EJ Moreno speaks with Mick Garris about his new horror collection These Evil Things We Do…
In an exclusive interview, legendary writer, filmmaker, and horror-lover, Mick Garris spoke with me about all things spooky. We dive into his new collection of stories: These Evil Things We Do. You also can’t interview Garris without speaking about his iconic script for Hocus Pocus and the 00s horror series Masters of Horror.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. I’m really excited because These Evil Things We Do is a pretty wonderful collection of some scary stories. Honestly, some of the scariest ones I’ve read in a while. What are some of your earliest memories of horror literature?
The first writer I really got into aside from comic books as a child was Ray Bradbury. People forget that he was sort of a horror writer before he was a science fiction writer. And, uh, you know, I watched all of the Universal Classics on TV, the Shock Theater package, and everything in those formative wonder years.
But Bradbury really was the first one. Then I started with Matheson and people like that. And just crappy paperbacks, anything I’d find at the drug store that had weird monsters or spaceships or anything aside from the mundane life I was living.
From These Evil Things We Do, the story Tyler’s Third Act stands out one of my favorites. It’s a wonderful story of Hollywood and fame with some “OMG” moments as well. Was there a moment writing any of these that you were like “this is pretty weird,” or is there one that stands out as one of your favorites out of this whole collection?
Well, I like them all because they all try to achieve some things common with one another, but they each have a different purpose overall, you know. I think Free, I really love, first of all, it’s the newest one and has never been published before. And it was an experiment to see if I could write from within, uh, the first person as a female, a female with children driving her crazy. Neither of which I am female, nor a father or a parent.
In the case of Tyler’s Third Act, I like to take elements of my personality that may be the least savory part of me and amplify them a thousand times. Take the lead character Tyler and I. You know, we’re both screenwriters as well as other things I do as well. But, um, you know, the “whole woe is me. Hollywood hates me.” It’s a difficult world for us creative types to take those moments of despair or that we all have working in the trenches and just amplified them.
In the novella section, the four stories are grouped under a subtitle of Awful People. And it’s meant to be ironic. We all have awful elements to us, even though most of us are really good people. There are parts of us that are not so swell. Um, and so I like to take things to an extremity.
I have fun with it. And some of that fun is how far am I capable of going? And how far is my reader capable of carrying along with me? Will they drop out, or will they get the same kind of awful glee that I have when people say, “oh no!”
Oh, yes, you make it fun to watch all of the bad people unfold. And even if they are, as you said, quote, unquote, awful people…it’s still interesting to watch all of this madness.
Oh, good. I’m glad, you know, it’s very playful for me. I don’t make my living as an author. I do it as a filmmaker and screenwriter. This is the stuff that I do that is not influenced by budgets or schedules or what’s popular in the movies or what stars will play this part or who’s available and who can we afford and ideas that have to be compacted into a rating system. None of that.
So it’s, there’s nothing between me and the consumer, but the page itself and, you know, writing with a love of words and language. It’s exciting when it’s not just a blueprint, but you’re actually painting with the words that are on the page.
Yes, I’ve noticed this with your screenplays as well. You definitely make things pop, which makes me wanna switch gears for a second. You worked on one of my favorite scripts of all time, the Hocus Pocus script. One of my favorite Halloween movies. No one really knows much about the sequel, and I’ve seen your name attached. Are you working on it? What is it like to revisit that world again?
Aw, well, thank you. I am not working on the sequel. I know it’s going forward. I have a feeling that production has been impacted by the Coronavirus. I haven’t read anything else, so I don’t know if it’s gone into production yet. I don’t know many of the details about it. I’ve heard that the original Sanderson sisters are returning, but I don’t know if that’s true or not. I haven’t seen it confirmed.
I revisited it a lot because it has struck a chord with people. Also, people still say, “wait, Mick wrote Hocus Pocus? A Disney famukt Halloween movie, for all of all things?” I get to revisit it at film festivals or screenings where I’ve been invited, like at the El Capitan Theater here on Hollywood Boulevard. It’s owned by Disney and every Halloween, and they run the movie there for two weeks. I get to see it with a new audience, every time out is so much fun. But the original idea for it came from the producer, David Kirsten. So I can’t take all of that.
I want to revisit your time in the 2000s, working on Masters of Horror, which was something I loved. It was a time capsule to me in many ways of that era of horror. And I also know Mick Garris as the guy in horror documentaries, because you are in every horror documentary I’ve ever watched.
I’m trying not to be, but somehow I ended up being a talking head. I never set out to be an ambassador of horror, but somehow it’s a job of mine. As well as it has for people like Joe Dante and John Landis, all these other more articulate people than me.
I totally think you were an ambassador in the 2000s with Masters of Horror. Did you know when you were making that you were capturing a time in the genre working with Takashi Miike and John Carpenter and all of them; Did you know that that was going to be something that was such a time capsule?
I knew it was going to be special. The whole set of the show was to get the best people, the best filmmakers in the horror genre and give them full reign, no money, no time, but for creative control of their shows and to be able to offer that to people like Tobe Hooper and Takashi Miike and Carpenter and Don Coscarelli, and Joe Dante and Stuart Gordon. I knew it had to be special, and I knew I trusted that these guys would be at the top of their game.
I knew we were doing something special, but I didn’t realize how iconic it become. You know, it was very different from things like The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt, because each one was really all about the filmmaker expressing him or herself as completely as it was possible.
Well, I mean, I think go back to Miike’s Imprint from there. That was such a controversial movie at that time, which I look back on it now, and I’m like “this is pretty okay to watch.”
But you know we weren’t allowed to show it on Showtime, even though it did not conflict with any of the points that we agreed to. It’s just the overall intensity of it at that time. And because of that, Walmart, which sold 40% of all DVDs in those days, would not carry it in the stores. So, we were kind of bit in the ass. We got our revenge in that it was in the boxset with nobody really noticing.
Well, now to wrap up and go back to the book, I love in your introduction that you speak about the difference between working on films and working on books, which sparked a question for me. Is there a famous novel or work of literature that you would love to adapt as a film? Like is there a Mick Garris Moby Dick movie in the back of your mind?
Well, you know, I’d love to adapt one of my own. But the great white whale for me has already been made. When Stephen King wrote Gerald’s Game, that was something I thought: “This is a challenge. How can you turn this intense movie of naked lady handcuffed to a bed under her newly deceased fat husband miles from anywhere in a cabin in the woods? How do you turn that into a propulsive suspenseful Stephen King adaptation?”
Then Mike Flanagan did it for Netflix, and it turned out great. Different from how I would have made it, but that’s the whole point, you know, he’s, he’s really great at translating Stephen King and a really great filmmaker and a good guy as well. So, that was the one that I really was hoping I’d be able to do, but it didn’t work out that way.
I really want to say thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
My pleasure. And thank you for wanting to, I’m glad you enjoyed the book. It’s very important to me.
These Evil Things We Do: The Mick Garris Collection is now available now.