Interview with Paul Tanter director and co-writer of The Nights Before Christmas
By James Whittington, Sunday 25th October 2020
The Nights Before Christmas-poster

Prolific creative Paul Tanter has delivered a real treat for FrightFest pass holders today, the blood-splattered shocker, The Nights Before Christmas. Here he chats about this cracker of a movie.

HC: Have you always been a fan of the horror genre?

PT: Absolutely. One of my first cinema memories is my dad taking me to see Fright Night in 1985 and there being a promotional pack of vampire teeth on every seat. I was five at the time so I'm not sure how he snuck me in there, considering it's rated 18. I grew up watching The Omen films, in parts enthralled and terrified by them. I still can't pass that church in Fulham without keeping an eye on the spire, be near people carrying a pane of glass, or go skating on iced-over lakes.

HC: Where did the idea for The Nights Before Christmas come from?

PT: Largely as a follow on from another Christmas horror we did called Once Upon a Time at Christmas. This continues the story of some of the same characters but it's not strictly a sequel as you can watch it without needing to have seen the first one at all. We hinted at the origins of Mr and Mrs Claus in Once Upon a Time at Christmas, how they met and took on these personas. The Nights Before Christmas grew out of that - it's a exploration of their past while continuing the story in a bigger and more exciting way with more blood, more kills, more elaborate deaths. They are such fun characters to create and write that I'd happily to an entire series of films with them.

HC: Did you and co-writer Simon Phillips have a set routine when writing, for example, did you work together in the same room or on separate scenes in your own homes etc?

PT: We forensically detailed the story on index cards on a wall for every single scene. Once we nailed that then we divided the scenes between us and wrote separately at home, then passed them over for the other to feedback/edit. It goes back and forth several times with edits being discussed, argued for/against and eventually the shooting script it ready. I've been writing for over ten years with Simon as my producer so we have a good system for notes. I think this is the first time we've properly co-written one together though.

HC: How did you go about casting the movie?

PT: Well the casting of Santa and Mrs Claus was a no brainer after their antics in Once Upon a Time at Christmas. Sayle De Goede is six foot tall in bare feet and combines a wonderful manic energy with a sweet innocence. Simon Phillips as Santa is an absolute hoot - a classic movie psychopath of viciously sadistic killer with a keen mind. Many of the other roles we cast with talented actors we had worked with before and a couple of the smaller ones went out to casting websites and we looked at audition videos.

HC: This isn't just a slasher movie as it's a very tense thriller and revenge drama, did you find it hard to balance each theme?

PT: Thank you, yes as we're essentially merging the slasher genre with a police/FBI procedural then you have to delicately balance the two. One of my favourite films is Silence of The Lambs which continually has you tense on the edge of your seat and that was an influence on the thriller side of things. Hopefully these serious elements balance out with the more outlandish aspects of the story.

HC: Do you have a favourite "kill" in the movie?

PT: I'm very partial to Mrs Claus being inventive with a stiletto in a particularly bloody and vicious kill. There's also one where Santa goes at a lawyer in a bathroom with a pruning shears that men will be squirming at. But my favourite is probably when Santa decapitates a slimy corporate boss. I love those 80's movie douchebag type characters - Walter Peck in Ghostbusters, Carter Burke in Aliens, Harry Ellis in Die Hard. When we were casting this I told Simon that people need to really hate this guy, he needs to be believable as an utter sh*t. He said to me; "Paul, I know exactly who should play this role." I think we cast that character perfectly and I love seeing his head taken off.

HC: You seemed to have shot the movie under difficult conditions, was it a tough shoot?

PT: The outdoor stuff was, for sure. Our first day was the ambulance convoy scene which was a logistical nightmare with six vehicles driving on snowy roads, aerial photography, several scenes with a lot of elaborate kills and Santa bring a tree down on one of the cars. We'd been praying for snow all week as it was yet to land but we were booked in to shoot in anticipation of a big flurry. Thankfully we woke to two feet of pristine snow, but driving and filming in it was challenging. Also standing in snow up to your knees tends to make your shoes and trousers very wet, so that added to the fun. But ultimately your discomfort is temporary and what you shoot is permanent so you crack on and get it. Operating a drone in sub zero temperatures is certainly challenging.

HC: Will you be nervous when the movie is shown at FrightFest?

PT: Nervous and excited! I've been a fan of FrightFest for years now and I know there's a reason it's the UK's number one horror festival. It's an honour to be selected and we appreciate people choosing to watch our film when there's so many fantastic ones to choose from.

HC: There's a whole sub-genre of seasonal chillers, which is the best one?

PT: Hmm, if we're talking winter/snow bound then The Thing, Misery and The Shining would all be up there but if it's specifically Christmas then I'd definitely recommend people watch Rare Exports from Finland. It has a great spin on Santa.

HC: You're a prolific worker, has the pandemic allowed you to sit back and relax for once?

