream for ice cream, which was scripted by David Schow from a John Ferris story; Edgar Allan Poe's The Black Cat is Stuart Gordon's film this year; Joe Danté did the The Screwfly Solution; I adapted an original story that Clive Barker wrote for the series and for me, called Valerie on the Stairs.

The Washingtonians is directed by Peter Medak, based on a story by Bentley Little; Right to Die is an original by John Esposito, directed by Rob Schmidt; and then our Japanese film this year is Dream Cruise by Norio Tsuruta. So that is the lineup for this season, and rather than blather on at my own speed, I'd much rather just answer questions from everybody.

I was wondering if the fate of Imprint last season had any direct changes on the freedoms for the directors this season, or the approach they all took to picking projects or directors?

Mick Garris: You know, absolutely not. I know a lot of people were afraid that that might be the case, but it was very specifically a cultural thing. It aired in Japan, a well as played theatrically in Japan. It aired unimpeded in Australia, in the U.K., in several other nations, but in North America, both in the U.S. and in Canada, it did not air.

It's very much a Miike movie, the movie Miike wanted to make, and the reason why we wanted Miike in the first place was to express his vision. And Showtime doesn't produce the show, the license the show. They have the right not to air any episode, but because they don't produce it, they can't come in and make changes. So, everybody felt - everybody on the producer's side felt, anyway - that we would much rather have it unadulterated and be true to what the series was founded upon, and bring it our on DVD the way it was intended.

I know that Miike San was disappointed that isn't air in the United States, and might have even been willing to make some changes to get to air, but we really didn't want to set that kind of a precedent. And to Showtime's credit, they did not try to talk us into making changes. It wasn't a choice that we made, we would much rather have had it air. But it did not influence anything this year. I think you'll see we do stretch the envelope as much as ever. Just maybe not to the point of imprint.

What do you mean by "a cultural thing," when you refer to Imprint?

Mick Garris: Well I think that it can play for a Japanese audience in a way that it can't play for an American audience. I think there is imagery that can work in a cultural matter with another society than from our own. I mean, there are things I find extremely difficult to watch in Imprint. The aborted fetuses are one thing, but I find the torcher sequence much more difficult to watch. But it is something that is emblematic of Miike's work. And he has done a lot of things that depict that kind of imagery in his films that would not be able to play even on pay TV in this country.

Going over the titles of some of the episodes you have this season, Pro-Life, Right to Die, things like that, it seems like you're definitely pushing that controversial content a little this year, like you did last year with the Joe Danté one.

Mick Garris: Right. So, to answer your question, the success that Homecoming had last year certainly inspired other people to go for controversial topics. Nobody is out to preach. Homecoming might have been a little preachy, but in a way I found endearing. But I think John Landis put it really well last year, when he was interviewed, he said, "When we were told we could do whatever we wanted, Joe did something important and I did something silly with Deer Woman."

And this year, I think other people thought it would be interesting to tackle social and political issues, but never at the sacrifice of the story. I mean, Right to Die is a definite horror story, it's a ghost story that is set in that field. Pro Life is a monster movie, but it has that theme at the heart of it. So, yes there's - and The Washingtonians is something that is also politically relevant right now. So I think the filmmakers felt free because of what happened with Homecoming, to tell stories that would straddle issues.

But don't you think that horror films always depict what's going on in society?

Mick Garris: I absolutely do; I think they can, and I think the best ones often do. But some of these - well, Homecoming did it with a sledgehammer, rather than with a butcher knife. And so I think that it was more overt in the case of Homecoming. I think they all - there's a great documentary called American Nightmare that's all about how the Vietnam War and the protest against it led to the wave of horror films that began with Night of the Living Dead in 1968 and carried through Texas Chainsaw in '74, and a lot of the anti-establishment horror films that kind of set the tone for the next 30 years of horror films.

Why do you think everyone is doing - I mean, AMC is doing their ten days or whatever, I mean there's the seven movies, or whatever, that are coming out. I know it's Halloween and everyone's doing it, but I think it's about a lot more than that. What do you think is the resurgence of the horror film is due to?

