Graves, the lo-fi comic horror Buffy inspired web series, has just gone where it's never gone before in its second season. Yep, zombies. And not your typical shambling, rotting, brain-eating zombies. Nope. Graves' zombies are going to be something a little different, promises the show's creator/director/writer Terence Krey in an exclusive interview with Syfy Wire.
“Once, a demon rose out of the Earth. Six teenagers banded together, fought the forces of darkness, and won.” Ten years later the five surviving former demon fighters are all grown up and dealing with adulthood, relationships and about to hit their 30s. While the demons are plotting to destroy the human race once again, the 20-somethings will have to decide if they're ready to save the world all over again.
Krey chatted with Syfy Wire about going lo-fi for his web series, turning 30 and getting his Buffy on for Graves.
Spoiler alert for season one...
Congratulations on season two.
I'm very excited. It feels good to make a thing and put it in the world.
What's the response been so far?
People have been enjoying it. We had a small screening at the launch. It's a little bit moodier, a little bit Gothier but I feel we get more into the core... I feel season one is more of an intro, who the characters are and stuff like that. In season two we get more into spooky characters and demons interacting with the humans.
And zombies. You have to have zombies. Which is funny because the first season there's a joke where Jane says like, “Not everything has to have zombies,” and then I realized at the end of that season, "Oh, I'm totally going to have zombies in this now going against my own main character." But yeah. The thing about zombies, I play with it. I don't think I'll ever have a regular brain-eating zombie. I like the idea if people do come back from the dead, they are just like, “Oh, I guess I'm dead. Another stage of adulthood, I guess, being dead in this world."
Why did you want to tell this story?
I have always been a fan of messing with the genre and genre blending, both as far as horror and comedy, but just even horror and more dramatic feeling type stuff. I think that there's a lot of room there as far as having things be metaphors for other things. I'm not going to pretend I'm not a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and it's a huge influence, but I think going in that direction of I really love genre and I love sci-fi and I love horror. But I also really like lo-fi. I don't know if I would call it mumblecore, but I like small intimate stories, right. People just like dealing with their lives and dealing with things that maybe happened in their past, like small everyday drama and the humor that comes from that. I feel with Graves it was a blend of those two things. How can I have these fantastical things and monsters, zombies and all this stuff, but at the same time, it's really just about this core group of people turning 30 and being like, “I don't know how to be an adult. I don't know how to live my life.”
It's a really interesting thing to have it be basically Buffy the Vampire Slayer ten years later in effect, except Buffy died.
Except Buffy dies, exactly. Yeah. My first image that I had of the show was the first sequence in season one which is Astaroth visiting Jane. I had this image of a demon visiting this girl in her bedroom, and what if she's over it already. She already knows what demons are. It was making something that cuts to the chase and we don't have to worry about the characters learning about it. They already know. It's the sequel to a movie you'll never see. The big battle happens and it's less about that. It's more about how did people move past that. It's made up of characters that if Lilith was still alive, she'd clearly be the main character, right. So it's made up of side characters. Jane clearly is the snarky best friend, but because Lilith died she has to be the main character.
Yeah, she's Willow. Lilith was Buffy. Jane is Willow.
She is kind of like a Willow that doesn't want to embrace that she is Willow. But I think also what's interesting with her is how do you make someone that at first was a side character, how did she become the main character? What does she have to do internally and also externally with the demons?
She seems to become less depressed as the series goes on.
Right. It's an interesting thing of how when you're in a bad spot you're feeling depressed, and even if it's something stressful or something bad, at least something's happening. Yeah, the demons are coming back and that's awful, but at least it's something to get me out of bed in the morning.
The characters are all about to turn 30. Are you or were you facing 30 yourself? Is that where that part of the story comes from?
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I'm currently 31 and so I was turning 30 and I also went through a brief stint of moving back to my hometown that I grew up in and it was around the time when I was 28, 29. So it's a combination of turning 30 and feeling when you hit certain milestones you start to talk to the people in your lives and take stock, like where are you with everything? And I feel it was just my way of coping with me analyzing my life as far as what are the things I've accomplished? What are the things I haven't accomplished? Where do I feel stunted? So yeah, it was the dread of that number.
Wait until you hit 40.
Yeah, right (laughs). It's funny because I made a show a few years back, seven years ago, that was more of a Sci-Fi B-movie thing, but it was about characters that had just graduated college and they didn't know what they were doing with their lives. So now I'm doing one, I'm 31 and I'm sure when I'm 40 there'll be a similar... There will be something, I don't know. Space? Who knows. I don't know.
Let's talk about the differences between season one and season two? What are some of the differences and what's season two about for you?
Where season one is a little bit more fun, a little bit more of the set up for the demons coming back. I feel like in season two we really start to get into how the demons can affect the human characters. We get more into how both Astaroth, who is the main demon, and the new demon character, The Morrigan, really do have some physical, but also a psychological sway over the demons. Another big thing that the season is about is Jane owning up to herself as a witch and also owning up to some stuff that happened ten years ago that she might have not admitted to herself, that might affect how other people see her. So it's a little bit more gothic, a little moodier. There's a little more of a Burton vibe to it, I think. And with that, I think it gets more emotional and more in the head-space of the characters and how they've been affected by the events of ten years ago and what's currently happening now.
I thought it was interesting when you killed off two characters of the five in season one, and then, of course, they didn't really die.
