creepshow tv series episode details

The first thing you notice when you sit down with Tom Savini is that the legendary horror make-up artist looks significantly younger than his 72 years. The second thing you notice is “Holy shit, I’m sitting down with Tom Savini.”

The man behind the gore in films like Manic, Friday the 13th, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, The Burning, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2 and so many more is beloved by horror fans the world over. He also worked on the original 1982 Creepshow movie, which makes him a perfect fit for Shudder’s new Creepshow series. Savini is directing one segment in the upcoming horror anthology series, a Joe Hill story about an abusive father and a couple of kids who discover a dinosaur. And then things get dark.

When Savini talks, you listen. So that’s what we did on the Atlanta, Georgia set of the new Creepshow. Savini didn’t need much prompting to share anecdotes about his life and work, including his strong opinions about the current state of the horror genre and how cinema saved his life when he came back from the Vietnam War. He’s a raconteur, prone to going off-subject. But really, you don’t want it any other way.

Note: this interview was conducted with a group of other assembled journalists.

***

What can you tell us about your segment?

Ooh, am I allowed?

This is all embargoed until much later.

Promise?

Yeah.

OK. It’s about a sweet little family terrorized by a monster, and it’s not a dinosaur in the story. It’s the stepdad. He’s a Vietnam vet, and not that that’s an excuse for anybody, really, but it is, actually. When I came back from Vietnam, I was a zombie. I was an emotionless zombie. My marriage went right in the toilet. I can’t live without love in the house and I don’t blame her at all. I was just not there anymore. I wasn’t even on the front lines. Guys that came from the front lines, you looked at them and they weren’t there. So I was like that for about two and a half years. A movie brought my emotions back. When I went to see Midnight Cowboy, when Dustin Hoffman died, I became hysterical. My wife and my friend were the last people in the theater because I was crying so hysterically. And then when I left, I broke down again outside. It wasn’t sad that Dustin Hoffman died, but it was all pent up from – we didn’t call it PTSD. It was all pent up. From that day on, I was able to enjoy a sunset. I had feelings after that. My feelings came back.

This guy [the stepdad in the show] has not seen Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy. This has not happened to him. He’s not back yet, the stepdad, clearly. It’s the sweetest family, sweetest characters, beautiful sweet little teenaged girl, fourteen, her little brother, and she’s really loved her dad. So when this guy starts carrying on, he doesn’t even say, ‘Honey, please get me a beer,’ he just says, ‘Beer.’ He expects it to be, and it is. So the actress is an abused woman, an abused wife. So the kids leave the house just to run away from all this and they bump into, what? This thing that looks like a boulder. But walking around it, they see that it becomes Champlain, the thing that the stores in town are selling souvenirs and T-shirts of, like the Loch Ness monster. It’s this myth that nobody has ever seen, but people swear it exists.

Well, that’s why there’s so much fog. Greg Nicotero loves to – I was going to say homage, but he would tell you ‘steal’ – so this movie is The Fog. This episode has more episode than the movie did. So the fog I think is why this thing came out and not worried about being seen. But however, the baby – have you seen the baby? You haven’t seen Champy? OK, they’re putting a clear coat on him now. It’s a practical effect, it’s not going to be CGI. It’s there. The mother, of course, is going to be a visual effect, because – and this, to me, is the greatest moment in this episode – the father comes in and says, ‘This is my ticket away from you stupid kids and dumb wife that I’ve hooked myself up to.’ And of course, the big mother comes and chomps and eats him and takes him away, and the kids are horrified by this. Are they next? But they see the mother gently nudge the baby [to see if] she’s dead. And she drags her back into the water. So whereas the kids are afraid, suddenly they’re in wonderment, in awe – it’s like a puppy being saved by its mother or something. So it’s a very tender moment. You think that’s where the [episode] really ends, except the stepdad’s leg washes up on shore with this established boot. He’s got this boot that has ‘Shitkicker’ written on the side, and that’s how I’m going to introduce him. The boot [Savini slams his fist on table, mimicking a boot coming into frame], and then come up behind him, haunting the little girl’s boyfriend. Before that it’s a shadow, it’s a silhouette, so it’s a slow introduction. When this guy’s running through the woods, it’s in slow motion. When they’re running, they’re [at normal speed] getting away from him. But he’s this ominous presence, and we can establish that with film tricks. That’s what I’m doing.

