In what has to be described as one of the highlight moments in the brief history of The Scariest Things, Eric and Mike got the opportunity to host an on-stage conversation with the producer, director, writer, and genre icon, Mick Garris, one of the nicest guys in the horror movie business. (His company, in fact, is Nice Guys Productions). Garris is no stranger to podcasting, hosting his own popular Post Mortem podcast where he is the one interviewing the horror luminaries, so this made for a very engaging and lively interview in front of a big audience at Portland’s famed Hollywood Theater for the Portland Horror Film Festival.
Garris may be best known for having directed Critters 2, Sleepwalkers, She-Wolf of London (TV), The Stand (TV), The Shining (TV), and, notably for having produced the much-loved anthology series The Masters of Horror for Showtime in 2006-2007 as well as the recent Eli Roth’s History of Horror (2018). Perhaps, however, his greatest contribution to horror is that he is the connective tissue of the genre community. It is the relationships he has helped foster within scary cinema that has brought the best of the genre directors together to socialize, relax, and combine to do projects together. He was at the Portland Horror Film Festival to help promote his just-released film anthology Nightmare Cinema, born very much of that spirit of collaboration amongst filmmakers.
Clearly one of the reasons he is so beloved amongst fans and industry insiders is that he is a great communicator, and is willing to spend a lot of his time with all of us. This was Mick’s third discussion at the PHFF, and he had already had a full Q&A about Nightmare Cinema, as well as a meet and greet session with Portland Horror Film Festival’s Patrons of Horror, so we didn’t actively discuss Nightmare Cinema directly. The great thing is that there is so much to Mick’s story, that we could have done this discussion for hours!
Part of his influence is that he knows everybody in the business. These friendships within the horror community gave rise to some feast gatherings, where the legendary figures of Horror cinema, like Roger Corman, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Larry Cohen, Guillermo Del Toro, Joe Dante, and Stuart Gordon would gather at an LA restaurant, just to enjoy each other’s company. That, in turn, led to the Masters of Horror, and you’ll get a chance to hear Mick describe the dynamics of those outings, for which I would have donated a kidney to be a part of! The directors gathered at the first of these dinners went on to each take on an episode each, which was a real treat for horror fans.
Mick describes in Post Mortem, financial miserliness from Showtime led to a premature cancellation of Masters of Horror, which led to Fear, Itself, a horror anthology series produced for NBC, and according to Garris was an inferior product to Masters of Horror, which allowed the directors much more latitude in the subject material. There’s only so much scary that you can put into the much more conservative censorship of network Television. It is this vein that Nightmare Cinema was produced, to capture an international flavor of Horror short films, in a way that the Masters of Horror was able to provide.
Mick has had a remarkable history in film, in addition to all of the movies he directed and produced. He began his career in movies very young, writing screenplays when he was 12, with a pit stop working for George Lucas as a Star Wars receptionist, then as an up-and-coming documentarian of horror films (The Thing, The Howling, and The Goonies). He also, through his contacts, got bit parts as an actor in productions such as The Howling and Michael Jacksons Thriller, and significantly, got his big break as a writer for Amazing Stories for Steven Spielberg. He has had a career that has touched all aspects of the horror cinema, and he continues to be one of the great movers, proponents, and advocates of the genre to this day.
Go listen to the Post Mortem podcast. You’ll find that Garris is humble, self-effacing, and hugely insightful. You will learn a lot about the craft of film making and production by listening to his interviews, and it’s inspiring. it was an honor and privilege to get the opportunity to do this interview with a packed Hollywood theater. The crowd was really engaged and Mick was utterly charming. There is an extra reward in that there is a fun surprise that happens at the end of our little podcast, where a well-earned celebration was in order, and I was proud to be a part of that. We hope you enjoy this podcast as much as we enjoyed doing it!