Graphic Horror: Tales of Halloween interview with Andrew Kasch
I haven’t had much time for movie watching lately, but one film that I did watch at home on VOD was a brand new anthology film called Tales of Halloween. One of the reasons that I watched it was because I was contacted with an interview opportunity for the film, it was inspired by other anthologies including Tales From the Crypt which I am a huge fan of, and was based on a horror comic. And also one of the opportunities was Andrew Kasch who happens to also work on two current/upcoming superhero TV shows the Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. He was a great guy to talk to and I had forgotten how time consuming transcribing interviews was. We talked a little about his career, his work on television, and of course his new film Tales of Halloween which he was a co-director of one of the ten segments in the film.
Before I get to Andrew, I do want to give just my brief thoughts on Tales of Halloween. It is an anthology film which includes all the pros and cons of those types of films, I won’t go through all of the segments, but I did think that most of them were fun, a couple were hilarious, and a couple were nicely moody and spooky. None of them really hit a horror high point for me, but one of the first couple involves Barry Bostwick playing this curmudgeon who also happens to be a demon and has this little kid go running around terrorizing the neighborhood with these vicious little pranks. I also thought that another one of the shorts called Trick started off rather silly as I was expecting it to go a similar route to the Barry Bostwick short, but it actually takes a very dark and brilliant turn at the end that I really loved. It was also interesting to see some of the minor characters pop up throughout the different shorts, like some of the trick or treating kids and their parents around the neighborhood. There’s a lot of horror icons that you’ll recognize, and overall there’s a lot more fun and not a whole lot of fluff, I really enjoyed most of the segments. But enough from me, let’s hear from Andrew.
Bubbawheat: To start off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got started in filmmaking?
Andrew Kasch: Like every other person in Los Angeles I’ve been an aspiring filmmaker for the past 15 years making short films [trying to get into] the festival circuit. Finally I managed to get a short out there, it made the rounds, and I inadvertently fell into film journalism by making friends through that process. I was a horror journalist for a couple years writing for Dread Central and Fangoria, I fell into that world kind of by accident and I decided to move to LA spontaneously to try and get a career going. I used the journalism contacts to get into the business and network that way.
Like a lot of us independent filmmakers we don’t make a living on making these movies at all so we have to do other jobs in the entertainment industry. For me, editing was a big thing, something that I’m really good at doing and this is kind of how we pay our bills. So my aspiration moving out to LA was to make my living as an editor and on the side do the director thing, making movies for a niche/cult audience. That was my highest aspiration I guess, and it took me about 10 years to get to that point where I’m doing both of those things.
You’d be surprised at how closely [editing and directing] are to each other, if you don’t have a sense of editing as a director then you don’t really have a vision of what you want to do. Coming in directing from an editorial perspective is helpful because you know exactly what you need and you know in your head how it’s going to come together. It’s like both sides of the same coin pretty much. And even when I’m not editing my own material, I feel like I’m crafting and shaping and using a lot of my directorial instincts on the shows that I cut.
BW: You’re working on the Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. How did you get into those jobs coming from a horror background?
AK: Oddly enough a lot of horror filmmaker friends that I’ve worked with are in the same line of work. I got roped into television through my friend Mike Mendez who’s also a director on Tales of Halloween. He’s sort of a well known independent darling of horror. He was cutting Beavis and Butthead and the producer was another horror filmmaker named Robert Parigi who directed Love Object that was a little cult smash in the early 2000’s and knowing them I got hired onto doing that, working with Mike Judge and had a blast with that.
After that I directed a documentary called Never Sleep Again: the Elm Street Legacy with my buddy Dan Farrands which is a four hour Freddy Kreuger documentary. One of Dan’s friends was a television producer who was also a horror movie guy with films like Jason X named Jeff Garret. Jeff and I just through various gigs and projects kept bumping into each other and got talking. Jeff was always a guy who wanted to pull me into the big leagues. He was producing a bunch of stuff for Bad Robot and finally got me on a short lived show called Revolutions, which is like this post-apocalyptic tv series where I got to work as an assistant editor. That show went under and I went onto another series, then Jeff called me up and said “Hey, we got the first season of the Flash, do you want to come do this?”
I was working on a show called Dallas at the time, which is that Texas oil soap opera show and of course I was like “Yes, get me out of here! I want to work on a superhero show!” And so I immediately jumped into the first season of the Flash when they got that going. And I was actually shocked, I’m a big superhero fan and I loved the original 90’s Flash TV show as a kid, I was one of the few people who watched that.
BW: I remember watching that as well, I refreshed my memory before the first season of the Flash and it’s still a lot of fun.
AK: Yeah, it was an awesome awesome show, they were doing great stuff on TV at the time. I like how the showrunners of the new flash are obviously fans of that show and they’ve thrown in so many of those actors, even playing some of the same characters, the fact that you’ve got John Wesley Shipp and Amanda Pays and Mark Hamill as the freaking Trickster! That shows you the love and dedication that the showrunners have towards the whole Flash universe.
