Writer/director Paul Davis is an active part of the horror community, both in front of and behind the camera. Most recently, Paul has written and directed for the Blumhouse/Hulu hit series Into The Dark, a horror anthology first released in October 2018. Back in 2009, he directed, wrote and presented the documentary Beware The Moon: The Story of an American Werewolf in London, which looked fondly back on director John Landis’ horror classic. Seven years on, Paul produced his book adaptation by the same name, delving even further into the story behind the iconic production.
The book features over 300 behind-the-scenes photos, as well as interviews with over 35 members of the original cast and crew. Landis himself has gone so far as to call the book “the most complete and accurate account of the making of An American Werewolf in London“. Special-effects mastermind Rick Baker echoed this sentiment, saying, “It was so nice to see An American Werewolf in London treated with that much love and respect. Truly brilliant!”
Paul sat down with the Squid to talk to us about his sell-out book, which is now on its third edition, and his career in the world of horror filmmaking.
Emily: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be in the horror world.
Paul: Professionally, I guess I started in the late ’90s as a freelance writer and critic. By the early 2000s, I ran my own UK-based horror website called Celluloid Shockers, which was my own outlet for horror reviews, news and interviews. In 2006, I was invited to join the writing staff of Horror Hound magazine and was a regular contributor right through to 2010, with three covers stories on An American Werewolf in London, The Exorcist and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It was at the end of 2006 that the article I did on Werewolf became the catalyst for the documentary I went on to make, called Beware the Moon – which was my attempt at creating a 25th anniversary making-of. That was completed and released on the first Blu-ray release of the movie back in 2009, and from there I went on to make a couple of award-winning short films (Him Indoors with Reece Shearsmith and The Body with Alfie Allen), and later two Hulu Original Into The Dark movies for Blumhouse.
Emily: How did this incredible project come to be?
Paul: The production of the book was relatively fast as I already had a bulk of the material to hand. I conducted maybe a further ten interviews and included a short chapter on the making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, as it wouldn’t have existed without An American Werewolf in London. I was really happy with the finished piece, but more importantly John Landis and Rick Baker were thrilled with it, and those are the two guys that I’m always out to please first because the movie is their baby.
This now is the third edition of the book. The first hardback edition came out in 2016 and was limited to only 1,000 copies. That sold out within weeks, which then prompted a second soft cover edition, which, again, sold out pretty sharpish. The catalyst for wanting to turn it into a book was literally an excess of material left over from making the documentary back in 2007-2008. We interviewed over 25 members of the original Werewolf crew, and once the doc was finished, more people came out of the woodwork that I previously couldn’t track down. I’d initially planned to do the book as a companion piece to the doc while we were still making it, but it wasn’t until I saw The Return of The Living Dead book by Cult Screenings UK in late 2015 that I really pursued it.
For me, that book, with its documentary-on-the-page-style formatting, the behind-the-scenes imagery, and the design, was everything that I wanted the book adaptation of Beware The Moon to be, and thankfully after one conversation with Gary Smart, the designer and producer over there, it turned out that he was a big fan of the movie and wanted to collaborate.
Emily: So breakdown the interview process for me – what was that like?
Paul: I interviewed EVERYONE I could find on this. John Landis hilariously commented that the FBI should send me their ’ten most wanted list’ and tell me they were all in An American Werewolf in London, because then I’d find them. All of them were pretty memorable, but I think the interview that really got Beware The Moon the cred it picked up was with FX legend Rick Baker. He not only told us some wonderful stories on how they created the werewolf and all three stages of Jack’s (Griffin Dunne‘s) decomposition, but he also spoke about the legendary transformation scene and how everything was achieved step by step, one effect at a time – which had never been done before.
One of the things that the book certainly has over the documentary is that I was able to speak to all but one of Rick Baker’s original crew. Between them all, it paints a clearer picture of just how chaotic the special effects prep was on the movie, originally wanting six months to prepare everything, but in the end, due to unforeseen circumstances, ending up with four. It’s an incredible story, and merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the making of this iconic movie, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year.
Emily: What sparked your passion for the film industry?
Paul: For me, getting to work with John Landis way back on the documentary and then again for the book was a thrilling experience. You don’t spend time with the director of The Blues Brothers, Trading Places, Animal House, American Werewolf in London and Coming to America without learning a lot about the movie industry – which for me was paramount, as beyond anything I wanted to be a filmmaker. Being around John during this process really prepared me for when it came time to make my movies for Blumhouse (so much so that I gave him a cameo in The Body). He’s a mentor, dear friend and the perfect example of when meeting your heroes goes the right way. I owe him a lot and am forever thankful that he trusted me with these projects when he easily could have told me to go fuck myself.
Emily: This isn’t your first horror print, is it? Is it true that Lost in The Shadows – The Story of The Lost Boys is making an appearance again?
Paul: We are indeed looking to do a special reprint of the soft cover edition of Lost in The Shadows – The Story of The Lost Boys. I’m not entirely sure when it will be (next year for sure), but I’m looking to add some new content to it in tribute of director Joel Schumacher, who passed away this year. Keep track on my Instagram for updates.
We’d like to give a massive thank you to Paul Davis for speaking with us and wish him the best of luck with his future projects! You can see the Beware The Moon documentary and hear his 2019 audio commentary on Arrow Video edition on Blu-ray, and can also find out more about Paul and purchase a copy of his book here.