From the Vault: Mark Pavia on His Stephen King Anthology Film

This is the second in a series where I try to do something constructive with the pages and pages of interview material that doesn’t make it into the book or magazine for which it was conducted.

This time out, it’s the complete correspondence I had with filmmaker Mark Pavia, who brought Stephen King’s weird vampire tale The Night Flier to the big screen back in 1997. Now he’s hard at work creating a film first: a Stephen King anthology film wherein one story will act as the wraparound for the entire anthology. [Check out the article in Rue Morgue #120, on newsstands now.]

Where are you in the process of creating your Stephen King anthology film?

I just started writing the script, actually, and am having an amazing time with it so far. It is incredibly creepy and atmospheric and FUN!  I have to say, writing a Stephen King movie again really does feel like coming home for me. As a lot of your readers probably know, Steve discovered me right out of film school. He saw my 16mm zombie short DRAG, then offered me the job of writing and directing THE NIGHT FLIER for him and producer Richard Rubinstein. So, I couldn’t be happier. Not only is he a great writer, but he’s also a great supporter and friend as well…

What horror anthology – either film or television series – would you say comes closest to what you would like to accomplish with your project?

Well, it’s funny, because even though I am writing a horror anthology, I’m not basing it — in feeling or structure — on one I have seen in the past.  And I have watched and loved many, just like everyone else!  To me, this is a Stephen King movie first and foremost, and the most important thing, I feel, is to capture the feeling, the atmosphere, the EMOTION, you get when you are totally immersed in one of his tales. This film, hopefully, will be the visual equivalent to Stephen King’s written word. At least that’s what I’m aiming for…

Considering that you cut your teeth on adapting Roald Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter, I wonder what you think of Dahl’s ‘80s anthology Tales of the Unexpected.

Wow, I haven’t thought about that show in a long time! It was a lot of fun, of course, creepy and inventive — and having Roald Dahl introduce the stories each week, at least early on, was especially cool.  But I have to say, my take on LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER (a Super 8 short I made in high-school which ended up getting me a scholarship to study film at Columbia College, Chicago) was influenced more by Alfred Hitchcock’s version, which he directed for his TV show ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. 

Do you already have distribution lined up?

No, there is no distribution lined up right now for the anthology, but since news of the project broke at the beginning of the the year, many people have reached out to me wanting to get involved.  There should be news on this very soon, so stay tuned.  Same Bat time, same Bat channel…

Who else are you working with on this project?

From the start, Steve and I chose the individual stories together, and now I am currently writing the screenplay alone.  Artistically, at this point, there is no one else involved.  But as I mentioned, a producer should be announced soon.  I am being very selective in who I talk to about it.  They have to “get it,” what I am trying to accomplish with the film.

Are you able to name any of the stories you’re considering for the movie yet?

You know, I thought long and hard about this, but because I love Rue Morgue so much, I’m going to give it up for you guys!  So, here for the first time are the titles of the stories included in my new Stephen King horror anthology. They are: THE REAPER’S IMAGE,  MILE 81,  N., and THE MONKEY.  It’s going to be one hell of of a scary show, and I am beyond excited about it!

Do you think there’s a chance that at least one of the stories will be an unpublished one?

No, as just mentioned, all of the stories included are all very well known — a perfect mixture of classic and modern King.  There’s something for everyone, old and new fans alike…

What do you think is the key to making a good horror anthology film for today?

To me, it’s all about making a good FILM in general, be it an anthology or a normal, linear narrative.  So, with that in mind, it then all comes down to the stories and the way that they are brought to the screen.  The visuals, as well as the acting, have to be handled in such a way that the unbelievable is made believable, absolutely plausible.  You can never be pulled out of the film as it begins to unspool its bizarre reality.  You have to accept it as fact — that this insanity is happening to real people, folks just like us — no matter how incredible.  That is what creates the horror. That is what makes it real and relatable. Rest assured, this is a serious horror film, and it will be handled as such.  Not that it won’t be “fun,” because it will be, but this film will never make fun of itself or the genre. I love and respect horror films far too much for any of that nonsense…

Do you remember the first King book you read and how old you were?

I do, actually!  It was the paperback of NIGHT SHIFT and I was 14 years old.  I was sleeping over at a friend’s house and he so happened to have it lying around.  It was that cover with the hand and the multiple eyes, you know.  I was like — what is THIS?!  I grabbed it before going to sleep, opened it, and read the introduction by John MacDonald, then read the foreword by Stephen King.  And I felt as if he was talking directly to ME, about my innermost fears and love for all things that go bump in the night. I then flipped through the pages, found THE BOOGEYMAN and read it, and it scared the living shit out of me!  From that moment on, I was absolutely hooked, a huge Stephen King fan.  And I still am to this day.  See, that’s what makes this so incredible — the fact that I get to work on something that I truly love, created by an artist that has so influenced my art and my life. And the fact that he has since become a friend, well… that’s just icing on this devil’s food cake.  You know how you always hear those awful stories about how people meet their heroes and then they turn out to be complete assholes, destroying everything they believed in and hoped for from their childhood?  Well, that is NOT the case with Steve.  He is an amazingly kind and generous man, everything you thought and hoped he would be…

Any idea what the budget is going to be?

No, but after the script is finished and a producer is brought on, a budget will be prepared from the finished manuscript.  That’s the way it is usually done.

Is there any King short story that is tops on your list to develop if given a choice?

Ever since I read THE MONKEY back in 1985, I said to anyone that would listen, that THAT was the one Stephen King story I had to make in my lifetime.  And this was way before I met Steve and was hired for THE NIGHT FLIER.  So now to have the opportunity to finally bring it to the screen is a dream come true.  Without a doubt, I am honored to be bringing this and the rest of these classic stories to the screen for the first time for the millions of Stephen King fans around the world.  And I am more than ready for the task.  This film is for them…

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