In this podcast, Matthew Holness talks about Garth Marenghi’s TerrorTome, Darkplace, Possum, and much more.
About Matthew Holness
Matthew Holness is an English comedian, writer, director, plus actor. He is best known for creating and playing the fictional horror author Garth Marenghi. His brand new book Garth Marenghi’s TerrorTome is out early November and his film Possum is out right now.
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Michael David Wilson 0:28
Welcome to This Is Horror, a podcast for readers writers and creators. I'm Michael David Wilson and every episode I interview masters of horror, about writing, life lessons, creativity, and much more. Now, today's guest is Matthew Holness. He is a comedian, writer, director and actor, and he is probably best known for Garth Marenghi's dark place. He also wrote and directed a fantastic film possum and has done a number of other great things including a gun for George and bruiser. But today for this very special Halloween episode. We are here primarily to celebrate the forthcoming release of Garth Marenghi's TerrorTome, the brand new Garth Marenghi book. And I absolutely love Garth Marenghi and Garth Marenghi's dark place I have oft quoted it with my friends. And so it was a tremendous pleasure and an honor to be able to sit down and chat to Matthew wholeness. And even though we only had about an hour we really did get into so much stuff. So of course there's a lot of Garth Marenghi chat. There's a little bit of Possum conversation, but we also delved into a little bit on the editing process on what it was like growing up in Whitstable, and a lot lot more. But before any of that, a little bit of an advert break.
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Michael David Wilson 3:54
Okay Well with that said here it is it is Matthew wholeness on dare says Hara Matthew, welcome to This Is Horror.
Matthew Holness 4:07
Thank you very much. Very pleased to be here.
Michael David Wilson 4:09
Happy to have you here. And I want to begin with, I want to know what early life lessons you learned growing up in Whitstable.
Matthew Holness 4:21
What early life lessons Oh my goodness. I don't know really. I wanted to get away from Whitstable. I remember that it was so sort of quiet and and sort of dead end. It's not that any more it's it's absolutely thriving. It's like a London suburb but when I was growing up there as a boy it was very sort of quiet and I mean it was nice it had a kind of Stephen King town feel to it but I guess everyone feels that in a dead end town. They feel you know if you're if you're into horror you feel like it's there's just lots of interesting things. You know that your imagination dreams up down every street and every field and every area of woodland so I loved it. I loved growing and I love going back there, but it is. It is very busy there now it's it's not it's not the place it was in lots of ways. Yeah, yeah. No life lessons.
Michael David Wilson 5:11
No, no, no life lessons
Matthew Holness 5:17
made in life. There was no forewarning, there was no, you know, alert at all. No, I just went out and made lots of mistakes. And there you go like anyone else?
Michael David Wilson 5:26
Yeah, yeah, I mean, that is often the way that it goes. But I mean, I suppose particularly for horror fans, if they hear Whitstable then it's difficult to not think of Peter Cushing. Absolutely. Well, it's my understanding that you actually met him at an early age.
Matthew Holness 5:45
I did on a on a couple of occasions. I mean, I would say that probably most people in Whitstable living then that at that time in Whitstable, would have seen him on a fairly regular basis, because you'd always see him cycling around the town, you know, round tankerton slopes. He was a very, you know, popular figure. And, and it was always about but yes, I did meet him. My, my mum was taking me and my brother who were quite young actually think when I remembered this before, and I've spoken about it before, I think I was remembering it. I was a lot younger than I was it was 1985. I think that's what I've got on my autograph. So I would have been 10, actually, and my brother would have been younger. But yes, he was he was looking in the bookshop window of Perian calendars, which was the really lovely bookshop that we had in Whitstable, where I basically bought all the books that I read growing up, and he was looking in there, my brother and I were huge fans of him because we used to watch, you know, we used to record the hammer omnibus film screenings on Fridays, and we would, you know, watch them the following morning. So we were huge Peter Cushing fans, and obviously Star Wars two. And my mum went up and kindly introduced us and asked if he would mind sort of just chatting to two young boys that were huge fans. And he was a little concerned that we were watching his Hammer films. But he was absolutely lovely. And he signed us both an autograph, then and, and then when I, at that time, we had a, we had the 11 Plus system, I think they still do it and Ken actually, and I passed my 11 Plus and as a little reward, my parents asked me, was there something I would like I really wanted Peter Cushing's autobiography which was coming out then. So we queued up in Canterbury, the WH Smiths in Canterbury, where he was doing a signing, and, and he very kindly signed his autobiography to me, but he didn't just sort of write one, you know, sign his name, he, you know, took the time to have a chat and write a lengthy message in there. So really, really lovely man. And yes, a huge, wonderful memory of childhood. What you know how fantastic and how fantastically lucky I was to grow up in a town with you know, such a great, you know, iconic actor. Absolutely wonderful.
Michael David Wilson 7:58
Yeah, yeah. And as that's remarkable, and I don't know if you've read the Stephen Volk trilogy on
Matthew Holness 8:07
it. I've not written Yes. So so sorry. I know the one YouTube I haven't read. I've read that one. The other two at the moment, although I do have them but I have but I have read the Peter Cushing one. And it's yeah, it's wonderful.
Michael David Wilson 8:19
Yeah, yeah. Well, I wonder of this Hammer Horror movies. What was the first one that legitimately terrified you?
Matthew Holness 8:30
I think probably the Terence Fisher Dracula, the original Dragon. That's, I think, I think the first one I was the first one I was due to see, I think was Frankenstein. And the monster from hell. I think that but I wasn't, I think we were the tape didn't work, I think and I actually missed it. Or I think it was that or my mum was in two minds as to whether or not I could actually watch her how a horror film at that age. So I think she put it off and wouldn't let me record it. But I think I kicked up such a fast that by the following week, she let me you know, record and watch it the next day. So I remember being really frightened by that one. And the one that absolutely haunted me. And I think because it that it was just there was just too much happening was Dracula ad 1972. Which I had. I've, you know, there was there was just so much blood in that film. And as a kid, I just couldn't quite cope. I mean, I loved it actually loved it. But that one really got into into my head, I think and of course, because you know, there's lots of, you know, sex and all these things that you know, to a young child, you're going What is this horrific adult world? So that's probably something I felt I should not have watched. But it was one that really, you know, did did have an effect on me because it was yeah, it was just everything I didn't know about life in a film.
Michael David Wilson 9:47
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, what kind of books were you reading at that time?
Matthew Holness 9:53
I was actually reading mostly Fighting Fantasy gamebooks the subjects in Livingston books and those those Really my entry into book reading, I absolutely adored them and collected them right up until I think number 50. And then I realized I had to sort of stop. But I wish I hadn't. Now I'm collecting them again, I wish I wish I'd carried on. But, but yeah, those were those were mainly the books. I mean, I also had, I had a lot of annuals, and I had the Dracula spine chiller annual, which had the really good house of hammer magazine, graphic novel adaptation of the horror of Dracula. And also, I think twins of evil was another one that's in that particular annual. So I was I was reading a lot of that stuff. But there was definitely, you know, I don't think I was on to horror novels at that point. But I was definitely absorbing as much horror content as I could.
Michael David Wilson 10:51
Yeah, yeah. So I mean, given the growing gap, you were clearly immersed in horror and in stories. Did you know then from an early age that you wanted to be a horror writer? Was that always the dream? Or was the aspiration?
Matthew Holness 11:09
I don't think it was at that point, like the plan because I don't think I really thought beyond you know, next day, boy, yeah. So but I, but I really enjoyed writing stories. And that was what I, I really loved doing. And I wrote a lot of horror stories at school, and nearly all of them had Dracula, and Frankenstein. And goodness knows what to the point where the teachers were worse concerned enough to bring my parents into school and ask them to, you know, check, check upon my, my interests. But that Yeah, so I think I always loved writing and always felt like that was the thing I did best. So that's, you know, I think I changed plans as I got a little bit older, you know, going to university or going to school and then wanted to be a rock star. And then I wanted to be a comedian. And it all changed. But I think coming back to writing is really my the thing that I'm most feel I'm most natural and happy doing. So yes, I think that's probably the, you know, the the, you know, subconsciously maybe I was deciding that that's what I wanted to do without really being able to express it.
