Tales of Halloween: Mike Mendez on Fixing Anthology Horror Movies
Horror fans have a love/hate relationship with anthology horror movies. On the one hand it’s a fantastic opportunity for filmmakers to work together in a short format and let their creativity run wild. On the other hand, for whatever reason, practically every horror movie anthology seems to have only one good short film, or at least one installment that totally sucks.
Now, eleven ambitious horror filmmakers have combined their powers to try to break this curse. Tales of Halloween brings together Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, III & IV), Axelle Carolyn (Soulmate), Adam Gierasch (Night of the Demons), Andrew Kasch (Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy), Neil Marshall (The Descent), Lucky McKee (All Cheerleaders Die, The Woman), Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider!), Dave Parker (The Hills Run Red), Ryan Schifrin (Abominable), John Skipp (Stay at Home Dad), and Paul Solet (Grace) for a series of ten horrifying tales set in the same town, on the same night: Vanilla Ice’s birthday. Or as most people call it, Halloween.
Plus, the exciting list of cast members includes Barry Bostwick (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), Greg Grunberg (“Alias”), Lin Shaye (Insidious: Chapter 3), Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog), and filmmakers Joe Dante (Gremlins), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) and Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator).
We called director Mike Mendez on the phone to talk about all the ways these filmmakers are trying to make Tales from Halloween feel special in an already crowded genre, what we can expect from the finished motion picture and which classic anthology horror movies inspired this project. And yes, for fans of Big Ass Spider (read: all good people), we asked about the long-awaited follow-up. (Let’s just say he’s hopeful.)
CraveOnline: Tales of Halloween. What the hell is this? Is it just a bunch of horror-related tales or are you guys after something more potent and meaningful with it?
Mike Mendez: Well, I don’t know if I’d go “meaningful.” I don’t know if that’s the right word, but certainly something more fun and something more special, and certainly something unique. It was born from an idea from one of our fellow filmmakers and producer Axelle Carolyn. She was living in London for a while, moved out to LA with her husband Marshall and was part of the horror scene that exists here. She was the bold one to say, “Hey, we’re all friends, we all hang out, why don’t we have an anthology? It seems like everyone else does. Where’s our anthology?”
The thing that makes us friends, besides being filmmakers and whatnot, is we all really have a love for the genre, and most people who have a love for the genre have a real and not a forced love for Halloween. It’s a real thing to them. It’s a real special day. So one day last April, we were at Monsterpalooza, which is a convention here in Burbank, and she’s like, “Why don’t we do an anthology? We’re surrounded by so many talented filmmakers. It would be great to combine our energies together and do something?” And do something that’s a little bit different than, say, and not that I’m picking on them, but a little bit different than V/H/S or ABCs of Death, which feels a lot more scattered.
Here we have just one subject, we have each other, we support each other, we’re going to have them intertwine and be companion pieces for each other. Pretty quickly we got Epic Pictures involved and now came Tales of Halloween.
“We really talked to a lot of filmmakers about their experiences on some of the other anthologies, and more often than not it wasn’t a positive one.”
Tell me about the idea of intertwining them. Does that mean everyone is working together from the get-go…?
All of us working together from the get-go, yeah. The idea was, because we really talked to a lot of filmmakers about their experiences on some of the other anthologies, and more often than not it wasn’t a positive one. Here it’s like, look, we’e all friends, we need to be friends at the end of this. That’s as important if not more so than the project itself. Let’s do something together, that we’re all in the loop the entire time whatever the short is, and therefore characters can cross over, locations can cross over, it all takes place in the same town on the same night.
So yeah, it really did become a giant group project. It’s not segmented, where a lot of the anthology films just send the filmmaker money, and then they’re expected to return an awesome, polished film. We didn’t want to do that. We wanted to run it more like a standard production that runs all the way through, let’s say a 24 day period, and the director comes in and changes with his crew every couple of days to do their segment. So we’re shooting it together, we wrote them together, and it is a big film about community, about the community of filmmakers and working together for the greater good.
Was a distinctive visual designated for everyone, or do you have the freedom to change that around?
No. You know, it’s a balance. Even though we want to support each other, at the same time we want every filmmaker to make their film. We want to distinctly hear their voice. Epic Pictures was really great to give each filmmaker a final cut on their short. So even though we can suggest things and we can influence things, it’s really up to the filmmaker on what they’re trying to do and what they want to say.
So really, early on, there was kind of an approval part of it where everyone has their ideas and we sat together and decided as a group, alright, is this what we want to do? Does this reflect the film? And sometimes it was easy and sometimes it wasn’t, but we’re happy that we did it because it really kind of unified us and unified the vision and it unified the film. But, again, it’s a unified film but with ten very distinct voices.