NOS4A2 teaser

AMC is bringing a new vampire to television this summer. NOS4A2 is based on the book by Joe Hill, and showrunner Jami O’Brien adapted it for television. Zachary Quinto stars as Charlie Manx, a 135-year-old vampire who feeds off the energy of children. His make-up to transform into an ancient vampire is impressive, but NOS4A2’s biggest effects are seamless.

O’Brien and Hill spoke with reporters at WonderCon in Anaheim last week. Here’s what we learned.

An Invisible Bridge

When Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings) rides down the Shorter Way Bridge in the middle of the woods, she is given psychic clues about missing objects (all of this despite the fact that the Shorter Way Bridge apparently collapsed decades ago). There is an exterior bridge set, but it looks very different inside.

“The bridge is miraculous I think,” O’Brien said. “There were three pieces of the bridge that are practical and a lot of it, the interior of it, which this is a testament to our VFX team, is VFX. I was like, ‘You guys aren’t gonna get any props for this because no one’s going to know because that’s how good it is.’ That’s why I’m telling you all.”

Those are the best kind of visual effects – when you don’t even know they’re effects because they look real and you take them for granted.

NOS4A2 Review

Scares by the Hour

Jump scares work in horror movies because they make the whole theater leap out of their seat, but if overused, they can feel cheap. It’s a little harder to do jump scares on television because you can’t force people to turn the volume up. NOS4A2 relies more on scaring you with a full hour of dread.

Joe Hill, the son of authors Stephen King and Tabitha King, isn’t opposed to jump scares though.

“For myself, I’m not above a good jump scare,” Hill said. “I think there’s plenty of room for that but they are kind of cheap and weak. If someone drops a stack of frying pans behind you, you’re like, ‘Agh!’ But that’s not great horror. That’s just a loud noise. I think you get more mileage out of suspense and suspense is about one thing. It’s about taking a character you care about and putting them out on a ledge 10 stories above the street to rescue a cat. And then they’re crawling out to get the cat and they get to it and the cat scratches them in the face. That’s hard to look away from and is a lot more interesting than just someone’s walking down a dark hallway and then the soundtrack goes WAAAAAAAA which of course is going to make you jump but is kind of gimmicky, a little weak.”

O’Brien promises to keep viewers guessing every week.

“I think that that sense of dread permeates the whole book,” she said. “My favorite kinds of scares is the kind of tension of what is on the other end of the bridge? Where does this highway go? What’s waiting for Daniel when he gets out of the car? The book, one of the things I loved about it is it has a great sense of humor and it also unfolds in a way that you’re never ahead of it. As you learn more and more about the characters, for me, the tension is ratcheted up so we wanted to be faithful to that.”

There are plenty of examples of effective horror on television now: American Horror Story, The Haunting of Hill House, even The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. NOS4A2 doesn’t have to educate the TV viewer on horror now. It just has to be as good as those shows.

NOS4A2 Trailer

Joe Hill’s Note About How Charlie Manx Talks

Hill was fairly hands off to let O’Brien adapt NOS4A2 the way she wanted to. When he did visit the set, the prospect of his notes freaked her out.

“I remember while we were doing the table read, this was on set in Rhode Island, he had the script and he had a pen in his hand and I was sitting next to him and he kept going [scribbling notes],” O’Brien said. “I was like oh my God, he hates it. What’s happening? Having a panic attack.”

She needn’t have worried. In the end, Hill’s note was only a subtle dialogue change.

“He was like, ‘Charlie Manx has an older way of speaking. Could he, instead of saying my child, say my joy?” And I was like, yes. Yes, he could do that.”

Hearing an old man in 2019 calling someone his joy is a subtly anachronistic detail that will make Charlie Manx a lot scarier.

NOS4A2 premieres June 2 on AMC.

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