Michael David Wilson 12:18
Yeah, yeah. And in terms of having your parents called into school, I mean, that's kind of the ultimate as someone who don't write in horrific stuff, it's like I affected you so much that you had to call my parents in.
Matthew Holness 12:32
Yes. And I think I think there was one story in particular, where I used my teacher, I think, an alien ship comes down. And, and I think they, they, they they took her hair so that she was bald, and I think she was absolutely furious about that. And I think that was the final straw.
Michael David Wilson 12:50
Yeah, it wasn't anything. You just like, you know?
Matthew Holness 12:59
Yeah, just some sort of humiliating, you know, yes. So. But there you go. Yeah. Not proud of not proud of it.
Michael David Wilson 13:10
I mean, would you often entertain your friends and your classmates with stories? I mean, I'm wondering what the kind of scene was there?
Matthew Holness 13:20
Well, yes. And that was, that was the nice thing, because the teachers encouraged that at my school. And so quite often, I would get the chance to read out a story to the class. And that was, that was great. And I think that was that was such a good thing to be able to do at that age. And very grateful that teachers, you know, our teachers encouraged us and allowed us to do stuff like that. So yeah, that was definitely fun. So it was it would be, you know, would you like to read your story out to the classical? Yes, please. Yeah, it's good fun doing that.
Michael David Wilson 13:50
Yeah. Yeah. So I know that a lot of people want to hear about Garth Marenghi. And this is the book that you're here to promote as well. So jump into that early. But I mean, it was originally you and Richard Ayoade created Garth Marenghi so I mean, what's the origin story there? I'm wondering what conversations the two of you are having to conceive of a spoof pulp 80s Horror offer?
Matthew Holness 14:25
Well, in all honesty, I had sort of come up with the character before I met Richard I actually performed Garth in a in a Footlights smoker, which is the Cambridge Footlights is a comedy group at the University. And I was a member of that, and smokers are like cabaret evenings. So I actually did the first run of Garth performances at cabaret evenings there, and also in the footlights review, which we did and I hadn't met Richard at that point. But when we did start writing together, we moved to London, and we were looking around to do something and we were doing a little resident See The hen and chickens club in Islington, along with the Mighty Boosh. And Matt Berry was also doing stuff there and around about that time, and I think it was probably prior to that, actually. But Richard and I had wanted to do something horror based. And we were just thinking, what should what should we write that's, you know, horror in theme I said, we'll actually have, you know, a character that you know, that I do in that I've done on stage. Why don't we pin it on that? Pin it around that and that gives us a way into writing some some horror material. So that's how that came about. So Garth became essentially a bit of a host for another thing. And in fact, the first GAF script we wrote together, doesn't really feature Garth at all. It's just, it's just an intro by Garth. And then a story a horror story, which is very much a kind of Jack the Ripper. Victorian Comedy, Horror, comedy horror genre story. But we only wrote half that script. But that's actually yeah, that's the first script we did that was Garth. So yeah, it was it sort of Garth came around as a way of doing something else, and then became the focus of that project.
Michael David Wilson 16:09
Right. Yeah. Yeah. And in terms of the TV show, Darkplace, how did that come about?
Matthew Holness 16:17
Well, we taken Garth bring it up to the Edinburgh Festival in 2002 1001. And the first year, we took it up in 2000. We were very fortunate enough to be nominated for the Perrier Award, which is the Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Festival. So we were nominated that year. And then the following year with our follow up show, we won the award. So that was really fortunate for us, because that meant that we had a lot of interest from TV companies. Because in those days, it was it was a you know, it was I wouldn't say guaranteed route but it was a I suppose an accepted route that to get to television, you went to the Edinburgh Festival, and if you did, well, you would you know, that would be your, your way into television. So we were we were very fortunate to benefit from from that as it was then because we did get interest from from TV and we did a few things. It didn't go straight to dark place we had. We'd both done some TV work prior to going up to Edinburgh evening. Even I was in a show called bruiser with Robert Webb, David Mitchell. Livia calm Martin Freeman and Charlotte Hudson. And so we had done bits and bobs. And when we when we did the gas show, it wasn't immediately a kind of dark place wasn't the first thing we did that we did a few pilots with a production company Avalon, in which Garth would do a few little pieces. But those were shows that had a lot of other acts in like Johnny Vegas and Stuart Lee and people like that. So it was only after a while that we put together a pilot we did a pilot for dark place, which was called gathering is the told, which wasn't a sort of set in the 80s it was it was a show set. Now we basically tried to make it as sort of overly serious as we could we thought that would be funny to pomposity of, of like just these ultra serious dramas, but it actually ended up just being very dull, and just not very funny. So we realized we had to kind of go back via police squad and make make it a little bit sillier. And then we had the idea of well, why don't we set it as an archive show something that you know, they've dug up from an 80s Vault. And and then that became funny and soon as we sort of thought, Okay, well, it's this horror writer who's done it like Doctor Who, but he thinks it's really serious, then that became the way to do it. Really.
Michael David Wilson 18:36
Yeah. And archivists, I mean, watching, as you say, I mean, aesthetically, you can't help but think of those old Doctor Who episodes but then I mean, another perhaps less obvious comparison is Lars von Trier. Yes. Kingdom.
Matthew Holness 18:52
Yes. Which we, which we did actually watch for research. Actually, we watched that. And, and that was, that was a big key thing for us a thing or what that would be a great sort of show to do something that's set in a hospital that's, you know, built upon some horrific hellhole. And so yeah, that was a big influence that show and Richard was a huge last voluntaries fan. So that that sort of came through. And weirdly enough, we didn't realize this at the time, but Stephen King was doing the kingdom hospital adaptation of the same show at the same time, but there was no you know, we had no idea that that was the case. We were very fortunate that ours came out just before Kingdom hospital. So like we were, we were doing too much of a copy but but yeah, but I think that that particular show was definitely an influence but as with lots of other shows of different types, you know, TJ hooker was was a big influence as well. Right? This this terrible William Shatner cop show.
Michael David Wilson 19:48
Yeah, yeah, I'm familiar with it. I mean, I'm wondering so it's been almost 20 years since the initial release of dark place, and you've put out a number of other things, perhaps most notably, possum very different in tone. So for any dark place fans are listening, and they're like, Oh, well Oh, check out that is a very different experience. But I mean, what what has it been like revisiting and getting back into the mindset of the Garth Marenghi character after a couple of decades?
Matthew Holness 20:28
It's been a bit odd actually. It took me a little while to warm up doing it. And you know, there's a lot of, you know, initial attempts that were sort of thrown up and tossed away. But now I'm sort of back in back in the zone a little bit and can kind of think think like Garth and write like Garth with relative ease. But it was a little tricky to get started on it again. Yeah, just you know, it was a long time ago since I've done it. In fact, I think the only the only Garth appearance I did before. This was back in 2008. I think it was the last one at the bush festival. So yeah, it's been a long time. And I'm glad I'm very glad I kept the glasses. Yeah. To get hold of. So I did have the glasses. So that's that's the that's the one bit of costume I still had.
Michael David Wilson 21:22
Yeah, and you say that glasses. So is there only a singular pair? I mean, even when you were making the TV here, there was no backup. So if the, if the glasses got damaged?
Matthew Holness 21:36
Well, luckily, I was with the TV budget did allow us to make some more, we then made more, or they got some that was so similar. But I still I mean, because the original pair actually my granddad's pay my granddad's glasses, and I and I kept them and use them for that. So they are my granddad's original pair of brown tinted shades. Very pleased, I still own but, but yes, now that we did, we did have a few more made up because also, with TV, you have to get all the lenses changed anyway, because they reflect the light from cameras, so you have to get them sort of glazed that they don't pick up any glare from from lighting and and, you know, technical equipment. Very boring, boring factor.