Yeah, I mean that was definitely us subverting genres as much as possible. It was like, okay, here are five good looking 30-something actors that seem to be the ensemble. Well, one of them I'll turn into a demon and one of them I'll kill immediately. So yeah, so I think again it's subverting the idea of thinking this is your ensemble, but then wait a minute... and just playing with that.
The Morrigan is new this season. What do we need to know about that character?
Yes, so the Morrigan, she's the... if I can use a quote from Buffy, she's the Big Bad of the season. Astaroth takes a step back and lets her do her thing. She's a demon but she's also a death goddess. So at the start of the season, Jacob, who is the newly undead, is her dead boy toy at this point and then runs off because he doesn't want to be with her anymore. Which I realize is ridiculous, but I love it. And so the Morrigan ventures into the town where the characters live to try to get Jacob back. But in doing so she also agrees to help Astaroth with his plans.
They become partners in a way.
They are brother and sister and they are part of the same demon family which we learn more about in the season. So her goal is to get Jacob back at whatever the cost, which means, of course, enlisting Jane's help. But also I feel she has a deeper goal as she gets her fingers into all the humans and into their minds and makes them feel lonely and sad and affects them in a way toward Astaroth's master plan of ruining them and killing them all.
I know season one it seemed you are trying to fund it as you were going along. What's been your challenges for season two?
It's a completely indy self-financed production. So obviously with that comes the challenge of any indy financed production, right. Which is getting enough money together to make something and also just finding the right people for it. An indy film production is all in the commodity of favors. How many favors do you have, and how many favors have you built up? So some of the challenges for season two were going bigger, but not going against the lo-fi attitude of the show. I wanted it to feel small and feel lo-fi, but at the same time, there were things that I want to see. I wanted there to be a big set piece in a graveyard that we were able to accomplish, but that was again something that was a little bit of a challenge. So it's sticking with what is the show's look and feel, but also how do you go bigger? How do you go bigger with the demons, the effects and the places we explore.
While you embrace the lo-fi of it, your demon makeup is pretty cool, especially for Astaroth.
We have an amazing makeup artist; I'm extremely lucky to have her... What's nice, I mean with anything, what's great about film is that it's completely collaborative. So what's really nice is that I'm not deciding everything. It's nice that I can find a makeup artist that I go with and then say I have this idea for a character. Let's make him. Let's make her. That's actually one of the most fun things for me with this show, outside of production, is doing the makeup tests with my makeup artist. Starting the evening with, “I don't really know what this thing looks like.” Then at the end seeing it and being like, “Oh, yeah. That's the Morrigan. That's Astaroth.” It's a great feeling. I love practical effects. I love anything that can be done with makeup and it fits the show thankfully. So it's a lot of fun.
What has surprised you most about doing the series? What's the thing you weren't expecting?
I guess I wasn't expecting people to like the VHS lo-fi. It was kind of a leap of faith that we did because we realized that we were already digging into the style so much. Just the colors and the look and the music and then just the makeup and all that stuff. We really felt this feels like a 90's show. But really the last decision we made was to fully do a 4x3 VHS chromatic aberration look. And that was our last roll of the dice. This might detract and disconnect, but I feel it really made the whole show gel and I feel that's what people really connect to. I feel the show is about nostalgia, right. Or it's about the past and people not being able to get over the past or how that affects them.
I'm so not over Buffy being gone.
Right, exactly. I feel that pain just as much as anyone. It fit to have it be through the lens of the past. It feels it's old even though it's a current story because the characters feel they can't get past those things.
What surprised you most about creating this series?
Just honestly the cast. The cast is amazing. I write the show and I co-direct it, and on paper, it's this ridiculous crazy show, but I do try to have it be a little bit heartfelt and a little bit emotional and not just straight horror or straight comedy. So I'm always amazed with the cast when I'm going to have you in demon makeup and your going to have horns and eyes and teeth and all, or even the human character, and you get to act with this big demon and the amount of empathy and pathos that they bring to the characters. I'm amazed by the amount of emotion behind lines on this silly demon show. That's what means the most to me is that there's some really strong empathy and some strong pathos with the human beings and the demons.
I've seen all the episodes. My big question is why is it called Graves?
Ooh, that's a great question.
It's a good title, but I'm trying to figure out the name because it doesn't take place in a cemetery and graves haven't been featured. So why is it called Graves?
The initial answer is that I feel that was just a strong Gothic word that for some reason just jumped out at me that I really liked. I wanted it to be something that evoked horror but also invoked that Gothic haunting feeling. But I think digging a little deeper for me it was like, we have these things that represent the past for us, right. We have these things that represent something that was once there but is now gone, whether it's things that we keep in our house or little keepsakes of people or whatever. And I think that the image of a grave is the ultimate image of that, right. A gravestone is something that's gone, something from the past that gone and you can't get it back and you might feel okay with that being there. You might feel not okay with it being there, but you can't avoid it. And I feel a gravestone is the ultimate symbol of that something in your past that you have to cope with. So they're dealing with their graves, they're dealing with these things that are in the past that are coming back now... something like that (laughs).
Why should people check out Graves?
Because it's fun. It's ridiculous, but it's also a little movie and a little angsty and it's got great demons and got a great soundtrack. I love the score. And it's short and quick and you can watch it on your way to work or during lunch. And I think it's something that I think it'll make you feel. It will give you that nostalgia, give you that Buffy nostalgia a little bit.
Good luck with season 3 through whatever.
Absolutely. Until they stop me.
Here's a preview of season two: