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Q&A: “KRAMPUS” Writers Todd Casey & Zach Shields talk “TRICK ‘R TREAT: DAYS OF THE DEAD”

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If anything can be said about Legendary as a production entity, it’s that they are very loyal to their content creators. Cementing relationships with both Guillermo del Toro and Michael Dougherty in the horror world, Legendary has boldly taken a stance towards more fantastic and imaginative horror than one might expect from microbudget-friendly world of studio horror. And while this begets films like the gorgeously gothic CRIMSON PEAK and the upcoming Christmas chiller KRAMPUS, this also bleeds into their comic book production as well, as Legendary turned to KRAMPUS writers Todd Casey and Zach Shields for their latest descent into the TRICK ‘R TREAT universe, DAYS OF THE DEAD. FANGORIA caught up with Casey and Shields just in time for Halloween to talk about their haunting horror comic, working with Dougherty and what TRICK ‘R TREAT fans have in store…

FANGORIA: This is the first TRICK ‘R TREAT comic to break the format of the film. How did that affect your approach to the storytelling?

TODD CASEY: We wanted to really take advantage of the fact that it’s a comic and thus, has no constraints about where in space and time the story can go. In film, jumping from 17th century Ireland to 1940s Los Angeles presents a budgetary challenge that’s just not there in the comics, so we decided to open the universe up as wide as we could.  We connected the stories thematically rather than criss-crossing the plot lines the way the feature did, which gave us a lot of freedom to play with different tones and genres.  

ZACH SHIELDS: We took it as an opportunity to explore the history of the holiday we love so much and take a peek behind the veil of Sam’s mythology and the inspirations for TRICK ‘R TREAT itself.

FANGORIA: How important was it to factor in authentic Halloween legends and archetypes into your story?

CASEY: We began in Ireland because we owe the Samhain festival to the Celts. They believed that, on October 31st, the boundary between the living and the dead was at its thinnest. It was a time to commune with the dead and, in a spiritual sense, remember that death begets life and is thus not to be feared.  But all the animal masks, bonfires, and women in power roles didn’t sit well with the people who arrived to spread their Christian God’s word. They tried to systematically eradicated that old Pagan magic and we had fun tracing their failure to do so over the next few centuries. Halloween’s celebration of life-beyond-death traces its way through each story. The final story takes a different look at what else you can do with that thin barrier, which I won’t spoil.  

FANGORIA: Did you receive any guidance or advice from Michael Dougherty before crafting your story?

CASEY: One winter afternoon, Zach, and I sat with Mike in his living room (which looks like the sort of place you might go to raise the dead) and painted the broad strokes for the four stories.  We worked closely on the scripts and, as deadlines loomed, sat in the same room swapping scenes and pages. Mike is the All-Father of the TRICK ‘R TREAT universe, so all the scripts ultimately went through him.

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FANGORIA: Was there any discussion into linking the stories aside from the thematic Halloween-esque elements?

CASEY: I’m not sure we ever circled any link as close as the one in the film, but we looked for ways to connect them beyond just Halloween, magic, and life after death.  We wanted to tell a story about the persecution of witches in Salem, but instead took it further back to the Pagans in Ireland.  The execution of witches in Europe began a cycle of persecution that we tried to reflect in each story.  Whether it’s religious (Pagans), ethnic (native peoples of North America), political (Socialists), or social (alternative lifestyles/non-conformity), those in the misunderstood minority suffer at the hands of those in power. The stories- however dark they go- offer some hope the people branded as enemies of those in power have allies on the other side.  

FANGORIA: What was the creative process like in balancing the strong horror visuals with a strong, original narrative?

CASEY: The shape of each story formed around the characters and context first, but we always knew we wanted a giant Halloween party in the last issue that would showcase a menagerie of monsters. We also picked artists who we thought would be most appropriate for each story. Zid’s art has a photo realistic and cinematic quality to it that felt right for the ‘80s Halloween tale. Stuart Sayger’s moody, surreal style made him the obvious choice for a noir story about a guy who might be losing his mind. Stephen Byrne’s art has a beauty and sweetness to it, which makes the violent twist in that story so much more horrifying. Mike [Dougherty] worked with Fiona Staples on the 2009 TRICK ‘R TREAT comic and was eager to bring her back. As a SAGA fan, I’m still in shock that we share credit on a comic.

FANGORIA: What do you think will most appeal to TRICK ‘R TREAT fans about DAYS OF THE DEAD?

CASEY: Hopefully, they’ll enjoy seeing some new dimensions to Sam. While he’s not front and center in the stories, each one reveals a little more about how he operates and what his motivations are. In D&D terms, he’s something closer to Chaotic Neutral than outright evil like a Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger.   

FANGORIA: Are there any other tales in the genre that you’re interested in telling, whether it be in another Trick R Treat tale or otherwise?

CASEY:  I’m a witch sympathizer and would love to explore that archetype as it translates to other cultures around the world. Latin America, South America, and Japan have all been areas of interest for me lately because of their folklore, but I can’t write about any of those places until I visit them.

SHIELDS: We’re definitely interested in more TRICK ‘R TREAT tales and hopefully we’ll get the chance to dive in further soon. Also, waking up from dreams. I’d like to think about that for a while and see what happens. I’m hoping it’s the flip side of thinking about death.

TRICK ‘R TREAT: DAYS OF THE DEAD is now available on shelves and online from Legendary Comics.

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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