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Greg Nicotero on pushing his own phobias to bring us the scariest Creepshow possible
How far would you go for your art? It’s a question for the ages, but one that most artists probably don’t have to face quite as viscerally as Greg Nicotero, creator of Creepshow, Shudder’s six-episode series based on the similarly titled beloved 1982 horror comedy anthology film — directed by George A. Romero and written by Stephen King — and its 1986 sequel.
For the series, which drops this week on DVD and Blu-ray, Nicotero tells SYFY WIRE he “bit off” a lot while on hiatus from his other scary gig, executive directing The Walking Dead. Even so, his Creepshow team delivered 12 tales, two per episode, of “fun horror,” despite his fears that Season 2 might bite off something else entirely, as his Instagram post a couple months back clearly suggested…
“I'm not a big spider guy and I just have to say that the stories this season they’re really unique,” Nicotero told us about Season 2, which got suspended one day prior to shooting, due to the coronavirus epidemic. “There's a couple of them that I'm directing. One of them is this kind of over-the-top comedy Christmas horror story. There's another story that takes place in the ‘70s about a young kid who builds monster models. And then there's a story that’s kind of like this exterminator who gets his comeuppance, and it's probably the closest homage I could get to Food of the Gods with some cool giant creatures, and I just felt that the story was so perfectly suited to Creepshow that we started building these multiple variations of different things, I don't want to talk about the other ones, but that particular spider. I'm not a big fan of spiders and I can't get within three feet of it because it just creeps me out. It's just too gross.”
That's the idea, right? To creep you out.
“Yeah, that’s the idea. The trick is to capture that on film so that everybody that watches it is like... [makes a scary noise that’s really hard to spell]!”
If you really think about it, as Nicotero forced himself to do against all his better phobias, there’s really a lack of realistic giant spiders in the horror world.
“I have to say, I was having a hard time sort of thinking about a movie or TV show where I saw an oversized spider puppet that was made to look 100% real, as opposed to like, ‘Oh we take some liberties, make it a little cartoony, make it this…,’” Nicotero said. “Like I wanted this thing to look like if I saw a tarantula in the corner and shot a macro shot of it, this is what it would look like. … And I can't even look at pictures of spiders. So to be designing this and then talking about like what color it should be and how you punch the hairs in and the way the legs sit... like there’s pictures of spiders all over the shop, and I'm like, ‘Dude you got to turn those over, I can't look at ‘em.’ Like, it freaks me out.”
Which sounds like great fun, no doubt (unless you’re terrified of spiders). But that’s pretty much what we’d expect after Creepshow got so much right — and terrifying — in Season 1.
“You know what I got right? I developed a tremendous amount of really great fun stories. I think that's what we did right. We put a great team together and told the stories that we wanted to tell. I just wanted them to be fun and entertaining and a little scary and a little all over the place, so with each episode you get a new morsel of fun horror.”
Nicotero tells fans they should expect all that and more for the upcoming season.
“Season 2 we're going to push it a bit more and even be a bit more outrageous. … I think we're just going to push everything. I think the creature design and the effects are going to be more outrageous... the stories. I really wanted to just push it even further and create some even more wild stories.”
Granted, we’ll have to wait a spell before things pick back up in this brave new shooting world, but it sounds like Nicotero is ready to roll with it (definitely more so than he’s ready to roll with arachnids).
“We have all the stories picked, all the scripts are done, all the directors are picked, the talent’s going to be a little challenging because you know, we were one day away from shooting and the world's going to be a new place when everybody emerges from their houses, in terms of who’s willing to travel and how many people you have on the set,” he says. “You know, you gotta make it safe. You gotta protect your crew, you gotta protect your cast, you gotta protect everybody. So there’s a lot of actors that we have cast for the season, and hopefully we can get them when we're ready to shoot, but it's a leeeeeettle up in the air right now.
“But we'll roll with it, and who knows what amazing stuff is going to come out of it,” he adds.
In the same way that The Walking Dead's pause can be viewed as a sort of blessing in disguise — as Nicotero previously told SYFY WIRE — there are aspects of the delay that are beneficial for Creepshow too, if looked at in the right way.
“For me personally, I do get to catch up on 10 years of some missed time with my family because I've been back and forth to Georgia on Walking Dead for 10 years,” Nicotero explains. “So [I’ll get] some much-needed one-on-one, which I'm not adverse to at all. It's actually kind of nice. For Creepshow, I got a chance to kind of dig into some of the scripts a little more. I wrote two scripts and two other stories are stories that I collaborated on with writers. So for me to be able to spend some time with my writers to fine-tune some of the drafts to make them sing a little bit better, to address any production issues... yeah, I've been taking advantage of that. And that's been really helpful because I feel like to be able to refine the scripts only makes them better.”
Speaking of better, though Season 1 may be hard to top, it sure sounds like Season 2 is heading in the right direction.
“I think Season 2 I’ll be approaching things a lot wiser than I was in Season 1,” he says. “Listen, I bit off a lot and I reached really high for the show and I had a great team around me and they never said no and they made it happen. And the collaboration that I was able to have with my team on Creepshow made me just realize how critical it is to surround yourself with people that you trust and that trust you. And I was just delighted that when we wrapped, every single person was like, ‘I’m down for Season 2, I’d come back in a heartbeat.’ That was great. That was a great compliment.”
Apparently said team has no problem scaring the pants off the boss, though.
Season 1 of Creepshow will be available on June 2 on DVD and Blu-ray, replete with three-plus hours of interviews, featurettes, and BTS footage, audio commentary tracks for each episode, and a 24-page comic art booklet. It can also be viewed on Digital HD as well as at Shudder and AMC.