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Moriarty Offers His Thoughts And A Sneak Peek For The July 24th Episode Of FEAR ITSELF!

Hey, everyone. “Moriarty” here. Yep. My episode. Written by myself and Scott Swan, same as PRO-LIFE and CIGARETTE BURNS. Originally intended for John Carpenter to direct to round out our triptych. In the end, Larry Fessenden stepped in to direct instead, with Doug Jones playing the lead. And it airs Thursday, July 24, at 10:00 PM on N-B-freakin-C. I’ve seen a rough cut that Larry screened for Scott and me, and even unfinished like that, I was pleased. I thought it had a lot of raw energy. I think Larry’s micro-budget background is a blessing for us, and Doug Jones is pretty much Lon freakin’ Chaney in the piece. He’s playing a make-up role, but it’s more subtle, and most of what’s really creepy and upsetting is Doug and his eyes and the way he gradually unleashes the thing hiding inside him. More people have access to this episode than anything I’ve done so far. It’s network. I am perfectly comfortable with the reactions to both of the MASTERS episodes, both good and bad, because for the most part, people’s reactions seem genuine. CIGARETTE BURNS is a very moody and strange idea of what a “horror” film is, and PRO-LIFE is a big silly monster movie, and people who don’t like either of them don’t particularly surprise me. With this one, I’m hoping you guys will at least take a look. TIVO it. Save it for that one evening when you’ve watched every other thing you’ve got and you might as well. Just give it a try. I think the people who made it did a nice job under some fairly strict conditions. I’d like to do something to entice you, and I think it’s only fair considering all the conversations I’ve had here over the years about other people’s writing. From now until the episode airs, you’ll be able to download the script for the film from this address. As soon as the episode airs, the script’s offline. So you can decide for yourself. Sucks. Rules. What were they thinking? Better than I expected. Whatever the case, it’s up to you, and I’m hoping that enough of you like what you read that you’ll tune in and see how Fessenden and his cast brought it to life. I’ve never had to work within the standards-and-practices guidelines of network television before, and even on this show, we didn’t really get any notes about violence. We worked hard to imply rather than show, taking it as a challenge to do something more Val Lewton, more subtle than either MASTERS we wrote. The original idea we had came when we were in Vancouver shooting PRO-LIFE. We were watching movies in the hotel room at night, worn out but still awake for a few hours after each day’s shoot. And one of the films we watched was TRACK OF THE CAT, a John Wayne-produced Western starring Robert Mitchum. All things considered, it was practically an experimental film compared to much of what Wayne was part of through Batjac Productions. It was a family melodrama, all about snowbound brothers and simmering resentments and a mysterious mountain lion that attacks one brother, drawing the other one out into a hunt in the mountains. There’s this crazy artificial stagebound quality to all the family stuff at the ranch house, and then the location stuff on the mountainsides is like MCCABE & MRS MILLER. Best part of the film? The aged Indian who works on the ranch, played by Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer under heavy prosthetic make-up. Seriously. As we were watching it, something about the tone of the filmmaking struck me as a horror film, not a Western. The narrative plays by the rules, but the tone is off. And so we started talking about what the horror movie version of this would be. And the next day, when we were telling John about the film onset, he told us that when he first saw it in the theater, he felt the same way, that there was something almost horror-movie about the mountain lion subplot and the old Indian make-up (he’s about as convincing as Gregg Henry in BODY DOUBLE) and the stage-bound claustrophobia. A few months later, we were reading some things about monsters for another project, and the Wendigo came up. And the more I read about the origins of the Wendigo myth, the more I loved the imagery and the cultural significance of it. It feels to me like a story invented to explain the occasional bout of wilderness survival cannibalism among early Americans, and there were some eerie, bizarre descriptions of Wendigo stories over the years. Scott was the one who connected that TRACK OF THE CAT vibe to the Wendigo myth, and things fell into place pretty quickly. But we didn’t get hired to actually write the episode until October of last year. Specifically, we got hired four days before the strike was set to begin. So if we wanted to get our episode on the air this year, we had four days to write it. So we did. And then there was a two-day reprieve, an extension, and we were able to sneak in a second draft based on the network’s notes, and they told us based on those two drafts, we were part of the series. A nice bit of news on the eve of the strike. And then... like everyone else... we waited and waited. And we heard that they were going to let Canadian writers rewrite the episodes on-set, and that we wouldn’t be able to have any hand in doing the revisions ourselves. A miserable thought. Thankfully, in the end, we were able to start work after the strike, in time to get the script ready once they hired Fessenden to direct it. Even after that, on locations, Fessenden did some more rewrites of his own, mainly involving staging or practical issues. He had eight days to shoot the bloody thing, which I find amazing. He made it his own, and when he showed us the rough cut, I thought he made some really great, intuitive choices in how to make scenes work, how to turn up the sadness of some of it. I met him the first time back in 2001, at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, where he was with (ironically) WENDIGO. If you’ve never seen that film, you should. It’s a really strong, moody little child’s-eye horror film, a sort of nightmare view of the dissolving family. The Wendigo that Fessenden imagined in that film is totally different than the monster in our script, and when we first talked to him, his enthusiasm for being able to interpret the Wendigo a different way a second time was part of what made him want to do the episode. Because I never set foot onset this time, the experience was very surreal compared to the MASTERS episodes. There, I was onset as much as physically possible. I was very involved. This time, we wrote it, we sent it in, and then suddenly, there’s this finished movie. Very strange. So there we go. The script’s “leaked” now, and with one right-click save-as, you can decide for yourselves if you want to see Doug Jones as Grady or Molly Hagan as Elena. I'm sure there are some of you who think I’m totally full of crap and you think FEAR ITSELF is the worst idea in the history of television and how dare they air something written by a bloated douche like me. That's cool, too. Either way, at least this feels fair, and I hope you’ll try the episode because I really like the work everyone else did. Even if you hate me and hate what I do, Doug Jones is really creepy and I think Fessenden’s got a very cool, very interesting shooting style, and for those reasons alone, I feel compelled to shill you guys just a little. I’ve got a story coming later today about one of the hottest reads in town right now. And it might not be the one you think it is. Until then...

