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Q&A: Director Neil Marshall talks “TALES OF HALLOWEEN”

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As a horror fan and an admirer of cinema in general, it’s been a pleasure seeing Neil Marshall work outside of the feature film sandbox. Whether it’s redefining what can be done on television with groundbreaking episode of GAME OF THRONES (one of which was so epic that it became the first episode to be given an IMAX run), introducing the world to the gruesome ways of the Red Dragon on HANNIBAL or killing it on the dearly departed CONSTATINE, Marshall has been proving he’s still a forced to be reckoned with even outside of his comfort zone. And this is even true for Marshall’s latest, the climactic segment in the horror anthology TALES OF HALLOWEEN featuring a man-eating pumpkin, bloody practical effects and more easter eggs than one can count. With the film climbing the VOD charts, Marshall spoke to FANGORIA about developing his segment, the various terrifying tales and the one horror master he was unable to cast…

FANGORIA: So what inspired your segment of TALES OF HALLOWEEN, “Bad Seed”?

NEIL MARSHALL: I think I was shopping for vegetables , or maybe I was chopping up vegetables, and I had spent a whole week trying to come up with dark, scary ideas. But while I was looking at vegetables, I thought about how pumpkins are basically brutalized and slaughtered; their skin is carved and their guts are ripped out every Halloween. So I thought, “What if the pumpkins got their revenge on one Halloween, and what if it’s a genetically modified pumpkin so it’d be topical?”

It sort of fell into place after that, but that was when I knew I wanted to do something with a tongue-in-cheek tone. I mean, it’s a killer pumpkin movie; how serious can you take it? So I wanted to play it straight, have a few laughs, make it as gory as I possibly could and took it from there.

FANGORIA: Was it a conscious decision to do something more fun considering so many of the TALES OF HALLOWEEN are more fun than visceral or terrifying?

MARSHALL: When Axelle and I initially talked about doing TALES OF HALLOWEEN, we weren’t as concerned with tone as much as we wanted to make a “Halloween” movie. In fact, most of us involved think Halloween is both scary and fun, so we didn’t want to go for the same tone as, say, THE ABCs OF DEATH or V/H/S, which are played very straight and very dark, sometimes going for shock and controversy. We didn’t want to go down that route, and we love Halloween so we associate it with laughter as much as screaming. But it wasn’t like we talked about the tone and said, “Some of us should make funny ones, and some of us should do scary ones.”

FANGORIA: “Bad Seed” contains a lot of cameos, in-jokes and references to other TALES segments. What influenced that decision on a storytelling level?

MARSHALL: I don’t know. When I was growing up, I always watched the Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante films, and at that time, that’s how I became familiar with in-jokes. THE HOWLING is littered with in-jokes, and to be honest, it’s so much fun doing that since you’re not just doing it as a storyteller but as a fan. Maybe sometimes I’ll feel like I might be the only person who gets it, as if I’m blurring the line between myself and the audience, and then there’s other times where I think everyone is going to get it.

That’s what’s so much fun about it, and I relish that opportunity. I’ve had a lot of in-jokes in the films I’ve done in the past, and like with TALES, some people get them and other people don’t. But at the same time, they don’t impact the film; if someone goes in and doesn’t get more than half of the cameos and references in “Bad Seed,” it shouldn’t matter. It’s just a part of the storytelling to give it more character.

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FANGORIA: Are you an anthology fan? Were you excited to take part in an anthology or was that just a way to get The October Society together on one project?

MARSHALL: Well, it’s partly because it’s not only one way to work together but it’s the only way for us to work together. But the anthology format is also the closest thing to getting people around a campfire and telling ghost stories. That was an idea that was very cool, and with this film, it really feels like friends sitting around and telling stories but as movies instead of campfire tales.

FANGORIA: Was there anything originally you had written for “Bad Seed” that either didn’t make the cut or out of the scripting stages?

MARSHALL: Well, the only scene that I wrote that didn’t make it was when I was hoping John Carpenter would do a cameo, but unfortunately, we couldn’t convince him by the time filming came around.

FANGORIA: What was it like working with the special FX team to bring the killer pumpkin to life in “Bad Seed”?

MARSHALL: As a director, when you’re creating a monster for real, it’s great fun to watch it come to fruition. When I was planning the segment, I felt that the pumpkin should be achieved as practically as possible as to feel like the great monster movies of the past. Even if the segment is a bit campy, it worked out unbelievably and I’m very, very happy with that.

FANGORIA: “Bad Seed” almost ends with the biggest cliffhanger of all the TALES segments. Should a sequel ever be a possibility, would you want to continue with the next chapter in that storyline or do something completely new?

MARSHALL: Well, if we had maybe ten times the budget, I could continue that story! [laughs] We’ll see; I could still be tempted to come back and tell another tale, or maybe take some of the characters in “Bad Seed” onto a different tale. But I wouldn’t want to jump the gun until we come out and see how we do. If there’s a demand for a sequel and more TALES, then I suspect a lot of us would want to answer the call.

TALES OF HALLOWEEN is currently on VOD , iTunes and more digital platforms as well as in select theaters from Epic Pictures.

About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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