Greg Nicotero has worked on some testing shoots, from his early days assisting fellow special effects wizard Tom Savini on George A. Romero’s 1985 zombie classic Day of the Dead to his executive-producing, and directing, of AMC’s The Walking Dead. But Nicotero found overseeing Shudder’s new anthology horror series Creepshow, which will premiere later this year, his most difficult professional task to date.
“I was very ambitious and attacked Creepshow with a lot of tenacity,” says Nicotero. “We were set to do six episodes, but I insisted that we shoot twelve stories in six episodes, because I wanted that Creepshow feel. So, we ended up having to create an entirely new universe, with an entirely new cast, every three and a half days.”
And at what specific point did Nicotero most regret that decision?
“Ugh, every night, when I couldn’t sleep, because I was trying to figure out how we were going to do it!” he says. “It was crazy. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” But worth the effort, it seems. “Now that I’m seeing it coming together, and putting all the icing on the cake, it’s pretty spectacular,” he says.
Creepshow is inspired by the Romero-directed 1982 film of the same name, which itself paid homage to the famously gruesome EC and DC horror comics of the ’50s. The movie was written by Stephen King and starred the author and his then young son Joe Hill as well as Adrienne Barbeau, Hal Holbrook, Ted Danson, Leslie Nielsen, and E.G. Marshall. Several of those involved in Romero’s movie are contributing to the show, in an assortment of ways. Creepshow features segments based on stories by both King and Hill — “Gray Matter” and “By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain,” respectively — and Barbeau is among the series’ stars. Other returning Creepshow veterans include Savini, who was responsible for the fabulously horrible effects on the original film and is directing the Hill adaptation, and John Harrison, who composed the movie’s score and is directing several segments.
“They’re all my friends,” says Nicotero. “When you’re presented with an opportunity like this, number one, you want to pay tribute to what they have contributed to the industry, but also you always dream about working with your friends. That’s sort of the Mount Olympus of being a filmmaker, is to surround yourself with your friends, and create these great tales together. So, it seemed like a no-brainer to have John Harrison be a part of the show as a writer and director, and Tom Savini, and Adrienne. I even hired Rick Catizone, who was the same animator who did the animation for the original Creepshow, because it so inspired me at that time. I felt it lends a very special authenticity to the project that is important to me.”
Nicotero himself has a long history with the franchise, which also includes 1987’s Creepshow 2 — on which he worked as a special effects artist — and 2006’s Creepshow 3. “Creepshow was such a big part of my childhood,” he says. “I was invited by the Romeros to the cast and crew screening, so I went to the theater when I was [a teenager], and saw Creepshow in the movie theater.
Newbie cast members include genre favorites Tobin Bell and Jeffrey Combs, musicians Kid Cudi and Big Boi, DJ Qualls, Giancarlo Esposito, Bruce Davison, David Arquette, Dana Gould, and Tricia Helfer from Battlestar Galactica.
“Tricia stars in an episode called ‘Lydia Lane’s Better Half,’ based on a story that I wrote,” says Nicotero. “It’s a take on an old Mario Bava movie. I always loved Tricia. She plays a strong female executive who finds herself in this untenable supernatural situation that she can’t control.”
“Lydia Lane’s Better Half” is directed by producer-turned-director Roxanne Benjamin (XX, Body at Brighton Rock), one of several Creepshow folks representing the new guard of behind-the-scenes horror creators.
“Extending the umbrella to younger up-and-coming filmmakers was very important to me,” says Nicotero. “I didn’t want it to appear that I was turning my back on the new generation of filmmakers, and Roxanne did a great job. Getting David Bruckner (The Ritual), and Roxanne Benjamin, and Rob Schrab (The Sarah Silverman Program) in to direct episodes — I was really fortunate that these guys wanted to come onboard.”
The Creepshow panel at San Diego Comic-Con with Greg Nicotero, Tricia Helfer, Joe Hill, Adrienne Barbeau, Giancarlo Esposito, and DJ Qualls takes place Friday, July 19 in Room 6BDF.
See the show’s just-released poster, below.
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