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'Game of Thrones' director Neil Marshall on creating killer pumpkins for 'Tales of Halloween'

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If you are a horror director who didn’t work in some capacity on the new anthology film Tales of Halloween, it’s possible you might not actually be a horror director. Okay, we exaggeratebut maybe not by much. Set for release this Halloween season, and currently being showcased at the Berlin Film Festival, the movie boasts stories directed by Mike Mendez (Big Ass Spider!), Lucky McKee (All Cheerleaders Die), and Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, The Devil’s Carnival), among others. Meanwhile, the list of filmmakers making onscreen appearances includes Joe Dante (Gremlins), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London), Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator) and Adam Green (Hatchet).

Another filmmaker very much involved in the project is Brit Neil Marshall, the director of modern horror classic The Descent and the “Blackwater” episode of Game of Thrones, whose wife, Axelle Carolyn, is another Tales of Halloween auteur, and one of its producers. “It’s a love letter to Halloween,” says Marshall of the film. “Axelle and I came over from the U.K., where we’ve always kind of celebrated Halloween, but not in a big way. So, coming here, especially in L.A., where Halloween is huge, we love being a part of that. Each of our little stories are tributes to the things that we love about Halloween.”

Below, Marshall talks more about Tales of Halloween, his recent directing stint on Hannibal, and why you should think twice before you carve your next jack-o’-lantern.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The stories in Tales of Halloween are interconnected. How much did the directors communicate about their respective scripts?

NEIL MARSHALL: Basically, we were all in communication from the very start. As soon as we came up with the stories, we’d communicate with each other just to make sure two of us weren’t doing the same story. It was important that we had a really good mix. Then there are characters that come and go throughout and link them all. The idea was that it’s all set in the same town, a kind of Everytown, U.S.A., where all these events happen. So we wanted certain characters and certain background elements that would link them all together. Some of it is like an Easter Egg, that you’ll spot the more times you watch it, some of it is really obvious.

I read that your story is like Jaws, but with a pumpkin.

Well, yeah, it’s a little bit of Jaws, a little bit of Gremlins. All these pumpkins get massacred every year, they get stabbed, and their guts ripped out, and turned into jack-o’-lanterns. Thousands, millions of them! I thought, Well, what if this pumpkin came to life and sought revenge for all the dead pumpkins? And what if it was like a genetically-modified super-pumpkin? I wanted to say something about genetically-modified crops, I wanted to say something about Halloween, and this idea popped into my head of a killer pumpkin. I thought the image of a pumpkin going around biting people’s heads off would be a lot of fun. Then I thought, well, let’s make it a detective story, a cop trying to track down this killer pumpkin, and took it from there. Tone-wise it’s a very dark comedy, rather than straight-up scary. I think a killer pumpkin can only be so scary. [Laughs

Who is in your tale?

Kristina Klebe and Pat Healy are playing the two leads. But pretty much all the other directors are in mine in, one way or another. I’ve got Joe Dante in there cameo-ing, I’ve got Adam Green playing a cop, I’ve got Greg McLean, the director of Wolf Creek, in there as well. There’s a police station scene which has pretty much all the directors. I even managed to get John Savage to come in and be in that scene, which was just amazing. 

You said it tips a hat towards Gremlins. Did Joe Dante offer any advice?

He didn’t, actually. I think when you’re a director on somebody else’s set, you keep your mouth shut. He was an absolute pleasure to have around. But he didn’t offer me any advice. Maybe he should have done! [Laughs]

What’s next for you?

I’ve literally just got back from Toronto. I’ve been shooting an episode of Hannibal

Is Hannibal going to get even crazier this season?

It continues to be pretty crazy, yes. Although my episode is relatively normal, I guess.

If you don’t mine me saying so, that sounds like a waste of Neil Marshall’s talents!

Oh no, it’s still outrageous. But by Hannibal standards? It’s more traditional horror and blood and guts.