In honor of his birthday, our team celebrates our favorite genre gems from Mick Garris’ illustrious career as writer, director, and creator.
Intro by Richard Tanner
There are very few people who encompass the Rock and Roll attitude of art. Even in horror, a genre that thrives in that gritty down-home sound, most abandon their roots. The legends are the ones who have breakout success from their indie origins but still remain loyal to them. Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, John Carpenter…they are all Masters of their craft. But one name has always stood out to me because he is such a true fan of the macabre.
The maestro, Mick Garris!
Mick got into horror like all of us because he loved it. He watched it as a kid and then showed up to the sets and did anything he could to be part of the magic. And magic did happen. Mick Garris, with the hair of a head banger, is still banging outantastic flicks, and he is still a true fan of the genre.
Hail Rock n Roll, and hail Mick Garris!
1. THE FLY II (1982) – WRITER
A love letter by S. Michael Simms
Keep being very, very afraid – your franchise could get stopped in its tracks when your sequel fizzles with most critics and a lot of fans due to too many chiefs and not enough Indians “running this monkey show” as Captain Rhodes was wont to say.
Mick Garris is only one of five other writers to have taken a crack at The Fly II, including fellow Stephen King collaborator Frank Darabont, before walking away from the project due to “creative differences”.
Garris, who was the first writer approached for the 1988 sequel to the hugely successful Cronenberg adaptation of the 1958 masterpiece two years earlier, drafted a screenplay in which Geena Davis’s character Veronica was convinced to go through with her pregnancy by “a religious organization” which then kidnapped the child.
The script had Martin, the son of Seth Brundle, and several fellow children who were also “freaks” escaping into Los Angeles and forming a gang of sorts. Martin then developed powers, which included being able to communicate with insects.
Two major elements of Garris’ initial draft remained in the finished product.
His contributions include Martin’s accelerated aging and the idea of him being a prisoner, originally of a cult that morphed into Bartok Industries in the final draft.
However, Garris’ main, indirect contribution may have been the underlying Freaks-inspired theme which appears to have carried over into the finished product’s memorable ending that was practically lifted directly from the 1932 Universal classic.
We may never know if Garris himself was responsible for the best part of the film (horror fans, you know what I’m talking about — acid vomit to the face, baby), but it’s fun to speculate.
Garris would go on to include similar jaw-dropping gore in a few of his later projects, though arguably none could top the sheer goriness of that iconic FX in The Fly II.
2. AMAZING STORIES: LIFE ON DEATH ROW (1986) – WRITER (STORY)/DIRECTOR
A love letter by S. Michael Simms
Okay, horror fans, name the first story that was directed by a guy known for his Stephen King adaptations that features a man with healing powers on death row who is executed despite his amazing abilities and the best efforts of friendly prison personnel.
If you said Frank Darabont’s The Green Mile, you are incorrect.
The answer is, in fact, a story written and directed by none other than Mick Garris thirteen years before Michael Clark Duncan took a ride on Ol’ Sparky. ‘Twas an “Amazing Story” to be exact: Amazing Stories Season 2, Episode 7: Life on Death Row, starring an up-and-coming, pre-Dirty Dancing Patrick Swayze and veteran character actor Hector Elizondo (Chicago Hope, Grey’s Anatomy).
Garris had written several episodes of the popular show and shown his directorial abilities with several “The Making of…” featurettes, but his talent was already being recognized by producers like Spielberg.
His mini-masterpiece is nestled between episodes directed by Joe Dante and Robert Zemeckis, which shows the sort of company with whom Garris was rubbing elbows at the time.
Of course, no one can know how much of an influence this story may have had on Stephen King when he went on to pen The Green Mile as a serial some ten years later. But it is a pretty amazing coincidence that there were so many similarities to a story by someone known to have collaborated with King on many projects.
I have to say, it was a little surreal going back and watching Swayze ride the lightning, knowing that he passed in 2009; it made me a little sad. But the story was so good, and the ending so perfect, that I couldn’t help but be grateful to Mick Garris for creating this little gem.
