Director Rebekah McKendry Gets Candid on Christmas, Creatures, and Creativity [Interview]
Christmas is that special time of the year where we’re inspired to be a little more merry, give a little more to others, and apply the reason for the season into our everyday lives. Directors and writers Rebekah and David Ian McKendry have taken their love for Christmas and applied it towards something more sinister in their debut anthology All The Creatures Were Stirring.
Featuring five quirky segments set on Christmas Eve, All The Creatures Were Stirring combines holiday appeal, zany situations, and thought provoking situations. This film is full of talent with stars like Morgan Peter Brown (Ouija), Constance Wu (Crazy Rich Asians), Amanda Fuller (Starry Eyes), Jocelin Donahue (House of the Devil), Brea Grant (Beyond The Gates), and Mark Kelly (Dismissed) and incredibly unique cinematography crafted by Cameron Cannon.
As a professor at USC School of Cinematic Arts, a former host of the Killer POV podcast and Director of Marketing to Fangoria magazine, a current co-host to Blumhouse’s Shock Waves podcast and Editor-in-Chief to Blumhouse Productions, film journalist and producer Rebekah McKendry is no stranger to the horror genre. Alongside her husband, David Ian McKendry, also a formative writer for Fangoria magazine, Blumhouse, and contributor to Clive Barker’s Hellraiser Anthology, the two have joined forces behind the lens to release some disturbing yuletide joy.
I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Rebekah about how All The Creatures Were Stirring came to be, the more insidious side of Christmas, production value and influence, and how much of a bad-ass woman in horror she is.
I’m just I’m thrilled to be talking with you. It’s perfect timing – I just saw all your posts about you being pregnant while shooting. I think that is just so cool.
Oh my god, I know! I was very pregnant when we we shot this. Half of it. I was pregnant for the first half and then not for the second half. But yeah, we started shooting when I was about eight months and we kept going till right up until a few days before I gave birth. And then we took like a month off right afterwards, long enough for my kid to get his immunizations, and then we took it from there. That was me. So the pictures are fun.
They are! I mean, I love horror and I love film and just seeing, you know, someone working in film and directing and writing and being part of that process and then being pregnant at the same time like that’s just not even like inspiration for women in horror. That’s like an inspiration for women in general. So it’s just really cool.
Thank you, wow. Yeah. It didn’t even dawn on me at the time that there was anything wrong and so somebody was like “I’ve never seen a pregnant woman on set before” and I was like “Really?”. That seems like something that we need to see more of. Just in general.
we’ve always seen this kind of sinister side of Christmas as well, where everything is so saccharine and so sweet…
You’re right. That’s amazing… I just want to ask just a few questions. I think it’s awesome that you and your husband worked together on this. That’s also amazing. What drew you to doing a holiday project?
Dave and I both absolutely love Christmas. I mean just because we’re – we’ve worked in horror for so long. Everyone you know knows that Halloween is like a huge deal for us. But we are huge Christmas fans. We like literally convert the house. We love tacky Christmas, we change the house over every year into just this giant flashing light tackiness and we just absolutely love the holiday. And so we knew when we were kind of coming up with topics and what we wanted to do we had the idea for a Christmas holiday film and didn’t really know exactly what it was yet we had a couple of stories in mind. And then when Morgan and Joe said that they were interested in working with us and working to get investment for our first film we took that four or five different ideas and then we started discussing like what we could do within our very specific budget range or what we could do in the low budget area, what we had easy access to as far as location and they kept circling back to the Christmas horror one just because it was on locations that we have access to. It gave us a chance to work with a lot of different actors and really kind of pull in a lot from the heart of the community. And so at the end of the whole process they were like “You know what? Let’s do the Christmas horror one.” And so Dave and I started working on it.
That’s awesome. That’s so great. Everybody loves Christmas. You can’t not like Christmas, you see what happens to those who don’t in this film – when you don’t like Christmas.
Of course! Dave and I, we’ve always seen this kind of sinister side of Christmas as well, where everything is so saccharine and so sweet and though we have a couple of Christmas decorations that have kind of been passed down to our families from the 50’s 60’s and 70’s that we look at now, we’re like “Oh it’s creepy”. Yeah, we just love creepy Christmas as well.
Yes. Yes that is. That’s perfect. There is something sinister to it. Now there is are a few other holiday films out there. Where did you draw your inspiration from as far as like filmmakers and other films? Because I think All The Creatures Were Stirring was so modern, but it was also really nostalgic-like too. I enjoyed that so much.
