During the 2020 Summer of Covid, my son Sam and I started a weekly tradition. We’d go out every Saturday morning to have breakfast and play tennis. We still have breakfast every Saturday, but in deference to our being artsy types and not athletes, we no longer play tennis. The rackets are still in my car should we ever get the urge, but it’s been a good while. And it’s winter now, so…
Sorry, I digress.
One morning over a round of badly played tennis, we started spitballing ideas for short horror films. Not the kind you normally see at film fest, mind you, but the kind you’d see if people on horror films had something called Common Sense. You know. Common Sense tells you not to open doors that say, “Keep out.” Common Sense says, “Don’t hunt vampires during the day.” Common Sense says, “Run out the front door, not upstairs where there’s no escape.”
We had six or seven ideas by the time we left the courts that day. In the coming weeks, we ended up with fifteen. I started reaching out to actors on Facebook, asking folks to film themselves and send us footage. (Covid, remember?) We cut them together on my trusty ol’ MacBook, the one with iMovie HD because I still to this day refuse to learn the newer versions. (It’s just easier, okay?) And we released them one at a time on YouTube.
The World’s Shortest Horror Films is a fifteen part series featuring the talents of many old friends and new. I made a lot of short films in my day, but few make me prouder. I mean, I made them with my kid. We wrote them. We cut them together. We even appear in one. Well, I appear in it; you can hear his voice. (Spoiler alert, I am not opening that door!)
Sam and I went our separate ways creatively after Covid. I’m back to writing, and he’s in a killer school of rock band called Abstract Agenda. He plays keyboard, bass, guitar, and saxophone. As a matter of fact, I was in quarantine with Covid the day he brought home a saxophone for the first time in July. He went from the usual beginner squeaks and squawks to accurately playing the opening solo from “Careless Whisper” in less than two hours. Kinda makes you sick!
Maybe one day we’ll collaborate on another short. Until then, I’m proud of the one series we assembled together.
You can watch the whole series, all 15 short films, in the video below. It’s only an eight minute commitment, so give it a whirl, will you?
I had no intention of writing Zombies of Oz. For one thing, I’m not exactly an Oz fan. That mean old wicked witch scared me as a child. Sure, I’ve grown to love Margaret Hamilton for her little wink and nod to the camera in William Castle’s 13 Ghosts, but that hasn’t endeared me to the 1939 classic any more.
I haven’t read the Oz books, and the only other Oz story I know is The Patchwork Girl of Oz, thanks to a junior high musical I directed about, oh, 20 years ago. We had a lot of laughs. We didn’t exactly stick to the script. Correction: the delightful young show off I cast as the Glass Cat did not stick to the script. But other than her shenanigans, which unexpectedly went to 11 in front of an actual audience, I remember nothing about it.
A number of years ago, this idea came to me. What if Dorothy didn’t go to Oz? What if there was a storm and a bump on the head, and then a zombie apocalypse? And what if Dorothy was a juvenile delinquent? A rough, inner city kid sent to the farm to chill out? In other words, what if she was fully prepared to kick some zombie butt?
I liked the idea. I didn’t want to write it. So I made it a Facebook post. I posited the questions above and added a few notes about a gun-toting redneck, a cyborg, a shell-shocked soldier, and a pit bull. (You do the math; or better yet, read the story!) I sent it out into the world and told my filmmaker friends, of whom I have many, “Have at it.”
One of those friends, Irv Severs, responded. He loved it, and he said if I wrote it, he’d make it.
I started writing. Irv and I started talking. Then we roped Roni Jonah into the mix, which is how Dorothy became a redhead. You may have seen Roni in some of my films or, more famously, in Shark Exorcist. She’s a delight, and a heck of a muse for a rampaging, redheaded Dorothy Gale.
Long story short, the film never got made. Irv, Roni, and I moved on to other projects, and the script sat in mothballs until about a year ago. That’s when I first converted this story (along with the script that became Girl Most Likely to Kill You and the script that is now the upcoming third Dead Park book) from script to prose.