Amazing Stories undoubtedly helped further his career and entertained the hell out of a lot of families who were tuning in to the popular series back in ’86.
3. CRITTERS 2: THE MAIN COURSE (1988) – WRITER/DIRECTOR
A love letter by Danni Winn
After earning his stripes answering phones at Lucas Film, making behind-the-scenes featurettes for some of the biggest blockbusters (Goonies, The Thing), and writing award-winning episodes of Steven Spielberg’s, Amazing Stories, Mick Garris was handed the task of heading the follow-up to the surprise low-budgeted success of 1986’s Critters.
Humble and bordering on self-deprecating, Garris over the years has continued to almost downplay the significance Critters 2 plays within the genre.
Two years after the original, and riding high on the heels of fellow-creature features such as Gremlins and Ghoulies, Mick ends up making another significant mark for himself here.
Many would shy away from directing such a film, especially a horror sequel, which seemed to be the least glamorous gig in those days, but Garris appears to fully embrace this opportunity awarded to himself.
In his feature filmmaking debut with Critters 2: The Main Course, Mick Garris took on an extraordinary amount of responsibilities.
This included special/visual effects and puppets, in addition to directing a large cast that included kids and animals. Garris even did some voiceover work for the Crites.
In a rare piece of Easter horror, Critters 2 serves up a winning combination of 1980’s MPAA appropriate PG-13 fare, a talented cast including Lin Shaye and Barry Corbin, and the titular creatures that highlight the evolving Chiodo Brothers genius.
Fresh off their stint upon Killer Klowns from Outer Space, the brothers come in delivering a more fierce and furry foe than in its predecessor which they also helped to conceptualize.
Garris has said in the past that on the opening night of Critters 2, at a theater in Universal City, California, only three people were in the audience. His debut may not have been monumental in his eyes, but to fans, Mick Garris is the undersung yet indispensable creator and ambassador to our favorite genre.
Balancing comedy, horror, a fresh perspective with a steadfast reverence to the original, Critters 2 is one of the best horror sequels ever created in my opinion.
4. FREDDY’S NIGHTMARES: KILLER INSTINCT (1988) – DIRECTOR
A love letter by S. Michael Simms
Freddy’s Nightmares was an okay anthology series that I watched as a teenager and enjoyed…except for one episode which gave me actual nightmares. It was so disturbing that I turned it off halfway through and didn’t watch the rest till 30 years later in preparation for this retrospective.
Leave it to Mick Garris to make the one episode I remember the most out of the whole series.
It goes a little something like this: A high school (all high schoolers were played by twentysomethings in the ‘80s) track runner trying to compete in the shadow of her mother’s record-setting legacy finds out that a good luck charm her mom used has the power to help her win races…as well as eliminate the competition. Whenever she sees a horrific vision in the charm, a version of it becomes reality, such as when one of her professors begins choking to death on cotton during a lecture in the vision and has a fatal asthma attack in front of the class.
Like most TV anthologies, this episode, entitled Killer Instinct (of course Freddy couldn’t help himself with the dumb puns) had a decided “E.C. Comics” feel to it.
The protagonist uses the good luck charm to win some races but also to hurt a couple of people who piss her off. Unfortunately for her, a jealous friend discovers her secret and steals the charm, causing her to be decapitated by the finishing ribbon in a vision that breaks her neck in an “accidental fall” in real life.
The decapitation was so horrific and unexpected that I immediately turned off my little black & white TV in my bedroom and struggled to get to sleep for the next several nights, always thinking of that episode over the years whenever someone reached a finish line at school or in the Olympics.
I kind of wish I had just kept that memory as it was though, as the rest of the episode sort of spirals into mediocrity.
That’s not to say it isn’t a great episode; for it to have had a profound effect on me for thirty years, it has to have done something right.
But the first half was more effective in my young mind than the second half in my jaded, been-there-done-that adult mind. I’m certain if I’d had the guts to finish watching it as a kid, I would have enjoyed the standard vengeful ghost story presented in the second half.