Drew McWeeny, Los Angeles

Readers Talkback
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  • July 14, 2008, 7:22 a.m. CST

    mortal kombat 3

    by zerogundamx

    i wanna watch that instead, did you bring back johnny cage

  • July 14, 2008, 7:27 a.m. CST


    by drew mcweeny

    ... sure did. Good fight, too.

  • July 14, 2008, 7:33 a.m. CST

    Uk Dwellers.

    by bod33

    Will have to get this from a torrent(do u have any problems with this Mori), as i am really interested in what u have created.

  • July 14, 2008, 7:36 a.m. CST

    Pro-Life ...

    by GiveMeAnFinBreak

    I swear to God, Mori, if you waste another hour of my time as painfully as you did with Pro-Life, I'm coming for you. That shit almost made 'So You Think You're a 5th Grader' seem bearable by comparison. Don't get all defensive. Own your mistakes. Somewhere along the line, that one fucked up. Bad. Learn from it.

  • July 14, 2008, 7:52 a.m. CST

    Has antone else seen the HULK VS. WOLVERINE trailer?

    by The Guy Who Slept Through Everything.

    Talk about shit. and WOW, to have your episode air Thursday night, geez man, they're not giving you a chance. But nice to play it smart with the TIVO reminder.

  • July 14, 2008, 7:52 a.m. CST

    Thursday at 10?

    by chrth

    Yikes, up against the awesomeness of Michael Westin? Talk about a lousy timeslot.

  • July 14, 2008, 7:58 a.m. CST

    I'd watch Molly Hagan read a phone book.

    by V'Shael

    I've crushed on her for years and years and years.

  • July 14, 2008, 8:04 a.m. CST

    Fessenden and the Wendigo myth...

    by Captain Dobie

    Actually I believe this is Fessenden’s 3rd shot at the Wendigo myth as it also crops up in the climactic moments of the underrated and underseen ‘Last Winter’, in fact his pre-occupation with it is such that when I first read the synopsis of this episode I assumed you’d written it specifically for Fessenden or in collaboration with him so I’m genuinely surprised that he was a late replacement for Carpenter and really keen to see what he does with it. Other random musings *liked ‘Cigarette Burns’ *hated ‘Pro-Life’ *think ‘Fear Iteslf ‘ has actually been much better than MoH. Fear Itself seems to have brought out a much more creative and subtle line in horror from the writers and directors because of network limitations whereby MoH quite often seemed to simply think that the answer was to lay on lashings of gore and nudity rather than creating either genuine scares or a sense of menace.

