A Chat With Lawrence C. Connolly, Writer of NIGHTMARE CINEMA

We had the chance to sit down with Lawrence C. Connolly, the writer of Nightmare Cinema, at this year’s Grimmfest.

Welcome to England. How are you finding it? 

It’s great, I got in on Thursday morning and stayed awake for two days after the flight over and coming here. But I am rested and doing well!

How did Nightmare Cinema come about? 

It’s a great story, the best place to start is right around the year 2000. David Slade came across a book of mine, Traumatic Descent, in a book shop in London and he was wanting to work on a project with Charlie Canter who is from Sheffield, and David said “If you want to work, let’s work on this one” and it was Traumatic Descent. So they contacted me and Charlie came to the States, we worked together for a week planning the screenplay which was going to be the feature at the time. I went to London four months later and we had a first draft at that point, which Charlie turned into a second draft.

Things happened, it was optioned for a film and it was a renewable option for three years and it really looked like it was going to happen. Unfortunately, Charlie who had been in remission for esophageal cancer when we started working on the film, had it return very aggressively and he passed away in 2002. David came to LA and started to work on films there and we kept saying “It will be the next one,” so Hard Candy came out and it was going to be the next one but then it was 30 Days of Night, then it was Twilight Eclipse, and on and on.

We met up in 2010 and we were talking about this and decided it’s probably not going to happen, but it was a fun ride. Then in 2015 Mick Garris made him an offer that was “You can do anything you want provided it’s in budget and it has a tight shooting schedule.” And that's when David called me and said “We’re back in play, but we have to come up with a short script”. So he thought it was perfect as we could just do the story –– we won't do any backstory, won’t do any flashbacks we will just let the story as written stand on the screen. And that’s what we have and it’s so exciting, as what you see on screen is what you get in the book. We did add a scene but it is basically the same story as David found in the bookstore. 

So how does writing for a film differ from writing a book, is there anything you have to change? 

Yes, the exciting thing is when you are writing for a book you have to put everything in there. You have to describe the place, you have the opportunity to describe the characters thoughts, you can provide flashbacks and backstory. But with this, David said “We are going to cut out everything that might have been a backstory, have no narration and just let the images tell the story.” So we took the dialogue from the story and just trusted it to drive the story, and the script we ended up with was fairly spare. But I knew David would fill it out with the best actors, set designers, music composers and cameramen –– and he did. So in answer to your question, when I am writing a book I have total control and have to put everything in there, but when I am writing a script I trust the collaboration, and it really paid off on this one. 

I am a big fan of the horror anthologies like Tales From the Crypt and Tales from the Darkside. Are you a fan of these and did they influence you in anyway when preparing the script? 

They did, I was heavily influenced as a kid by The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

And when David said he wanted to shoot this episode in black and white I thought “this is great, I’m coming back home to my roots!” After those influences when I started writing, I began to write for the anthologies and the magazines, so my first stories came out in Twilight Zone Magazine which was the spin off from the TV show and in a magazine called Amazing Stories, but I am a huge fan of the anthology both in print and in film. 


Did you have a hand in choosing who was involved with the film, like the actors and the directors? 

I didn’t really have a hand in it , except that David and I had been talking about filming the story for 18 years, so it was inevitable we were going to work together. But Mick contacted his friends, directors he admired, and gave them the same challenge he gave to David Slade: Do anything you want as long as it is in budget and has a tight shooting schedule.

So each director developed their own project. We had Alejandro Brugues who wrote his own script, and his goal was to create the third act of a slasher film: we have all seen the first two acts, so let’s start with the third and that became The Thing in the Woods.

Richard Christian Matheson worked with Joe Dante and they have a story that is very much in the vein of The Twilight Zone, and it made me recall the feel of the early Twilight Zone episodes. Mick’s is called Dead and it is a script he had for a while but wasn’t thinking about putting it in this film, but some people read it and said to him that it would be perfect for Nightmare Cinema. So it just kind of evolved and every director had their dream project, and what more perfect for a dream project than Nightmare Cinema

So what is next for you, are you doing more films or more books? 

We did a podcast at the Fantasia Film Festival, the Post Mortem, with Mick Garris and after we finished Ryuhei Kitamura (one of the directors of Nightmare Cinema) turned to me and said “we gotta work together.” And I said “absolutely,” as I have the perfect script that was half way finished, and knowing I was going to finish it for him made me realise what I needed to do in the second and third acts.

So that is in play, I have some new stories as well as the second edition of my collection Voices: Tales of Horror has just come out, with a new introduction by Mick Harris a new story and a newly designed cover. This is my Bram Stoker Award nominated book, too, which I am very excited about. I am always working on something, but right now the only thing in my sights is Nightmare Cinema and I can’t wait to see it tonight. 

Do you think there will be a Nightmare Cinema 2

I am hoping so. Everyone in the game here is hoping there will be. Mick has talked about doing a series of films in the Nightmare Cinema universe, all wrapped around this concept of a theatre that shows movies, because the theatre has a vault which we see in the movie that is 100 Years of Horror. The projectionist played by Mickey Rourke loads them up and shows them to the audience whose lives are featured in these movies. So there are possibilities of stand alone features, anthology films or even a TV series in the vein of Masters of Horror.

And knowing how Mick is able to put things together and make projects happen I have no doubt it will happen.