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NYCC: Sam Raimi & more Quibi creators talk the challenges of chopping horror into bite-sized bits

By Benjamin Bullard
50 States of Fright

How much horror can you pack into a single Halloween season? Sam Raimi and more creators behind Quibi’s bite-sized approach are setting a malevolently macabre table loaded with quick-hit scary tales, all to give horror fans a buffet of options for getting their fast fright fix.

Raimi showed up at New York Comic Con for a panel chat to break down the inspiration behind his 50 States of Fright, just one series among Quibi’s bigger slate of short-form scary stories made for people on the go who want a good adrenalin rush in minutes — not hours.

“Everybody has a local ghost story,” said Raimi, noting many of the directors now involved in the series were eager to chime in with their own local legends when Raimi first approached them. “They were like, ‘Oh my God; I’ve gotta do my story!” he said.

50 States’ April debut haunted viewers with creepy bite-sized vignettes set in Oregon, Florida, Michigan, and more. At NYCC, Raimi teased the newest destinations in his travelogue of terror with high-tension video previews — including “Almost There,” directed by Lee Cronin (who just so happens to be working with Raimi and Bruce Campbell on the next Evil Dead movie). Set amid a nighttime storm in isolated rural Iowa, “Almost There” forces star Taissa Farmiga to confront her childhood vertigo fears as a utilities worker who must climb a broken wind turbine — alone — before the storm hits.

Despite his dark creative mind, Raimi said he’s never been frightened by his own material. “Nothing about anything that I do scares me, but I get easily scared at other horror films,” he joked. “I get completely freaked out when they’re made well…I’m like the biggest coward of them all.”

Also on the panel was the creative team behind When The Streetlights Go On, a 1995 murder mystery that goes more for creepy atmospherics than straight horror (think of Scream — except a little more moody and serious — and you’ll be somewhere in the ballpark.)

Director Rebecca Thomas said the series’ 1990s vibes are meant to be an idyllic backdrop, eerily teasing the kind of place that represents “the safety of the American Dream…and what can happen there.” Starring Sophie Thatcher as Becky and Chosen Jacobs as Charlie, a student whose innocence is tested by the killings, When the Streetlights Go On is streaming on Quibi now.

50 States of Fright New Episodes | Official Trailer | Quibi

The team behind Quibi’s The Expecting also turned up to discuss director Mary Harron’s dark fairy tale series about a pregnant woman who may be playing host to supernatural forces. Creator and writer Ben Katai said Raimi (who helped give Katai an early start as an aspiring horror director) was a huge influence early in his career, showing him how to write characters whom fans have to believe in first — before the scares come. 

“[Raimi] has always been known as a master of horror, and one of the things that stuck with me…was that none of that stuff matters unless you’re telling a great story and you have great characters,” he said. Directed by Harron and starring AnnaSophia Robb and Rory Culkin, The Expecting is streaming new episodes now on Quibi.

Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spider-Man) executive produces 50 States of Fright alongside Gunpowder & Sky, Debbie Liebling, Van Toffler, Tony DiSanto, Cody Zwieg, Barry Barclay, Tommy Coriale and Chris Mangano. Raimi also wrote and directed part of 50 States, sharing the overall writing credit with his brother Ivan Raimi. Scott Beck and Bryan Woods (A Quiet Place), Cronin (The Hole in the Ground), and Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead) also have directed episodes.

Taking fans to new scary places in Washington, Missouri, Iowa, and Colorado, 50 States of Fright has just debuted its new episodic tour of more place in scary America at Quibi.

Click here for SYFY WIRE's full coverage of New York Comic Con 2020.