The Chiller channel continues its CHILLING VISIONS anthology film franchise, begun last year with FIVE SENSES OF FEAR, with FIVE STATES OF FEAR, premiering this Friday, July 11 at 9 p.m. Fango got a sneak peek at two episodes, a couple of exclusive photos and words from the directors.
The segments making up CHILLING VISIONS: FIVE STATES OF FEAR include two by the Glass Eye Pix gang, produced by Larry Fessenden and Jennifer Wexler: “The Trouble With Dad,” directed by I SELL THE DEAD’s Glenn McQuaid, written by McQuaid and Clay McLeod Chapman and starring Peter B. Rogan (1st photo below), Bridget Dolan and Chapman; and “The Caregiver,” written and directed by I CAN SEE YOU’s Graham Reznick and starring Jeff Kaplan (2nd photo), Kersten Haile and Mickey Keating. The other three are “Sandy,” written and directed by ANIMAL’s Brett Simmons; “Tick Warning,” written and directed by John Poliquin of the GRAVE ENCOUNTERS movies; and “Ghost Daughter,” written and directed by Zao Wang.
Fango was lucky enough to attend a special screening of “Dad” and “Caregiver,” both taut, creepy tales that make the most of their limited locations and casts, each with a nifty sting in its tail. Watching them was like traveling back to the days of the great Laurel Entertainment TV shows like TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE and MONSTERS, and in a Q&A following the screening with the cast and creators, McQuaid and Reznick noted another past influence as well as, in the former’s case, a personal connection to the material.
“Clay and I had three or four ideas and actually wrote three scripts,” McQuaid says, “and we settled on ‘The Trouble With Dad,’ which to me was the most personal because my father had Alzheimer’s and died as a result of that, so it’s a fear of mine to follow in his footsteps. I wanted to channel something a little more personal than I’d done before in film, so that’s kind of where that came from. And also the paranoia of ending up in a situation where you’re relying on people who are just going to f**k with you completely; that’s another big fear I have. Then there’s the continued influence of the EC horror comics—and not just the horror books. They had a series called CRIME SUSPENSTORIES, and the artist Johnny Craig has always been a big influence of mine. Any time I’m coming up with ideas, I’m like, ‘Well, can I imagine that as a Johnny Craig cover?’ The last shot [of ‘Dad’] is heavily influenced by CRIME SUSPENSTORIES.”
“Well, nothing that happened in my story happened to me,” Reznick says, “but Glenn and I are both huge EC fans, and we also love the tradition of films by Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma.” Citing another common background, he says, “Glass Eye, specifically Glenn and Larry, had an audio series called TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE, some of which were recorded in front of audiences, and Clay has hosted a lot of these events and written a few, so the vibe that the two [segments] share also derives from our work on that.”
“Yeah, I would say so, definitely,” notes McQuaid, who also contributed to the first of the V/H/S horror omnibus features. “TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE sustained me for a few years in between making movies. The initial concept behind it was to be able to keep busy and got content out there. Initially, when Larry came up with the idea, it was inspired by audio dramas, but also the idea that we and all of our friends had stories and scripts we were sitting on. So the idea of getting stuff out there was a huge element of my life for the last couple of years, just being able to stay creative and not needing a half million dollars to get content out there.”
After Chiller came to Fessenden (who directed the killer-fish flick BENEATH for the network) seeking his recommendations for filmmakers to work on FIVE STATES, and Fessenden suggested McQuaid and Reznick, the duo pitched for all five “states of fear” the movie is concerned with. When it came to the American States, McQuaid set “Trouble With Dad” in the wilds of Minnesota, while “Caregiver” takes place in Hollywood, and once their stories were settled, Reznick recalls, “There were definitely restrictions, mostly having to do with TV. I would have had a much raunchier sex scene; it would have been about seven minutes long [laughs].”
“Me too!” McQuaid chimes in.
Reznick, a recent transplant to the West Coast himself, continues, “I didn’t really set it in anywhere in particular [at first], and once I realized it could be about California newscasters, I made clear my feelings about California newscasters! Otherwise, I made it the way I would make a movie [on the East Coast]—which was difficult. We made these on incredibly low budgets, and when you know a lot of people in an area, you can bring people on. Jen and I and Gordon [Arkenberg, the cinematographer] were transplants to the West Coast, so it was very difficult putting it together in just a couple days. It was an interesting trial by fire.”
On the other hand, McQuaid found a comfort zone in collaborating with another TALES veteran. “I felt really lucky that I was working with Clay,” he says, “I felt like we were tapping into something interesting and important to me and I got lucky with the actors. Everyone committed completely, and we really got into it. I’m a work in progress as a director, and we really rolled up our sleeves and got to the heart of the characters. It was very important that we didn’t tip the hat too much and play it with a hint to what the characters are up to. We just tried to play it as sort of straight-faced as possible, and in the initial talks, we discussed the idea that it’s a Ken Loach movie that kind of gets hijacked and turns into CREEPSHOW. I loved what the cast brought to it, and I was just very happy with everyone involved. It was a wonderful experience restored my faith that I could do this.”