So if he’s a Vietnam vet, is this set in the 1980s like the original movie?

1984. And only because, and nobody thought it was a period piece until I said, ‘Hey Greg, this guy’s got a lot of talk about Vietnam. Is he bullshitting or was he really there?’ He said, ‘Well, I think he’s bullshitting.’ And I said, ‘Well even so, I’m 72, and I was in Vietnam in its heyday, the Tet Offensive. If he’s thirty, it can only be like ’81, ’82. So we settled on ’84, and that’s what the kids carve in the dinosaur. 84.

How many hats are you wearing on this production? Are you going to be doing effects, or are you just directing?

No, no. I’m not even doing a cameo. I said to Greg, ‘I want to be the woman’s ex-husband, the one that died, in the photos on the windowsill.’ He says, ‘No, no, you’re too old to be married to a 40-year-old,’ and I’m sitting next to my 35-year-old wife when he said that. And he knows her! Anyway…

Are the makeup effects for the show practical like the original movie?

Everything. Except for, when Chet, the stepdad, he’s lethal, he’s really flipped, he’s going to kill people, and the mother monster comes in and takes him out. That head might be CGI. The one that briefly comes in and pulls the stunt guy, wiggles him, and then pulls him out of frame. We’re actually going to wiggle him before. We’ve gotta break his spine, you know. So that might be CGI. But the nudging and the dragging, that’s a silicon baby with a rubber and foam puppet. We’ll shoot that at K&B after we leave here when this is over.

What’s the collaboration like with the other directors? Is there a lot of talk to make sure people aren’t repeating the same types of stories?

Well, the stories are all different, sure. But when you said that, I was thinking that there is something like that happening, or happened. Let me get a lock on it. I’ll give you an example: the stunt guy, because another guy is taken and pulled out of a scene, I don’t know why, I don’t know the story, but we’re going to make this one different, he’s going to wiggle him and travel and not just yank him out. So that’s something another director did. But that’s all really that I’m aware of. I don’t know the other stories. I don’t want to know them. I want to be surprised when I watch this, you know?

Greg is the keeper of all that as the showrunner, to make sure they’re all their own unique thing?

Yeah, and we haven’t been allowed to post anything, and we have tons of photos to post. But AMC is going to make their own announcement, and he doesn’t want us to do it before them, you know? A couple people did, and we were like, ‘Hey, you’ve gotta take that down.’ The cameraman and one of the makeup guys. I said, ‘No, Greg’s not going to like that.’ But you should ask him. He’ll just say no to me, too. I’ve known Greg since he was 14. He was a little kid, visited the set of [Day] of the Dead. He was my assistant on a couple of movies I did, and I said to him – he mentions me at awards ceremonies and things, and we’re in his hot tub, and I said, ‘Greg, you would have all of this if you had never even met me.’ Because he’s a hard worker. He’s incredible. He starts Walking Dead after this. Come on. It exhausts me just thinking about it. So we’re in his hot tub and I said, ‘There’s two words for why this is all happening to you: you’re good.’ And he absolutely is. He was this little kid – he was gut boy on Day of the Dead. He handled the pig intestines for us. Unfortunately, they had unplugged every refrigerator while we were in Florida for three weeks. The stench was – and we had to use them. You can’t go buy new pig intestines at three in the morning when we did the effect. But the stench was unbelievable.

My aunt was on that set as one of the zombies.

You’re kidding! Because they had wax up their noses and we had gas masks on, but the actor, poor Joe Pilato. He was breathing that for three or four hours. He was ready to heave when it was over. He died like a couple days ago. But we couldn’t protect him, you’d see it! But why are we on that. What are we talking about? Did I go off on a tangent?

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