As it stands, Mick Garris’s episode of Freddy’s Nightmares, Season 1: Episode 3 is still responsible for some of the worst/best nightmares I ever had, so for that I am both grateful and vengeful!
If I ever meet him, I will have an internal debate on whether to shake his hand or kick him in the nuts.
Also, how fun must it have been to work on Freddy’s Friggin’ Nightmares? There will be no balance in the cosmos till the series is released on a disc or streaming service.
Mick, thanks for the memories. Fucker.
5. PSYCHO IV: THE BEGINNING (1990) – DIRECTOR
A love letter by S. Michael Simms
What is it with Mick Garris and creepy, incestuous mothers? Of course, Psycho IV predates Sleepwalkers by a few years, but the scene — or at least a main subplot — that everyone seems to remember most from both pictures is a mother crossing sexual boundaries with her son.
Thankfully in Psycho IV, Norma Bates, played to frenetic perfection by Olivia Hussey (Stephen King’s IT, Black Christmas) snaps back to her psychotic senses before the situation she herself initiated can be consummated. But as a teenager watching things unfold on Showtime in 1990 — with my mom in the room — it was uncomfortable, to say the least.
That wasn’t the only uncomfortable thing about Psycho IV, though.
Norman Bates (played again wonderfully by Anthony Perkins just two years before his untimely death from AIDS) and his bizarre motivation for calling a radio show to discuss his matricidal tendencies, coupled with a back story rife with gritty details about the events leading up to his insane crimes (and young Norman played by Henry “Elliot from E.T.” Thomas) makes for about as disturbing a psychological thriller as you can imagine.
Mick Garris took on the unenviable task of directing a fourth Psycho film and added enough of his personal touch to make it a palatable “final” offering in the franchise.
And although it does feel more like it was made for cable television than the cinema, there is plenty of heart and good old Hitchcockian tension to keep the viewer invested in this prequel that served as a worthy vehicle for the legendary Anthony Perkins’ final performance as everyone’s favorite mama’s boy.
Something fans of both Garris and Perkins may not know is that the two did not get along; in fact, Garris has gone on record stating that the Psycho icon was the most difficult actor he’s worked with during his directorial career. How interesting might it have been to be a fly on that wall?
Apparently, Perkins, who had directed the critical and commercial failure Psycho 3 himself had wanted to direct the fourth installment as well.
After all, the original screenwriter for Psycho had been brought back for the prequel, but the studio was adamant that the Critters 2 director should helm the project, which did not sit well with Perkins. However, Garris was able to appeal to Perkins’ wounded pride by leaning on him as a consultant on the character of Norman Bates who Garris admitted no one knew better than “Tony” as he insisted on being called on the set.
Some of the wiser directorial choices Garris made with Psycho IV included using the iconic original score as much as possible, filming in an almost “Technicolor style” as he described it to counterpoint the original, and the aforementioned use of Perkins himself as a consultant.
It may not hold a candle to the 1960 Hitchcock masterpiece, few films do, but it is still arguably the best of the sequels and yet another notch on the belt of Garris’s illustrious career.
6. SLEEPWALKERS (1992) – DIRECTOR
A love letter by Laura A. Sloan
With Mick Garris as director and Stephen King as the screenwriter, two genre icons set out to make a distinctive monster movie.
A lifelong collaboration and friendship came out of King’s first original screenplay (not based on a book), a film called Sleepwalkers that will soon celebrate its thirtieth anniversary. Love it or hate it, this vampiric shape-shifting cult classic still attracts new fans and plenty of commentaries each year.
Mary (Alice Krige) and Charles Brady (Brian Krause) have a unique mother and son relationship and a dirty little secret, they are Sleepwalkers: humans meet werewolves meet vampires in an interchanging experience. Their exchange of energy is very incestual and there is one thing they do not like – cats! Cats can see right through their beast and human formations.
