The day before Halloween…
…and only days after the release of the newest Halloween movie, you are getting a treat! The results of an exclusive interview with horror screenwriter, Kevin Mosley (Savage Island, Suspension and to be released early next year Puppet Killer).
Kevin Mosley grew up in the small town of Merritt, BC, Canada. When Kevin was a young boy of nine he saw a TV ad for the movie, It’s Alive (famous for the claw coming out of the baby carriage), at the local movie theatre. He pestered his parents to take him until they finally relented. Near the beginning of the movie he was getting too afraid and asked his parents if they could leave now, but after all his pestering they refused, telling him he was going to get what he asked for. They were probably thinking he would never ask to see a PG 16 horror movie again. They were wrong. He was hooked.
“I used to stand outside either of the two movie theaters and ask adults if they would buy me a ticket so I could get in.”
He gorged himself on the 70’s classics: Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Amityville Horror, The Shining, The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, Carrie, Halloween and all else. Kevin tells me that the success of the indie classics, and the tax incentives in Canada, kicked off a string of successful Canadian horror flicks like Prom Night, Black Christmas, and My Bloody Valentine. He realized that if these films could be made in Canada maybe it wasn’t so far out for him to be writing screenplays. That was his dream and he wasn’t going to let go of it.
By the age of 19 Kevin had written multiple screenplays teaching himself how by being saturated in the genre. In the big city of Vancouver, whenever he would finish a screenplay he would photo copy several copies and take it around to all the independent movie production houses, often seeing an administrator throwing it on a big pile. But gradually he started to hear back and get some encouraging comments.
“They were always ghost stories or horror.” And, of course he made some videos growing up that made it to the community TV channels, and he looks back fondly at the support the town of Merritt gave him. And, he now notices how his small town roots, or “red neck roots” he calls them, influenced him and shows up in nearly all of his scripts.
“I used to walk down and look at the houses…” in his picture perfect little town, “…and wonder what was going on behind those doors,” that wasn’t so picture perfect. Growing up a creative, gay kid in a small town made you an outsider, different, an alien, which he can now see why he was drawn to the monster and rebel horror genre. “I was always looking for aliens, or big foot.” but, “I was also sensitive and a huge fan of Disney animations.” It is an interesting contradiction that people who know Kevin, who “wouldn’t hurt a fly,” still see in him today.
Yet, horror, his dark side, was where he got most of his writing inspiration. There is a place near Merritt called Quilchena Falls, and the iron in the rocks made the water look red. He, of course, saw it as a waterfall of blood and it triggered one of his first full feature screenplays, Crimson Falls.
When Kevin’s screenplay Savage Island was produced in 2004 it was a dream come true for the small town kid from Merritt.
“I was at a horror film festival where Savage Island was screened and I was meeting all these directors and filmmakers who I grew up watching. I had felt like I had made it.”
But, there were many years of struggle to get any more films made and Kevin almost gave up. In looking back to his roots, to his amazement, he discovered that his Great Grandmother, isolated in a rural small town in the 1920’s, also was writing screenplays. .
“I found a rejection letter from Hollywood, dated 1926.” She perhaps gave up, but Kevin wasn’t going to. Through a series of struggles he remains persistent to his dream. “I said I would do this until I made it or died trying.” In 2014, his next film Suspension, a homage to the slasher genre, was released.
Kevin’s pet peeve about writers is that they say they are working on something but never have the courage to share it. There is a whole other side of being a screenwriter, he tells me, and you have to share to get your work made. “A screenwriter writes films because he wants to see it made. He wants to watch it.” You have to listen to the feedback and always be learning.
He has another piece of advice for writers who are writing on the dark side: “Don’t hold back.”
“I remember once writing a really brutal piece and stopping and thinking, what will people think of me?” There is a great fear of what others think. I am really grateful that I didn’t end up listening to that doubt, he tells me. “It didn’t stop me… The most important thing is for a writer to find their voice.”
“If I don’t write I am not myself. It’s the best job ever.” Kevin has a playlist of music from those classic horror films he grew up with that he pops on to help him get in the mood for writing on the dark side.
Kevin continues to be dedicated to the genre, and a collector of the horror genre and movie memorabilia, when I ask him outright why he thinks it has held him, he tells me that horror films, unlike any other, have that anticipation, the suspense that no other genre gives. A kind of visceral energy. One of his favorite movie scenes from Carrie is a good example. “The slo-mo of her walking to the stage and you know there is a bucket of blood and you know what is going to happen.” This, to Kevin is movie making brilliance.
His latest film, Puppet Killer, is anxiously awaited by horror fans who are already blogging about the trailer, but won’t be released until fall of 2019. He is currently writing another feature horror film which he is keeping quiet about for the moment…
Happy Halloween movie fans!