Filmmaker Mick Garris got his start working as a receptionist for George Lucas back in 1977, with subsequent decades seeing him explore the world of horror in a number of ways. Having written projects like Hocus Pocus and The Fly II and directing Psycho IV and Stephen King adaptations The Stand and Bag of Bones, Garris has one of the more diverse careers of any of his peers, which also extends to include the creation of Showtime's Masters of Horror anthology series and hosting the Post Mortem podcast, in which he interviews the most prolific voices in the genre. Garris' most recent project is the anthology book These Evil Things We Do.
The new book contains the following stories:
"Free" - Are there any moms out there that can honestly say they've never thought of just walking away? Maybe just jumping into their car and driving away for awhile? This is the tale of one woman who did, and the haunting that ensues.
"Ugly" - A story of a really terrible plastic surgeon. Well, he's a good surgeon, but a terrible person. And ugly people do not have the right to live, tarnishing his personal scenery.
"Tyler's Third Act" - This was my favorite novella. It was totally insane but kind of hilarious all at once. Sad thoughts about the ugliness of Hollywood and the harshness it can bring to bear.
"Snow Shadow" - A student and a professor both fall for the same teacher. That never ends well. And there is a ghost.
Salome - This novel was a tragic story of a marriage turned bad. But even if spouses can no longer stand each other, that doesn't mean they no longer love each other, does it? This had an excellent mystery at its core and it was fun to unravel.
ComicBook.com recently caught up with Garris to talk about his new book, his picks for who he thinks are the new "Masters of Horror," and being reminded of The Stand on a daily basis. Garris' new book, These Evil Things We Do, is available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon. Signed copies are available from Dark Delicacies and Overlook Connection. You can also check out Garris' podcast, Post Mortem, in which he interviews prominent figures in the world of horror.
Header photo courtesy of Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images
Real-Life The Stand
ComicBook.com: The Stand has become a popular reference these days, given that we're living in the coronavirus pandemic, so what's it like for you to constantly see people constantly compare the real world to your miniseries? Do you get irritated that people compare the actual tragedies to a fictional narrative or are you flattered that people still reference that project more than 25 years later?
Mick Garris: It is both things. The book is what led it all, so the miniseries can't take any credit for that. We just visualized the book and turned it into something that ended up being very compelling and popular. And the fact that it is still potent all these years, more than two decades after it aired, is thrilling beyond belief. But the book is about an epidemic that kills off 99% of the world's population, and that's science fiction. It is credible science fiction, but it is also about the two sides of evil and good taking part in a battle to the end. So that takes it beyond the source of reality.
And you're right. We certainly don't want to trivialize something that has already killed 165,000 Americans and who knows how many more around the world, probably even more than 200,000 Americans. We were a miniseries that was a book before it was a comic book. They were entertainments that felt real because they were grounded in reality, like everything Stephen King does. And then you add the touches of not real.
Again, it's exciting to have people make these comparisons and that the miniseries is ingrained in the public mind, but we're facing actual life and death circumstances here. That's the important thing.prevnext
Now The Stand is getting a new miniseries from Josh Boone. Is that a project you're excited to see a new generation introduced to or would you rather have them revisit the miniseries you did?
I'm excited about it, and I'm tangentially involved, in that I have a non-speaking cameo in it, unless I'm on the virtual editing room floor. But Josh is a great guy. We've known each other for a while. He's very respectful of what we've done, and I'm excited because they're not limiting themselves to the book. They're making a lot of changes. So that could be potential death, or it could be really thrilling, to, all these years later, make it something that's compelling and pertinent to a 2020 audience.
Josh is a very talented guy who loves King's work. King himself wrote the final episode, and his son, Owen, was on the writing staff of the series, so I think there's a lot of respect there, but King has given his approval for them to take the source material, because it's already been done once very faithfully to the book, as faithfully as you can adapt film and literature, being two very separate and distinct media. But King wrote our miniseries, and we made as close an approximation to the book as it's possible to do and keep it a compelling film project.
I can't wait to see it. I love the idea that it's happening anew, and it will be really interesting to see how it is perceived, because it's on CBS All Access, which does not have the most gigantic audience at this point because it's another one of these pay streaming devices. But I'm excited to see what happens.prevnext
These Evil Things We Do features five stories, did you set out to write an anthology or are these all just stories you've written over the years that you wanted to bring together into one collection?
Well, they're all long stories, and one of them is a novel. The novellas, excluding the novel, are collected under the [concept], "Awful People." And so, that's the linking thing. The longest novella, Free, is an original that has never been published before. The others have been published by small press, by Cemetery Dance primarily, and even the novellas have been in small hardcover editions. But Free is brand new.
