Interview: Mick Garris Dreams of NIGHTMARE CINEMA

Nightmare Cinema Mick Garris 300x300 - Interview: Mick Garris Dreams of NIGHTMARE CINEMAWould you enter an empty Rialto theater that’s showing a movie you’ve never heard of – a movie that’s starring you? This is the premise for Nightmare Cinema.  To learn more about the diverse brains behind this anthology, we snagged a few awesome minutes from lead director Mick Garris.


A series of down-on-their-luck individuals enter the decrepit and spine-chilling Rialto theater, only to have their deepest and darkest fears brought to life on the silver screen by The Projectionist – a mysterious, ghostly figure who holds the nightmarish futures of all who attend his screenings. By the time our patrons realize the truth, escape is no longer an option. For once the ticket is torn, their fate is sealed at Nightmare Cinema.

Nightmare Cinema will premiere at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival on July 12th.

Dread Central: What inspired you to create Nightmare Cinema?

Mick Garris: Pretty much the experience with Masters of Horror. Being able to work with a bunch of really acclaimed and talented filmmakers who have really strong visions of their own and give them the option to do something they want to do… not what someone else wants them to do. That was the same philosophy, getting great people. We didn’t have a whole lot of time and not a whole lot of money… but a lot of invention and creativity. I also wanted to do something international in scope and get different viewpoints of filmmakers from around the world. My original plan was to do like a Masters of Horror series and shoot each one in different countries. But my ambitions I think are greater than those of business people. But that’s how it ultimately resulted in this movie, twelve years after I started thinking about it.

DC: I’m a huge fan of Masters of Horror. I was really excited when I first heard about the project, and new that it would be super creepy. I felt that the entire film and the different stories had that creepy tone. I know that people are absolutely going to love it. It definitely gave me Creepshow vibes. So that’s very awesome!

MG: Good. I’m really glad you liked it. Are you going to be at Fantasia?

DC: Yes, I am.

MG: Great. We are going to do a Post Mortem on the next day for my podcast with all of the filmmakers there. So, of course we will do a Q and A after the movie on Thursday night. By all means, if you get a chance, please come to the podcast and Q and A as well.

DC: I definitely will.

MG: Well good.

DC: You talked about reaching out to different countries. Where were the different locations you filmed in?

MG: We shot everything in LA – but different parts of LA. We shot in south LA, in Daniel Freeman hospital, which had been closed down for a dozen years. (We shot) for Dead. We shot the church in John Carpenter’s The Fog is actually the church in Mashit. That is down in Altadena just east of Pasadena. And we also shot in a mortuary there for Mashit. Joe Dante shot his in a closed office building in Glendale. Then Alejandro shot his in a location way east of LA, that just barely was in the zone. And then David Slade shot his downtown LA in actual city government offices.

DC: Very cool.

MG: It was quite a load. Our line producer acted as our location manager. Nancy Leopardi… she just did an amazing job, getting places that you would never be able to get on a lower budget film in LA. She is a remarkable producer. And everybody really kicked ass. It was such a commitment of a week’s worth of shooting for each of us directors. It was compressed with a whole lot of work, but it was a lot of fun. It was really great.

DC: It sounds like it was definitely a lot of fun. How long did it take you guys to shoot overall?

MG: Each of the films was about a week of production. There was pre-production of course, some more extensive than others. (laughs) And there were months of other production but with KNB. The KNB guys are great. They’ve done my makeup effects for a lot of my stuff. They did all of the Masters of Horror episodes and they’re Oscar winners.

Everybody was really committed to it even though the time commitment was short as far as the official production goes. The emotional commitment was much more complete and lasted much longer. A lot of the work was done – not under official outlines and guidelines. 

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DC: How did you know which director to choose to be a part of this project? Did you always know?