Mick Garris: Well, I think in times of social and political strife, they often seem to come up again. The horror film is something that, like its subjects, will never die. It will go into remission for a while, but then blooms again in its own form. Whenever there's a successful horror film - and horror films can be successful without the huge investment that movie star movies have, because it's really all about the horror story that draws the audience in. I think in times of social and political strife, as in the case of the post-nuclear big bug movies, the post-World War II Universal Pictures, 1930s Universal Pictures that happened starting with the market crash in '29 was followed by a huge resurgence in that, and with what we're going through now, there will be a popular horror film that kind of touches on the national psyche. And people want to see more of it. I would love to think that Masters of Horror may have been influential in having people's attention peaked again.

The current trend of grind house horror films coming into light with Tarantino and Rodriguez, and Eli Rock. What is your take on those, versus the classics?

Mick Garris: Well, I think to - horror is all about a visceral response. And the visceral response becomes increasingly difficult over the course of the years. I don't think the original Dracula is going to cause a whole lot of goose bumps. However, a movie like The Sixth Sense, where you see virtually no blood, no violence, is incredibly powerful, a really great horror film that is genuinely frightening and suspenseful. I think there's a great tradition of the [Palecki] independence, the guys who have to grab attention by screaming the loudest, that led to the grind house cinema of the '70s that I think that Rodriguez and Tarantino are glorifying because there was so much vitality and life and wildness, and this unbridled sense of "We can do whatever we want to do." And screaming for attention like a kid crying for its bottle.

I think horror is supposed to be rude. It's supposed to break the rules, and it's one of the reasons that it has such a large adolescent and young adult audience, is because it's a breakaway genre. It is to movies what rock and roll is to classical music.

Do you think Masters of Horror was trying to bring it to a higher level, to be more than just shock value, but just the richness of the genre

Mick Garris: Well, that's what we would like, is to have the broadest possible definition of horror. Horror can be literate, it can be smart, it can be - it can just be rude and assaultive. We'd like all of them to be smart and scary, but we also don't want the umbrella. It's not Mick Garris's Masters of Horror. It's the Masters of Horror because each of these guys has a personality, a cinematic personality that they can best express. And so, we don't get in the way of what the story is that they want to tell. What we ask for is smart and scary. And some of them are more literate, or literary than others, but we are drawn from a lot of literary sources this year. We have stories by Clive Barker, and Poe, and Bentley Little and all these published authors that are the antecedents to the films that come from them.

Do you think there are any more taboos that haven't been broken, like Hitchcock broke it by having a toilet flush onscreen. But now when Takashi's Masters of Horror was banned and then they released it on DVD, what do you think is the next taboo to be broken?

Mick Garris: I don't know. I think Masters of Horror: Imprint goes as far as I want to see, and even a little further in some cases. I'm sure there are taboos to break that I would not want to imagine. I would imagine that one day a snuff film will become a reality. I don't know if it will ever be broadly distributed or available legally, but I'm sure that that's going to exist, and is it just a matter of time? I don't know. There are certainly taboos that are going to be broken that none of us are going to be happy with at one point.

Could you talk a little bit about the premier episode, Dancing, and why you chose that one to kick off the sixth season?

Mick Garris: Well, we think it really - first of all, we had to choose from one of the films that was most earliest completed. And Toby is such a grand master of the genre, we wanted to start with one of the real major names. And the Ambrose Bierce story is a true classic. Admittedly, this is a loose adaptation of that Bierce story, but it has a lot of classic elements that I think are what we want to represent the show with. There's a lot of tension in it, there's a lot of mystery in it, and it's a true Toby Hooper film. It's very Texan in its outlook, and we just felt that it was a really - a great way to start the series, with this kind of classic Toby Hooper telling of this classic Ambrose Bierce story.

And just to follow up, do you find yourself getting calls from directors who want to be a part of the series, or are you still going after people that you haven't heard from yet?

Mick Garris: Both of them are true. Well, there aren't many we haven't heart from yet. We definitely get lots of calls from people who want to be a part of this, and there are a ton of people that we've been in conversations with that we've not been able to get yet, that it's all a matter of timing. Because of the way the show is made, we shoot them all back to back like a television series with continuing crews. And we shoot them - every ten days we start a new one, so it has to fit specifically into that slot. And that's one of the biggest problems, is getting all of these feature film directors to take a couple months out of this life and commit to doing this.