All of these stories are things that I do in between film projects. When you're writing for film, you are writing a blueprint. You're not writing prose that is meant to stand on its own, to stimulate the imagination, to fill you in on all of the elements of the story being told. It is a blueprint. Whereas when you're writing fiction or prose, the language matters. You want to captivate with your wordplay and your storytelling and the imagination of the reader comes into play. The writer and the reader share their imaginations in the storytelling and meet at a certain level beyond the page.
Each of these was written individually to stand on its own. Originally, it was just going to be "Awful People," and then the publishers wanted to add Salome, which was my second novel, into the mix. And I thought it was a really good idea, and I think they share space between the covers really well, virtual or paperback.prevnext
Of all the stories in the book, is there one you're most proud of?
Well, the fact that my second novel was really the first novel that was written to be a novel from beginning to end. My first, A Life in the Cinema was actually a short story, and then I wrote a sequel short story, then I wrote a third short story, each picking up where the last one left off. And Stephen King read the first three stories and said, "This feels like a loose novel." And so, then I started doing additional chapters that were self-contained stories that picked up where the last one left off. So it was written over the course of years, piecemeal.
And Salome, I'm very proud of, having actually sat down and written the novel from beginning to end without interruption. And it's a favorite subgenre of mine, the desert noir. It's more desert noir, Hollywood noir, murder mystery than it is a horror story.
The other ones are more horrific and tend to reach, at least most of them, reach into the supernatural. They dip a toe into the supernatural, but I'm also really excited about "Free," which was written ... 95% of it is written in the first person as the female character. So that was a really interesting exercise in empathy that I was excited about. It's a 100-page novella. That was the most recent thing, and it has never been published before.
So it seems like a lot of the readers' favorite is the most grotesque, which is called "Ugly," about a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon with an ego the size of the Bel-Air Hotel. So most of them have one foot in Hollywood as well. So "Hollywood horror" has been a subgenre that I've been dominating.
Those typical readers, always connecting with the most grotesque stuff.
I'm afraid that is true. Although there are the fainthearted ones, there are a couple of stories in there that won't throw them into cardiac arrest.prevnext
You likely didn't have this in mind when writing the stories, but now that you look back, is there a story you'd especially like to see adapted into live-action? Maybe not as a full movie, but maybe as something like a segment of Shudder's Creepshow?
Well, we actually talked about, briefly, [showrunner] Greg Nicotero had called me about a story for Creepshow, and then they got one from King. So they said, "Nevermind." But I have actually adapted [one story] into a script for the next Nightmare Cinema movie. And I've written a script from "Snow Shadow" called "Missing Mrs. Featherstone," that's a feature script. And I would love to adapt both "Ugly" ... well, "Ugly" and "Salome" and "Free" would all make really good self-contained movies, each with very strong personality.
The reason I write them is because I don't think about them as movies. I think about them in an internal sense, in a way that you can't really convey on film. But each of these ended up being things that I feel I could adapt if the circumstances were right.prevnext
Nightmare Cinema Sequel
You brought up a Nightmare Cinema sequel, are there any updates on that project moving forward?
We have been talking about it. We were in the early stages. One of the scripts was written, we've talked to a couple of directors, but then the pandemic knocked the wind out of our sails. We were making progress and the skids came on hard. Nobody knows when production is going to be back or where in the world to do it.
Nightmare Cinema was always intended to be a showcase for international filmmakers, and the idea of making segments of them in different parts of the world is strong. And maybe some of those places on the planet will be more conducive more quickly to having production take place there. But really, the skids came on and have not come off yet, but I would love to see that happen.
The concept of Nightmare Cinema, aside from being international, was originally to do it as a series of feature films, but the anthology format played really well for the film and a barrage of very, very different stories, both cinematically and content-wise, was thrilling to me again, to have a Japanese director, a British director, a Cuban director, and two American directors making their token appearances. It's just a really exciting concept to me.prevnext
With the TV series Masters of Horror, you brought together the likes of John Carpenter, Dario Argento, Takashi Miike, and more. What filmmakers would you currently peg as the upcoming masters of horror?
[The Babadook director] Jennifer Kent, I think is amazing. I think this new British director who did Host that's on Shudder is incredibly talented. What is his name?
Right. Rob Savage. I think he's great. Whoever did Relic [Natalie Erika James] is spectacular. I mean, there's so many good things going on. The Ritual [from director David Bruckner] was fantastic. There's really great stuff, and I love to see that happening. And especially female directors, international directors, filmmakers that have a unique and exciting voice are thrilling to me. Oh, [Hereditary and Midsommar] Ari Aster is a really good director. [Doctor Sleep director] Mike Flanagan is great, these people who I've been lucky enough to talk with on the podcast and the like, but it's an exciting time.