MG: When I decided that I wanted it to be a mix of international filmmakers, I went to the people who, when it became clear we were doing it on a budget in Los Angeles, I still wanted that cultural mix. These four filmmakers… I had known their work. I had maybe known them from the Masters of Horror dinners I had put together. I had met Ryuhei at a screening of The Midnight Meat Train, which blew me away. I’ve been a big fan of David Slade for Hannibal as well as Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night, and the like. Joe Dante and I have been friends for ages. He did Masters of Horror each season. I have a cameo in The Howling. We go way back. And then Alejandro Brugues was somebody that John Landis introduced me to at one of our Masters of Horror. And I saw Juan of the Dead at a couple of festivals around the world and was blown away by that. I thought, these are not only really great filmmakers, they’re really good human beings that it would be fun to work with and who all wanted to do something wonderful and do something kind of outside the box and not have bosses. So we were able to do that. I encouraged them to do what they do and not try to fit into what I was trying to do. I think that’s why for me it works great. If you like it… that’s why. These guys were able to do what they wanted without interference.

DC: What would you say was the most challenging part of working on this project?

MG: Getting it made. Getting it financed. Honestly, it took me many years for this to happen, and it seemed so obvious. Originally, I thought it was going to be a one-hour series like Masters of Horror, a different one in a different country each time. Then I thought maybe it would be a series of feature films. Maybe do a couple of them a year under the banner of Nightmare Cinema Presents. Eventually, (I) came upon the idea of doing it as an anthology feature, possibly a series of anthology features with four or five stories each time. Ultimately, what I would like most (is for) this to be a theatrical feature film that spawns an anthology series made by filmmakers, much like Masters of Horror but even more international and more diverse and culturally representative than even that was.

DC: What was it like working with Mickey Rourke? He was really so creepy in the film. I actually liked that wrap around story with seeing him in it as well.

MG: Thank you. Thank you. That was my baby. With Mickey, I had all these warnings about him because he is an eccentric guy… but obviously a really talented guy. A director friend had worked with him on a tv show and said, “This is the worst two days of my life.”

I was like, “Oh, no.” I didn’t get to meet Mickey until we actually were there to shoot his scene at the Rialto Cinema in Pasadena. It was a very intimidating thought because you know the guy. He is a wrestler, a boxer… he’s really a tough guy who does not suffer fools gently. But I had called Robert Rodriguez and he said he had the best time with him and no problems at all with him (on Sin City). When he came to the set, he and I hit it off great. He was prepared to just come in and do the work.

(Mickey) really had a good time doing it. It’s something very different from what he would normally do. To play the ghost supervisor of a house that holds “100 years of nightmares” as it says in the movie – and “the silver screen that never forgets.” He had a really good time with the mouthful of words to say like that. We had a great time with it. When you hire Mickey Rourke, you get Mickey Rourke. That’s pretty exciting.

I’ve been doing this for a long time, but I still get intimidated by people who are a major name or bring a persona with them of being really strong and the like. The first one was with Tony Perkins when I did Psycho IV. That was very intimidating. Then when you end up working with them, you realize that you all have the same ambition – to make something good and something last.

DC: Absolutely! Again, I really enjoyed this movie. I feel like fans, not just of the horror genre – will enjoy this as well.

MG: I hope so.

DC: So what do you want the audience to receive from Nightmare Cinema?

MG: I just want them to have a really great time. I think this is a really big recreational film. People are going to have different opinions and different favorites because whenever you have five stories – any anthology – somebody likes one more than another. I just want people to want more. I want to be able to come back to another one or do a tv series, started by a tangent that it could launch. If people talk about it on social media about what a great experience it was and recommending it to other people, that’s the best thing that could possibly happen. If it was financially successful, that would be great, too. But at this stage in my life, I just want the work to be received in the spirit that it was offered – with a joy of cinema, a joy of horror and really have a good time with it – and hopefully, just to think about it afterwards when you are walking home from the cinema and you hear a sound, the quick footsteps behind you and you (begin to) walk fast.

DC: I definitely understand, and I really do see that. I would love for this to be a series or even to have a sequel because again, it was really wonderful. 

MG: Thank you.

Written by Zena Dixon

In addition to contributing to Dread Central, Zena Dixon has been writing about all things creepy and horrific for over six years at She has always loved horror films and will soon be known directing her own feature-length horror.

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