I was honestly as shocked as everyone else. When you come into shows, you talk to any editor or anyone who works in television and it’s rare when you hook a show that you actually like and would watch if you weren’t working on it. And I, like everybody else, was like “Flash on the CW? I don’t know what that’s going to be like.” and when I got into the files I was like “This is really good, this is a lot of fun” and it’s just been a hell of a show to work on. The writing, the direction, the characters, the effects, everything really comes together on that one.
It’s totally like a lot of the other properties are trying to run away from their comic book roots, it’s “darker and grittier” and more “grounded”. And the Flash just totally goes for broke, it’s one of the most comic book comic book things that you’ll ever watch. They’re doing Grodd and going through all these crazy villains in the first season alone, it’s amazing that we’re actually pulling it off.
BW: Like you said, it seems like it’s a growing trend in the past five or ten years to make all superheroes more dark and gritty and realistic and it feels like the trend is finally shifting back towards more comic book-y. DC is going more the direction and the new X-Men movie, they’re bring the costumes back to more like the comic books and less like what you would see in the real world and I’m all for that.
AK:Yeah, I like that they’re not embarrassed of their source material. Honestly to update comic books is really hard and there’s certain looks or designs from 50 – 60 years ago that you want to update and modernize. I’m one of those purists who thinks that you shouldn’t push the realism too far, that you should always keep a sense of lightness and fun to what you’re doing. I love how we have this whole DC television universe that, I mean God thinking about when I was a child if I had these shows around I would be losing my mind! It’s also unbelievably entertaining, there’s so much of it, and it’s all interconnected, fun, and really addicting.
BW: There’s literally another dozen comic book shows that are in development right now, even though half or less of them will actually make it past the pilot stage. It’s really a comic book tv show boom right now. There is one thing I want to ask you, since you’re also working on Legends of Tomorrow, what do you think is a character that might break out based on what you’ve edited so far?
AK: Most of these characters have already been established through Arrow or Flash. I don’t know, it’s hard to say as far as if we’re going to have a break out or stand out character.
BW: Or which one is your favorite?
AK: Oh man, that’s a hard one. They’re all really good and they’re all really balanced. It’s like picking your favorite member of the Justice League. I don’t think I can single out, I really like Victor Garber who plays Stein.
BW: He’s been a blast in the first two seasons and the first couple episodes, I really like what they’ve done with him.
AK: They do some stuff with him that I absolutely love. The whole team plays really well together. Everyone gets some of the focus and everyone is really having a blast with the material. I can’t pick a personal favorite or stand out because I kind of love them all. I think that it’s going to be a big thing, I really do. Everything about it just feels right.
BW: And I take it that it’s going to have a similar tone as the flash being very comic book-y and the humor as well as the over the top stuff?
AK: Oh yeah, the way I describe it is like the Avengers meets Doctor Who with a DC vibe. It’s just such a ridiculously fun ride with the time travel and the group and how everybody plays off of each other. I think it’s more similar in tone to the Flash than to Arrow. Arrow seems to be the darker one, and it’s not as if LoT doesn’t have dark stuff, but it’s more cut from the Flash side of the cloth. But it’s even bigger and crazier. The showrunners have said in multiple interviews that they’ve taken every idea that was too crazy for the Flash and put it into this one. But it’s really well balanced and really well put. It’s been a blast so far, I’ve just been watching dailys and putting the shows together thinking “Oh man” even if I weren’t working on this show I’d be in heaven right now.
BW: I’m really looking forward to that, but let’s go ahead and go back to Tales of Halloween. How did you get involved with this film?
AK: LA has had this long big horror community, everybody’s a part of it. All the directors, writers, actors, everybody. It’s kind of like this giant extended family, and most of us are based in the valley, and we all meet up and do parties together and go to screening and events and support each other’s stuff. And everyone’s super nice and cool and Axelle Carolyn who was the creator of the project, she was like “Let’s harness this, let’s put together an anthology with all of our friends and bring the whole horror community together and make one.” And so it started as a party conversation between she and I and Adam Gierasch. We met and started seriously talking about it, and what is this going to be, and then more filmmakers came on board and started talking doing something Halloween themed, because we all love Halloween.
We go to all the October eventgs and the Haunts, so the Halloween thing was the no brainer way to go. We just started recruiting friends, and asked more filmmaker friends until we had 11 filmmakers and 10 segments. And then the idea would be that Mike Mendez who produced directed Big Ass Spider for a company called Epic pictures. He took it to Epic, and Epic really wanted to come on board and finance, produce, and distribute it because they thought it had a lot of potential. It came together ridiculously fast, that was last summer where we were talking about doing it, and by last December we had cameras rolling. At the end of the day, with the cameos and the actors and the crew members, everybody from the horror industry came out to lend a hand.
BW: Horror anthologies as a whole are having a mini resurgence in the past five years or so, is there anything specific that you think that comes from?
