Even if you don't immediately recognize Michael Dougherty's name, you will certainly recognize his biggest screenwriting credits: X2: X-MEN UNITED and SUPERMAN RETURNS. (URBAN LEGEND 3: BLOODY MARY may also spring to mind, but that will go undiscussed here... Um, starting NOW.) So it was a thrill, as a wannabe screenwriter my own self, to meet him at last weekend's FANGORIA'S WEEKEND OF HORRORS, where Dougherty previewed a clip from his new horror anthology TRICK 'R TREAT. In case you weren't aware, TRICK 'R TREAT is a quartet of intersecting horror tales occurring on Halloween night.
After the presentation (a quick scene with Brian Cox, as "the Ebeneezer Scrooge of Halloween," being terrorized in his house by a sinister, pint-sized trick-or-treater who REALLY wants candy), I only had a few moments to talk backstage with Dougherty (although technically only a raggedy curtain separated us from the rest of the masses) while an incredibly loud presentation was being blasted all around us. The interview was interrupted more than a few times by the sounds of jump-scares and shrieking, shredding music. That said, we were able to get a few words in about the flick that aims to bring the "fun" back to horror.
When did you first write TRICK 'R TREAT?
I first wrote it in 2001. It's been in development over the years, it would go dormant for a while, then come back. It's one of those scripts that I honestly didn't think would get made. So I was willing to let it go, and every time I would let go of it, someone else would find it, pick it up out of a drawer, and say "Hey you should make this!"
And it got you X-MEN 2?
Yeah, Bryan [Singer] had read it and liked it.
You're obviously a big fan of Tales from the Crypt, Tales from the Darkside, that kind of thing...
Creepshow, Amazing Stories... I'm a big fan of anthologies in general. I just think you get more for your money in a way.
You know, I remember a Tales from the Darkside episode about a villainous trick 'r treater harassing an nasty old man...
That's what someone told me! But the inspiration for this story was an Agnes Moorehead Twilight Zone episode called THE INVADERS. There something so simple and so iconic about a person being stalked inside their own house.
So did you meet Brian Cox through working on X2?
Yeah, and you just kinda make those calls...
That's pretty nice to be able to do.
What was Bryan Singer's involvement with TRICK 'R TREAT?
Well, he was great, he's a close collaborator, as well as a friend. He was really involved with the development of the script, and he helped out with a big rewrite for it, for the first draft. He was just always around to offer advice if I needed it.
What about Dan Harris? [Dougherty's co-writer on X2 and SUPERMAN RETURNS]
Same thing. He's one of the producers too. It was the type of thing where they were both only a phone call away, and they would visit the set every now and then.
So which is harder, writing a movie like SUPERMAN RETURNS which has enormous expectations - or directing your own film?
Directing, for sure. There's more pressure and I have a new sympathy for Bryan. Because even when you're writing those other movies, you can always take a break, and hang out in the trailer, go for a walk, while the movie is being shot. But when you're directing, all the focus is on you. There's no break. Ever!
What inspired you to become a writer of movies?
Watching a lot of movies as a kid, watching a lot of t.v. I grew up on the 80s when cable had just come onto the scene, so you know, they were digging deep into the libraries and digging out all these old movies and t.v. shows. So every day I was watching Twilight Zone episodes, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, old B&W monster movies, just constantly being barraged by so many different genres of film -especially horror films. It seemed like cable was really big on putting horror films in there. So in a very short time period I was being exposed to the very same horror films and shows that my Dad grew up with. Oh, and old horror comics. Like "Creepy" and "Eerie" were huge for me.
I read somewhere that you were also very inspired by Charles Addams.
Charles Addams, Edward Gorey, Tim Burton, obviously. Dr. Seuss... To me TRICK 'R TREAT has that feel, it's very tongue-in-cheek, and in a lot of ways it's a live-action cartoon, if that makes any sense. We even use comic-book art in the opening titles to convey that tone.
You want to bring the fun back to horror. The torture-movies are getting a little tiresome.
Well it's weird - I genuinely enjoy those movies, and I also enjoy the Japanese horror movies and their remakes. But to compare it to music, you can only hear the same kind of music on the air for so long before you want something completely different.
What's up next for you?
I need a vacation! I really need a vacation...
To visit Dougherty's Official Site, where you'll be able to see a full synopsis for TRICK 'R TREAT as well as a gallery of images, click HERE.