Going to the (Creep)show with Joe Lynch

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Joe Lynch

I’m an avid believer in serendipity and I will never forget excitedly switching on Shudder to watch the latest episode of one of my favorite series, Creepshow, and seeing the segment was called “Pipe Screams,” which is the name of my own independent press. Joe Lynch is someone who I could talk to for hours about horror, his passion runs deep. And I was lucky enough to do just that!

(Interview conducted by Janine Pipe)

CEMETERY DANCE: You have worked on a plethora of amazing horror-related projects over the years in many capacities, but as a HUGE fan of Creepshow I have to ask you about that first. You’ve directed four episodes including one of my favorites, “Pipe Screams,” written by Daniel Kraus and starring none other than horror royalty Barbara Crampton. Tell me all about it…

JOE LYNCH: It was a literal dream come true. I’d been a huge fan since I was a kid. At the time I was surrounded by all these black-and-white horror movies, and when Creepshow came along with its vibrant colors, it gave off a whole different aesthetic and I learnt horror could be colorful. And even more importantly, it could make you laugh. A lot of the movies before had been so serious and dour and then this came along and changed everything.

Everyone who knows me knows I can talk about Creepshow ad nauseum.  I’d been friends with Greg Nicotero for years and of course when I heard he got the Creepshow series gig on Shudder, it just seemed like it was the most perfect role for him, especially after his work on The Walking Dead. I texted him to say congrats and also you know if you ever run out of people give me a shout. I even wrote and mailed him a four-page letter why I thought I would be perfect for the show.

Season one debuted and even though I didn’t get to work on it, I still watched it and thought they did a great job especially with “House of the Head.” That story was awesome. Then one day I got a call from him and it’s not an exaggeration to say it changed my life. He said he already knew I’d be perfect for the job and had intended to reach out about season two and then when he read my letter, it all fell into place. It meant so much as Greg and George (Romero) had always been heroes of mine. I almost passed out when I got the call. He sent me two scripts, “The Right Snuff” and “Pipe Screams.”

Originally Greg Nicotero had cast Steven Yeun and Jon Bernthal since they’d remained buddies from The Walking Dead but in the end, they couldn’t make it due to COVID. I’d worked with Ryan (Kwanten) before on Knights of Badassdom and when I read the script and heard Steven and Jon couldn’t make it, I knew he’d be perfect. “The Right Snuff” ended up being this retro story in space. I knew if we tried to set it now with all the technology then it would be really hard but giving it that retro look allowed us to focus on the story and characters not the set.

With “Pipe Screams” I hardly changed a thing, Daniel (Kraus) had written it so thematically. Of course, COVID started before we could start shooting but it allowed me so much prep time. I was working on something else at the time with Barbara Crampton, so I texted her and she was immediately on board. The character in Daniel’s original script wasn’t meant to be as “Karen” but when that became a thing during the pandemic, and we mentioned it to Barbara, she just absolutely made it her own. It was just a whole lot of fun too, a nod to those dirty looking euro-trash type movies. When I called my mom and said I was directing an episode about a killer piece of shit (literally) she said, “That’s so you, Joey.”

I’m proud of all four segments and that each are so very different in sub-genre and tone, but I never thought I’d be able to make a Creepshow episode set in space with basically just two guys talking and keep to the true identity of the show –– a cautionary tale with a moral comeuppance.  

Speaking of Greg Nicotero, Mayhem stars The Walking Dead legend Steven Yeun and features something I love in horror movie:; action and comedy. How did you end up working on this project?

I was working this 9-5 corporate job to keep the bills paid and I hated it. I had this little cubicle I sat in and for a creative, it was just the worst. The script for Mayhem literally landed on my lap and I thought it was a joke, I was looking around for hidden cameras. Someone had written my life. I ended up working with Matias Caruso and we put in loads of little nods to everyday corporate life, like how your day really can be ruined if someone steals your coffee mug, and adding some humor which really worked with the script. I’d seen Steven in The Walking Dead and knew he fit the character to a tee. We ended up with a hell of a lot less money than we’d expected/hoped for, but I knew if we went back to Serbia (where we’d filmed Everly) we would make it work . I brought back a lot of cast and crew. It ended up being like a 26-day therapy session. A lot of people have said they can really relate to that movie. 

Aside from slashers, another of my favourite sub-genres is backwoods stories or *Wrong Turns* as I actually refer to them. And you directed Wrong Turn 2! What can you tell me about that and what do you think of the latest from the franchise?

Wrong Turn 2 posterI was working for a gaming company and was actually in Tokyo when I got the call from a buddy asking if I wanted to read the script. I loved the original movie and I’d been working on music videos but had always wanted to get into films. I ended up producing a 30-page bible detailing every last thing down to the color of the rust on the van. I paid this dude to make a storyboard for me of the opening scene and I walked into the pitch like a kid going to a science fair with all this stuff. But I killed it and they hired me.