Michael David Wilson 22:19
Well, I mean, maybe people want to know about whatever they want to do or not. It's out there now. So you exactly, you know if you're listening, but I mean, yes, it's very well, your grandfather's glasses, so they actually have sentimental value beyond you know, the Gulf marine the ships, right?
Matthew Holness 22:39
That's absolutely right. And in fact, the little dog in in dark place Skipper who's who's killed by wasps, that was my parents dog. So that's, that's a family photo as well. So yes, there's lots of little sentimental bits and bobs, you know, peppered throughout the show?
Michael David Wilson 22:55
Yeah, yeah. I know. I mean, even if the glasses are tragically being damaged, never to be used again. I mean, even if mid scene, you'd swap the glasses and just never referenced it, it would kind of be in keeping with the whole kind of tone of the show anyway, I mean, yeah, there's so many of these brilliant inconsistencies. And I mean, the genius behind it is you kind of have to know how to make a show, well, to then deliberately make it badly at points and then to self reference that so I mean, that
Matthew Holness 23:32
that's wrong. Although, although I have to say that, you know, we did make our fair share of mistakes, it being the first TV show, we did. So I'm sure that some of our mistakes we probably didn't let on about and just oh, you know, those were intentional. But what we did do was ask all the department heads, you know, how would you do? How would you do your job badly? You know, what, what are the ways you could really, you know, screw up your job here. And so we got a lot of info on on what would be the worst way to do certain things from them. And when we would just pop them in and if, you know, if they suddenly came on to take something off the thing or arrange, you know, sort out the continuity, we say, What's this for? And they said, Well, he was hand was there on the last cut, and then we would basically go no, no, okay, forget that, then we'll just keep the bad continuity in. So a lot of those were sort of real mistakes that were happening, but we just put the brakes on correcting them.
Michael David Wilson 24:23
And re Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. And I mean, in terms of this editing, and shot inconsistencies, I mean, obviously a favorite for a lot of versus just the Dean learner and his shotgun. Pairing but I mean, how did you set about recreating that kind of spirit in terror tome?
Matthew Holness 24:50
Well, it's an odd one because that is a good question, because the way we've always done gas pros when we wrote it for the show, and when we did it for the live shows was prose was just very immediately bad. So there would be terrible sentences, terrible choice of words. And the problem that I faced was if you do that, for something that's novel length, the joke very rapidly wears thin. And I realized that you needed to have some form of prose style for Garth that was at least competent enough to maintain interest and not let the reader get bored. And sort of, you know, otherwise, it's just very one note, and you just can't read deliberately bad prose for longer than I think a few paragraphs before. You know, your eyes sort of glaze over and you go gray. So I had to kind of strike a happy medium between a competent piece of writing, but one that still had terrible sentences, terrible ideas every so often, but yeah, so it's less, it's less immediately appalling prose wise than say, you know, other other gaff material, but hopefully means that, you know, people will enjoy it for the stories, and perhaps, you know, feeling that, you know, at some level, maybe Garth does have an idea about how to get, you know, from A to B, without going via, you know, every other letter of the alphabet.
Michael David Wilson 26:10
And now, I mean, I certainly have been enjoying it a great deal. And I mean, I could tell from the start, okay, I'm in safe hands here. And you've nailed the Gulf marine voice once again. I mean, you know, from the, from even the introduction, where Gulf records, assaulting a former editor with his company paid, you're right. All right. There's just gonna be a good time.
Matthew Holness 26:36
Yes, there's an awful lot of violence in Garth's life.
Michael David Wilson 26:39
Matthew Holness 26:41
Casual violence. Yeah. Which is not very PC to say, but I still find hilariously funny, you know, I've comic violence is can be incredibly funny. And, you know, and that's why I think I love the young ones in the comic strip so much. But yeah, I know, it's, it's something that probably people would shy away from. But I think unnecessarily, you know, unfair violence in a comic center is often quite finally.
Michael David Wilson 27:08
I think so too. So you know, we've both gotten on record. So if one of us gets cancelled, we're going down together, so Exactly. Good. Brilliant. Yeah. We'll take the rest. Right. But I mean, I didn't ask in fact, what was the inspiration for reprising the Garth Marenghi character?
Matthew Holness 27:31
Well, it's an interesting one, because I've got it was slightly frustration, I think that things just weren't moving. And the trouble with sort of specialising in film and TV is that most of the time your projects are spent in development. And, you know, I did pass them. And I immediately wrote another script, which I was very pleased with, but it then goes through the development process, and it can take forever. And, you know, it's still in development, as are so many other things that I've written. And I think it was real frustration that, that, you know, aside from short stories, which gave me immense pleasure, because, you know, there's your work, it's there, and someone can read it. There was no way of doing that with the films, because it's entirely out your hands, it's in someone else's control, really. So I think, my I think I decided that I just wanted to get on and write something and have a bit of control over it. And, you know, sort of get away from from the interminable process of development, which is incredibly soul destroying, and I think most writers would, would agree with me, that it's lovely to have something in development, but it's appalling until you can get it out of development and into production. So it's, it's a very dis, it can be a very disheartening process, particularly when you've put so much of effort and and your much of your soul into your piece of writing. for it not to even find an audience, I think, you end up thinking, what's the point? So yeah, that was that was really, I think, probably the main thing, just wanting to get on, and I knew that prose was about the only place left that you can properly kind of be in charge of it and and get it done. So I just decided to sort of pitch that.
Michael David Wilson 29:18
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, do you have or did you have any concerns going from Garth Marenghi on the TV to a book? And I mean, what kind of things have you done in terms of trying your best to retain that original audience? Because obviously, some people who would watch the show might not want to sit down and read a book, unfortunately. That's right.
Matthew Holness 29:45
And I think it's a balance because part of me just didn't want it to appeal to the dark place audience because the truth of that is that inevitably, some are going to be disappointed because it doesn't have all the dark place characters. It's A different thing. And in a sense, what I didn't want to do was bring out something that's, you know, just trying to harken back to the good old days, if you see what I mean. So I knew I had to kind of I wanted to and had to make it different at the same time. You know, the fact is that, you know, if you want to sell the book, you have to appeal to those fans that you already have. So it's trying to strike a balance really, between giving fans what they want, or readers who've liked the sorry, viewers who've liked the show, more of the same, but at the same time, providing something sufficiently different so that new new people Pilant seen it before can get on board, because it did honestly didn't know if there would be anyone that in I just didn't know who the audience was anymore. Because if they're if they're pretty much my age or below, they might have just moved on. And just, you know, thought, well, you know, there's there's other stuff I want to do now, you know, that was that was very nice. 20 years ago, but not now. So it's been it's been very nice to see that there is still interest out there for the book, you know, it was it was very nicely received when we when we want to tweeted about it. So yeah, it's, I'm excited that people will, you know, hopefully, buy it and enjoy it. But it is, you know, it's not the same as dark place. It's similar in many ways, but I was quite, I was very keen to move on from that. And not to just sort of bring out, you know, that equivalent of what we've done before. Really.
Michael David Wilson 31:27
I got very excited when I got the mail saying there's a new Garth Marenghi coming. And I don't know if it was ignorance on my part, or if you were pretty good to keep it hush hush, but that email just came and it was like, what new Garth is coming. I hadn't heard anything about it. And then it's like it is it is landing November 3. Yeah.
Matthew Holness 31:57
Yeah, it's old. I just, you know, because I haven't done it for ages. So, you know, we just sort of popped it out there to see. See how it would go down. And it was nice, not very nice response.
Michael David Wilson 32:08
Yeah. And I think I think to putting it out as an audio book is a smart move, particularly, because you know, so many people are familiar with that marandi voice so I guess to well, maybe that will bring some people who watch the TV show but don't always read books. It's like you don't even have to Garth is good for you.
Matthew Holness 32:34
Exactly. Yeah. No, it's it was good fun recording it as well. So yeah, it's very stupid. Yeah, it's nice to do. You know, some other some of the silly voices.