The people we've talked to who we haven't been able to schedule yet are people like Guillermo delToro and Rob Zombie and Wes Craven and a whole bunch of other people that we hope we'll be able to get if we get a third season.

I show you're doing two episodes this season. Why did you decide to go ahead and do two this season?

Mick Garris: Oh, I only directed one. No one's allowed to direct more than one in the season. And me with the football.

And just to follow up on the last question, you were saying possibly some other directors, would Eli Roth be one of the directors? Because I know you mentioned something about it last year.

Mick Garris: Yes, we definitely talked to Eli, but he's in Prague shooting Hostel: Part II right now, and once you have a hit film, getting two months out of your life to do a ten-day shoot and the pre and post production, it becomes incredibly complicated. But we'd love to get Eli to do one.

I was just wondering, we know the story of the dinners and how that led to the series. But with the new guys, how did you select them? Was it purely a case of availability, or were there particular quirks or traits that you were looking for?

Mick Garris: Well, we want to get, again, the broadest definition of what horror is. And we've tried to get as many different types of horror filmmakers involved as possible, which is why we've reached internationally as well. Peter Medak is somebody we reached out to, because I think The Changeling is probably one of the great ghost films of all time. Tom Holland is someone I've known for years; he did Child's Play, he did Fright Night, and those are just classics of the genre, and have these very specific personalities.

I've known Ernest Dickerson for a long time and I thought he would be a great contribution and bring a new form to it, and was delighted that he chose the script that I had written to attack. And then Rob Schmidt is our Lucky McKee this year. We had some people who were semi-committed, and it was getting close to the end of the season, and turned into the last episode that we shot in Vancouver. And Rob came in, and he had done a great job with Wrong Turn. He's a terrific guy, and a very good filmmaker, and he came in to do Right to Die and made it very much his own, did a great job with it.

I was also wondering how much input do you have into the DVD releases?

Mick Garris: Not a whole lot. I mean, I could certainly ask for things to be changed if I wanted to at a certain point, but Anchor Bay has done a fantastic job with them. So I haven't really needed to have much input. They did a great job. The only thing I was not happy about - I like the style where all of the packaging matched, but I really wasn't thrilled with the artwork. Some of the other directors felt the same way. Some of the artwork, the drawings of the directors themselves were not the best. But other than that, as far as all the content on the discs themselves, I couldn't be happier.

The thing I was wondering is, do you think maybe some of them could be collected as a bonus disc for a full season set at some point? Because they're really interesting.

Mick Garris: Well, I'd love to see that happen. The way that came up is - it's very coincidental that so many of these people I had interviewed on that show have done Masters of Horror films for us. But that was a show I did for the Z Channel, which was the late, lamented first pay TV station in Los Angeles. And those came off of Betamax tapes that I made over the air, which is why they look so shitty. But I don't have all of them, and some of them didn't look good enough to even put in any form. But I'd love that, that's a great idea. I'd love to just put them all on a bonus disc when we eventually do a box set.

Any episodes from this season, outside, of course of the two you're directly involved in that you're particularly looking forward to?

Mick Garris: You know, I know this sounds like smoke, but I really think Season 2 is even stronger than Season 1. Some of the things that are really unique that don't kind of fall under the normal rubric of the standard horror film. I'm a huge fan of Brad Anderson. He did The Machinist and Session 9. And those are very intense, very personal, very quiet horror movies that don't have much to do with blood and guts and thunder.

And he did an episode called Sounds Like, that I think is a masterpiece. I think it's really great. Joe Danté's Screwfly Solution is one of the least humorous things he's ever done. It's the darkest thing he's ever done. And I think it's great. Stuart Gordon did something really unique with The Black Cat, in that he blended the life of Edgar Allan Poe played by Jeffery Combs, and his 14 year old cousin who was his wife, the story of this lives, he blended it with the short story of The Black Cat and did something really special and powerful and unique there.

I think The Damn Thing is extraordinary; I think Family turned out really well, John Landis's. That script was the least funny thing I think John has ever directed, but you can't get a John Landis film and not have humor show up in it. The Carpenter thing, Pro-Life, I think, is really good. I really do think it's become a much more adventurous year of horror films of the series.