  • July 14, 2008, 8:13 a.m. CST

    Even if i could watch US-TV

    by ev1ldead

    i wouldn't watch Fear Itself in the PG-13 version on NBC. The unrated DVD's might not be better but at least there is a chance.

  • July 14, 2008, 8:33 a.m. CST

    Wendigo vs Sasquatch!

    by newc0253

    i'd always thought North America needs its own autocthnous horror, by which i don't mean Halloween movies and flicks in which cheerleaders get killed, etc, but horror arising from the native landscape.<p> that's why i like the idea of Wendigo v Sasquatch, because thems pretty much the only instances of it that i can think of.<p> That and the monster of Strawberry Lake.<p> p.s. the concept sounds good, Mori. Bon courage.<p>

  • July 14, 2008, 8:53 a.m. CST

    Kubrick's Boxes On More4

    by TroutMaskReplicant

    Oh there's a documentary on British tv tonight about Stanley Kubrick's boxes. It was made by that John Ronson guy who made the documentary about people who believe in a Reptilian Conspiracy and that world leaders worship the demon Moloch. So it should be interesting if you can get your hands on it.

  • July 14, 2008, 8:59 a.m. CST

    just read it

    by originalmemflix

    Good read. Thanks Mori. Favorite line: "Don't make me answer that question." Also loved how you didn't have any painful exposition at the end with the mother explaining to the kids about Rowdy. Minor quibble - In every movie/show, it bugs me when the hero assumes the villain is dead. Unload on the motherfucker. But if the director puts the emphasis on the son's reluctance, it'll be cool. Good job, man.

  • July 14, 2008, 9:03 a.m. CST

    Agree with memflix

    by JimBobCooter

    Good read. I was kind of taken out at the wife dropping the shotgun and having dinner. Really? But it is a horror script, I guess. Nice "Shining" atmosphere too. And it took balls to post this, and it will be actually fun to compare it with the end result. Good luck!

  • July 14, 2008, 9:04 a.m. CST

    Scratch That, Tuesday Night...

    by TroutMaskReplicant

    Why did I think it was Tuesday already?

  • July 14, 2008, 9:17 a.m. CST

    I keep forgetting about this show

    by CherryValance

    I wrote it down this time though.

  • July 14, 2008, 9:52 a.m. CST

    Mori what is the title? I don't see it in your review

    by Stormwatcher

    Want to see New Years Day any word on that?

  • July 14, 2008, 11:18 a.m. CST

    Moh and the "new" MoH

    by Gislef_crow

    Problem is even second-season MoH was widely inconsistent, with lame stories like Damned Thing and Washingtonians. Still some good stuff in there. Fear Itself seems to continue the downward trend. Even less good stuff, more bad stuff. The "I married a serial killer" thing was a mess. Eater failed to generate any suspense. Both had plotholes. Even the best of FI have had their share of WTF?!? moments. Combined with NBC pre-empting it last week, and several local pre-emption, I wouldn't expect a second season...

  • July 14, 2008, 11:22 a.m. CST

    Read this too..

    by Jonah Echo

    And it's a nice piece of work, Drew. Having seen Track of the Cat, I can see it's influence here. Particularly in regards to Rowdy and his unspoken backstory with the mother, and particularly with the son Derek, and his growing up through this situation. The Shining influence is clear too. My fave scene is the one between Bear and Grady for the first time, when the truth of Grady's identity is made clear. <P> By the end it's a bit more of your standard horror story, but I can't fault it for that. It's also limited by run time. In script form its far and away the best thing that has been on Fear Itself to this point. Question though. FI already did one called Eater. It wasnt very good, but didn't that one seemingly shoot this one in the foot. <p> For the record, your script suggests a much better ep, and with Fessenden on board I'm sure it will be the highlight of this dismal series. Nice work, and kudos on reworking the Wendigo myth. <p> Ever see Ravenous Mori? Another Wendigo take, and has more than a little in common with your story(I mean in regards to the nature of the Wendigo, and the finding of sick man who is more than he seems). If you haven't, I'd reccomend it. Almost more of a black comedy, that one.

  • July 14, 2008, 11:34 a.m. CST

    Two strikes against Fear Itself...

    by Tar Heel

    First is the timeslot. Thursdays at 10? Put it on Friday night and adjust your ratings expectations. Second, the absolutely horrible opening title sequence. That theme music makes me want to reach into my earholes and yank out my hammer and anvil bones. Seriously.