New to Travis, Indiana, Mary is hungry for a life force to sustain from Charles as they are the last ones of their own species. Charles does have a possible soul to feed his mother, and he is also smitten with Tanya Robertson (Mädchen Amick) while battling his humanity and primal instincts for a young virgin girl, the best source of a Sleepwalker’s lifeforce.
The stunning Tanya is seen dancing in the lobby of the movie theater while vacuuming up popcorn to “Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance)” by The Contours. This dance sequence demonstrates Mick’s ability to show Tanya with such pure innocence and slapstick comedic reactions upon meeting Charles.
Cinematographer, Rodney Charters, also does an amazing job with the camera work in this scene and throughout the film.
As Charles and Tanya’s romance flourishes, each day further into their connection brings the hazards of what a Sleepwalker is. And the last thirty minutes deliver a series of intense action sequences.
There are memorable gore effects from Tony Gardner, and Sleepwalkers was one of the first films to utilize CGI morphing — much like what was used in The Terminator.
The film features a huge cast of cameos from Stephen King, Joe Dante, Tobe Hooper, Clive Barker, John Landis, Ron Pearlman, Mark Hamill, and Cynthia Garris. The recognizable real-life parents from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Lyman Ward, and Cindy Pickett, also portray Tanya’s parents.
Sleepwalkers may not be “perfect” for the hardcore King fans, but it’s still a fun ride, and Garris’s passion shines through in all he does.
Where else are you going to enjoy one of the cleverest kill scenes in a movie: death by corn on the cob?
7. HOCUS POCUS (1993) – WRITER
A love letter by Jamie Alvey
Hocus Pocus was a staple of my childhood as one of those proverbial 90s babies. Halloween wasn’t Halloween until you’d watched Hocus Pocus on ABC.
It was the beginning of a tradition that seems to have endured throughout the years and into our adulthoods. Maybe it’s our hunger for the simplicity of those days, the heady nostalgia creeping upon us, but I think it might be something else entirely. Maybe we hunger for that slice of fun, that sort of innocent sweetness and Halloween havoc that Hocus Pocus embodies.
Whatever it is, Hocus Pocus still holds a lot of magic, and watching it as an adult is still as wonderful as it was as a little girl on a Halloween candy high.
Mick Garris has contributed tons to horror in general, but this movie was part of many people’s gateway into the genre at large. He helped give many people the keys to the horror kingdom so to speak. It’s easy to forget not all of us had parents like I did to guide us down the hallowed halls of horror. Some of us had to seek it elsewhere and Garris has been an integral part in the horror journeys of many.
Hocus Pocus is kiddie horror at its finest, and a lot of us have had the pleasure of passing it down to the younger generations.
Hocus Pocus has been solidified as a bonafide part of Halloween culture and horror at large.
It’s played multiple times on television every year in October, it’s marathoned relentlessly, and still, I never tire of the hype.
It brings back fond memories of my youth, and I know that it does for others as well. It’s a nice heartfelt piece of my childhood that’s lived on, and it’s wonderful to see others enjoying it. Life can be a trial in itself, so it’s always nice to have these little comforts to come back to, especially in the past couple of years.
Of course, there are other more important and impressive contributions that Garris has made to horror, but Hocus Pocus remains an honorable foundational experience for kids and an escape for us older folks.
It’s nice to have that sweet wholesome reminder that seems to transcend time itself.
A little slice of Halloween fun is always a watch away, and we have Mick Garris to thank for that.
8. THE STAND (1994) – DIRECTOR
A love letter by S. Michael Simms
When I watched the original The Stand miniseries in 1994, I was ecstatic. It was everything I’d hoped it would be. Granted, I was just an 18-year-old kid and was so obsessed with Stephen King I would have read a shopping list he tossed in the garbage (and framed it), but even going back and watching it now, I just can’t help but love it for what it was.
Mick Garris directed nothing short of a television masterpiece.
