Amazon Studios’ “SEED” Screenwriters on Horror, Inspiration, and Adapting Books for the Screen

ImageHorror stories that are grounded in reality, and yet not bound by rules … these inspire Adam Simon and Tim Metcalfe (The Haunting in Connecticut). And it’s what they appreciate about Seed, a powerful and terrifying novel written by Ania Ahlborn. Simon and Metcalfe have been selected by Amazon Studios to adapt Seed for the screen.

“Ania’s character insight and scenic eye managed to do what few horror writers even attempt, let alone succeed at – and that is, create a fictional world we instantly recognize as our own, as true,” Simon said. “Like Stephen King and a handful of Horror masters, she knows that writing great horror fiction is like directing lightning – your pole’s gotta be grounded.”

Seed was added to the Amazon Studios development slate last year, and Ahlborn says the experience has been “nothing but awesome.” And she’s a fan of Simon and Metcalfe. “I’m thrilled with how in-sync our perspectives are on horror, and on how to adapt Seed from page to screen,” she said. “I’m excited by how focused they are on breaking out of what’s become the norm in this genre and bringing the horror experience we all know and love back to the theater.”

We asked Simon and Metcalfe a few questions about horror, their inspirations, and bringing stories from page to screen:

What are the opportunities and challenges of adapting a book?

Simon: The author’s done the fundamental work of creating a plot and a set of characters who embody it – so all of our creativity and ingenuity can focus on, for want of a better term, the delivery system – i.e. that ribbon of dreams, that festival of effects, the movie-ing of it!

Metcalfe: The opportunity, of course, is a ready-made plot. The challenge is changing or leaving out a lot of peoples’ favorite scenes.

Why do you think people enjoy scary stories so much?

Simon: They’re homeopathic medicine for the soul – boot-camp for the psyche. A little, controlled, dose of what ails us, cures us. Watch my documentary The American Nightmare. My favorite thing I ever did. And it’s everything I always wanted to say about horror movies, but said better by some of the greatest horror film makers and a bunch of people way smarter than me.

Metcalfe: There are only a few basic emotions that films trigger well – fear is maybe chief amongst them.

What are some horror movies/books that have inspired you, and why?

Simon: Horror Movies –The Exorcist, the original Night of The Living Dead, The Innocents, Suspiria, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hour of the Wolf, Martyrs, Videodrome. What they have in common: Horror that obeys no rules.

Books: Blatty’s The Exorcist, Stoker’s Dracula, King’s Pet Sematary, Klein’s The Ceremonies, Barker’s The Damnation Game – all of HP Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Ramsey Campbell, Dennis Etchison, Michael Marshal Smith and of course M.R. James. What they have in common: making the reader feel that the very act of reading might be dangerous.

If I could recommend only one book here it’d be Roszak’s Flicker – the best horror novel ever written about movies, maybe the best novel about movies period.

Metcalfe: The original King KongThe Haunting (1962), The Innocents (1961, based on James’ Turn of the Screw), Rosemary’s Baby, both novel and film; the original Chainsaw Massacre; every version ever done of Jack Finney’s novel,Invasion of the Body SnatchersThe Shining, both novel and film (I think the film is better than the book, but don’t tell Mr. King I said so), and the greatest of them all, The Exorcist, both film and novel. If Silence of the Lambs is horror, then it’s on the list too. Recently, the last decade anyway, the film that impressed and scared me the most was probably Brad Anderson’s Session 9. Also del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

How did you begin writing together, and what do you feel each of you brings to the partnership?

Simon: I was sent Tim’s script for Kalifornia to consider as a director – and I thought it was both the funniest and scariest thing I’d ever read – I knew I had to meet him. We had lunch a couple days later  and we have been great friends and frequent collaborators ever since.  I think the most important thing I learned from Tim was what I alluded to above about Ania’s writing – that it means nothing if you can imagine strange and wonderful things, but you don’t embody them in real people, real emotions, real life. Tim taught me to make sure I wasn’t just dreaming dreams on top of dreams, or riffing off (or ripping off) all the stories and movies we’ve internalized, but instead dreamingthrough reality – using real life, even one’s own life, as the prima materia from which to create one’s fictional dreams and nightmares.

– Stephanie Reid-Simons

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