So was that a conscious decision to head toward more darker, more horror-oriented films? Because I know a lot of people were complaining about the more comedic aspect - I love them myself - but a lot of people were complaining that it was sort of more of a Tales From The Crypt-ish kind of, you know, funny episodes.

Mick Garris: Right. Well the last thing we wanted to be was Tales from the Crypt, because that had an attitude that was the same every week. Which was great for that show, but we wanted this to be much more varied. And, yeah, there was humor. I think the ones that had humor worked really well, there were plenty of them that didn't. Like Toby's episode last year, Dance of the Dead and some of the others. Certainly, Dreams in the Witch House was not a laugh riot.

But I think what happened was, when the show worked, Season 1, and it was well received by the fans and even got, to our astonishment, great reviews by the mainstream press, I think it unlocked the filmmakers to go for something, to realize, "Oh, we really can do what we want, and we really can make something that's kind of quiet and personal if we choose, or something more overt, if we choose." And I think it allowed them - and again, with people like Joe Danté doing Homecoming and other kinds of shows that were done, it made them think, "Well, what else can I do that's really, really going to be different and really going to reflect my filmmaking personality?" Yeah, it's darker this year.

I just watched Halloween, and I still think it's better than most of the films that I've seen in the last 10, 15 years, in terms of horror. And then The Hills Have Eyes remake wasn't near as scary as the original. Why do you think that is, that the originals, to me, stand up so much more than the remakes?

Mick Garris: Well, it's interesting. I am of an age where my hair is gray, and so I don't know if it's the nostalgia factor, but I would love to take someone who's 20 years old, and completely a blank slate, take them to see the original Halloween and see how it plays with them. Take them to see the original Hills Have Eyes, Nightmare on Elm Street, Psycho, all these things, and see. Because they've got a history of increasing desensitizing stuff.

And I just wonder. We're not making these shows for teenagers. We hope that they'll embrace it as well, but we think there are people who are my age and even older who are horror fans and are interested. And maybe it's the opportunity. But a show like Sounds Like, the Brad Anderson one, is more about internal horror than it is about blood and guts. But I don't know. I can't speak for how the other films play now. I agree with you that I'd rather see Halloween than I would a movie with a number at the end of it that came out this year. I think part of it also has to do with marketing. I think everything is about the trailer and the 30-second TV spots and getting kids in on the weekend. And to do that, you toot the horn of the familiar and hope that that's a clarion call to the zombie walk to the theater. How's that for mixing a dozen metaphors?

It's just that, that was really scary, Halloween. What that's about is scarier to me, even now, than half this other stuff that's being done. John Carpenter, even the one he did for you, I don't know if you've read, but I mean there's already been some pretty not great reviews about his show that he did for you guys.

Mick Garris: I think it turned out great. But when -

You don't think it was too - a blood fest?

Mick Garris: Well, that's just entirely a matter of taste. I think there are movies that are just blood fests, and that are not stories being told. I think Carpenters is a really terrific story and it's a really good screenplay that does go over the top at times. But again, horror is supposed to be transgressive and make you uncomfortable, just by its very definition. However, I would love tension and suspense to play a major part of it, and I think in most of our shows, it does. And I think in most of the theatrical horror films of recent years, it's not been a big part of it.

Do you think that we're gravitating away from the central character? Jamie Lee Curtis's character in Halloween was great. Janet Leigh's character was great. Are we getting away from the female-driven horror, thriller, psychological - however you want to call it. This current trend, you've got When A Stranger Calls, PG-13, I mean the Carol Kane original was great. Do you see any breakout actresses of this generation, as far as that goes?

Mick Garris: Well, you know, this year, it's hard to say. I think The Descent had a lot of really interesting female characters at the heart of it, and I don't think they were all expendable cartoon characters. The best of them are always going to be more character-driven. But who was it who said 90% of everything is awful? Most studios are going to try to replicate what has been successful for them in the past. And I don't think most studios understand or respect, or even enjoy horror films themselves, so they can't tell a good one from a bad one. They can only judge it by the box office.