Directing such a stellar cast with a budget limited to 6 million per episode on over 200 sets required a skill set that at the time no one could have known Garris had. His TV directorial credits up to that point consisted only of several “The Making of…” specials and a handful of single episodes of anthology shows. And Critters 2 and Sleepwalkers hadn’t exactly been runaway hits on the big screen.
But King liked him, and according to Bill Warren’s Fangoria article “The Long Road to the Stand”, ABC had wanted Brian DePalma, but Garris was hired on after King convinced the network that he was the man for the job and a good “medium” who wouldn’t mess too much with the source material.
And Garris delivered, solidifying himself as a serious director and helming what many King fans consider to be arguably the most faithful King television adaptation.
Yes, if you go back and look now, there’s a “’90s aesthetic” and some of the acting seems dated, but rarely was there a moment in television history that featured so many memorable scenes with such a stellar ensemble cast. It received several Emmy nominations and took home two. And Garris’ career had a nice, deserved uptick.
What makes a great director great? It’s the ability to pull together all the elements of a motion picture in just the right way to make the audience feel something.
In the case of Mick Garris and The Stand, Garris stayed true to King’s vision and made sure to hit all the bullet points of a book that boasted over 800 pages of Terror, Horror, and Revulsion (the three weird sisters of Fear, according to King’s 1981 non-fiction book Danse Macabre, and the audience felt something all right.
2/3 of the American TV audience, or about 19 million families, tuned in to see a bevy of iconic moments on the small screen that would induce the fear we all craved in the 1990s — but which was in short supply in the theaters and on TV at the time.
The Stand was a breath of fresh air, and Garris totally outdid himself with what I personally think is the best thing he ever did.
9. TALES FROM THE CRYPT: WHIRLPOOL (1994) – DIRECTOR
A love letter by S. Michael Simms
The most interesting thing to me about 1994’s Season 6, Episode 3 of Tales from the Crypt is that it stars Corin Nemec who was just coming off the heels of The Stand TV miniseries, also directed by Mick Garris.
While Nemec isn’t quite as weasely in the episode entitled Whirlpool, it’s easy to understand why he was cast in the role, one of a handful of men in the episode who are part of the Old Boys Club that torments Rita Rudner as she struggles to get through the worst day of her life. (Imagine having Harold Lauder as a coworker.)
Rudner’s character is a struggling comic book artist (and apparently writer) who can’t seem to catch a break from her boss, played by legendary comedian Richard Lewis, who rejects her work and fires her.
Another interesting fact is the plot is very reminiscent of Groundhog Day which would have been fresh in everyone’s mind, having been released less than a year prior. The self-referential show asks what it would be like if Groundhog Day happened to a working woman in the ‘50s in the male-dominated industry of horror comics.
Ah, yes; that’s the third, and final interesting facet of Whirlpool: It’s a period piece.
All factoids aside, though, what Garris directed was something rare for the early ‘90s: A women’s lib piece about shattering glass ceilings…and stabbing those who erected them with the glass.
10. QUICKSILVER HIGHWAY (1997) – WRITER (TELEPLAY)/DIRECTOR
A love letter by Jarret Reid
Based on short stories from the legendary “titans of terror” Clive Barker and Stephen King, the Emmy-nominated television film Quicksilver Highway debuted on Fox on May 13th, 1997.
Written and directed by Mick Garris, the film stars the always charming Christopher Lloyd as the enigmatic traveling collector Aaron Quicksilver. Across his travels, Quicksilver encounters two different people and weaves them a terrifying tale.
The first tale, based on Clive Barker’s short story, “The Body Politic”, features an absolutely delightful, yet genuinely chilling premise centered around the question, “what if our hands had minds of their own”?
The story follows a plastic surgeon (Matt Frewer) who begins to lose control of his hands. Soon, the strange situation spirals completely out of control as the hands plot a revolution to free themselves from the “tyranny of the body”.
Calling to mind Evil Dead II and Ash’s struggle against his possessed hand, Frewer is just as capable at employing physical humor in a horror setting as Bruce Campbell is. He’s a fantastic lead, and the film would not be the same without him.