Michael David Wilson 32:44
Yeah. And it goes so this book is written by you, Matthew Holness, horror writer writing guys, Garth Marenghi horror writer writing has Nick Steen horror writer. So I mean, as we the original, this is incredibly meta. And I mean, as we said, there are these deliberate cliches and bad writing that you then consciously take apart in front of us. And they're in many ways. I mean, it's the horror fiction equivalent of watching a Stuart Lee stand up set.
Matthew Holness 33:18
I guess. So. Yeah. But I think, you know, it's, I mean, I love I love reading books about writing, you know, and I think, I think that's, that's also something that I think is, you know, not perhaps best understood by a lot of, you know, producers and channels, because in film and TV, I think you're always just given notes. And you know, nothing's ever, right, nothing's ever. Okay. And it's always got to go through this, this filter of other people's thoughts on what you've done. But what they don't really, I think, understand is that all writers have read all the writing books, how to write books that, you know, they are reading and quoting from, and I think that the, the, you know, what's fun about having read all those books is that actually, you know, you can play with the advice, if you know, how the things are structured, you can play with structure, and you can, you know, I think what you're referring to in the book is, you know, because they're operating in a world, which is, you know, the writers fiction unfolding around them. That means you can comment on on the structure of it. Yeah, and when the structure so that it's nice, it's and you know, just the form of writing and genre writing in particular, is as much fun as the story itself for me. So, yeah, it's been really good to just sort of play with that stuff. Because you don't really get a chance to do it in film and TV. I mean, we were so lucky to do it with dark place, but there's no way I think we would ever get that opportunity now. It just doesn't feel like anyone creative is allowed to be creative as well as they can. On TV, it's all got to be you know, of a certain you know, a right I have a certain, I suppose level of appeal for, you know, the mass audience. So it's yeah, it's very hard to do that. I think now in TV and film, it's, you have to kind of find somewhere else to do it, I think.
Michael David Wilson 35:13
Yeah. And I mean, do you think as a result of it, perhaps being harder to be creative? In TV and film that there will be a back last year there will be kind of other companies putting things out? I mean, obviously, we have so much online that would seem an avenue to kind of put these things out. But then it's, of course, establishing the audience and doing the marketing and going about it that way. But I mean, that there's clearly an appetite, both from writers and consumers and viewers. So it feels like there should be a way to put it out there. It's just finding what that way is.
Matthew Holness 35:58
I think he's, I think he put that perfectly. I think that's what it is, you know, I hope so I hope people find, you know, find the, the, you know, the things that they liked the ways to write ways to film and directing without the medium, it's, it's one really disheartening thing for, you know, filmmakers, I think, is that everyone, that's crew, that's actors, they're all moving to TV, because that's where the money is. So actually, independent film is even harder to get off the ground than it was and it's entirely dependent upon cast. And, and really, until you've got your cast in place, nothing will happen, and nothing can happen. And that means that you've got to find a cast member who's happy to step off their nine or 10 month lucrative TV contract and do something for not much money. So it's almost impossible. So yes, I think, I hope that, you know, creative people, writers, directors will just find other ways of doing it. And I think a good example of this is, like, for example, the idea of Slender Man, you know, nothing really tops, the Marble Hornets films as a way of of kind of creatively, you know, represent presenting that character to an audience, you can put it in a in a sort of big high budget, you know, Hollywood film, but it loses it, they kind of came upon the perfect way to do that. Because it came out of, you know, just rudimentary technology, short films appealing to the audience that it's, you know, that it's aimed at, and so I can, it can be done, and it just feels that people I think are so, you know, stuck in the, in the modern TV way, you know, there was force fed this endless, you know, rubbish from nearly all the channels, you know, absorb this boxset absorb, and they never end properly, and they never end well. And I think it's, you know, after people are just schooled in that crap. I just think, you know, there are other things, I think you have to go out and find more interesting stuff for yourself. I mean, I generally just don't watch any TV. I always, you know, just, you know, dig around and see what I can find elsewhere. It's much more fun, and it means that you're doing and you're, you know, you are learning what you like, rather than being there, rather than being told what you should like, by you know, the people who've got the big shows and the big money and I sort of thing, I hate that kind of just absorbing media for the sake of it. And you know, what, how I grew up doing it was going out and seeking stuff seeking stuff, one book would lead you on to another book, One writer would lead you on to another writer. And I think that's all part of that process. And I think that's lost with, you know, when when you're just being dished stuff out, and there's nowhere else you can go. It just means creatively, we've really lost interesting stuff. I think so. Yeah. I mean, it all sounds rather pompous or sound like Garth banging on. I do. I do feel it. I do feel that I've, you know, I find it very depressing the state of TV and film at the moment. It's just endless cliche. I just think no one's aware what the modern cliches are, but they're just thrown at us in every single program. And it's just bland. It's awful. Nothing convinces, right, you have to stop me I'm ranting.
Michael David Wilson 39:15
Well, I mean, I was going to perhaps agree with, you know, some of that and add my own thoughts, but you're asking me to rein it back. So let's take it in a different direction. But you're not wrong with what you've just said. I mean, in terms of that, that discovery, as a consumer as a viewer or a reader, I mean, that's certainly how I landed upon dark place, you know, nearly 20 years ago and like, I was seeking out what everyone in that scene was doing. So it's how I found like snuffbox and the Mighty Boosh and peep show and everything in that kind of air Berea, Nathan barley here, I just got to start listing things that you and your peers have done, which doesn't make for the best conversation, but there's so much good stuff there.
Matthew Holness 40:15
And there's something so exciting about doing that, I think and finding, finding stuff and finding, for example, a writer that just really speaks to you, that you haven't been, you know, it's because of your efforts that you've, you've kind of and you know, that sort of search for it. And that, that kind of stumbling upon someone who's got a similar outlook to you. I mean, it's a really precious part of that reading experience, I think, and, you know, obviously, things changed. But that was, that was something that I really miss from just browsing books, in shops, you know, secondhand books, you know, can't really do that anymore. And it's so depressing that even in charity shops, now you just know what books are going to be on the shelf, and they're going to be everything that was fairly cheap in the first place from the supermarket aisle. Well farmed and just shoved on the shelf and it's, it's yes, dreary. You're just trying to find interesting stuff, and no one seems to you know, provide it anymore. It's all it's all what we're told we should be buying.
Michael David Wilson 41:14
Right, right. But in terms of, like discovery, and in terms of references, as we said, I mean, teratoma is absolutely rife with horror references as one would expect from you. So I'm wondering in terms of the virus, how much of it was planned and how much of it was conceived of in the moment and in the writing?
Matthew Holness 41:40
I think it's an odd one, because I think the first one was the first book because they're all there's basically Gulf refers to them as tone. So tone one, time two, and time three. And tone. One typeface is probably the one that it's the one that I probably tried to plan most but didn't end up being as it as as it doesn't feel planned. It's a really odd one that I think that was just me learning to write Garth, again. And, and, and it's in first person, which I thought, actually I thought first person narration was going to be the way that all of these worked. And that's why I was sort of convinced that that was the way to do it. But by the time I'd done that first one, I thought it could get a little dull, just hearing God's voice doing this all the time, you know, so I decided to do something that was, you know, with an omniscient narrator. So bright a bone was one that I sort of played, plotted it, I always plot the stories in advance. But that one I had most fun writing, because it was just, it was like a relief from having done, the first one knew that I could kind of get that number of words done and out. And I think I just really enjoyed writing the third one, and then I think I probably got a bit of slight writer's block with a third one panic of oh, gosh, can I do another one? I don't know. So, I don't know. It's an odd one they. I, in terms of structure, I mean, it's an odd structure they are they're all about 25 30,000 words. I mean, my big fear was being able, you know, can I write a book that's novel length, and, and I and for years, I tried and failed, because I would just, you know, get get, you know, worried and anxious and just duck out and think, Oh, I can't do this. And I was always obsessed with these these sort of 35,000 word books, or novellas and novelettes or novellas, short novels, they always, you know, various, what they're called, depending on what genre but I for many years, I would visit my partner's relatives in Australia, and I would go out there and they would still publish. Every month, a Cleveland westerns, they were called the Cleveland publishing company. And they were just a very short Westerns that you just picked off the magazine rack, and I just read them and read them and absorb them. And just, you know, and I always thought that's, I love that format of like, the short novel like that, it's, it's almost like, they weren't like a film, a little film kind of works really well. If you if you try and adapt a long novel for a film, it doesn't quite work, it kind of suits a TV series, because you can, you can have all that, you know, extra stuff, but often when films are condensed when you know when books are condensed for film, it ends up with something that isn't quite the same thing. And it has to change because the format doesn't stick. But the the these these little 35,000 40,000 word, booklets they do work read and feel very much like you're watching a rather fast paced film, so I kind of really liked that form. So I just decided that I would do three of those, add them together and you know, and see that as as like, you know, sections from a longer work that God has been writing. So structurally, that's and the best example for that in terms of the horror genre. Were actually the old pulp magazine stories, the They were often between 20,030 1000 words. So I think probably rather than looking at 80s, paperback horrors as inspiration, I was probably reading much more QB cave. And writers like that the old shadow fiction horror horror stories for that were in, you know, magazines, pulp magazines like terror tales and uncanny tales and weird tales all of those magazines.