PT: It curtailed filming but not post-production, so I've stayed busy. We were shooting the second series of our vampire TV show Age of The Living Dead up to when the lockdown kicked in and just managed to wrap in time. Since then we spent the lockdown period finishing post on that and also on Stealing Chaplin, a Vegas-set black comedy inspired by a true story about two con men who dig up and ransom the corpse of Charlie Chaplin. Stealing Chaplin just got a UK theatrical release and Age of The Living Dead series 2 should be out early next year. The pandemic meant that all postproduction was being done remotely so actors were having to improvise makeshift recording studios for ADR in their closets. I also fitted in as much writing as possible - some scripts but also some writing for various film magazines. I'm looking forward to getting back to shooting things as soon as possible though.

HC: So, what are you up to at the moment?

PT: I can't say too much yet but there's talk of Santa and Mrs Claus returning to paint the town blood-red in a third Christmas instalment. Right now we're busy on a project called The United States of Horror where we are curating an anthology of short horror stories from each and every State in the USA. Each State's tale is linked to the State or intrinsically references it in some way. It's a celebration of horror filmmaking and we'll be launching a similar United Kingdom of Horror anthology very soon.

HC: Paul Tanter, thank you very much.

PT: Thank you too!

Supermarionation classic, Fireball XL5 coming to vinyl
Posted in News, Monday 23rd November 2020
Fireball XL5 Vinyl

Barry Gray's soundtrack LP to the 1962 series Fireball XL5 from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson will be released on vinyl early in 2021 on Silva Screen Records, the next in a series of Anderson releases which has so far featured UFO, Supercar and Thunderbirds.

This 7" single features two tracks from the upcoming album: Side 1 - Fireball (Don Spencer and the XL5), Side 2 - Zero G (Barry Gray and his Spacemakers) will be released on transparent Orange vinyl on December 18th.

Don Spencer's original 7" single release on His Masters Voice in 1962 reached number 32, remaining in the UK charts for twelve weeks. The original B side was another Don Spencer track, "I'm All Alone Again", ...

BBC Audio presents the immersive, multifaceted sci-fi drama Forest 404
Posted in News, Monday 23rd November 2020
Forest 404 Cover

BBC Audio are pleased to present an impressive and captivating environmental thriller, Forest 404, in a remarkable feat of audio publishing. Forest 404, publishing 21st January 2021, is a dystopian sci-fi drama series with an all-female cast, starring Pearl Mackie (Doctor Who) as the lead, with original theme music by Bonobo, comprising of 9 drama episodes, 9 accompanying talks, 9 immersive soundscapes in 3D binaural sound and a bonus 'making-of' documentary.

The piece is set in the 24th century, after a data crash called The Cataclysm. Pan (Pearl Mackie), the protagonist, is a young woman with a boring job labelling old sound archive that survived the crash. She uncovers a set of soun...

Horror Channel unwraps its slate of seasonal shockers
Posted in Features, Tuesday 17th November 2020
Horror Channe; December Banner

Xmas hauntings, festive nightmares, sadistic serial killers and warrior priests...Be prepared for seasonal shocks a-plenty on Horror Channel this December, with a selection of prime-time movies including an Xmas Day screening of Frank Khalfoun's boundary-pushing Christmas crime slasher P2, starring Wes Bentley and the George Clooney/Steven Soderbergh produced Wind Chill, in which Emily Blunt spends Christmas Eve fighting off a horde of menacing apparitions.

Also unwrapped are John Carpenter's classic car-rage chiller Christine, vampire action thriller Priest, starring Paul Bettany, the high velocity sci-fi drama Skyline and the supernatural twister Sinister, starring...

VHS retro horror "Rent-A-Pal" starring Wil Wheaton coming to download and DVD
Posted in News, Sunday 15th November 2020

A huge hit from Grimmfest Online Edition in October, Rent-A-Pal is be released on Digital Download on November 16th and DVD January 11th.

Set in 1990, a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal. Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. But, Andy's friendship comes at a cost, and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission.

Creepy, exceptionally dark and with superb perform...

Interview with Scott Reiniger star of the original Dawn of the Dead
Posted in Interviews, Sunday 15th November 2020

On the eve of a stunning new 4K box set of George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead from Second Sight Films, we chat to one of its stars, Scott Reiniger about this incredible film.

HC: How did you first become involved with Dawn of the Dead?

SR: Well, I was in New York, I was a stage actor in New York and I went to college with Christine Forrest, who later became George's wife and she asked me if I wanted to audition for this film called Dawn of the Dead, she wanted to know if I knew who George Romero was and I said, "Yeah, he was the guy who directed Night of the Living Dead". So, they sent the script over and I read it and it was pr...