The second story, based on Stephen King’s short story “Chattery Teeth”, features a traveling salesman (Raphael Sbarge) who picks up a troublesome hitchhiker (Silas Weir Mitchell) at a gas station in the middle of nowhere.
While at the gas station, the salesman also picks up a peculiar toy for his son’s birthday: chattering teeth made of metal, with legs. When the hitchhiker inevitably gets violent, so do the teeth.
This story isn’t as enjoyable or memorable as the first in my opinion, but it is still entertaining.
If you consider yourself a fan of Barker and/or King, Quicksilver Highway offers some solid fun — an entertaining and underrated film.
11. RIDING THE BULLET (2004) – WRITER/DIRECTOR
A love letter by Richard Tanner
After working with all of the Master’s of Horror, including Stephen King, it only makes sense to talk about one of his most underrated films.
A catchy title with a double meaning. One that brings to mind a suicidal path at the end of a gun barrel or one that may mean riding a terrifying rollercoaster called the Bullet. Both may be true.
The story follows a very dramatic and emotional Alan Parker (Jonathan Jackson) in the sixties, as he hitchhikes home to check on his mom who has ended up in the hospital. Along the way, he meets several lively characters (which is odd because they seem mostly dead), who offer him rides and stories as he deals with his own emotional turmoil about his life.
David Arquette does a particularly wonderful job as George Staub — the urban legend of “dead man’s curve” come to life — who begins to torture Parker for the rest of the film. Physically, he is chased, and emotionally, he is forced to decide between his mother’s life and his.
Garris did a fantastic job at grounding this film in a realistic world that turns into an old EC horror comic so subtly, that you will find yourself lost between fact and fiction.
The scares are there, but the reason this film stood out to me is because of the emotional trauma it left me with.
It’s easy to say you love your mom, but it is very difficult to see the real trauma of life that happens with your parents. Even if you love someone and have great memories, you still have struggles, and you still have fears that are gonna surface in these tragic situations.
The scenes of Alan’s subconscious are pure poetry.
12. MASTERS OF HORROR (2005-2007) – CREATOR
A love letter by Stephanie Malone (The Angry Princess)
In 2002, Mick Garris invited some director friends to an informal dinner. His friends included horror heavyweights John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Don Coscarelli, Joe Dante, Guillermo del Toro, Stuart Gordon, Tobe Hooper, John Landis, and Bill Malone. It was Del Toro who jokingly coined the phrase “Masters of Horror” to describe the group of influential auteurs.
The Directors Dinners became a regular occurrence, and the group expanded to include legends like Dario Argento, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Tom Holland, Lloyd Kaufman, Mary Lambert, and Fred Dekker, among others. Garris also made sure to invite members of the genre’s talented new blood, including Eli Roth, Rob Zombie, Lucky McKee, Ti West, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, and James Gunn.
Inspired by his engaging dinners with these brilliant minds, Garris conceived of an original anthology television series, which would consist of one-hour movies, with each movie written and directed by one of the “masters”.
The series, appropriately titled Masters of Horror, debuted in the U.S. on the Showtime cable network on October 28, 2005, and was an immediate critical and commercial success.
Consisting of 26 one-hour movies (13 episodes in each season) from 19 different directors, Masters of Horror delivered a fair amount of black comedy as well as a solid display of diversity. Viewers were treated to original stories mixed with adaptations from genre giants, some truly horrific horror as well as some serious drama, a couple of good period pieces, and even some wickedly satisfying Japanese horror.
But the glue that binds the series together and made it infamous among horror fans is its commitment to gore.
There’s a fair amount of ‘torture porn’, especially in the second season, and a delightful overindulgence in blood and stomach-turning splatter.
Nothing was off-limits; well, almost nothing.
One episode, directed by the legendary guru of gore Takashi Miike, went too far — even by premium cable standards. Episode 13 of season one, Imprint, was originally scheduled to premiere on January 27, 2006. However, it was shelved by Showtime due to concerns over its content.