  • July 14, 2008, 11:53 a.m. CST

    When I interviewed Doug

    by Purgatori

    he said that he spent a good 90 percent of this out of make-up, which makes me happy. Is that true Mori?

  • July 14, 2008, 12:06 p.m. CST

    Masters of Horror.......

    by Crackles

    Is fucking awesome and if you don't like than you must not like horror! Cigarette Burns is my favorite episode! You fuckin Rock Moriarty!!!

  • July 14, 2008, 12:10 p.m. CST

    Mori is always such a class act.

    by Raymar

    I like the show so far and I'm sure this will be fun too.

  • July 14, 2008, 12:22 p.m. CST

    "Mori is always such a class act"

    by chrth

    Except for when he's berating people about not supporting the writers in the strike because we've been "brainwashed"<p> But I will say that of all the reviewers on this site, his are the best.

  • July 14, 2008, 12:57 p.m. CST

    Fessenden's WENDIGO TRILOGY!!

    by godoffireinhell

    I find the quote "...his enthusiasm for being able to interpret the Wendigo a different way a second time was part of what made him want to do the episode." quite strange. I thought his secod chance to interpret the Wendigo had been THE LAST WINTER. Which would make this his third Wendigo flick in a row. Could be cool. I certainly trust Fessenden more than I'd trust Carpenter after how badly he botched the PRO-LIFE script.

  • July 14, 2008, 12:59 p.m. CST

    I a couple of episodes behind but I've enjoyed

    by jim

    this show. Not great but it has promise and I am a fan of anthology series. <p>I thought the vampire one (set in the Ginger Snaps 3 fort) was well done. <p>Eric Roberts' episode had some very creepy moments but was a bit too predictable.<p>The last one I saw, family man & serial killer switch bodies, was good but again not great. The actors did quite well in playing each other's characters. However, it seemed to me they may have changed the ending, or dropped a scene. They made such a big deal about the pancake breakfast (mentioned twice) and also the father's secret ingredient. Watching it I was certain we would see the little girl, suspecting her father is not really her father, test him by asking him what his secret ingredient is for pancakes. He would pause, then say "love" and right then the girl would know he's not her father. But I guess if that had happened I would have complained about it being predictable. It seemed so obviously like a bit of useless information that would later become very important. But in the end it was just useless information.

  • July 14, 2008, 1:06 p.m. CST

    My favorite Wendigo story...

    by godoffireinhell the novel WHERE THE CHILL WAITS by T. Chris Martindale. Not a very well known book, unfortunately, but though it is long out of print it can be tracked down fairly easily and cheaply. Stuart Gordon was once attached to adapt it...

  • July 14, 2008, 1:34 p.m. CST

    enjoyed the script

    by chokinonrhodes

    not bad at all mori. look forward to seeing it.

  • July 14, 2008, 1:49 p.m. CST

    anthology shows & the networks

    by filmfanatic1

    It's sad that networks produce anthology shows and the quality is so, so poor compared to TZ and OL. The best attempt recently was ABC's shot at Sci-Fi last summber; they barely released it and only 2 of the 6 were any good. Even Spielberg, with all the money and influence behind him, couldn't make a consistent show out of AS. So, can an anthology show work on TV, even if the original writers, like Ray Bradbury, are part of it? Unfortunately, no.

  • July 14, 2008, 2:10 p.m. CST

    Congrats Mori

    by rbrog77

  • July 14, 2008, 2:36 p.m. CST

    Way to go, Drew

    by Manos

    Hope you know that you're writing for those of us who have collected enough rejection notices to paper our living rooms. I'll be watching.

  • July 14, 2008, 2:48 p.m. CST

    Wendigo vs. Squashua!

    by Squashua

    I'd take 'em!

  • July 14, 2008, 3:07 p.m. CST


    by slkboxrman

    love the show....and whats the hate for the intro music ? its System of A Down..... and the music is quite fitting, creepy enuf for the show in my opinion.... god forbid u fanboys dont get horror movie music to stroke off too , losers.

  • July 14, 2008, 3:12 p.m. CST

    Mori, baby...

    by thegreatwhatzit

    When you pitch your own product, you need more of a Rod Serling panache (that guy could recite a grocery list and still sound/read ultra-cool). Anyway, best of luck on your endeavors. By the way, will FEAR be renewed?