Shocking... disturbing... The movie they tried to ban... Its score is coming to vinyl!
Posted in News, Tuesday 10th November 2020
Silent Night Deadly Night cover

Perry Botkin's chilling electronic score to the famed and much loved 1984 festive slasher, Silent Night Deadly Night is as charming, warm, disturbing and extreme as the movie. Immediately the record starts with the first time on vinyl track of a young child carol singer juxtaposed against the hard edged bombastic main theme. From there it doesn't let up!

In this cult classic Little Billy witnesses his parents getting killed by Santa after being warned by his senile grandpa that Santa punishes those who are naughty. Now Billy is 18 and out of the orphanage, and he has just become Santa himself...

Lovingly transferred from the original 1984 sessi...

Shaun Hutson's Progeny Spawns new novel for fans
Posted in News, Tuesday 10th November 2020
Progeny by Shaun Hutson

British horror legend Shaun Hutson releases a new hardback novel, Progeny and the paperback version of his hit 2019 hardback novel, Testament. Both novels are published by Caffeine Nights Publishing and supported with eBook and audio versions.

Progeny is the long-awaited sequel to his 1983 bestselling novel, Spawn. Caffeine Nights commissioned the original cover artist, for Spawn, Mark Taylor, to design the cover for Progeny. The artwork pays homage to Spawn while presenting a totally new book with a lovely classic horror retro feel.

"Progeny works as a stand-alone novel, but for fans who have read Spawn, there is a whole back story there that adds another leve...

All the creatures will be stirring in November!
Posted in News, Sunday 8th November 2020

Danse Macabre is pleased to announce the UK and Irish DVD and VOD release of Rebekah and David Ian McKendry's Christmas themed horror, All The Creatures Were Stirring on November 23rd..

Constance Wu (Hustlers) and Jonathan Kite (2 Broke Girls) headline a sensational cast in this devilish stocking stuffer of a movie in which an awkward date leads a mismatched couple to a strange theatre where they are treated to a bizarre and frightening collection of Christmas stories.

The movie received its World premiere at Chattanooga Film Festival where it won the Audience Award for Best Film and was quickly snapped up by Jinga Films for worldwide distribution...

Possessor will take you over this November thanks to Signature
Posted in News, Sunday 8th November 2020

From the visionary mind of writer director Brandon Cronenberg (Antiviral), Possessor is a game-changing sci-fi thriller about elite, corporate assassin Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough, Mandy).

Using brain-implant technology, Vos takes control of other people's bodies to execute high profile targets. As she sinks deeper into her latest assignment Vos becomes trapped inside a mind that threatens to obliterate her. Possessor features a stellar cast including Christopher Abbott (It Comes at Night, The Sinner), Rossif Sutherland (Guest of Honour), Tuppence Middleton (Downton Abbey), Sean Bean (Game of Thrones) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight).

Already building a cult...

Lock-down horror hit Host is coming to Blu-ray
Posted in News, Sunday 8th November 2020
Second Sight Logo

Second Sight Films shares the scares, as they announce the Blu-ray release of director Rob Savage's (Britannia, Soulmates) lockdown horror hit, the hair-raising Host. Fans of the affectingly contemporary, universally acclaimed Shudder Original film can expect a special feature packed edition release on 19 January 2021, following its theatrical and digital release later this year.

Six friends get together during lockdown for their weekly zoom call. It's Haley's (Haley Bishop - Angel had Fallen, Deep State) turn to organise an activity and instead of a quiz, she's arranged for a medium to conduct a seance.

Bored and feeling mischievous, Jemma (Jemma Moore - Wonder Woman, Doom...

Would you dare open the Book of Monsters?
Posted in News, Thursday 5th November 2020
Lyndsey Craine_Michaela Longden_Lizzie Aaryn-Stanton_Book of Monsters

Bring the Monsters home on November 30th with the Book of Monsters 2-Disk Collector's Edition Blu-ray/DVD combo from Dark Rift Films. Available for the first time on disk in the UK, Book of Monsters is a dark horror comedy in the vein of 'The Evil Dead II' and 'Shaun of the Dead' filled with practical effects driven monsters and intense, gory action.

Take on the forces of evil with the Standard Edition Blu-ray or become a fully-fledged monster hunter with the 2-Disk Collector's Edition. Limited to only 300 copies, the 2-Disk Collector's Edition features both Blu-ray and DVD version...

Johnny Kevorkian - Director / Writer / Producer 1972 - 2020
Posted in News, Thursday 5th November 2020
Johnny Kevorkian

It is with great sadness that we learned of the untimely passing of one of the most talented creatives around, Johnny Kevorkian.

A familiar face at FrightFest and behind one of the most acclaimed sci-fi thrillers in recent years, Await Further Instructions he was working on new projects right up until his death aged only 48.

Originally from Cyprus, Johnny Kevorkian graduated in Film from the University of Westminster, London, before making several short films that were selected for numerous prestigious film festivals around the world, such as Edinburgh and Los Angeles.

In 2008 Johnny directed, co-wrote and co-produced his debut feature, The Disappeared, a grippin...

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