An Interview with Duncan Smith, Writer & Director of The 1st Episode of New Season for Horror Anthology Web Series, The Tales of Phantasmagoria

Monster Thoughts got access to an early showing of Duncan Smith‘s episode in the online web series, The Tales of Phantasmagoria produced by Moon St. The web series celebrates B horror movies and tasks directors and writers and actors with stretching their budgets to produce something new inline with the genre. The web series is to release its entire Season 2 roster on October 30th, 2021, on Halloween Eve on their Youtube.

The series is “An episodic anthology horror series about things that bump in the night,” according to their IMDB page.

The Review:

Evening with the Reaper | Moon St.

Upon our watching of it, I immediately noticed the dialogue was reminiscent of Quentin Tarintino’s movies. The wordy, prose-laden dialogue was immediately to my liking, but I did have to watch the episode about three times to suss out what I think was the story.

(Spoilers Below This Line!)

It was definitely a female empowerment story for me. The three women we meet that have encountered Death previously want to find a way to overcome it. But it’s not until we’re taken through their encounters with Death a second time that we, and the characters, realize Death wasn’t truly after them, but their husbands (for at least two of the characters). It was a short film about the fears of death we humans face, and how to move past it after we lose those loved ones (at least to me).

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Interview:

Duncan Smith, who wrote and directed the 32-minute and 45-second episode 1 of season 2 entitled Evening with the Reaper, sat down with me for a virtual interview to discuss a bit more about the episode and see if I got the plot points correctly.

Poster for Duncan’s episode.

MT: Tales of Phantasmagoria is a love letter to B horror fans. Can you tell us a bit about the process of creating work for this episode of the series? What challenges did you face?

DS: What I love about B movie horrors is that it is just so much fun and when you have a movie that knows exactly how serious to take itself, you are able to give yourself to the ride it is presenting. When you have truly talented filmmakers making low budget exploitation films forced to stretch their budget and come up with creative filmmaking techniques, that is when B movies really shine. Films like John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace, and Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West, were all films that were pretty major influences on this episode. These are all incredible filmmakers who know how to use the genre they’re working in to its fullest potential. Mixing these elements with the slower “cinema as a dream” approach from other influences like Ingmar Bergman and Robert Bresson is how I end up with a film that is clearly aware of its genre and influences and is certainly not hiding from them, while also hopefully being a film in which people can dig into the characters. The genre drives the plot but the characters drive the genre.

MT: I love that. When I write my books I tend to follow the same formula: the genre drives the plot but the characters drive the genre. It’s definitely a symbiotic relationship. What I got from the episode was vastly different from what my husband got. I say it was a tale about confronting death head-on and realizing you have to accept it to surpass it? How far off the nose am I? Can you share a bit about your intentions with the story?

DS: You’re pretty spot on with your interpretation. Carol’s character is particularly interesting to me. She doesn’t have to be a part of this whole thing. Her arc is more about not allowing the decisions of others dictate your own decisions. Ultimately she doesn’t owe anything to her husband because he dug his own grave and chose his art over his love for her. Nancy has to accept what she’s done but not in a way that is a self-reinvention. She must acknowledge it and define her own faith instead of living by the code of a faith that was presented to her in a time of vulnerability and weakness. Charlotte is unique in that she is the only one that physically takes action against the Reaper in her nightmare towards the end of the film. As an actress, she has to break the falsity of the whole thing and react to it in a way that is real. She is a wooden template until she finally has to commit to a persona. I would be very interested in hearing your husband’s perspective on it!

MT: Okay, I feel smart now! I got it for the most part! Thank you for clarifying it! I loved the way all the women eventually faced what was stalking them. Was it your intention to have any “women empowerment” message or did that not matter ultimately to the story as a whole?

DS: A women empowerment message was definitely on my mind throughout the process of writing and shooting the film. The story still functions no matter how the characters identify but I think it works best as a feminist piece.

MT: Do you have any other projects coming up you can tell us about?

DS: As for other projects, I’ve got a few things I’m working on! I’ve got a couple short film scripts that I’m hoping to get off the ground as well as a feature script I’ve been working on. There’s an ongoing conversation about Tales of Phantasmagoria season 3, but of course that’s in the very early stages. I did write an outline for a short script that would be a prequel piece to this episode following Nancy’s involvement with the mob and her path leading up to her initial Reaper encounter.

MT: That sounds amazing and we can’t wait to hear more about it (or see it) when it’s done!

See the trailer for the second season of the Tales of Phantasmagoria below:

The second season is to go live on Moon St.’s Youtube Channel, October 30th at around 5PM CT.

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