Michael David Wilson 45:24
Yeah, and even though they're free, distinct tones, I mean, the good thing is, or at least a good thing for me is that you're referencing them, obviously, you know, you're referencing the first one in the second. So you're not referencing the stories before they happen. But it does feel like yeah, like, Okay, this is all kind of part of the same universe, so it doesn't feel so disconnected.
Matthew Holness 45:52
That's right. And also to sort of help that I was very keen to get a map in the book. So there is a map of Stoke furred and brilliantly drawn by Alice. Aleister wood. And, and that is, yeah, that's for me. That's always probably I'm a huge fan of books, maps, you know, I love Michael Willcocks. ellering novels and I love the obviously the Tolkien maps and, and also horror maps, you know, there are books in horror books that have maps in the front that I love, you know, some of the James Herbert books, I think ghost has a map. And, and some John Saul books have maps, I think. And I just, yeah, it's lovely, you know, and, of course, the fighting fantasy books, I grew up on all maps. So in an odd way, they're, you know, that's my way into the world of the book, in many ways. You know, I think you provide a map, and then people who want to get into the world, they start, you know, filling in the gaps, and it all feels more, more like a proper thing, you know?
Michael David Wilson 46:51
Yeah. Yeah. And I was happy to see the dark third homage to King's the dark half. I mean, it's a criminally underrated King novel and Romero films, so it's good to see Yeah, it gets a little bit I love
Matthew Holness 47:09
I love it. I absolutely love it. It's one of my favorites. And and I think at that time, I remember it coming out. And it was odd because it really was that transition stage between the sort of the 80s king and and the and the 90s, more mystery thriller, sort of King coming in. And it was a really good it's like the perfect bridge between those two genres. I think literally, in the book. It's, you know, you've got a thriller writer in the book, but it's a horror novel. So it is like the perfect transitional book between one genre and another.
Michael David Wilson 47:39
Yeah, yeah, I think so. And, I mean, you're a big fan of writing about writers because you've also got your you've got your crime, pulp. 17 minute short film. Goodness. Yes.
Matthew Holness 47:56
I've got on for George a gun
Michael David Wilson 47:58
for the yard. Yeah. I'm blanking on the name. But I mean, a gun for George, for anyone who hasn't seen it, just just watch it in 17 minutes, it's available. If you like Goffman, ranky. And you like pulpy crime, then you're gonna have a good time?
Matthew Holness 48:17
Yeah, I was. I mean, that's the project. And oddly enough, one of the projects I'm most proud of, I think, because just such a lot went into it. And, and again, that was a time when I was just absorbing those westerns. And so I thought, well, you know, they're very similar to the to the, you know, there were writers like Terry Harkness, who did the who wrote as George Gilman if I think I'm right, remembering this right edge, basically, Edge Western, so it was new English Library. And they did a lot of these and they're all similar length. And they were just, you know, I think he wrote about 40 of these things. Edge and steel. That was the other one steel. And yeah, so I was dreaming up a writer that basically wrote those sorts of things. And I think it was all because that's what I really wanted to do myself, but I just didn't feel I had the ability to churn them out. I mean, I did try and write some Terry finished novelettes or novellas for a long time and I got quite a way through them, but I think I had a bit of a mental block about getting over getting it finished. So I have lots of them that I've started and maybe now that I've done teratoma I'll have the enough confidence in being able to finish them that I can get those written finally.
Michael David Wilson 49:26
Yeah, head it'd be good to see some Terry Finch novels out there in the world. I mean, that there's so many it is incredible, really how much you pack into 17 minutes there are so many good lines, which I'm obviously not going to reference because then I'm going to spoil the bloody thing for people. I'm just going to watch it but it it is very good. But you know, the problem with talking about a short film is you can't really say anything, you're gonna spoil it if you say too much about it. So
Matthew Holness 49:58
all I was gonna say was you I think that was the plan about going into it, you know, because there are so many short films, it was the first thing I directed. And the first sort of short film that I that I've written. And in doing research for it, there was just so many short films that just settled for, you know, budget wise, just settled, I guess, for two people in a room talking. And I just always found that tedious and very nobly done. Don't get me wrong, you know, budgets, you know, don't allow you to do much on a short film. But then I would see some films that had just tried to turn them into like little mini feature films. And there's a really good Mike Lee one. I can't remember the name of it now, but it's about hairdressers. It's absolutely brilliant. I thought, well, that is a nightly film condensed into, you know, 20 minutes, or however long it is. So I just I thought I'll try and do that. I'll try and turn a big film into a small film.
Michael David Wilson 50:50
Right? Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, it's worked. Remarkably, it's just a shame that there's not more people who are aware of it. But you know, that's the case. You have so much to go dark, you know, necessarily mean a wide audience. And
Matthew Holness 51:10
no, that's it. You have to go out and find these things, I think.
Michael David Wilson 51:13
Yeah. Yeah. But I mean, in terror tome, there is obviously, a lot of conflict between Nick Steen and his editor Ross, I'm wondering how much back and forth did you have with your own editor for Terrytown?
Matthew Holness 51:32
A lot, actually, my family more who commissioned it, she's absolutely brilliant. And I can, you know, I can say hand on heart that gas, experienced with editors is not in no way shape, or form. My experience with editors, editors are so vital to, you know, the writing process. I mean, I was, there were lots of times, I think writing it, where I just got hit by block thinking, I don't know if I can do this. And my family was just brilliant, able to, you know, give me great ideas helped sort out jokes. I mean, she was great, because her backgrounds in TV comedy, so she had a very good, I guess writer's brain on it anyway. But no, she was absolutely fantastic. And, and, and really helped me get them done. Because, you know, I was really a fan that the prospect of writing a book, so daunting, and I couldn't have done it without, you know, a an editor, you know, like my family helping me throughout the whole thing. So there was a lot of to and fro. But again, would crucially unlike TV, and film, would let you get on with it, and would respect what you wanted to do, and, and find ways to make to realize that whereas I think the problem these days is that no one's really interested in what the writer wants to do. It's, you know, do what we want, change it so that, you know, we can do this for our buyers and our and our, you know, so did a totally different sort of way of I think engaging with with a writer.
Michael David Wilson 53:04
Yeah, yeah. And I mean, of course, we're screenwriting as well. I mean, there can be instances where you sell a script, and then they kind of bring their own right as in and pretty much rewrite the entire thing. So yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Matthew Holness 53:22
I mean, that's, that's has that has happened to me. And I think it happens to an awful lot of writers. And it's not a great feeling, I have to say,
Michael David Wilson 53:29
No, I mean, yeah. That is not a shocker. Didn't you didn't say, Oh, I feel pretty bloody good. When that happens. Yeah. No way. But what do you think it is about horror and comedy that go so well together? Particularly when it comes to television?