I'm a life long aficionado of the genre, and for me and my own personal taste, I know what I think makes a good story and a bad one. And for me, a well-told horror story is just a well-told story. It happens to be in that genre, but when I'm making a film, I don't think, "Oh, this is a horror film, so I have to do this." I just want to tell the story the best way I know how.

When you guys were at the dinners, what was your big - did people share with you? I'm sure they want to challenge themselves as filmmakers.

Mick Garris: Those dinners were mostly social events, but we did talk about it, and we did talk about, "Boy, wouldn't it be nice to make stories that we would like to tell." Carpenter doesn't work that often, not because he doesn't get offered movies, but he doesn't have to work if he doesn't want to. And he's certainly not getting rich doing a couple of Masters of Horror episodes, where we pay scale to the directors and to the writers.

But there were a couple of stories that really responded to him, and he had a great time doing the first one and realized, you know, this is really fun. And came back and did a second. And yeah, we definitely - that's how the show came about. We talked about the frustration of what the genre had become a couple of years ago, and it was pretty distressing and disappointing. I'm somebody who used to go to the movies three or four times a week, and if I go once a week, that's a lot, these days. And it's not just horror, I think movies in general have definitely hit the skids, creatively, for a while, and I think the studios have kind of brought it on themselves.

And why did Showtime respond, do you think, then when you first -

Mick Garris: I think, for me - for Showtime, they weren't looking or a series when we got the commitment. A company called IDT, which is now Starz Entertainment, Starz Media, they own the Anchor Bay DVD company. And we were going to make the movies even without a network. But we knew it would be better if we had one. Showtime wasn't looking for this program, but when it came to this doorstep, they saw the value of it. And, you know, part of this is a real star fucking thing. We've got John Carpenter and Toby Hooper and John Landis and Stuart Gordon and all these...

But it also gives a series - an anthology horror series - a hook that you can hang on to, and a sort of guarantee of quality, if you like the show. If you don't like the show, maybe not. But -

Did you watch the documentary on Starz earlier this month?

Mick Garris: Yes. About the slasher films?

Yeah. Did you like it?

Mick Garris: I thought it was fascinating. It was really interesting. I mean, I am a student of the genre, and I do love the genre. And it doesn't mean I forgive it all of its lapses, but it's something that I'm fascinated by.

Do you agree with John Carpenter that the films you see when you're like 12 and 13 are the ones that have the most influence?

Mick Garris: I think so, to a point. I think it's hard to - Well, that's an age... They are the Wonder Years for a reason, and it's definitely people, as they reach puberty and adolescence, that's when things kind of stick. For better or for worse.

Have you heard anything about Season 3? Do you have plans, or are you waiting to see how Season 2 is received?

Mick Garris: It really is all a matter of Showtime and Starz Media deciding when to go forward. We are optimistic about a Season 3. The show is very successful around the world. I've been taking it to film festivals in various places, and it's unbelievably well received, and it's - I guess it's all a matter of selling DVDs, which I'm told we just hit the million mark on selling Masters DVDs. But we're hopeful and optimistic for a third season.

I had a question about the desensitization of children and teenagers according to horror. I mean, they're expecting so much more... What do you see happens next?

Mick Garris: Again, I don't know what the next stage is. And the people who understand the genre the least think that It's all about throwing entrails at the screen. Certainly that works for a while, but again, you're right. The desensitization is important when that's the kind of movie you make. Now, if you're telling a story, again, I hate to trot out The Sixth Sense again, but that's an incredibly suspenseful, extremely successful movie that doesn't do any of that. And Brad Anderson's Sounds Like is another one that doesn't do much of that. So if you are making films that are all about the kills, or all about the splat, or all about the blood, then yeah, you have to keep going further and further and further.

And in the case of Masters of Horror, yeah, we go far, because it's unfettered. Some of the filmmakers feel that that's where they want to take it to get the reaction they're going for. Dario Argento's episode is a perfect example of that. It's quite bloody and gruesome, and there' s a grand tradition of Grand Guignon, and this is definitely following in that tradition.

But people, I think, -- not everybody - but people like to be safely confronted by this fears. And the body - I don't know how many of you have seen - probably most of you have seen Toby Hooper's sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's one of the most wonderfully profane films I've ever seen. You know, it says, "You think the body's a temple? No, the body is meat, and here's how." It just confronts you with it in ways that make you go Eeeeyow! And it's so effective, and yet it's really witty in the way that it does it. So I'm not one who would ever call for any kind of ban against distasteful material, but I think there's a great way to do it, and there's a not so great way to do it. And I'm not going to be the arbiter of that.