  • July 14, 2008, 3:52 p.m. CST

    Mori... pretty good stuff.

    by Ninja Nerd

    Liked what I read. It will be interesting to see what the actors do with it. I saw "Wendigo" on cable a while back. Wasn't bad though perhaps a little weak in spots. Weird seeing the Dewey kid from Malcom In The Middle in a horror. I did get a nod to "Ravenous" from the "eat dinner with me" bit with Elena and Grady/Wendigo. That seems to be a common thread in cannibilism stories...the sharing of "the meat" bonds the participants on several levels. I'll be watching or taping on the 24th...this read like something I'd watch. Good job...

  • July 14, 2008, 4:02 p.m. CST


    by Jason B. Swaim

    Was Mori being so in regards to MK3? That is a movie I have been waiting on for almost a decade.

  • July 14, 2008, 4:05 p.m. CST

    imdb Writing Credits

    by Jason B. Swaim

    Kelly Kennemer as the writer for writer of Community. What gives? This airs on July 24, so what am I missig?

  • July 14, 2008, 4:45 p.m. CST


    by drew mcweeny

    ... nope. We got moved forward to the 24th. "Skin And Bones." That listing is out of date.

  • July 14, 2008, 8:04 p.m. CST

    Nice stuff Mori

    by Fish Tank

    Telling it you straight - I really liked Burns, and hated Pro Life. I can expand on why for both, but no need, really.<br><br>This script was a good read, and unless royally screwed up by the director, was well-paced. Exposition wasn't too obvious (though necessary when you can't have Morgan Freeman do a read-along). Interesting that I expected Tim would be used as a simpleton-that-let-him-in twist at the end, but I'm glad it actually didn't work out that way. Was that your intent, or did you originally plan on writing that arch?<br><br> I have a few unpublished short (horror) stories (LOOOOVE the genre), and write commercial and radio pieces as a creative director at an ad agency, so I'm always interested in "script/screenplay" treatments vs. actual published short stories. With script you have freedom to be exact with speech, but need to leave location descriptors vague enough for the director to add his/her own touch(es).<br><br> It'll be interesting to see their interpretation filming it. The script is solid, but God knows what happens when it's actually shot. You have a vested interest in this, so your view might not be as "objective" as the Talkback lions ;-)<br><br> Cheers.

  • July 14, 2008, 9:59 p.m. CST

    Masters of Horror

    by Guy Gaduois

    Has been neither masterful nor horrific. I did like Cigarette Burns, and not sucking up here, it was the only one that I thought didn't super exploit cliches. <p> So far, 'Fear Itself' has been unimpressive, yet I keep hoping. Many 'almost' moments, but nothing fitting the rarified opportunity for this genre. I'll keep hoping - rooting for you, Mori.

  • July 15, 2008, 12:04 a.m. CST

    Chuck rhymes with Suck

    by fiester

    Coincidence? I think not.

  • July 15, 2008, 2:37 a.m. CST

    Remake of 1963's "Vurdalak"

    by barneyshouldbeputdown

    Not bad. You basically revisited that segment of Mario Bava's BLACK SABBATH, using the Wendigo instead of Vampires (Vurdelak). Well, it's been 45 years. And while the original is good, it was ripe for being remade eventually. I can see where it could be scary if the performers are solid and it's shot and cut well. Wasn't crazy about the ending. Was hoping for some kind of smart twist. No offense, but Bava's ending was gutsier - everyone died.

  • July 15, 2008, 2:39 a.m. CST

    By the way...

    by barneyshouldbeputdown

    Congrats. I know it's a tough slog, getting one of these through the machine. I'll be watching to see the final result.

  • July 15, 2008, 10:35 p.m. CST

    This week's "Fear Itself" sounds good...

    by TheKappa

    New Years Day <br> "A young woman named Helen wakes up in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies." <p> Written by Steve Niles and Paul Kane and directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. <p> My girlfriend and I haven't missed an episode yet, so we'll be seeing yours when it airs for sure, Moriarty!

  • July 16, 2008, 1:50 a.m. CST

    Fear Itself - Miike Takashi episode ?

    by Miyamoto_Musashi

    Kidding, don't think he would know how to make something that could be shown on network TV. Imprint is insane.

  • July 17, 2008, 2:40 p.m. CST

    Kudos, Mori

    by The Harp

    Skin & Bones is a great read. I'll be TIVOing the episode tonight. Best of luck!