Dave Parker has a background as an editor, working on TV shows like CSI and Paranormal State, as well as a number of those behind-the-scenes documentaries you find on your Blu-ray. His directing talents have found an outlet in horror movies, with the likes of The Hills Run Red and The Dead Reborn. He kicks off the anthology film Tales of Halloween with a nostalgia riff on 80s slasher films. In an exclusive interview, he discussed his involvement in the project and what he hoped to achieve with it.
Question: What’s the appeal of 80s horror movies? What does the 80s bring to the genre that this movie wishes to honor?
Dave Parker: Well the obvious answer is that those were the films that we grew up on as filmmakers. The original Halloween and The Howling and the Friday the 13th movies. That was our introduction to horror, and it was a great education, since those filmmakers love horror movies so much. Those movies have also stood the test of time, and we can see their influence today. Also, there’s the fact that you don’t see a lot of practical make-up effects these days. That’s one of the reasons I got into filmmaking: the chance to play with monster make-up and practical effects. The Thing and An American Werewolf in London… those movies are where you saw that aspect of filmmaking reach its high point.
With this movie, it’s an attempt to find what you loved as a kid, and filter it into the current era. You take into account what the younger generation has seen of this genre: the Scream films, maybe Hostel, and you try and present your nostalgia, the things you loved, in a new context. Make it fresh and new again.
Carpenter was a huge experience, at least for my piece. I worked with the editor and worked on the composition of the shot, rather than camera movements and a lot of whip pans and such. I won’t presume to compare our work to Halloween, but we definitely wanted it to be of a kind with that movie. In the same filmmaking spirit as that type of film.
Q: What does the anthology format bring to the table?
DP: Well, it lets you present a variety of stories that can appeal to a large number of people. If you don’t like one, the next one is along in just a few minutes. It also lets you dispense with the build-up and exposition and get to the meat of it. There’s an appeal to that as a filmmaker: just getting to the heart of whatever it is you want to talk about. Most of the chore as a filmmaker comes in the build-up; this way, it’s a lot more fun.
It also gives you a chance to collaborate with other filmmakers in a unique way. With the exception of a few films, like Creepshow or Trcik R’ Treat, most anthologies are directed by multiple filmmakers. You don’t have a chance to interact with so many other talented people on a single project in quite the way you can on an anthology film. And you can get a higher caliber of talent – better actors, better crew – because the time commitment for the shoot isn’t so big. They won’t burn out as quickly either, so the energy level stays pretty high. There’s a lot to recommend it.
It’s nice having video on demand as an option too. The theatrical experience is fantastic and we’re glad to have this film in theaters where the movies should be seen. But there’s a lot of costs involved in getting a movie to the theaters that wouldn’t have made a project like this possible. Video on Demand lets that happen, and hopefully lets the film find its audience in a way that the theatrical model just couldn’t. It doesn’t hurt that people’s TVs and sound systems these days can equate the theatrical experience in a lot of ways.
Q: This film also commits very firmly to horror comedy, which is seeing a renaissance in these post-torture-porn days.
DP: The similarities between comedy and horror are really close, from a storytelling point of few. You set up shocks and suspenseful scares the same way you set up a joke. There’s timing involved, you have to hit your mark correctly. And when we were putting this together, we all talked about how much fun Halloween is supposed to be. Trick-or-treating as a kid, costumes and parties when you get older… it’s supposed to be fun. And a great way to infuse that into your horror movie about Halloween is to add a lot of humor. Some of it is dark humor, but we wanted the holiday to reflect that. The tagline for the original Creepshow was “the most fun you’ll ever have being scared.” I think we took that as our mantra when making this movie.