I was just wondering, in the case of your casting, you get some of the most wonderful people. Again, I was just wondering how many of them come to you, and how many of them do you approach?

Mick Garris: Many of them come through the directors. Most of us filmmakers on the show have relationships with a lot of the actors that we'd like to work with again. When I did Chocolate last year, Henry Thomas and I had just made Desperation right before that, and 15 years earlier had done Psycho 4 together. Christopher Lloyd and I had done a movie years ago called Quicksilver Highway. Matt Freuer and I have worked together many times. I know that's been the case with a lot of the other actors as well. But something like the Screwfly Solution this year, Joe Danté's episode, that brought in Elliot Gould because he loved the script so much. And Michael Ironside was somebody I had met at a film festival earlier this year, and recommended him for The V Word. So, a lot of it comes from relationships, but we have had a lot of people, particularly in the second season, come to us because they are, a) fans of the genre, and b) fans of the series.

If there's a third season. James Gunn and David Cronenberg.

Mick Garris: James Gunn we have talked to, and he was very busy this year. David Cronenberg, we've talked to a lot. He seems to be sort of open to it, he's making another movie in London now. Sort of open to it, but a little resistant. He's very iconoclastic, and I get the feeling he doesn't like to think of himself as a horror director. Even though he's one of the greats.

Or maybe even part of a group.

Mick Garris: Very much so. David and I have been friends since Scanners. I worked in publicity on that film way back when. And he's very much the big fish in Toronto. So, yes. Being part of a group is not his thing.

Are there any plans for the release of the Season 2 DVDs yet?

Mick Garris: Yeah, they will be out within - it'll be the same sort of schedule as Season 1. It'll be probably two or three months after the first one that they start bringing them out.

And how would you handle the extras for the directors you've covered already. I mean, because they're pretty intensive, as far as like the retrospectives and all that.

Mick Garris: That's a great question, and I'm glad I'm not producing the [inaudible]. I don't know how they're going to do it, but there is a different group handling all of the additional material on the DVDs this year. And they're very excited about it, and they've been doing a lot of the material now. I haven't seen anything yet, but they feel that they have a handle on it. And the good news is all of the other material that you're able to do, like the behind the scenes stuff, and putting on the scripts and the source material and the DVD-ROM format is all such a great part of it.

But as far as the history of the directors go, yeah, that's been done. I don't know what else you would do after that. But they apparently have plans. Because each of them has two to three hours of additional material. I used to do making of films back in my publicity days before my hair went gray. And it's a very, very complicated thing to do well, and not make it look like puffery or promotion pieces.

Well, I think you did a terrific job with the Season 1 DVDs. I mean, they're pretty much like, if you're interested in the director [ph] that's something to buy right there. It needs to be in your collection.

Mick Garris: I was very happy with how they did it. And the fact that you could get them for as little as ten bucks apiece, it's like, "Jesus, how can they make money of this?"

Is there any plans for a box set of the first season?

Mick Garris: I'm sure there will be. I'm sure there will be. I think all of them will have come out individually within the next month. I think Haeckel's Tale is the last one to come out. And I'm guessing there will be.

What about Stephen King? Is he possibly going to be involved?

Mick Garris: Well, Steve and I have a long history together, and I would love to bring him into this, but he had his own show, the Nightmares and Dreamscapes that were based on his stories. And most of his material has been optioned, and a lot of it was only being allowed to be used for that show. So I don't know if there are going to be more or not, but I would love to get King in to do one.

I actually was the first ones to adapt one of the Nightmares and Dreamscapes, and wasn't able to shoot it because we got our second season in. So maybe I can pry it away from them to do for our show. But we'll have to see what happens with Nightmares and Dreamscapes. I'd love to get him to direct again too, to have him direct one of these, so I'm trying to talk him into it.

Also Harlan Ellison would be interesting if you could get him.

Mick Garris: We actually talked to Harlan about doing one, and there was one that we were bandying about for a while, and it didn't work out. But I know that they did a Masters of Sci-fi based on one of his stories.

