Ken-With an interview of Greg Nicotero for the release of CREEPSHOW Season 1.
CREEPSHOW’s first season was a massive success for Shudder. Greg and his team, took the old Creepshow anthology and created something new out of it. Each episode consists of two, twenty minute stories. They are all based in horror, with some favoring the comedy, others the gore, others the mystery to be solved.
My favorite would have to be THE HOUSE OF THE HEAD. It follows a little girl’s dollhouse. One day, she notices a head haunting her dolls. She moves the dolls and the head and when she returns it’s clear some Toy Story action is going on when she turns off the lights. It’s a lot of fun, a little bit chilling, and make you eager to solve the riddle of what’s going on.
CREEPSHOW left me feeling nostalgic, while opening up all sorts of new doors for the series. The budget seemed to be the only thing holding it back. Since we already know there will be a season 2 with all the original crew, I think it’s safe to say that CREEPSHOW fans will be pleasantly surprised with its second season. That and it will come with a larger budget.
Without further ado, Greg Nicotero.
Ken Lewis: How you doing today Greg?
Greg Nicotero: Hey Freddy. I’m doing well. You down in Austin or somewhere else?
KL: I’m in California. Exciting Sacramento to be exact.
CREEPSHOW Season 1 was a lot of damn fun. I loved all the homages to the original CREEPSHOW, Stephen King, and there was even a little clip of THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD playing in the background of one of the episodes.
GN: That was actually an homage to HALLOWEEN. They were playing that clip in HALLOWEEN. So I got a two for one, in that one!
KL: (Laughs) I didn’t put that together. Nice job on the double entendre.
Besides the budget, what was the hardest part of putting the new series together?
GN: I’ve spent the last 10 years working on THE WALKING DEAD. To deal with an anthology every three and a half days, you’re dealing with a new set of actors, new characters, new sets, new stories and in some instances, even a new director. That was probably the hardest aspect of this shoot. It reminded me of working for Universal in the late 70’s when NIGHT GALLERY was going on. Or even working for Corman where they just repurpose sets. You’re working on the set one day and you come in the next day and it’s completely flipped into a different set for a new episode. I was really amazed at how adept our crew was at making it all happen. They all got into it for the same reasons. They loved my vision for CREEPSHOW and everyone was really excited. I am proud to say that every single person that worked on season 1 is coming back for season 2. So, it’s pretty exciting.
KL: Yeah, that’s really cool. It’s rare to be able to do that.
GN: It’s rare and it’s challenging. We’re on a lower budget. I’m sure there’s lots of shows that come in with more money. I think because of my background as a makeup effects technician and working as a director. It gives me an advantage in terms of being able to collaborate with my team and speak in their language. With my production staff, every morning I’d walk the sets as they were being built. I’d walk in her office and ask her questions and she’d respond, “You know, this never happens. We never have the show runner in the same room as us, where we can actually visualize things together.” I’m really grateful that I get that opportunity.
KL: One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in life is to speak to everyone at the same level. Love that you practice that at yours.
In the new series you use a healthy mix of practical effects and computer generated effects. Since you’re in the middle of it, do you see a future for practical effects or are they on borrowed time?
GN: Well, you know. There’s always a balance. Digital effects have indeed revolutionized the way we can tell our stories. My pedigree and the pedigree of the original CREEPSHOW was practical effects. I thought it much better lent to the visual aesthetic of the show. We tried to do as much practical, as we could. To be honest, we didn’t really have a lot of money for digital effects. There’s only a few CG shots in the actual show. We spent more money erasing lights out of the shot and things like that.
I thought with WALKING DEAD, when it premiered it sort of reintroduced practical effects to a new generation of people. I noticed a big uptick in interest in people wanting to do makeup effects. When DAWN OF THE DEAD came out, that made me want to do makeup effects. I wanted to get into the business any way that I could.
I feel I’ve come full circle, because I was able to give my experience to an entirely new generation of people. They saw it every night on the television and they were like, wait a minute. That’s a job? I can glue something to their face and paint it and make it look they’re rotting? So I was really excited. Between GAME OF THRONES and AMERICAN HORROR STORY, there’s a really good mix of practical and CG. I feel like practical effects are making a comeback and are deemed more necessary than say between 1995 and 2005.
KL: You’re basically bridging both worlds.
GN: You have an occasion for every tool. In GREY MATTER when Richie transforms into the monster at the end. I really wanted to channel AKIRA. That fantastic ending where he sort of evolves and grows into that great creature and enters the stadium at the end of AKIRA. I knew we would never be able to do that practically. So I used computer graphics for that. At the end of Savini’s episode, By The Silver Water Of Lake Champlain, we did that all in miniature. This season we are going to lean into more miniature work because I feel like we have all the tools at our disposal. Especially with KNB EFX behind us.
We got notified that there was only time for one more question. While I really wanted to talk about his acting credit as the lopped off hand in EVIL DEAD II, I went in another direction. That somehow connected to the question I wanted to ask in the first place. ARGH!
KL: You brought up KNB EFX. That’s become Quentin Tarantino’s preferred team. How did you two hook up and did you realize then, how iconic that ear slicing scene from RESERVOIR DOGS would become?
GN: I met Quentin through Scott Spiegel. Scott wrote EVIL DEAD II with Sam Raimi and Scotty and I became fast friends. That’s how I met Quentin. Quentin was doing script polishes for all these different companies. In the meantime he had written NATURAL BORN KILLERS and TRUE ROMANCE. Those were just spec scripts that he had written. Then he wrote RESERVOIR DOGS and I ended up getting involved because Lawrence Bender who had produced INTRUDER, which was Scott Spiegel’s first movie, was producing RESERVOIR DOGS. I remember reading that script for the first time and calling in Howard and Bob and telling them I have never read anything like this before. The dialogue was so. Like, I couldn’t put it down. I was so enthralled with it and just knew it was different. Cutting the ear off and all that stuff. We made the ears and we shot it all but what I always find so interesting is that, you don’t actually see the ear cut off in the movie. Michael Madsen walks over and the camera pans away and then Mike walks into the shot holding a rubber ear. Quentin very intelligently left that to the imagination. However, if you ask ten people, what do you think about the scene where the ear is removed in RESERVOIR DOGS? 9 out of 10 are convinced that they saw that ear get cut off. I’m still blown away by that.
KL: Thanks for all that history, really appreciate it man. Congrats on the new series and good luck!
GN: Thanks Freddy!
Stay safe out there everyone!
Ken Lewis (AKA: Freddy Beans)