AK: I think it’s just a random thing, obviously things like V/H/S and The ABCs of Death really paved the way for what we’re doing. Before that, while it totally got shafted and screwed on the financial side of things and its release, Trick ‘r Treat is the movie that really brought the anthology back critically. It was something that was so entertaining and so good that it reminded everybody of what the genre could be, and that got a lot of people into that. All these other anthologies had way less money than Trick ‘r Treat which was a 20-25 million dollar movie, and all these other anthologies were probably a couple hundred thousand. And there’s others like The Theater Bizarre, and internationally that helped keep them alive. Mainly I think it was the festival circuit that helped bring this sub genre of horror back. I think a couple of years before this we wouldn’t have been able to make it before these other people have had success with it.
BW: And tell me a little bit about your specific segment “This Means War” which follows Dana Gould playing this older guy who’s put this exact same elaborate Halloween decoration in his yard for the past 20 years and he has these new neighbors who put up this more metal version of their Halloween decorations just to throw a party.
AK:That was born out of my love for Halloween haunts and yard displays as something that I always think of when I think of Halloween, so that idea just came naturally. My partner John SKipp who’s been a writer for 30 years and is a super talented dude was like “if we’re going to have Halloween guys, let’s do it where we talk about the different generations of horror fans” because it’s true, there’s two different groups that are out there right now. One is the classical purist people who love old school famous monsters where they grew up on King Kong, a lot of the Hammer movies and Universal and that’s the kind of stuff that they love and gravitate towards. And then there’s this newer younger generation of horror fans who are all about the effects and the gore, and sort of like the Rob Zombie metalhead, sleazy, bloody, school of shock.
And so Skipp was like “Let’s make our two directors a classicist and a modern horror fan and have them go to war over their displays” and that was like the missing ingredient, that was the thing that took it over the top. Like yeah, this is a giant commentary on the two sides of fan culture. So that’s kind of where that idea came from.
BW: And just overall, through all of the shorts, there was a horror-lite vibe and more on the comedic side of things that I really enjoyed. I laughed at a lot of the segments, some of them are really funny. Was that a conscious decision as a whole,
AK: I think it just kind of happened naturally. I think at first during meetings, some of the producers were like “Lets make something really scary and go for the throat” and I just think naturally as we were putting our stories together we just started veering towards comedy. Because honestly, doing something really serious and scary is hard in short form because a lot of what makes something scary are the characters. You got to really spend time and draw out the scares and make those scary moments matter, you don’t have a lot of time in a short film to do that. So I think going for the more fun, campy side, just our own influences like Creepshow and Tales From the Crypt to go more for the tongue in cheek funnybone side. I just think that works better in short form. Especially when you have 10 shorts, you have 5-7 minutes, 10 tops to tell a story. I think that just generally that mood works better and keeps it alive.
If you have back to back broody horror movies, you sit through ten of them and it’ll be a little bit oppressive after a while. Axelle’s ghost story’s very serious. Parker’s has a very EC comics vibe, Sweet Tooth plays it fairly straight and so does Trick: the third one with the kids. So I think there’s a good balance that goes on through it. There’s something a little bit dark, then something a fun like Bousman’s segment with the devil that just makes things spooky and crazy. And Mendez’s segment where you have Evil Dead slapstick gore, and the good thing about this is that you hit every little subgenre of it.
Bottom line, we’re still recovering from the super serious torture porn that plagued the genre for a while where everyone was trying to prove how hardcore they were. And I think a lot of us just, in the same way that Trick ‘r Treat did, we want to bring it back to when horror movies were actually fun, get an audience together and make it a party without going too goofy. You can easily fall into that trap on the other side where you’re just trying to make the movie so fun that you’re beating people over the head with how funny you are and come off a little bit desperate as trying to make a cult movie, where good ones just happen naturally. I think you have to toe the line here and I think we were largely successful in that, I don’t know you tell me.
BW: I did read a couple reviews that were mostly positive, but one said the silly ones were too juvenile. But at the same time, I thought they were my personal favorites, I though it was hilarious.
AK: The cool thing about reading the reviews and responses is that nobody really has a consistent favorite or least favorite. We’ve all heard in reviews that we’re somebody’s favorite or that we’re somebody’s least favorite, it’s all over tha map. So I think that’s the best thing with this many shorts is that’s what we want. Something clearly speaks to somebody depending on what you’re tastes are. There’s enough variety that no two people will like the same thing. Everyone’s going to have their favorite and it’s totally divergent depending on. It’s a fantastic response, it’s probably the best we could have hoped for.
BW: I know that the film has just been released, but has been in a couple festivals already, what has the fan reaction been like so far?
AK: The reactions at the festivals have been through the roof because it is a crowd movie, it’s one thing if you watch it on VOD, but if you have a theater nearby and you have a packed house, it’s a really vocal movie. It really gets an audience amped up, people cheer, applaud and laugh at all the right places and that’s fun. Hopefully that will make it stand the test of time and it will become a Halloween tradition, at least that’s what we’re hoping.
You can follow Andrew on Twitter @andrewKasch or on Facebook and you can find out where you can watch Tales of Halloween their website. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.