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Last week, we brought you some words from Eric Appel, who helmed the initial episodes of MTV’s horror/comedy/mockumentary series DEATH VALLEY. Today we have words with Drew Daywalt, creator of a number of attention-getting fright shorts who helmed some subsequent installments, including the one that premieres tonight at 10:30 p.m. We’ve also got an exclusive clip from that show after his comments...
FANGORIA: How did you get involved with DEATH VALLEY?
DREW DAYWALT: Before [series creator] Spider sold the show, he had shot this great short presentation version of it and shown it to me, asking what I thought. I loved it and told him I’d love to be involved, but didn’t think much about it for a few months. Then he called me up and said he’d sold it to MTV, and would I like to direct for it. I was ecsatic for him and said I’d love to, and after meeting with the producers--who were clearly the same kind of comedy/horror lovers as myself and Spider--I was invited to direct three episodes.
FANG: How were your particular episodes assigned?
DAYWALT: I’m not aware of how that process worked, but I know the three they gave me were really gonzo, balls-out, monster-fighting action and scares. My episodes are funny as hell, but I noticed they gave me a lot of horror and action: werewolf fistfights, vampire shootouts, zombie mobs tipping over bloodmobiles with cops in them. It was a crazy month of shooting.
FANG: Did you have input into the scripts or overall tone/story of the series?
DAYWALT: The producers were all very gracious and collaborative in the creative process. When I read the scripts, I thought they were very funny, and I asked them, when it came to the action and the scares, how scary and actiony they wanted me to go, and they said, ‘Go all out,’ so I went for it.
FANG: How did you adapt your own approaches to the genre and the short form to this project?
DAYWALT: I learned a lot of tricks during my guerrilla horror-filmmaking days, and I applied a lot of low-tech physical effects, good old-fashioned creepy camerawork and low-lighting techniques. Less is more, especially with horror, so I probably spent more time turning lights out than on when I was on set.
FANG: How did you approach DEATH VALLEY’s balance of horror, comedy and the first-person format?
DAYWALT: Horror/comedy is not easy, that’s for sure. As a matter of fact, there isn’t a harder mashup of genres out there. Go too far into the comedy and you can’t get the audience back for the scary parts. Bring them too far into creepy-land and the laughs will never play. It was a constant teeter-totter of going from scary to funny. As far as the first-person perspective goes, that always helps in horror because it puts the audience in danger with the characters. There’s a great immediacy to such a subjective camera perspective. I tried to utilize that sense of danger whenever I could. The writers also did a bang-up job of balancing the tone in the scripts, so we had an excellent map of where to go with each scene, whether it was more comedic, more gory or more horrific.
FANG: How was it working with the cast?
DAYWALT: Most of the time, my sides hurt from laughing. The entire cast came from this great place of comedy and really knew the comedic beats, and when it came time to bring out the monsters for the scares and the fights, that’s when I stepped up and tried to make it as creepy as possible within the universe of the show.
FANG: What were your favorite episodes/moments to shoot?
DAYWALT: It’s hard to choose, really. There were so many funny bits, and it was always great when a new monster showed up on set. Mark Villalobos and his team were always unleashing some new little piece of special-effects fun on me. I think my favorite night of shooting, though, was with these abandoned, ransacked bloodmobiles, where the cops are going through them in the dark, looking for monsters. And what they find there is great. That whole sequence was incredibly fun to shoot.
FANG: Do you plan to continue with the series?
DAYWALT: Absolutely. I’d love to. The whole experience was a blast, start to finish, and it was one of those jobs that was over too fast for all of us. I’m really proud of the show we put together.
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