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Author-turned-filmmaker—in addition to editor, actor,
musician and screenwriter—John Skipp (pictured) has a history of being entrenched in the
horror genre, and this remains true now more than ever.
Well-known for his work in the splatterpunk subgenre, having
collaborated on many such novels in the ‘80s with fellow author Craig Spector,
he is also famous amongst horror-lit fans for editing the 1989 anthology BOOK
OF THE DEAD. In addition, he helped dream up the story for A NIGHTMARE ON ELM
STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD and even appeared as a corpse in Clive Barker’s
Skipp has now entered an era that he describes as “possibly
the most intense time of my entire weird career.” While continuing to toil away
on the zombie/puppet musical ROSE (which he last discussed with us here),
he recently teamed up with filmmaker Andrew Kasch. Their first short, STAY AT
HOME DAD (written by Cody Goodfellow), is, as Skipp puts it, currently “splaying
its awesome Lovecraftian man-boobs across the festival circuit,” and took the
Bronze Audience award at Montreal’s Fantasia international film festival.
also has three books out this fall, including PSYCHOS (published by Black Dog
& Leventhal), an anthology containing work by Thomas Harris, Robert Bloch,
Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale and many others; THE
DARK, a novel by Scott Bradley and Peter Giglio, published by Skipp’s Ravenous
Shadows company; and SICK CHICK FLICKS, a “twisted triple bill of fem-o-centric
horror screenplays” written by Skipp and published by Cemetery Dance, which he
discusses with FANGORIA below.
FANGORIA: What inspired you to write three horror scripts
centered on strong female protagonists?
JOHN SKIPP: I’ve always loved writing interesting characters
for women, because women are interesting, and I’m a big fan [laughs]. But when
I got to Hollywood, and started meeting incredible actresses who brought so
much more talent and potential to the table than the roles they were typically
offered, it kind of turned into a personal crusade. THE LEGEND OF HONEY LOVE
sprang almost entirely from making friends with Emily Procter, in the years
just before she became America’s forensic sweetheart on CSI: MIAMI. She was
such a quick-witted, strong-willed, kind-hearted, luminous kick-ass beauty that
it made me want to write characters who were at least half as much fun to be
around as she was. Both Honey and Delilah [from AFTERPARTY] were inspired by
her. Two completely different characters—neither of them her—but both roles
that I knew she could totally kill.
Same with ROSE, which was inspired by a fantastic comedienne
named Rachel Arieff, and then handed over to Chase McKenna, the astonishing
actress who now completely inhabits the role. As I transition from novelist to
filmmaker, one of my biggest goals is to create as many amazing parts for women
as I can, thereby leaving only 50 percent of the amazing ones for men. I hope
that doesn’t sound too crazy.
FANG: What were your influences for these screenplays?
They’re quite unlike anything else we’ve read—or seen!
SKIPP: Thanks! These are three of my favorite stories that
never wound up as novels. I just love how they read as scripts, and would much
rather make the films than write the books. So I eventually went, “F**k it!
Let’s do it as a book of screenplays!” And fortunately, Cemetery Dance agreed.
AFTERPARTY was inspired by an amazing Malibu estate I
location-scouted for another project altogether. From the moment we drove
through the gate, the place just knocked me out, and the entire story tracks my
walking tour of the mansion and grounds, pretty much in the order they appeared.
I spent three hours exploring every inch of the place, taking copious notes,
going, “Man, this place is sooooo haunted.” [Laughs]
By the time I got home, the story was pouring out of me,
almost too fast to catch. I had it all laid out within 48 hours, and two months
later, I had a polished first draft that was 89 percent of what you see in the
book. An incredibly pure creative experience, where the location just stepped
up and said, “Here’s my story. Go.”
On the other hand: This past New Year’s Eve, I watched Peter
Jackson’s MEET THE FEEBLES and DEAD ALIVE as a double bill for the first time
since the early ’90s, when I used to screen those puppies in my living room for
parties all the time. And as my friend and I were halfway into DEAD
ALIVE—‘cause I always do FEEBLES first—I suddenly went, “Jesus Christ! You put
these two movies together, and that’s the hole that ROSE fell out of! Puppets
and zombies. Wow.” Seriously, I had never put that entirely obvious connection
FANG: AFTERPARTY in particular has a very unique storyline.
Can you expand upon your inspiration for the dichotomy between the two
afterlives, as well as the moral-fable element of the story? You mention THE
TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD in the script—was this an inspiration as well?
SKIPP: Not to give too much away or anything, but yeah: As
THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD suggests, death is a) not the end, and b) not
necessarily the worst thing that can happen. Which is to say, there are things
worse than death. I know that totally f**ks with the standard “Oh, no! Don’t
kill me!” default position on why horror is scary; I’m not saying dying isn’t
scary, ’cause it totally is. But both AFTERPARTY and THE LEGEND OF HONEY
LOVE—and actually ROSE, when you get down to it—are all way more concerned with
why life matters than with how horrible it is to get killed. And that might be
the biggest point of distinction between these stories and most other horror
stories making the rounds right now. That said: These scripts are all crawling
with horrible death. So it ain’t like I’m slacking off on the hardcore horror
FANG: In the AFTERPARTY afterword, Cody Goodfellow compares
that script to GHOST, but with “the rules radically changed up.”
SKIPP: GHOST and JACOB’S LADDER were a one-two punch of mainstream
success and groundbreaking imagination, respectively, both penned by Bruce Joel
Rubin. Both movies I loved, not just because they were great, but also because
they surfed the same kinds of waves I’m always surfing. But was I consciously
trying to riff on GHOST? No. I was just trying to write a cool ghost movie from
FANG: You’ve mentioned before that ROSE was crowd-funded;
can you talk a bit about how you were able to get this film financed?
SKIPP: I wish I could announce that ROSE is fully financed.
But the successful $20,000 Kickstarter campaign we threw allowed us to shoot
enough zombie and puppet action to attract the closing funds we need. And we’re
so close it’s ridiculous. There’s even talk of a TV series, which I would very
FANG: ROSE has a lot of surrealistic elements. What are your
plans to capture this on camera? Are you primarily using practical FX or CGI?
SKIPP: I’d say the ratio is 95 percent practical, with just
a bit of CG icing on the cake. When you’ve got puppets and zombies this cool,
you wanna play with ’em by hand [laughs].
FANG: Are there plans to make AFTERPARTY or HONEY LOVE into
films yet? And if so, will you be producing/directing or passing them over to
someone else’s hands?
SKIPP: Andrew and I are prepping a whole slate of films,
most definitely including those two. That’s the great thing about having a
large body of work; we are not short on material. Right now, the focus is on
ROSE and THE LONG LAST CALL, my strip-club horror story for which we just shot
an awesome trailer—I wish we could show you guys. But yes, we intend to make
those films. And hopefully, SICK CHICK FLICKS will goose that process.
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