I didn't get into the genre because I thought that was a way to make a living. I got into the genre because it chose me. I didn't choose it. I was in love with it from the very beginning, as a weird, outsider kid. I was drawn to stories about outsiders and monsters and creatures and things that go bump in the night. So it's very exciting to see people who are doing something new and fresh. I still am passionate about the genre and every time I start a new project, I feel like I'm 25 years old and starting over again and constantly in a state of evolution, because the worst thing that could happen to anybody who makes their lives in the creative field is to calcify and I want to avoid that like the plague.prevnext
You've literally been friends and had conversations with some of the most prolific voices in the history of horror, so after all those years of speaking casually with Post Mortem guests, was there one conversation in particularly that still managed to feature stories or insight you've never heard before?
This sounds like bullsh-t, but it's true: I've learned something from every single show. I've heard these people talk about things that I've never heard them talk about before on the show. And I think it's because, if we're not exactly peers, we're at least all in the same business together and have the same bond of genre film or genre literature.
As close as we are, and as often as we've worked together, that conversation with Stephen King, which was his first podcast ever, was revelatory. And I've got a couple coming up that I can't mention yet, that also are that way. I learned things from John Carpenter, despite knowing him since 1978, I've learned things, but I also learned a lot from the new ones. Another director I forgot to mention is Issa Lopez who did Tigers Are Not Afraid, and she's a Mexican filmmaker, and just learning about how she went from doing romantic comedies in Mexico that were huge hits, to doing this one-of-a-kind, brilliant horror film, with child performances like you've never seen before.
So I honestly learned something from everyone, whether it's how they work with actors, what they do with a script to prepare for making a movie, what they think about the tools, what lenses and colors and editorial things, but mainly who they are and where they came from. There seems be so much in common. A lot of us were brought up by a single parent, not in very good financial circumstances, not being the popular kids in school.
Living or dead, is there someone that would be a dream guest for you?
Well, we tried to get George Romero on and just scheduling never worked out. Wes Craven was going to do it and scheduling never worked out. He did the TV version of Post Mortem back on the Fearnet show. Somebody asked me that recently and I said, Boris Karloff, but probably Alfred Hitchcock.
Alfred Hitchcock would be the get of all gets if I could travel back in time to pre-1980. I saw him on the Universal lot several times when I was working on Star Wars as the receptionist for Star Wars Corporation, and I would see Hitchcock being brought to his office by his driver and help. He hobbled, he was very ill in his later years, and he was helped by his driver into the office several times. That was thrilling. The stories we could have from that just would be amazing.
Something tells me he would have one or two good stories about making horror movies.
Maybe there's a couple hidden away back there.prevnext
New Hocus Pocus
We've spoken a few times before and each time I can't help but bring up Hocus Pocus, which you wrote the original draft for. I know a bunch of other writers came in after you so you might be somewhat detached from what we saw in the released film, but since Disney has confirmed we're getting a new film, I was curious if you've had any talks or meetings about being involved with that? Also, reports have been ambiguous about the new project, so would you like to see the new film be a sequel to the original or a reboot of the concept with new performers?
Well, the first answer would be no. David Kirschner is a producer who came up with the original idea, who is a great guy. He was hopeful that maybe I would come in and direct, even though there would be another writer. That didn't work out. I'm excited about it, but I really think the main reason the movie worked was the Sanderson Sisters, those actresses [Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker] in those roles, those performances, I think is the key to that movie's long life.
It was only modestly successful when it came out, at best, and I think they are the reasons that it's still around since it came out in 1993. And I would love to see them return in it. I think that's the plan, but I don't know. I heard that that is what's happening, and I believe it's going to be for Disney+, but I'm not involved in it, which is fine. You don't always want to revisit all of the touchstones of your past.
It seems like every few months, Bette will say she's interested but nothing is confirmed, then three months later, Sarah will say she's interested but nothing happens, and then Kathy repeats those comments months later, though it just all seems so vague.
Exactly. So none of the original creative team other than David Kirschner is involved so far as I know. It's a new writer, it's a new director, Alan Shankman, who has done lots of musical work and the like, and is very, very talented, just like Kenny Ortega, who directed the original, was a choreographer before he became a director. And even though the movie wasn't a musical, it feels musical, the way the witches walk in unison down the street, the timing of some of the routines. It's very, very musically paced, and I think that that's a great choice for this. A lot of people resent when things are being remade or rebooted or sequel-ized and the like, but I want them all to work. I want them to be great, and I'm excited as a member of the audience to see what they do with it.0comments
Garris' new book, These Evil Things We Do, is available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon. Signed copies are available from Dark Delicacies and Overlook Connection. You can also check out Garris' podcast, Post Mortem, in which he interviews prominent figures in the world of horror.prev