Matthew Holness 53:52
I don't know. I mean, I guess it's, I guess it's, you know, you're, you're in both of them. You're saying what people are thinking but aren't expressing necessarily. So you're saying the unsayable. So I think there's a similarity there. In horror, you're sort of dealing with things that people wouldn't normally want to deal with. And I think probably comedy has a similar thing, your your, your your do, doing and saying things and depicting things that shocked people because it's, you know, not it's taken them very abruptly outside their comfort zone. So I think there's a similarity there. And I think both probably also rely on a sense of timing, because timing a comic moment is vital. You have to time it well. And similarly, with horror, you have to time that well, and whether that's timing, you know, a jump shock moment, you know, or timing, a slow build up of atmosphere, they're both you know, you're very conscious of having to create an effect. And so there's an objective part of your brain that both those genres share that and employ that perhaps If you don't, if you're just writing a conventional novel about, you know, two people who work in a place and whatever, you know that there is you're after a specific effect, whether it's, you know, if you're in comedy, you're after the laugh. And if you're in horror, you're after, you know, either the, that feeling of fear or the shock or whatever. But there's, you're off to something. And I think they probably both are similar in that sense.
Michael David Wilson 55:23
Yeah, yeah. And I guess, too, I mean, when you're directing, as well as writing that affords you a lot more freedom. And I know that you've said before, that you think writers get far more respect when they're the writer and director?
Matthew Holness 55:43
Yeah, very much. So. But less so now. That's right. I think that's, I think that that was that was the case maybe 510 years ago. But outside film, I don't think that applies, I think, in television, the writer isn't is not important. And the director is no longer important. It's who owns the IP, and which is, you know, the intellectual property, and the channel is all powerful. So you know, the channels will sweep up all rights, you don't have anything going in, you just have the chance to write something. But that's all you have, you've already given everything else over. So it isn't like that anymore. And it was why I chose to direct in the end to basically just secure as much of that. So maybe it was going that way. But now, it's I would say it's a pretty dismal outlook for any writer or director, unless you just want to, you know, direct, and just take the paycheck and go home. But, you know, if you're, you have to, you know, pitch for the tone, this is the nod thing, this is a phrase I came across recently a tone pitch where you have to pitch the way you want to direct something to a channel, which I just find totally bizarre. I mean, I can understand it, you know, a series and perhaps a channel want a uniform look. But there you go, they want a uniform look. So can you really do anything interesting or imaginative in that context? And I don't think you can really, unless you, you know, you have to really struggle to bring your own voice to it. I think. So. Yeah. i It's, uh, you know, for someone who, who, you know, for a kind of writer and director who really just want to express, you know, their view of something, if you have a story. It's becoming increasingly hard to do that, I think.
Michael David Wilson 57:25
Yeah, it's interesting to hear you talk about this. And it makes me think that, yeah, we could see things really branching off. So you've got people creating creative art, and then you've got people creating independent art, because if you think of all the great filmmakers, I mean, they didn't get there from following a formula. They had their own vision, their own way of doing things, their own uniqueness. And I mean, if these kinds of artistic restrictions are happening, particularly with television, then we're probably going to see more and more of the great, you know, filmmakers, and artists and writers just gravitate towards film rather than TV. Yeah,
Matthew Holness 58:14
I think you're right. And I think you know, there's, I think there's a choice you make you either decide that you're going to surrender your voice and you know, get gainful employment, you know, with a shooting someone else's show the way they want it shot. Or you, you just sort of go well, no, actually, I'll go elsewhere and see what I can come up with. But it's, you know, it's a it's a much more difficult path, but but at least you're extra in charge of what you're doing. Yeah. Which, which you just not otherwise.
Michael David Wilson 58:45
Yeah, yeah. Well, we're coming up to the time that we've got together today, but I mean, we got to talk at least a little bit about possum which is I say, Yes, you know, tonally I mean, it's as different really as you can get from Garth Marenghi I mean, Garth Marenghi is about as light and comedic as horror can go whereas Possum is as bleak and as dark as horror can go I mean, did you deliberately set out to make the darkest horror film possible perhaps to show people that there is more to Matthew Holness than Garth Marenghi.
Matthew Holness 59:34
Not to show them that was more of me think but I did set out to do something. You know, I suppose I did want to make a kind of truthful film in and you know, we'd had so much in recent years with Saturn, you know, the Savile revelations and things like that and, and it was just, you know, it had kind of come about as a story I'd written anyway, so it was You know, that was, it was one of these situations where again, was struggling to try and find, you know, a way to get a film made because I was trying to get the reprise Eliza made, which was a length length full length feature version of gum for jaw. Yeah. And the problem was I just hadn't nailed it in the script. You know, I couldn't find the best way of doing it. And the trouble is, you know, film development takes a long time and, and years were going by, and then I was thinking, well, if I don't do something, what can I do? I knew I didn't want to do comedy. At that point, I absolutely had had enough of it and just didn't want to do anything. And I thought, Well, maybe it's an easier jump from doing comedy horror, to serious horror, because there's one connecting strand there rather than going from comedy horror to serious crime film making. So I sort of set repricer eyes were the reprise laser aside for a while, but Well, maybe it's more, it's a less of a leap to go to serious horror. So that's, that's when I had that story that I had kicking around. I thought, why don't I try and adapt that for the film? So there wasn't, it wasn't any major mission to, you know, that wasn't the the burning story that I wanted to sort of, you know, make a film out of that wasn't? That wasn't it. But once I'd start made the decision to adapt to the story, and try and turn it into a film, then I thought, Okay, well, what do I really like about horror films? What are my favorite horror films, they're the silent horror films that the films that, that that are about something, but they don't really state what they're about, you know, and I think that became, you know, what I wanted to do not make something that's kind of a conventional kind of slasher film or anything like that. I just wanted to make an old silent horror film. Yeah. So that's how I kind of went into it really. And then, you know, slowly as the as the, as it came together in the script, it just became this very, very dark subject matter. But I thought that's probably the only way you could deal with that subject matter in a film actually is, is to kind of go for something silent and expressive, rather than literally kind of telling people what it's about. Because, you know, it's a subject matter that you would instantly not want to watch a film about, right? And given the choice. So you know,
Michael David Wilson 1:02:19
yeah, yeah. And Sean Harris's acting is just remarkable. And the use of lighting mirrors, the camera work is so good at evoking this thoroughly uncomfortable, and tense film, I mean, so much so that, particularly with it being I mean, kind of almost a silent film, it seems it would have been difficult to write this and not direct it, because of how much of its success must rely on the direction.
Matthew Holness 1:02:54
Yes, and actually, it was a struggle to convince people and I, you know, I know that there are there are probably quite a few people who, you know, it's not a fun film than sit and watch, they probably find it quite dull and lengthy, and, you know, not not really getting to the point. And I think that that was the point of doing it, because I wanted to try to truthfully reflect that sense of isolation that someone like Phillip, the character in the film is experiencing for years and years and years with no one listening to him and unable to express himself. But, you know, the, the first version of the script was only about I think, 50 pages, which is not long enough for a feature film. But I took solace from the fact that I picked up the, the, you know, the scripts to Nosferatu and, and various other silent horrors. And those scripts were 4550 pages. So I thought, Well, okay, well, if this is a silent film that feels you can get a feat, you know, that is feature length for a silent film. So but it took some convincing, you know, it's as all films do, and luckily, I had very good producers in James Harrison, Mark lane, T shot film company, who, who were completely behind my, you know, my vision for it, and how I wanted to do it. And that's really important to have producers that are on your side, and that, you know, are going to fight your battles, because there are always going to be battles with the people who are actually, you know, providing money to, for you to make this thing. And you have an obligation and a duty to make it you know, as as commercial as you can. But at the same time, you know, that it shouldn't mean that you can't try and make an artist more artistic kind of film. That isn't a conventional sort of horror thriller. But in order to sort of navigate that rather, you know, treacherous water of the, you know, the funders, you know, saying Well hang on a minute, people don't really want to see suddenly it's just crucial to have very good producers that will come in and help you, you know, negotiate with them how to how best to realize your vision in that sense. So, yeah, I'm very pleased. We've got it On, because it was a difficult film to make. And it was a difficult film to really get off the ground. I think although, once it got going, it was it was fine. As soon as we got Shawn, on board, then you know, the thing started to you know, gain momentum. But yeah, it's, it's hard because it is, you know, in a similar, you know, going harking back to what we were talking about, of, you know, needing to find places perhaps where you can be more creative. You know, Possum is, I suppose a good example of, you know, it's kind of on the, it's got half it's, it's, it's halfway there, it's it's, it's, you know, there's a you can see why that is a film that probably, you couldn't throw too much money out, because then you know, the financiers would probably think, yeah, we're never gonna get money back on this. So you've got to Yeah, you have to respect that at the same time. And I guess the way to stay creative, you know, as a writer director is you probably do have to go low budget, I think that's, that's the only really way you can you can ensure to have that level of control over it. But at the same time, you know, freedom. And but yeah, so you can't expect people to pay pay you for that, if you see what I mean.
