Each year the Hollywood presence at Comic-Con International has gotten bigger and bigger, with Marvel and DC showing off major motion pictures to comics fans. But not all comic based movies are glossy, superhero affairs and one of the best trailers we saw at the Con was for 'Trailer Park of Terror', an independently produced horror film based on the indie comic title of the same name.
Comics2Film chatted with writer/co-creator Christopher March and writer/co-creator James Dracoules who may be surprised as anyone about seeing 'Trailer Park' go from inception, to comics and then to film in less than six years.
March told us the comic began, "Actually kind of by accident." He and Dracoules were talking comics one night and lamenting the lack of classic-style horror anthologies on the current market.
"I mentioned one night that I liked, when I was a kid, reading the old 'Tales from the Crypt' and it's a shame that there's nothing out there like that now," March said. "I said, 'It might be fun to do something like that.'"
It was an off-the-cuff remark that March quickly forgot, but for Dracoules, the idea was too intriguing. A few days later he was presenting his new comic book concept to March.
"At that point he was like, 'What comic book,'" Dracoules joked. Both men sparked to the idea of 'Trailer Park of Terror', a horror anthology hosted by a trashy blond named Norma, who has a penchant for the macabre.
What seemed like a whim now became a yearlong process of working the idea into a full-blown comic book. By 2003 they had published the title under their new Imperium Comics banner and it was available in comics shops.
A year later, Hollywood found them at Comic-Con.
"A guy named David Tischman approached us and he was working for MTV movies at the time," March explained. "He said, 'you mind if I take it to them and pitch it to them?'"
However, MTV wasn't interested in an anthology series. Tischman still saw hope for the project as a film. The creators gave him permission to shop it further.
Eventually he brought it to producer Jonathan Bognar, executive producer of the web-comic-to-film 'Broken Saints' and the animated feature 'Conan: Red Nails'. Last year Bognar moved the film into production under the helm of music-video director Steven Goldman.
"And of course, the irony is, the movie is no longer an anthology anyway," Dracoules said.
The movie now tells the story of a group of road tripping, problem teens and their chaperone pastor who are forced to seek shelter in the title homestead. There they meet Norma and the rest of the Trailer Trash denizens who proceed to make their lives a living hell.
March and Dracoules have no problem with the shift from anthology to an all-new narrative. The movie was made with their supervision as Executive Producers. "We've seen every copy of every script," said March. "We have input."
They were quite pleased with the choice of directors.
"It's good to have a director that actually gets the property. He didn't come in and say, 'Oh, I'm going to make this my vision. He's like, I want to bring this idea to life,'" Dracoules said.
"We had a lot of conversations with Steven. He was great. We had notes and he took the notes to heart," March added, "and he's a die hard horror fan, so that helps."
So where does 'Trailer Park of Terror' fit in with the recent wave of horror films that see hapless tourists tormented by twisted locals?
"I don't see it fitting in with that because we've got zombies. We're not just people being mean to each other for the sake of being mean. There is a storyline there," said Dracoules. "We've got zombies who are collecting souls for a reason."
March adds, "It's kind of hard to describe. It started out as something you could classify, but as it developed it became something of its own. It's hard to pinpoint exactly where it belongs."
Dracuoles sums up the film's appeal as, "There's a black comedy undertone that has to run through it, because, what it all comes down to is we're dealing with white-trash zombies. If you buy the premise you buy the bit."
It's an amazing bit, which started with a random suggestion from March, and led to them meeting their creations in the flesh on the set of the movie this year, an experience March calls, "surreal."
"We were writing about this place for five years and we were suddenly standing in the middle of the trailer park," March said.
"I actually had the probably scariest moment of my life," Dracoules said, of his encounter with Larlene, a large zombie woman from the comic pages. "They called lunch break. I'm standing in line. I've got my food on my tray. I'm looking for a place to sit. I turn around and there she is, right behind me. I'm not expecting, not having seen anyone in the makeup before. To just turn around and be confronted with a moving, talking, zombie...nothing one ever expects to happen in your life."
Of course, the highlight was meeting their hostess Norma, in the form of actress Nichole Hiltz, during their final hours on the set.
"It was really strange just seeing something that sprang out of your head, standing there and talking to you in character, which she did perfectly, improvising, she had it nailed," said Dracoules.
"She's perfect for the role," adds March. "She loves comics. We were actually talking to her through myspace. She loves the comics."
According to Dracoules, Hiltz refused to commit to the role until she received copies of the comics. Once she saw Norma in that form, she was sold.
'Trailer Park of Terror' wrapped production in June. Are March and Dracoules happy?
"It's exceeded our expectations," said March.
"That's what I was gonna say," replied Dracoules.
"We think too much alike," said March.
The film is set for release in 2008. Fans can find the comics in comic shops everywhere, or through the Imperium Comics website.