I recently had the pleasure of screening A Tale of Two Sisters, the first in a planned universe of Cemetery Tales created by Chris Roe. I know critics and journalists use the “time machine” metaphor liberally, but it truly was like being transported into a different era of cinema, one where horror was more about existential terrors and personal hells.
Synopsis (via Deadline)
Roe’s film is set in 1949 and stars Traci Lords as an aging Hollywood star who is mourning her beloved sister on the first anniversary of her death. When the truth about her murder is revealed, a visitor adds new layers to the dark mystery. Cemetery Tales: A Tale of Two Sisters is a Tea Time Production; the film also stars Davison, Ros Gentle, Michael Broderick, and Monte Markham.
I knew that A Tale of Two Sisters had screened at the Sitges Festival in 2018, so I was anxious to sit down with Roe to discuss the film’s journey and what’s next in the realm of Cemetary Tales. To find out about the film’s connection to horror royalty George A. Romero and what it took to roll back the decades, read on!
Dread Central: How was A Tale of Two Sisters received at Sitges?
Chris Roe: I thought the film was very well received. It was a real dream to have its premiere at Sitges, and be in competition! It’s the greatest genre film festival in the world, and well over 50 years running. For a filmmaker to make a genre movie, and to have it screen there is a dream come true. All the great directors and actors love that festival. It was George Romero’s favorite, Clive Barker’s and Malcolm McDowell’s too! European audiences get film better. They really understand cinema differently. It’s always a joy to watch a movie with a European audience.
DC: The ending says “Dedicated to Goerge Romero”. How, specifically, does A Tale of Two Sisters pay tribute to the iconic filmmaker?
CR: It was important for me to dedicate the film to George because we were very close. I loved him dearly. I was his manager for over 15 years until he passed in July of 2017.
DC: Oh wow, I didn’t realize you have such a profound, personal connection with him.
CR: Absolutely. He taught me a lot in those 15 years. I had talked to George about Cemetery Tales back in 2010 and 2011. He loved the concept. He loved those half-hour shows like The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery. Of course, Creepshow was very similar too! He thought it would make a great series or anthology film. Shortly after George passed, I was going through papers and files and found all these notes and outlines I had written for Cemetery Tales back in 2010 through 2012. I remembered George always saying that if you started something, to finish it if you could. So I decided to do just that and began getting A Tale of Two Sisters ready to go.
DC: We’re glad you did! I was lucky enough to get a screener, but where can everyone else see A Tales of Two Sisters?
CR: Currently, A Tale of Two Sisters can only be seen on the festival circuit. It’s been successful. We have been accepted into six I believe. It won Best Short Thriller at the 19th Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles a few months ago. It always feels good to win at home. We had most of our cast and crew present, and a nice party after the screening. Audiences have really enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure how they would at first. Since it’s a period film, shot in black and white, that can cut away some of your viewers. Especially, with the younger generation. They often don’t care for black and white. But I’m very pleased with all the support and response to it.
DC: So, obviously, you’re planning on making more Cemetery Tales, am I right?
CR: My hope is to definitely do more. Right now I would like to do five more and have a limited series to pitch. I have the outlines and scripts for the next five ready. If the series doesn’t work, then we can take those six shorts and make a great anthology movie out of them. So, I have several platforms I can work with this. I also have a lot of other great talents in mind for some of these.
Fantastic! We can’t wait to see what you come up with next. Now, I’ve been a huge fan of Traci Lords since her knockout performance in Excision. What was it like working with her and the rest of the cast?
CR: Working with Traci was fantastic! Hard at times actually. She’s a perfectionist and a complete professional. She really got to play a part that you don’t always see her do. It shows her diversity and range as an actor. She’s so glamorous. Watching her on set, and seeing her on the screen, she really looks like she walked out of the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s. She fits right into that lineup of actresses like Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Gloria Swanson, Lana Turner, and Joan Fontaine.
CR: Bruce Davison was a dream! First of all, he’s a first class actor and professional. Totally collaborative and just fun to be with. Bruce is very underused in Hollywood and that’s a shame.
Monte Markham, I grew up watching on TV. In the ’70’s he was on everything. Again, a total professional and old school. He’s been a star of stage, TV, and the big screen. And his voice you want to use in everything!
Ros Gentle and Michael Broderick are both fine actors with great talent and work ethics. Each person was cast specifically for their character. Each person’s character was fully written with them in mind. So I got exactly what I wanted out of my cast.
DC: Fantastic! Were you just as pleased with your crew?
CR: I had a pretty good crew. My director of photography, Alex Wysocki, was amazing. We literally worked out every single scene before filming started. He knew exactly what I wanted, and he delivered. My editor, Michael Bruining was the real savior. I think that’s when making a movie really begins. He took all the pieces and made it work. He had great ideas and was completely collaborative. And Jonathan Hartman did my music. He understood musically what I was going for. I could have paid for some boring synth score, and it would have not elevated the film at all. Jonathan’s music is brilliant. The musicians were all total pros. I wanted something in the style of Bernard Herrmann, and I got just that.
Working on a film set with all that talent, ego, and ideas make it a priority to have your chemistry really solid. Most of my crew I will always work with again and again. A few, I would never work with again. On a film, you really get to know people. Especially, those who just are users and out for their own gain. I had one of those, all sets do. If a friendship can survive the making of a film and still be there when it’s all over, you probably have a good friendship!
Are you a fan of old-school, classic horror serials and/or anthologies? Does Cemetery Tales sound like a project you’d like to see come to fruition? Have you seen A Tale of Two Sisters of the film festival circuit? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!