1. Why a Christmas horror movie?
I wanted to tell a story in which the horrors of loneliness are compounded by the envy of joy in others. The holiday season was the obvious time to do that—juxtaposing cheerful with dread. For some, when everything else has gone to shit, the holidays add extra pressure to feel happy
2. Are there any films/books/media/etc. that directly influenced your
concept?The two biggest influences were: Magic (the crazy ventriloquist film from the ‘70s
starring Anthony Hopkins) and The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (starring a
young Jodie Foster). Some have surmised it was Lucky McGee’s May; although I
enjoyed that film, it had less influence on my story than these others.
3. I am a big fan of doll(s) especially creepy ones, what role did Mor represent
in the narrative (overall story, conception) I know tangentially it represented
her mother; I mean more-so antagonist, protagonist, etc.
Mor is the destructive voice of a selfish mother.
4. Were you involved in Mor’s design, did it go through several versions?
Yes. I bought an antique doll on eBay—the one Melanie finds in the attic—and used it as a template for a life-size version. My wife sewed her body out of muslin, which we aged with coffee. The head was sculpted and cast in fiberglass, using the doll as a guide.
5. What was the hardest part of pre-production/shooting?
Shooting in the middle of winter. The bitter cold.
6. Do you have a favorite horror genre? (science gone too far, revenge horror, body horror)
Ghost stories and gothic horror.
7. Do you have tropes/themes you don’t care for or find really tacky?
I don’t care much for blood, excess violence, and guns in cinema. I find them utterly boring and cheap tricks.
8. What scenes were cut/edited from TMC that are present in DITD/MD? Why did you find them ineffective?
I decided to silence Mor, save for her whispers. I also did a big performance pass, carefully reviewing each beat of the film. In addition, I removed the philosophy monologue in the middle of the film. Overall, I made a few hundred edits that created a quieter and more subdued story that I hope plays out more in our minds. This is more in line with what I originally envisioned.
9. If you were to make another movie with subtle holiday elements, which holiday would you attracted to?
Maybe New Year’s Day, because it’s symbolic with change and catharsis.
10. Was there a boogieman/ or some such entity you feared when you were little?
Zombies, anything that comes back from the dead, including ghosts. My father died young, when I was 10. Shortly thereafter we moved into a house with a historic cemetery in the backyard. I think that all had something to do with my fear of the undead.
11. What elements do TMF and your latest film “Sweet Sweet Lonely Girl” (now streaming on shudder) have in common?
They both explore loneliness and were inspired by the gothic aspects of films like “The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane”.
12. What 2 movies would you like to reboot/remake?
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death and The Changeling.
13. Did you have other titles or working titles before TMF? Can you explain why you called it TMF?
That was immediately the title of choice for me. The combination of “melancholy” and “fantastic” came from Kierkegaard’s Sickness Unto Death. The idea of an otherworldly, fantastic being in a melancholy holiday setting inspired me. The new cut is called, “Doll in the Dark” (currently only available in the UK). And “Mother’s Doll” is the UK DVD title of that same cut—the distributor chose that name.
14. Do you have any recurring nightmares? If so, what scenario transpires.
Yes. Old Hag Syndrome. I’ve always been haunted by her. Growing up I called her Mama Pajama.
15. What movie do you suggest the most often?
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death.