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Q&A: Producer John Hegeman on “HOLIDAYS” Present and Future

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Eight different HOLIDAYS are given terrifying twists in the new anthology film, and in this exclusive interview, producer John Hegeman tells FANGORIA how they came together and which ones he plans to tackle in a future follow-up.

Currently on VOD and hitting select theaters this Friday from Vertical Entertainment, HOLIDAYS starts with Valentine’s Day, ends with New Year’s Eve and makes several scary stops on the calendar along the way (see review here). It’s a project for which Hegeman brought together a Who’s Who of hot current horror talent—Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer, Gary Shore, Nicholas McCarthy (see set visit here), Sarah Adina Smith, Anthony Scott Burns, Kevin Smith, Scott Stewart and Adam Egypt Mortimer—but one he has been fostering in his mind for quite some time now…

FANGORIA: Where did the inspiration for HOLIDAYS first came from?

JOHN HEGEMAN: I’ve been kicking around the idea for probably over 15 years. I made a couple of movies early on that were based on iconic, benevolent characters, including DARKNESS FALLS, which was all about the tooth fairy. About that time, I started thinking about holidays in general, and this crazy balance of anticipation and dread we have about them. What’s so cool about those days is that they can really freak people out; you think of them as being these great times, but there’s always that opportunity for something to go wrong, and I wanted to make an anthology about those opportunities for everything to spin into chaos. It just took a long time—it took about 10 years for audiences to become more accepting of the anthology genre, and I believe that comes from people consuming a lot more short-form content today than they did a decade ago.

FANG: Did you start with a list of specific holidays you wanted to adapt, or did you have the filmmakers choose?

HEGEMAN: We had a list of 32 that we thought were appropriate, and then we pared that down to 12. Then we worked with the filmmakers, and told them, “These are the holidays we have, which ones would you like?” Some were very clear on which ones they wanted; Gary Shore was like, “I have to do St. Patrick’s Day,” because he’s Irish, so we said, “Great, it’s yours.” In some cases, a holiday was already claimed that they wanted, but the good news was that we still had multiple alternatives to choose from.

FANG: How did you go about selecting the directors?

HEGEMAN: I had relationships with a few of the filmmakers, and I love the genre, so I was familiar with a couple of names I really wanted to go after because I loved their movies, like Sarah Adina Smith with THE MIDNIGHT SWIM. We didn’t want to make a movie that was pure horror and exploitation and blood; we wanted a certain cerebral component to it, so there’s a nice range in there. Sarah was on the top of the list, and [THE PACT and AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR’s] Nicholas McCarthy, and then Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer from STARRY EYES. Those were a group I really wanted for HOLIDAYS, and I work with Adam Egypt Mortimer all the time, and then the balance just came from seeing who was out there and whose films we enjoyed. We also hooked up with XYZ Films, and in addition to being our foreign sales agent, they came on board as co-produce. They have a great roster of cool and eclectic directors they work with. They really helped flesh it out and bring in some names that brought a strong awareness to the project.

FANG: Was there anyone you wanted to get who just wasn’t available?

HEGEMAN: Yeah, there were a few we would have liked, and if we’re going to do another one, they would love to come and join us. I think there are a lot of filmmakers who enjoy short-form storytelling, and there were two or three we would have liked to do this and they would have liked to do it, but from a scheduling perspective, it didn’t work out. I’d rather not say who they were, so it’ll be a surprise if we come out with a sequel and there are these very cool names attached. And who knows, maybe they’ll change their minds, and I’ll say their names in this article and they’ll get mad at me.

FANG: Were the filmmakers all aware of what each other was doing?

HEGEMAN: Yeah, and that was sort of the fun part, because it was a collaborative group. Not that they worked on each other’s movies, but they were very into what each other was making, which holidays they had, contacting each other about how to solve problems in getting these made on a budget but still being able to present the scope and the ideas they wanted. It was pretty cool seeing them all come together.

FANG: Halloween and Christmas have been the subject of many past horror movies; was it a challenge to come up with fresh approaches to those two?

HEGEMAN: It was not, because the filmmakers, once we decided on the holidays for each of them, came up with their own stories, and one thing I can tell you about every single one of them is they’re unbelievably creative. Scott Stewart said, “I want Christmas, and I know exactly what I want to do with it,” and Kevin Smith similarly wanted to do Halloween. Those were two of the higher-profile names, and each of them wanted a very specific holiday—and like you said, both of them have been done time and time again. But those directors had always had stories they’d wanted to tell about those days. Everyone who came on board, in fact, had some story about a holiday they wanted to tell in the backs of their heads. Nicholas McCarthy’s short is insane, and that was based on him being fixated on a certain element of Easter that he wanted to explore.

FANG: One thing other anthology creators have talked about is getting the right balance of tones, and making smooth transitions from one segment to the next. Since you were locked into a chronological order here, did it take a lot of work to make sure the tone flowed correctly from one holiday to the next?

HEGEMAN: It’s funny—that was one of the things we were very nervous about, because obviously, like you said, we had to order them based on the calendar year. I think we just lucked out. One thing I didn’t want to do, because of the respect I have for all these directors, was tell them what the tone of their segments should be. They didn’t do this as a job, but out of passion, and they weren’t being told by a studio, “Do this, do this, do that.” It was more like, “Do what you want to do.” What we did try to do was match certain directors’ paces to the days; we knew Sarah’s style going in, for example, so we tried to match certain styles with the holidays where we could. But we didn’t say, “Hey, this is the fourth short, and we’re going to need to become more extreme or more cerebral.” We just let the directors do their thing, and it worked out.

FANG: If and when you get to do a sequel, is there any particular holiday you especially want to tackle that you didn’t get to do this time?

HEGEMAN: Yes, and that’s one of the reasons why I couldn’t say the director’s name, but April Fool’s Day is a huge one that we would like to do, and July 4. We didn’t do Thanksgiving, which is another big one. And if we do another film, we’d mix in a little bit more of an international flavor, maybe doing something with the Chinese New Year and bringing in some Latino directors. We would like to give it as much as of an eclectic, global feel as we can.

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About the author
Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold has been a member of the FANGORIA team for the past three decades. After starting as a writer for the magazine in 1988, he came aboard as associate editor in 1990 and two years later moved up to managing editor. He now serves as editor-in-chief of the magazine while continuing to contribute numerous articles and reviews, as well as a contributing editor/writer for this website.
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