Moriarty Offers His Thoughts And A Sneak Peek For The July 24th Episode Of FEAR ITSELF!
Published at: July 14, 2008, 7:18 a.m. CST by Moriarty
Hey, everyone. “Moriarty” here.
Yep. My episode. Written by myself and Scott Swan, same as PRO-LIFE and CIGARETTE BURNS. Originally intended for John Carpenter to direct to round out our triptych. In the end, Larry Fessenden stepped in to direct instead, with Doug Jones playing the lead. And it airs Thursday, July 24, at 10:00 PM on N-B-freakin-C.
I’ve seen a rough cut that Larry screened for Scott and me, and even unfinished like that, I was pleased. I thought it had a lot of raw energy. I think Larry’s micro-budget background is a blessing for us, and Doug Jones is pretty much Lon freakin’ Chaney in the piece. He’s playing a make-up role, but it’s more subtle, and most of what’s really creepy and upsetting is Doug and his eyes and the way he gradually unleashes the thing hiding inside him.
More people have access to this episode than anything I’ve done so far. It’s network. I am perfectly comfortable with the reactions to both of the MASTERS episodes, both good and bad, because for the most part, people’s reactions seem genuine. CIGARETTE BURNS is a very moody and strange idea of what a “horror” film is, and PRO-LIFE is a big silly monster movie, and people who don’t like either of them don’t particularly surprise me.
With this one, I’m hoping you guys will at least take a look. TIVO it. Save it for that one evening when you’ve watched every other thing you’ve got and you might as well. Just give it a try. I think the people who made it did a nice job under some fairly strict conditions.
I’d like to do something to entice you, and I think it’s only fair considering all the conversations I’ve had here over the years about other people’s writing.
From now until the episode airs, you’ll be able to download the script for the film from this address. As soon as the episode airs, the script’s offline.
So you can decide for yourself. Sucks. Rules. What were they thinking? Better than I expected. Whatever the case, it’s up to you, and I’m hoping that enough of you like what you read that you’ll tune in and see how Fessenden and his cast brought it to life.
I’ve never had to work within the standards-and-practices guidelines of network television before, and even on this show, we didn’t really get any notes about violence. We worked hard to imply rather than show, taking it as a challenge to do something more Val Lewton, more subtle than either MASTERS we wrote. The original idea we had came when we were in Vancouver shooting PRO-LIFE. We were watching movies in the hotel room at night, worn out but still awake for a few hours after each day’s shoot. And one of the films we watched was TRACK OF THE CAT, a John Wayne-produced Western starring Robert Mitchum. All things considered, it was practically an experimental film compared to much of what Wayne was part of through Batjac Productions. It was a family melodrama, all about snowbound brothers and simmering resentments and a mysterious mountain lion that attacks one brother, drawing the other one out into a hunt in the mountains. There’s this crazy artificial stagebound quality to all the family stuff at the ranch house, and then the location stuff on the mountainsides is like MCCABE & MRS MILLER. Best part of the film? The aged Indian who works on the ranch, played by Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer under heavy prosthetic make-up. Seriously. As we were watching it, something about the tone of the filmmaking struck me as a horror film, not a Western. The narrative plays by the rules, but the tone is off.
And so we started talking about what the horror movie version of this would be. And the next day, when we were telling John about the film onset, he told us that when he first saw it in the theater, he felt the same way, that there was something almost horror-movie about the mountain lion subplot and the old Indian make-up (he’s about as convincing as Gregg Henry in BODY DOUBLE) and the stage-bound claustrophobia. A few months later, we were reading some things about monsters for another project, and the Wendigo came up. And the more I read about the origins of the Wendigo myth, the more I loved the imagery and the cultural significance of it. It feels to me like a story invented to explain the occasional bout of wilderness survival cannibalism among early Americans, and there were some eerie, bizarre descriptions of Wendigo stories over the years. Scott was the one who connected that TRACK OF THE CAT vibe to the Wendigo myth, and things fell into place pretty quickly.
But we didn’t get hired to actually write the episode until October of last year. Specifically, we got hired four days before the strike was set to begin. So if we wanted to get our episode on the air this year, we had four days to write it. So we did.
And then there was a two-day reprieve, an extension, and we were able to sneak in a second draft based on the network’s notes, and they told us based on those two drafts, we were part of the series. A nice bit of news on the eve of the strike. And then... like everyone else... we waited and waited. And we heard that they were going to let Canadian writers rewrite the episodes on-set, and that we wouldn’t be able to have any hand in doing the revisions ourselves. A miserable thought. Thankfully, in the end, we were able to start work after the strike, in time to get the script ready once they hired Fessenden to direct it.
Even after that, on locations, Fessenden did some more rewrites of his own, mainly involving staging or practical issues. He had eight days to shoot the bloody thing, which I find amazing. He made it his own, and when he showed us the rough cut, I thought he made some really great, intuitive choices in how to make scenes work, how to turn up the sadness of some of it. I met him the first time back in 2001, at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal, where he was with (ironically) WENDIGO.
If you’ve never seen that film, you should. It’s a really strong, moody little child’s-eye horror film, a sort of nightmare view of the dissolving family. The Wendigo that Fessenden imagined in that film is totally different than the monster in our script, and when we first talked to him, his enthusiasm for being able to interpret the Wendigo a different way a second time was part of what made him want to do the episode.
Because I never set foot onset this time, the experience was very surreal compared to the MASTERS episodes. There, I was onset as much as physically possible. I was very involved. This time, we wrote it, we sent it in, and then suddenly, there’s this finished movie. Very strange.
So there we go. The script’s “leaked” now, and with one right-click save-as, you can decide for yourselves if you want to see Doug Jones as Grady or Molly Hagan as Elena.
I'm sure there are some of you who think I’m totally full of crap and you think FEAR ITSELF is the worst idea in the history of television and how dare they air something written by a bloated douche like me. That's cool, too.
Either way, at least this feels fair, and I hope you’ll try the episode because I really like the work everyone else did. Even if you hate me and hate what I do, Doug Jones is really creepy and I think Fessenden’s got a very cool, very interesting shooting style, and for those reasons alone, I feel compelled to shill you guys just a little.
I’ve got a story coming later today about one of the hottest reads in town right now. And it might not be the one you think it is. Until then...