Michael David Wilson 1:06:14
Yeah, yeah. Although I feel if this was a high budget film, it would almost lose some of you know what it is. And I mean, there's such a murkiness to it and and the house as well, that Philip and Morris occupiers. Yeah, that is perfect, too. I mean, how did you find that location?
Matthew Holness 1:06:38
Well, the interior of the house is a set. In fact, Charlotte, personal production designer designed that the the exterior of the house is somewhere that we found, we didn't find that actually until about, we were about two weeks into filming. And we were absolutely, you know, getting very concerned that we didn't have our exterior house, because in the script, it was a house in the woods in an area of woodland, very, you know, on the outskirts of the city, but somewhere that was a bit more of a rural location. And it was only when we realized, you know, that we couldn't really find the right kind of house I was thinking of in the country. They're either all farm buildings, or very old buildings. And I suddenly realized that of course, because I'm thinking, I'm thinking of an American thing. You know, those sorts of houses, modern houses in rural settings are kind of an American thing. They don't really exist in the UK. So it was then that I read, okay, well, then it needs to be. It needs to be a house that most people have grown up walking past and, you know, is always the rundown house. I mean, there's one, there's weirdly enough, there's one in Whitstable, there's only just sold but it's been boarded up since I was a kid. And, and I was looking on the I was looking on the estate agents website. And I think it's it hasn't been changed since like 1961 or something like that. And it's just been locked up and blocked up for four decades. So those places really do exist. And I think that's that then became the kind of house and lo and behold, there was one in Norwich that was like that boards. Just a very old house that hadn't had boarded up windows. It hadn't been lived in for a while. And yeah, we were just very lucky to find it. But it is a case of you know, the interior is a studio and the houses the exterior is the house.
Michael David Wilson 1:08:26
Yeah, well, I mean, they did a hell of a job, you know, with the interior. They really did. And, you know, it also evokes for me, the the atmosphere of I don't know if you've played the video game Silent Hill for the room.
Matthew Holness 1:08:43
Yeah, yeah. I'm a huge, huge Silent Hill fan. You know, Silent Hill, two and four are my favorites. And yeah, that that was, you know, that was definitely in my head while making them, you know?
Michael David Wilson 1:08:56
Yeah. Well, I mean, as a huge Silent Hill fan, perhaps such as myself, you were very excited this week, when they had a plethora of Silent Hill announcements. They're remaking Silent Hill to finally they've got a brand new Silent Hill game coming out that will be set in Japan. So that's intriguing, because, you know, they're all set in America and then there's gonna be a new Silent Hill film, so And there's other games as well. But yeah, it's,
Matthew Holness 1:09:30
I mean, I'm hugely excited because but what but I'm also disappointed because what I really wanted and I know why they can't do this, but what I really wanted was just to be able to play the original on a modern systems just so that it's preserved and I can always play that game because it looks to me like is still the original is still only going to be existing on old PS twos, and I had to go in stupidly I ended up giving away my, when I moved on to like, you know, when the PS two left I, I just assumed that Silent Hill two and all of those would be available at some point. So I gave away all my old copies. And of course, they're now so expensive to get hold of. And last year, I managed to finally get them all back and I was playing through them again. But my God, I would just, I just want the original game preserved. That's all I want. You know, I'm not really that interested in the remake of it, I don't need to see the graphics like improved. Part of the beauty of it is that the graphics are, you know, what they are, it's the atmosphere. And it's the, it's the artistry in the script. That is what's beautiful about that game. And I hope that they don't wreck that I hope they don't start, you know, telling you the subtext and tell you what it's about, you know, because it's so subtly done in the game. It's a true work of art and I hope they don't you know, just overdo it. But it's nice that at least silent the hill is is continuing. Absolutely. You know, I will of course buy and play all the games if I can get a PS five, which
Michael David Wilson 1:11:08
that is that is the major obstacle. Yeah.
Matthew Holness 1:11:13
Yeah, as you know, you know, they say, oh, we'd be ready later in the ego. Yeah, but I'm not gonna have a PS five by then. But, ya know, it's and also they did do they did do Blair Witch, which I thought was an excellent game. I really liked that. So I'm, you know, the jury's out. I'm optimistic. But I do wish they would just at least just make the original available in a more secure form than it is.
Michael David Wilson 1:11:39
I? Yeah, yeah. I know. I feel you on that. And I too, you know, I I sold many of my original games, the original Resident Evils the original Silent Hills, naively assuming Well, of course, that will be available. Well, yeah, no, no, it was
Matthew Holness 1:12:02
Michael David Wilson 1:12:04
But I must say though, the I'm, I'm happy and I feel pretty good about the fact that with this remake, they're gonna have the original composer, Akira Yeah, Malka, because I think those soundtracks really? I mean, they added so much they made the games that wouldn't be the same without them. I mean, yeah,
Matthew Holness 1:12:28
I think the greatest horror soundtracks of modern times I really do I think they are absolutely wonderful. I have them on CD and vinyl. I think they're absolutely superb. Yeah, I couldn't couldn't agree with you more. Yeah, they are. And you know, that I often, if I'm writing I'll have you know, writing horror stories that they're the number one thing to have on in the back. So
Michael David Wilson 1:12:51
Me too. Me too. Yeah. You got a couple of absolutely silent hill heads on now.
Matthew Holness 1:13:00
Have you got the book by the way, it's called the the terror engine Silent Hill The terror engine it's a book of it's a book of game criticism, interestingly enough, and it just is it's an academic text on on on the Silent Hill series, it's well worth getting it's a really good read.
Michael David Wilson 1:13:17
I haven't got it but I'm now immediately going to have to you know, find it out. I mean, the good thing about living in Japan is even really obscure things are normally available. Like I might if I you know have have a look in somebody's video game shops even be able to find like an original copy of Silent Hill and original ps1 Play on so
Matthew Holness 1:13:43
I remember when I was trying to get the soundtrack CDs there were still some copies of the did a big box set of all of the all of the soundtracks in one. I think there are a couple of those still available in Japan from from seller, so it's worth worth checking out. The Silent Hill book is called Silent Hill, the terror engine. And it's by Bernard Paragon. And it's it's brilliant. I love it. It's it's just a, you know, a book of criticism on on game on a game. It's I mean, that's amazing. I love it.
Michael David Wilson 1:14:12
Yeah. Oh, I've I can see it's available. It's in. It's in Japan. It will be I can get that delivered to me in two days time, then yeah. Yeah, that is happening. Well, I did have a couple of questions from one of our patrons. Okay, yeah, go for it. Dan Howarth says, How has your approach to writing evolved over the years from something as hilarious as dark place to something as weird and bleak as possum and have your influences changed?
