Tales of Halloween Interview Spotlight: Ryan Schifrin
Horror hits like V/H/S and The ABCs of Death have proven that the anthology film format has been revived, and so a new omnibus is afoot for 2015 – assembling the likes of Neil Marshall (The Descent), Darren Bousman (The Devil’s Carnival), and Lucky McKee (The Call) behind their collective cameras.
Epic Pictures Group financed and produced Tales of Halloween, which brings together ten segments from different directors into one unified series of stories, all set in an Anytown, USA, suburb terrorized by ghouls, ghosts, and slashers on one, er, epic Halloween night.
We had a chance to chat with Ryan Schifrin (Abominable) to get the skinny on his special segment in the spooky series…
Dread Central: What’s the name of your story, who wrote it, and who is in it?
Ryan Schifrin: My segment is called “The Ransom of Rusty Rex.” I wrote it; it’s a horror riff on the classic O. Henry short story “The Ransom of Red Chief.” It stars Sam Witwer (“Being Human”), Jose Cantillo (“The Walking Dead”), John Landis, and Ben Woolf (“American Horror Story”).
DC: How were you approached to do this project?
RS: Neil Marshall, Axelle Carolyn, and Mike Mendez took me out to coffee and pitched the idea of doing an anthology that takes place on Halloween night all in the same town. I loved it the second I heard it. Aside from the concept, the chance to collaborate with a group of friends who just happen to all be talented filmmakers sounded like a blast, and they also gave us creative control to boot.
DC: What were some of the guidelines given to you by producers? What was the most challenging parameter?
RS: The parameters were strict – two-day shoots, 10k budget per short, had to take place on Halloween (and all in the same town). No found footage segments, the idea was to be more like Creepshow and Trick ‘r Treat. They urged us to do something scary, although many of them have a lot of humor. The two-day shoot was the hardest part because no one cares how little time or money you had; the film is either good or it isn’t. We all were a bit competitive, secretly wanted our own segments to be the best, which made us all bring our “A” games – and call in tons of favors from actor friends, special FX artists and so forth.
DC: Delve into your segment a little bit, please, and tell us what we can expect and what about the story you think will be the most fun for the audience…
RS: My segment is basically about two guys who kidnap a rich kid while he’s out trick or treating, and to their horror realize they’ve actually kidnapped a monster. I think the chemistry between Sam and Jose is a lot of fun, and Christien Tinsley, who did our creature FX, really kicked ass on this.
DC: What are some of the upsides of an anthology, as opposed to a feature length one-plot film?
RS: When an anthology works well, it’s great because you get all these different voices and personalities contributing. Sort of like a potluck dinner where everyone brings their best dish. The challenge here is that it isn’t one writer and director like Creepshow but a bunch of very distinct voices, and it still has to be cohesive. As a filmmaker, it’s a blast to work on because your schedule is a lot shorter so you don’t get so exhausted – it’s more like a fun vacation.
DC: What’s your favorite Halloween movie?
RS: Halloween (the original) is my favorite Halloween movie (as opposed to general horror movie) because you can watch it ON Halloween, and it always delivers. I saw it when I wasn’t supposed to when I was far too young and it scared me to death… and I loved every minute of it. One reason I wanted to be a part of Tales of Halloween is because there aren’t enough fun Halloween-themed movies that you can sit down and watch on Halloween night. Plenty of great horror movies, don’t get me wrong, but specifically a dearth of movies centered around the holiday.
DC: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a kid? Do you dress up as an adult?
RS: As a kid I used to get those latex application masks and glue them to my face and try and emulate Dick Smith stuff. Those were my favorites; I went as a Pig Man one year and was so proud of my costume. I still dress up; my favorite things now are the amazing high quality silicone masks that places like Realflesh and SPFX are making. I went to a Halloween party at a friend’s house this year wearing one of those realistic masks and scared everyone there by pretending I was some odd creepy guy who had wandered in off the street. Pranking people is almost as fun as making horror movies!
Tales of Halloween will showcase the following ten short stories:
- “TRICK” Directed by Adam Gierasch
- “BAD SEED” Directed by Neil Marshall
- “GRIMM GRINNING GHOST” Directed by Axelle Carolyn
- “THE WEAK AND THE WICKED” Directed by Paul Solet
- “FRIDAY THE 31st” Directed by Mike Mendez
- “THE RANSOM OF RUSTY REX” Directed by Ryan Schifrin
- “THIS MEANS WAR” Directed by Andrew Kasch and John Skipp
- “THE NIGHT BILLY RAISED HELL” Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman
- “SWEET TOOTH” Directed by Dave Parker
- “DING DONG” Directed by Lucky McKee
The film has an ensemble cast including Pat Healy, Barry Bostwick, Noah Segan, Booboo Stewart, Greg Grunberg, Clare Kramer, Alex Essoe, Lin Shaye, Dana Gould, James Duval, Elissa Dowling, Grace Phipps, Pollyana McIntosh, Marc Senter, Tiffany Shepis, John F. Beach, Trent Haaga, Casey Ruggieri, Kristina Klebe, Cerina Vincent, John Savage, Keir Gilchrist, Nick Principe, Amanda Moyer, Jennifer Wenger, Sam Witwer, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Ben Woolf, Caroline Williams, Robert Rusler, Cameron Easton, Austin Falk, Madison Iseman, Daniel Dimaggio, Natalie Castillo, Ben Stillwell, and Hunter Smit.
Cameos include Joe Dante, John Landis, Adam Green, Adam Pascal, Adrianne Curry, Mick Garris, Lombardo Boyer, Graham Skipper, Stuart Gordon, Greg Mclean, Spooky Dan Walker, and Adrienne Barbeau.
Axelle Carolyn created the concept and brought the filmmakers together for this unique production. Tales of Halloween is being produced by Patrick Ewald and Shaked Berenson of Epic Pictures Group along with Mike Mendez and Axelle Carolyn. Composers Frank Ilfman (Big Bad Wolves) and Joseph Bishara (The Conjuring) are both attached to the project.
Ten stories are woven together by their shared theme of Halloween night in an American suburb, where ghouls, imps, aliens, and axe murderers appear for one night only to terrorize unsuspecting residents.