WRONG TURN director Rob Schmidt gave Fango the scoop on his contribution to the second season of Showtime/IDT’s MASTERS OF HORROR, titled RIGHT TO DIE. “It’s a modern ghost story,” he tells us, “revolving around the issue of, well, the right to die. It’s structured kind of like a horror CITIZEN RUTH, where creepy people on both sides of the issue are trying to publicly manipulate something that should be private and personal. In our case, the creepy people are brutally killed by a vindictive, horribly burned ghost.”
Fans of the brutal horror unleashed in WRONG TURN need not worry, since Schmidt–an admirer of Ruggero Deodato’s CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST—plans to keep the blood quotient high on this one. “It has atmospheric elements as well as violence,” he says. “I love blood and violence and the episode has that, particularly during a sequence in an MRI room where a character has to free himself from the pull of the machine to escape. Also, there’s a skinning scene. RIGHT TO DIE is a ghost story in stark modern locations, so it has its share of lonesome, eerie atmosphere as well. I love those old Japanese ghost stories from the ’50s, and I’m going to put some of that style in RIGHT TO DIE.”
The script was written by John (GRAVEYARD SHIFT) Esposito, with a polish by Larry O’Neill. While Schmidt was offered several screenplays for his MASTERS gig, RIGHT TO DIE “was the one we all got excited about. I love ghosts, politics and antiheroes, and it just felt right.” As a horror buff, Schmidt was hooked by season one of the show, and has his own picks for the best episodes. “My favorite was [Joe Dante’s] HOMECOMING, because it’s political and it has a heart. I also loved [Start Gordon’s] DREAMS IN THE WITCH-HOUSE, particularly the rat. The brilliant thing about that creature was that it combined a terrific, creepy performance with a super-low-tech effect to make a great sequence. It’s a lesson about the power of performance. I was lucky enough to meet Stuart Gordon and have dinner with him yesterday. He’s doing an adaptation of THE BLACK CAT that I’m looking forward to as well.”
One project Schmidt is not involved with is Fox’s upcoming direct-to-DVD WRONG TURN 2, for which Joe Lynch took the helm. “I’m flattered that my stuff is being sequeled now, but I’m disappointed that it’s not a theatrical follow-up. I would’ve been thrilled to do it for the big screen, but I’m still looking forward to seeing it.” Schmidt had such a great time on the original that he wants to work with the same crew again. “[TURN producers] Stan Winston and Brian Gilbert and I are always trying to get a project going together. John Bartley, the DP, is stuck in Hawaii for a couple of years doing some little show called LOST, but whenever work comes up, I call my cast and crew. I’m very fond of them, and I hope to work with some of them on THE ALPHABET KILLER, which I’m shooting after MASTERS OF HORROR.”
ALPHABET KILLER, is based on the unsolved “Double Letter” or “Alphabet Killings” that took place in Rochester, NY in the early ’70s. “Our movie is based on one of the investigators, Megan Paige, who suffered a breakdown during the course of the investigation,” Schmidt says. “Little girls with matching initials were being raped, murdered and then dumped in small towns starting with the same letter as their names. The pressure to prevent the next torture-murder was high, and Megan, who had put herself under tremendous strain, suffered a psychotic break. Her path to recovery as she struggles to stop the killings is the stuff of our movie.
“[Hillside Strangler] Kenneth Bianchi and a number of other serial killers were suspects, but have now been cleared through DNA,” Schmidt continues. “The killings ended as mysteriously as they began. It’s rumored that the killer was associated with the church the three known victims attended, and that he was moved out of the country. It’s still an open cold case.” ALPHABET KILLER was written by Tom Malloy, and is being produced by him, Aimee Schoof, Isen Robbins and Russ Terlecki (who previously teamed on Mary Lambert’s upcoming THE ATTIC); the project’s official website can be found here.