Matthew Holness 1:14:56
I would say no, I don't think my influences have changed. I I think I was less interested in writing comedy scripts, definitely. I just didn't want to do that. And when I set out to write anything, the last thing I'm thinking of is I want to write something funny. So that's kind of gone as a as a, as a as a reason for doing which is, which sounds odd given that I've just written territory. But actually, it Yeah, I wasn't. It's odd. I want it I think I was more interested in the idea of what had Garth written? What kind of stuff is he writing now? What would actually a Garth book be like? I think that was interesting, me more than wanting to write a book that would make people laugh. So I think it's that I'm always always interested in writers and, and how they go about their job and what they do and what drives them to write the stories and particularly pulp writers. I mean, I love serious horror writers, obviously, I'm a huge Sheridan of the new fan. And but but there's something about the throwaway pulp writing and for the writers that do it over and over that I find deeply fascinating, and, and a really honorable way of, of kind of earning a living in an odd way. Because it's sheer hard work and persistence. And so I suppose that's my, that's what's always interested me in terms of, of, of approaching my own projects, I'm always there always, I suppose in some way. And look at that creative process. And, you know, and and why people do it. And I think I've always written serious sort of short stories. I mean, I've written two or three before I wrote the possum short story, which, you know, a kind of throw away, they were just sort of ways of learning to do it, really. And I think possum was probably the first short story I wrote that I was pleased with and thought, well wouldn't mind. You know, I can, I'd happily put my name to that one. So I've always done that. And that was roundabout at the time of still doing comedy on TV. So I don't think he's changed that much. Actually, I think I just know what I prefer writing about now. And I'm less concerned about, you know, wanting to, I suppose to do a comedy show that isn't that isn't really what drives me anymore. But But what is Garth writing? That does interest me? Definitely.
Michael David Wilson 1:17:15
Yeah, yeah. Well, that I think we may have been covered a little bit at a second question, but I'll ask it anyway. And so he says, secondly, at a screening of Possum in Liverpool, so this is highly specific. You hint in the cup is on the back burner for you. Now, we view returning to Garth Marenghi on the page? Is this still the case? If so, what prompted the change of heart?
Matthew Holness 1:17:47
I think at the moment, I'm just happy to do the books because I you know, I just enjoy writing. So I don't think yeah, comedies not on the books, I would certainly never be going back and doing as you know, you won't see me on a panel show you won't do anything like that. You know, they wouldn't want me for a Star Trek much down. But But No, that isn't. That's, that's not what I would aspire to to be doing. I think I'll do you know, see what the reaction is to the book, see if people like the stories, and not just the idea that Garth is back, you know, if, if it has a life beyond that, then I'd be very happy writing more of those for a while. But as for making another Garth thing? Possibly. I don't know, it would have to be something that, you know, in light of what we've been discussing today, I'd have to know that I could do it exactly how I want to do it. You know, if they were going to say well, we like you know, we like Garth marandi, but we'd love him to you know, we, we want him to be in this. And then you know, you start getting other people's ideas of what it is. Well, now I'm not really interested in that. So now it was I'd have to be Garth like and say my way or the highway
Michael David Wilson 1:18:59
you put in on that accent reminds me of possibly the worst attempt at a remake ever, which is the American attempt at a peep show remake? I think they'd have you seen it? I think they did. Like I think it's only one pilot episode and it took everything that was good about peep show and
Matthew Holness 1:19:22
removed it this year. And you know, I'm not surprised this is this is what happens unfortunately. You know, it's I hope I hope they got paid. Well.
Michael David Wilson 1:19:33
I mean, I don't think it really got far enough for anyone to get any money off that but
Matthew Holness 1:19:41
but it is it is so difficult though. It is so difficult. And like I was saying you just have so little control over it these days. And yeah, you know, you never had you can never have total control over it. No one ever gets that until you're, you know, established enough to be able to demand something like Final Cut. You know, I just It's always going to be difficult. And it's always a balance, you have to stop. But it is getting it is difficult and it's getting harder. So you know, to get something on screen, the way you want it is, is a very rare thing. And I don't often, I don't think it often happens, we were very, very, very lucky to be able to do that with dark place. You know, we still, you know, we still didn't have total carte blanche when we had to, we had to negotiate for what we wanted. And oddly enough, we had to negotiate not to have swear words in it, because the floor actually wanted swear words in it. And we didn't. So that was a really bizarre discussion that we ended up having, and we had to put our foot down, we will not have swearing. Thank you very much. So that was a bit odd. But you know, but we wouldn't get I don't think we'd get that opportunity. Again, it's, we were very fortunate. So yeah, I you know, you have to be very grateful for having had that chance to to do it and to do it the way you wanted to.
Michael David Wilson 1:20:58
Yeah, writing your answer in terms of wherever they would be another dark place on the screen is the best possible answer someone could hope for, you know, it's like only if all the right conditions of the air only if you don't compromise any your artistic integrity in terms of doing it, you need that creative
Matthew Holness 1:21:21
and I think, absolutely, and I you know, I know, he's a bit of a controversial figure, but I do really like Harlan Ellison's attitude to it. And obviously, this is a much, much tweeted video of him where, you know, which is called pay the writer, and he gets very, very angry about it, but I, you know, I think I've just, I've become, I've become old and slightly, you know, cranky. And I just do think that's a code to live by as a writer, you you have to look after yourself, because no one else is going to look after you. And I think you have to be principled. And if, if it's not right, don't do it. That's that would be my advice to writers. You know, if you're happy to, you know, go into the business, just, you know, stick up for yourself and have have the courage thing to just walk away if it's not right, I think.
Michael David Wilson 1:22:09
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, this has been a tremendous amount of fun chatting with you. I'd certainly like to do a Yeah, yeah. Thank you. I mean, I'd love to do it again. Sometime. There's still so much more. I'd like absolutely to so. Yeah. Wonderful. Would love to. All right, well, where can listeners connect with you?
Matthew Holness 1:22:35
On I'm on Twitter. Who knows how many people are gonna be left on Twitter once it's bought out. But that's I have a Twitter. It's at Mr. Wholeness on Twitter. And that's it. I'm not on Instagram, not in any of that stuff. And, you know, you'll probably find me in a bookshop somewhere at the back. Trying to find some obscure horror titles.
Michael David Wilson 1:22:59
Yeah, westerns are just read in some video game horror criticism. Yeah. Yeah. Well, do you have any final thoughts to leave our listeners with?
Matthew Holness 1:23:12
Oh, gosh, no, I don't think so. I hope everyone you know, is a thank you for listening, I should say yes. Thank you for listening. Thank you for having me on. And I hope you'd like to retire.
Michael David Wilson 1:23:27
Or out was just a great conversation. And thank you so much for listening to This Is Horror with Matthew wholeness. I do hope that we get him back on the show. And hopefully next time, Bob will be able to join me. So we put that one together a little bit last minute. And you know, for whatever reason, Bob wasn't up for getting up at 4am. So it is what it is. But next episode, we are going to be chatting with Paul Tremblay. And if you want to get that ahead of the crowd, if you want to get every episode ahead of the crowd, become our Patreon patreon.com forward slash This Is Horror. Not only do you get early bird access to each and every episode, but you can submit questions to the interviewee. We've got the lights of Brian Asman and Jonathan Jan's on the show very shortly indeed. You also get to become a member of the writers forum on Discord, and get a slew of bonus podcasts including story on bots, the horror podcast on the craft of writing, and the q&a sessions, myself and Bob Pastorella. All right, before I wrap up, a little bit of an advert break,
Bob Pastorella 1:24:47
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Michael David Wilson 1:26:22
Well that about does it for another episode at This Is Horror Podcast. And I really do implore you to go out and buy Garth Marenghi's TerrorTome. It is a fantastic book and it really does live up to the dark place show whilst being something fresh and original. And if you have never worked Stark place, then certainly do you are going to be in for a real treat. There are a lot of laughs I think it definitely stands up today. So with that said, I will see you in the next episode with Paul Tremblay. But until then, take care yourselves be good to one another. Read horror. Keep on writing and have a great, great day.