It was! We didn’t we didn’t pull from other Christmas films exactly, except we definitely have a wink Black Christmas in there somewhere. But we pulled mostly from just films that we are huge fans of and they’re like niche horror like we have a scene – the theater stuff – I made our DP watch Messiah of Evil because I wanted it to kind of have that feel of the people with the creepy theater. Because Dave and I have both been working in horror for so long we were both just ridiculous horror fans that really does become kind of our shorthand on set where when we’re discussing how to set shots up or what we want to do. I can look at Dave and be like “You want to do like Demons?”, “You want to like Demons the shot up?”. To us that means like the shot from Demons in the theater, you know “Let’s do a heavy back light and have like have people walking away from it”. And so like the horror element really does become our shorthand.
The one that I say is kind of, we have two, that I call ‘love letters’ like the final segment is definitely kind of a love letter to The Twilight Zone. We had the cast watching The Twilight Zone leading up to it we gave them a couple of episodes that we wanted them to check out, specifically Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?. We sent that over to Constance and Morgan and everybody and we were like check this one out. It’s not the plot by any means, but it’s kind of just has that tone of like “We know one of you is an alien, which one is it?” And so that one definitely is kind of a love letter and then the second to last one, the reindeer segment, the one about the photographer driving. We leaned really heavy on giallo films for that one, Italian horror films specifically the kind of murder mysteries from the 70’s, that’s why he’s a photographer, she’s a fashion model, there’s black gloves. We do these like crazy editing techniques and spin the camera and focus in on eyeballs a lot. So we really went giallo with that one and we even had the crew watch Tenebre and Torso and a couple of the other like well known murder mystery drama films.
That is exactly what I was feeling having just watched it! I watched All The Creatures Were Stirring last night and I did a piece on Tenebre last week and you know that’s what I’m saying – it was like it’s nostalgia, but each of those segments is so different on its own that it’s modernized. It’s brilliant.
Thank you so much. That was our plan going in: We didn’t want any of the segments to look like the other one, even though that they’re all happening within the same time period. The stories are being told all within the same hour span, chronologically. We really wanted everyone to look drastically different from the last one and we wanted even just a shooting style the way that they were being presented to feel really different. And so, like with the parking, lot segment we shot really wide for a lot of that because we kind of wanted to show the scope and the space around him and how desolate he is in the parking lot and everything and how separated he is. Whereas with the giallo one we focused in on faces a lot, so we wanted everything to feel really different.
And you succeeded tremendously. I usually take notes while I’m watching. For me to stop taking notes is when I know I’m so interested in it, that I’m like absorbed in it. I have to ask you one last question: Which one of them was your favorite?
That’s so awesome. Oh my gosh, you know I have to say that has been the most fascinating thing of having an anthology is that every single person as soon as they finish watching their immediate response is to say what their favorite and least favorite was. You don’t get that when you do it like a straight linear film, so it’s been really interesting to hear because no two people have the same one. And as soon as we think that one is like “Oh, well most people like this one the best and not this one” then we’ll have another screening and everybody will be like “Oh this one is my favorite”. So it changes constantly. My favorite one to shoot like just straight up shooting was the reindeer segment just because we knew what we were going for we were trying a lot of really weird stuff and it was it was just a really fun set. My favorite one the way that it turned out is probably the parking lot segment, which I love just because we don’t bother to explain anything. But that said, that was not my favorite shoot because we shot that in March in Los Angeles overnight. And you never think it gets really cold in Los Angeles until you’re standing out in a parking lot at 3 a.m. in March and it dipped below freezing. It was a very, very cold shoot the fog you see coming out of people’s mouths is 100 percent real in that one. The core, Alexander Ward, was a trooper. Alexander our monster during that segment and was basically wearing like bottom briefs, but that was about it for the entire night other than a lot of latex on top of him. He was freezing, but he was like a total trooper because he does this all the time. So that one is my favorite kind of the way that it ended stylistically. I love the camera that we shot that segment on. I love how it turned out technically.
They they all turned out technically perfect. That’s awesome. I’m glad. I loved every single one of them. I can’t wait to share my review with everybody I know that everyone is going to want to see it. Everyone will be able to have access to it December 4th?
Right now we are in Redbox and then on December 4th we go to VOD and Wal-Mart and then on December 13th we head the Shudder.
That’s fantastic. That’s wonderful. Everybody is going to be really excited.
Yes! I’ve been told it’s some Wal-Mart’s already have us out. So you may be able to find it there already, but I think it’s technically December 4th.
I know where I’m going tonight. Thank you so much Rebekah. I will let you go. Just keep going. I look forward to anything that you do in the future. I’m a huge Shock Waves fan, obviously, but I can’t wait to see what you got going on next. You are such a huge inspiration to all the women in horror.
Oh my gosh, Jessica! Thank you so much and so are you. Obviously, you’ve got a hell of a journalistic voice so keep it going.
Thank you so much. I appreciate that a lot. Merry Christmas!
All The Creatures Were Stirring will be available on VOD, Digital and DVD on December 4th as well as on Shudder on December 13th.