Your connection with Stephen King, how did that come about? I mean, your beginning with him, working with him?

Mick Garris: The first thing we did together was a movie called Sleepwalkers, which was a theatrical film. It was an original screenplay that he had written. And probably not a classic of the genre, but a scruffy little -

I thought it was fun.

Mick Garris: Thank you. Well, King was really, really happy with the process, and we didn't really meet until a day when he came out to do his cameo, where he's actually in the same shot. Not only in the same scene, same shot with Clive Barker and Toby Hooper. And he was really happy with the movie, particularly before it had been tampered with by the MPAA. We had to go back five different times to get an R rating for that. But then when The Stand came about, he said, "If Brian dePalma doesn't want to do it, do you?" I said, "Sure." And so that turned into just an amazing experience, because he spent at least half of the time on location with us, and we had such a great time with that and the success of that, and we also created a really great personal friendship during the course of that. So that's where that relationship came from, and it all started on that day at Sleepwalkers.

Which is ironic because my first book, Stephen King wrote the introduction, Clive Barker painted the cover, and Toby Hooper wrote the Afterword. And they're all in that scene together in Sleepwalkers.

Do you have any projects outside of, obviously, The Masters of Horror season that you'd be excited to share a little bit about?

Mick Garris: My first novel just came out this month, called Development Hell, and that's really exciting. And something that I may well be adapting, either into a limited series or a feature. And there are other things coming up, but I'm hopeful that Season 3 will happen, which will kind of make it hard to concentrate on other things. But I'm just now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of Season 2. We're wrapping up the Japanese episode for the next week or so. And so yeah, I'm starting to take meetings and starting to talk to people about various projects. King and I are talking about a couple of things together, and we'll see.

Development Hell, is that a fictional story that you wrote?

Mick Garris: It is. It's an extreme erotic horror novel, disguised as a Hollywood satire. It's based on a couple of short stories that I had written earlier on, that were a part of my first book called, A Life In The Cinema. And it's pretty wild.

So could it be inspired by maybe true events?

Mick Garris: Definitely. There are real names that you'll find familiar in the novel, as well as situations that either I or people I know experienced certain forms of. But hopefully, it's a little more extreme than the reality.

And this is something that you pictured also for television, or for a feature?

Mick Garris: Well, the original reason to write it in the first place was to do something that did not count on budgets and personalities and Standards and Practices and all that. It was just to write for the page. But now, seeing what we were able to do with Masters of Horror, it would be great to do it with an HBO or Showtime, or somebody as a series of nine one-hour chapters. There are nine chapters in the book. Or as a feature film. But it's ironic that I'm thinking of it that way, because the whole reason I wrote it in the first place was to not be chained to all of that stuff that you have to think about.

In a novel, pretty much whatever you think of, you can do it.

Mick Garris: Exactly, and there's no worrying about if somebody's going to be brave enough to play that. But, year. It was really fun to just be able to do it for the page, and for the love of the words and for the language and all of that. Something in a literary sense, rather than a cinematic sense.

You're not going to want to stay as the main guy organizing all the Masters of Horror stuff, ad nauseam? Have you given any thought to how far out you'd want to keep the reins before you pass it on?

Mick Garris: Well, I would always want to be involved in the selection process and who's there. It is Masters of Horror, and it really has to be people who have made influential horror movies, influential and/or successful horror movies. And I'd always want to be involved. Whether it would be 24 hours a day, as it has been for two years, who knows? If there's a third season, I'll certainly be as involved as I have been. But beyond that, it would be nice to get back to making movies again, and to do things that aren't a part of something else.

Out of curiosity, how did it work out that you didn't write and direct the same one? Is that against the rules, or did you just decide to do it separately?

Mick Garris: Well, actually, I did. I wrote and directed - the ones that I directed this year and last I also wrote. But I also - I'm the only staff writer on the show. And I love the process of writing, and that's where I started. But the idea of getting the Clive Barker story, Clive and I are good friends and have worked together in the past, and he really wanted me to adapt Haeckel's Tale myself last year. That went to John McNaughton to direct. And in this case, The V Word was a story that I came up with that I just decided to sit down and write on spec, and then if a director was attached, a director was attracted enough to it to want to attach itself to it, then I would say, "Okay, pay me." But yeah, I would be happy to direct someone else's script, but in the case of the two I've done so far, I wrote and directed.