Mick Garris himself described the episode as “the most disturbing film I’ve ever seen”. For a time, it was only available to watch on DVD or Blu-ray, but you can now check out the most notorious episode of the series, available for rent on most VOD platforms.
With such a strong commitment to variety and experimentation, it’s inevitable that the anthology series would be a bit hit-or-miss. But years before shows like The Walking Dead and American Horror Story brought televised horror to the masses and made it mainstream, Masters of Horror was a hugely influential juggernaut.
The first season is significantly better than the second, but there are plenty of standouts and must-see films across all 26 episodes. No matter what kind of horror you crave, there is something here for everyone. And even if every episode isn’t exactly your cup of tea, you are sure to find plenty to love in this series.
Some of the most buzzed-about fan favorites include:
- Dario Argento’s “Jenifer”
- Stuart Gordon’s Lovecraft adaptation “Dreams in the Witch-House” as well as his Poe adaptation “The Black Cat”
- Takashi Miike’s controversial “Imprint”
- John Carpenter’s “Cigarette Burns”
- Don Coscarelli’s “Incident On and Off a Mountain Road”
- William Malone’s “The Fair-Haired Child”
- Joe Dante’s “Homecoming”
- Lucky McKee’s “Sick Girl”
- Larry Cohen’s “Pick Me Up”
And Garris not only gets credit for creating the series, but he also contributed to two of its stronger entries, writing and directing the excellent Valerie on the Stairs (adapted from a Clive Barker story) and writing the John McNaughton-helmed Haeckel’s Tale — a Romero-inspired, gory zombie feast.
Masters of Horror was promoted as a space where horror auteurs could flex their creative muscles and showcase their imagination with far more freedom than theatrical cinema afforded.
Garris’ influential series established a blueprint for many other cable networks to produce shows which delivered a thematic and stylistic, boundary-pushing edginess mainstream popular cinema couldn’t touch.
13. NIGHTMARE CINEMA (2018) – WRITER/DIRECTOR/PRODUCER
A love letter by Laura A. Sloan
Mick Garris’s love and passion to tell stories of the dark and unknown, flourishes again in the 2018 horror anthology, Nightmare Cinema.
The film stars Mickey Rourke as a projectionist and sinister collector of one’s nightmares to help interconnect each story and their main character’s fate to the Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena, California. Garris produces, writes, and directs Rourke’s segments along with the last impressionable tale on life and death titled, Dead.
Dead features Riley (Faly Rakotohavana) a young and accomplished pianist protégé who has just finished playing his own composition for a recital that evening. As his proud parents, Charity (Annabeth Gish) and Jared (Daryl C. Brown), leave in the car with him to go home, Jenkins (Orson Chaplin), a carjacker, holds the family hostage at gunpoint. While both parents are gunned down by Jenkins in confrontation, Riley runs for his life only to get shot in the attempt to escape.
Riley is briefly pronounced dead on the surgery table and wakes up in recovery to find that his world of what he encounters living and dead vastly crosses the lines. He then meets Casey (Lexy Panterra), a fellow patient who also had a near-death experience from a suicide attempt. She can feel all too well what he is experiencing as she also sees the dead walk the corridors of the hospital.
Riley continues to have encounters with his mother, Charity, who pleads with him to join her on the other side, as she cannot move forward. Casey warns him not to listen to his mother, reminding him that he is meant to live on from this tragic encounter.
Rakotohavana as Riley is very talented and quite compelling. Where most child actors are very reactionary, yet believable, Rakotohavana taps into his emotions of navigating uncertainty, shock, and his instincts while demonstrating great physical weakness.
For over twelve years, Garris wanted to do Nightmare Cinema as a television program, a follow-up to the successful Showtime Masters of Horrors series.
This anthology was created with the intention of each tale being shot from a different country around the world but instead became the first feature.
Being its own installment, Nightmare Cinema just scratches the surface of what Garris loves to build and lay down for the art of anthologies and the love of horror; here’s hoping for a Volume 2!