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Wayne Spitzer
Horror Interview by The Cryptkeeper

Q: Tell us about Shadows in the Garden. When did you first get the idea and how did it develop?

WAYNE: When I was a boy my grandmother told me that a man had broken into her home and threatened her with a knife, but she'd been spared because the wind had knocked a tree down - which scared him away. She lived alone in a little white house next to Spokane's Manito Park … a place which, back then, could really inspire a boy's fancy. Being all of about 7, I just assumed it was where they'd filmed The Creature from the Black Lagoon! The thing is, as she was talking I remember gazing out the window at a nearby tree, and seeing this huge deformity on its trunk, a bur, I guess - and imagined eyes opening. Later, when I was about 22, I found myself walking home from the tavern one night in a soft drizzle, and because I was still young enough to just sort of groove on my surroundings, I remember watching the rain course between the bark of the trees … and, wham, there was that image again. I wrote the short story that would serve as the basis for Shadows that night, in one sitting, while rain drizzled down the window.

Q: I understand that you've written and published other fiction - why did you choose to film Shadows as opposed to anything else? Why not adapt your novella, Flashback, for instance?

WAYNE: Well, first off, because Flashback isn't a very good novella. I'm a little charged, shall we say, even today, at 37. When I was 22 I was positively hyper-kinetic. Reading Flashback is an exhausting experience because a kid wrote it, essentially. Take all the exploded verbiage from it and what you have is a pretty sparse Romero derivative -- with carnosaurs instead of zombies. Besides, the only way we could have pulled off dinosaurs on a micro-budget would have been to use stop-motion, something I didn't feel we were up to. I basically chose Shadows because it didn't involve many actors, which was a big consideration back then.

Q: You directed Shadows from inside the costume, correct? How did that work!

WAYNE: It was miserable! We had about three people standing on the sidelines with garden hoses, pun intended, and were being drenched the entire shoot. To make matters worse, on the night that we did most of the exteriors the temperature dropped inexplicably - if Monstersdotcom makes it to DVD and the outtakes are included, you'll see images of the monster literally quaking in his leaves. That's me freezing my ass off.

Q: Any plans for a sequel-story?

WAYNE: Not likely, no. It was, however, written with that in mind. I'm a big believer in the tip-of-the-iceberg theory, in which there is always far more going on in the broader context than can be treated of in any one story. One of the reasons people have difficulty with the piece, I think, is that it's strewn with these references to the larger landscape of Cthulhu Gardens and Sarnath Botanics. Doing that, I think, helps a movie bleed; it gives it a life outside the box. The original Star Wars was like that, in that one had the sense of this entire universe, this entire history, behind things, and at that point it was all still a mystery. It was magical. I mean, I have notebooks upon notebooks filled with this stuff. Maybe someday, if Monstersdotcom finds its audience, I'll go back and do another one.

Q: What have been your primary influences? Do they tend to be films or books?

WAYNE: Both. I really wouldn't know where to begin. I mean, I've always been an avid reader. I like the classic stuff: Richard Matheson, Ira Levin, Ray Bradbury, Shirley Jackson. Harlan. I think John Gardner's Grendel is a masterpiece. But I've a taste for the non-genre classics, too, things I've been exposed to in school - Dostoevsky's The Grand Inquisitor, Joseph Conrad, Kafka, Sartre's The Flies. I still think an aspiring filmmaker can do worse than to get a university education. If nothing else it will show him or her that fantastic entertainment didn't begin with Star Wars, or Night of the Living Dead, or whatever golden calf he/she bows to. Most of what we've grown up on is diluted wine. I mean, how can you take the next step if you don't know what's come before? As for movies, that's even harder to say. My list probably isn't that original. I love Spielberg's Duel, and Polanski's Rosemary's Baby. I'm an admirer of The Wickerman, as well as David Lynch's Blue Velvet. I rather dig The Illustrated Man though it isn't a very good movie. Love Carpenter's early stuff. Love Dan Curtis. Love the original Planet of the Apes movies, especially Conquest. I happen to think that the 1976 version of King Kong was wonderful - sue me. And I adore all the beautiful nonsense I grew up on: Godzilla, Mothra, Mecha-Kong, that whole gang. I suspect most fans of my approximate age group would say the same.

Q: Future projects?

WAYNE: I'm currently developing an adaptation of Algernon Blackwood's The Willows, for a 2005 release, I hope. I'm in the process of writing the screenplay right now. I've been corresponding with Mike Ashley, Blackwood's biographer, as well as a wonderful scholar named Nick Freeman, both of whom have given me invaluable insights as to where Blackwood may have been coming from in this most unsettling of his tales. They'll be no rubber monsters this time out, only the wonder and the terror of the natural world as seen through a different lens. It's going to be like nothing else I've ever worked on, and, well, I'm excited about it. Also, am currently shooting "The Snake Man" with Ron Ford, as well as helping Andy Kumpon prep a collection of our old Dead of Night episodes for, I hope, a 2004 release.

Q: Well, I guess that's about it for now. Thanks for chatting with us, Wayne!

WAYNE: I'm honored. Thank you!

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