So in the case of the Clive Barker, it's just that he wrote a treatment, and you adapted it from that?

Mick Garris: Correct. It was an original treatment that he wrote for the show, and our work relationship is such that he really wanted me to adapt. And he was very happy with the script for Haeckel's Tale, and other things we've done together before.

I think I saw you at the New York Horror Film Festival last weekend. Did you see anything good there that [you enjoyed?]

Mick Garris: You know, I only really got to see some of the shorts that ran before. There were a whole bunch of really interesting shorts there that I really enjoyed. What was great was being able to show a couple of the episodes on the big screen, including Valerie On The Stairs, which I'd only finished two days before, and I had not even seen the finished film with a couple of missing shots, until we showed it last night. Yeah, last year, when we did Chocolate, there were a lot of the real blood-and-guts horror fans who hated that show. And I'm very proud of the film, and it's the movie I wanted to make, and it's very popular at the festivals, especially in Europe and the like. But, boy the horror fans, the real, nitty-gritty horror fans hated it. So Valerie was a little more into the world of what you could easily call horror.

Was that your first chance to screen a massive horror episode for a theater? Well, I mean the second season. That was the first one, right?

Mick Garris: Of the second season, yeah. We've actually - we showed some at the [Sitges] Festival in Spain a couple weeks ago. We showed Pro-Life, we showed a couple of them. Most of them were from first season there. And we also showed Sounds Like, the Brad Anderson one there. And so far, I'm also showing Valerie at the International Horror and Sci-fi Festival in Phoenix this weekend. And they've been going over really well.

It's really great to see them on the big screen, because they're made as movies. They're not made as television shows. They may end up going in TV and DVD, but they're made just as we'd make movies, because most people see feature films on television and DVD these days. So there's not really a difference. You don't do more close-ups or different kinds of coverage these days.

You've done an outstanding job with the series, Mick, I got to tell you.

Mick Garris: Oh, thank you so much. You know, I watch it too. And these are... The good job that I'm able to do, is to keep my hands off of other people's films and to keep other people's hands off of them, and to allow - Showtime and Anchor Bay have allowed us to let people make movies this way. These people know better than anyone else how to make this films, and so I couldn't be prouder of being involved with this show, and with these movies, these unbelievable filmmakers have gathered together to make. I mean, it's quite humbling, and I often refer to myself as the [Zelig] of horror, because I find myself surrounded by all these great people.

A little bit of [inaudible] that all the imitators coming out right now? Like they have the Masters of Italian Horror, and the Masters of Sci-Fi, and I believe I heard something called the Masters of Fear.

Mick Garris: Masters of Fear, I've heard about, and that's the one that really bothers us the most.

They changed the name...

Mick Garris: They changed one word, and it's the same concept. I don't think that's going to happen. Masters of Sci-Fi is a spin-off of Masters of Horror by a couple of the other producers involved. I'm not really involved in that one. And it's for commercial television, it's for ABD, and it's not all about the directors, it's more about the writers. Because the only three Masters of Sci-Fi directors would be Lucas, Spielberg, and Cameron. And I don't think they're going to want to do scale one hour - or 42 minute TV shows. But imitation is the greatest form of flattery. I'm told that the Masters of Italian Horror may not be happening after all. I don't know if it is or not. But it's nice to be influential, and I'm not used to that.

Yeah, I think [Hooper's] a lot stronger this year.

Mick Garris: I really like Dance of the Dead, but I think the script is even stronger for Damn Thing, and I think the mood is - both of them are incredibly moody, but this one, I think there's more story there, and I think the cast is wonderful. I think Sean Patrick Flannery did an amazing job with this. One of the great things about Toby Hooper is that he still directs like he's in his 20s. He's still trying to find new ways to tell a story cinematically, and he's still energized every time out. And not everybody has that with them when they've made movies for 30, 35 years, as Toby has. It's really fantastic to see.

Masters of Horror - Season 2 premieres Friday October 27 on Showtime.

Evan Jacobs at Movieweb
Evan Jacobs