My direction definitely went in more of a slash-stick direction, injecting a lot more comedy than the first. It was my first movie and at that point I didn’t know whether I’d ever get to do something like that again, so I threw everything at it and more. I had massive creative freedom from the studio and just went with it, kitchen sink and all. It was like they didn’t really give a crap so long as I delivered, and I gave all the craps! At the time DVDs without a rating were selling really well so I could do almost anything I wanted.

The franchise ended up doing really well, churning out a ton of sequels. I thought the newest remake went in a great direction, harking back to the more serious, feeling of dread vibe from the original. Who knows where they’ll go with the next one, maybe they’ll go down my Wrong Turn 2 tone and add some comedy? 

Your podcast with Adam (and Arwen) Green, Movie Crypt, is considered essential listening by many horror fans and has recently included such awesome peeps as Neil Marshall (DOG SOLDIERS wooh hooh), Josh Ruben, Devon Sawa and Grady Hendrix. How did it come about?

It started off as a way of promotion for Holliston, the sitcom Adam had written and directed, and we had just finished wrapping. This guy from a podcast network had heard me and Adam do some stuff at Frightfest where we were basically just goofing around and doing commentary on movies and asked if we wanted to do our own since we were funny. We were like “a podcast, who does that?” But he encouraged us to give it a try, use it to highlight the show and see what happened. Even the name Movie Crypt is from Holliston. We thought why not, and it ended up getting really decent ratings. 

Suddenly people were listening, wanting to know more. As a filmmaker you start off on Monday wanting to do it all, full of life and ready to tackle anything, and by Friday you’re ready to pack it all in, that’s it, done! We recorded Movie Crypt on a Friday and it ended up being really cathartic, like a therapy session, where at the end of the show we actually wanted to start work again on Monday. Lots of other people wanted to come on and rant and rave about filmmaking and it just spiraled from there.

When the network folded, we ended up carrying on just using our “mancave” –– once people come inside and see all our horror memorabilia they feel right at home. One time we ended up having an over three-hour conversation and that’s what it is, us and our guest chatting. We’ve had some amazing guests who I never thought possible. It’s gone from just being two guys talking about making movies and goofing about to a show where we’ve spoke to creatives from all genres, TV, music all sorts of people can relate.  We’ve been going 9 years and now do things like Yorkiethon, which is a 48-hour show raising money to help a dog charity. It’s basically now part of our IP and our lives. 

A little birdy told me you are working on something for Walt Disney Studios. Can you tell us anything, even a teeny, little hint about that (I’m guessing Marvel universe)?

Haha, you’re not right but you’re not 100% wrong. But I really can’t say much than that. We’ve just wrapped filming in New Orleans, and I never dreamt I’d get to work on something like it. I was actually contacted by someone from Disney who had enjoyed Mayhem and kind of presented me as this big horror guy so I was surprised they even allowed me to talk to them, as you wouldn’t think that I was remotely what Disney were looking for. What I can tell you is that it will be a new limited series which should be on Disney+ sometime in February 2022. It is very much family friendly, and I can’t wait to watch something with my kids finally where I don’t have to cover their eyes or say, “oh don’t worry, all that blood is fake!”

Looking at your CV, it doesn’t seem like there is much you haven’t done. My ultimate writing Bucket List Item is actually to work on an episode of Creepshow. What is the number one thing you’d still like to achieve?

MayhemEver since I picked up my mom’s hardback copy of Christine when I was seven years old, I have been the hugest Stephen King fan. So, although Creepshow was also already a huge bucket-list moment, I would love to actually make something fully in the King universe. I’ve wanted to do a limited series of Cycle of the Werewolf, releasing one episode each month. Even though Silver Bullet is a classic, a new extended series version of the book would be amazing. Mr. King did actually email me to say well done when I got Creepshow, and I was so shocked and happy I actually passed out. There is an actual photo of me on the floor at my kid’s school. It meant that much to me. 

What’s next for you?

The Disney series should be out in February, and of course the project I’ve been working on with Barbara Crampton plus a ton of other stuff that I can’t talk about just yet. But I’m really busy which is great. 

Where can people find and follow you? 

Joe Lynch at Twitter

Trading in a police badge and then classroom, Janine Pipe is a full-time Splatterpunk Award-nominated writer, whilst also being an awesome mum, wife and Disney addict. Influenced by the works of King from a young age, she likes to shock readers with violence and scare them with monsters — both mythical and man-made. When she’s not killing people off, she likes to chew the fat with other authors, reviewing books for Scream Magazine, Cemetery Dance and Horror DNA, and conducting interviews on booktube. You’ll likely find her devouring work by Glenn Rolfe, Hunter Shea and Tim Meyer. Her biggest fan, beta reader, editor and financier is her loving husband.

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