Horror anthologies are making a come back in recent years, and why wouldn’t they? For the normal price of a single movie you get four or more shorts that are sure to delight the devil in you. One such anthology, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories, was recently released to great reviews and critical acclaim, making it one of the more favorable compilations outside of The ABCs of Death. I was able to discuss the success of the film with one of its contributors, Nathan Milliner, a promising up and coming writer, producer and director who has two titles featured within Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories. As with Creepshow and other anthologies from the 80’s, Milliner finds his roots firmly planted in movies from a generation ago and a slasher we all know and love – Freddy Krueger. One of his first projects as a director, The Confession of Fred Krueger, sees the famous villain in a different setting and I wanted to discuss this short before jumping into Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories.
“I am a massive Elm Street fan. It was the film series that made me a horror movie fan. I was 12 when I stayed up one night in 1988 to watch the premiere of Dream Warriors on cable. They double featured it with Freddy’s Revenge and I have been a fanatic ever since,” Milliner explains. “I ordered a book called The Nightmare on Elm Street Companion that had been published in 1987 and was written by Jeffrey Cooper who had written the novelizations of the films. In the book, Cooper had written an origin story about Fred Krueger. It was called The Life and Death of Freddy Krueger. That short captured my imagination and for the next 25 years I was crossing my fingers that we’d one day see this story make it to the big screen. While the franchise showed glimpses of Freddy’s origin it kept getting further and further from Cooper’s story and the character kept getting further and further away from Wes Craven’s vision of the man of our dreams. Freddy’s Dead was the movie that gave us his origin and it was pretty terrible. By then, Freddy was a big cartoon character and suddenly out of the blue, Freddy was a suburbanite with a wife and a kid? This was not the urban legend drifter in the night who snatches children that Craven and Cooper had instilled in my mind.”
Nathan continues, “Once the remake of Elm Street happened it was pretty clear that we would never see Robert Englund play Fred in an appropriate prequel even though Englund had wanted to do a prequel for a long time. Someone suggested I write a script so that’s what I did. Around 2012 I wrote the script for The Confession of Fred Krueger. My goal was to take Freddy back to the character Wes Craven had created while capturing Cooper’s vision as well. The set up was inspired by several influences. Those being the 1990’s HBO documentary series The Iceman Confessions (conversations with mafia hitman Richard Kuklinski), the Mickey Knox interview in Natural Born Killers and the conversation in the car at the end of Se7en with John Doe. I wanted to hear Fred himself tell his story. The script sat on the shelf for three years until I made my segment for the first Volumes of Blood film, The Encyclopedia Satanica. On that set I really bonded with my cinematographer David Bonnell and we really wanted to make another film and fast. But the real inspiration was one of my actors in the segment – a young man named Kevin Roach. As soon as I started working with Kevin I knew this guy needed to play Fred Krueger. When I suggested we make the fan film to both of them they both immediately jumped at the opportunity.”
“I have worked for HorrorHound Magazine since 2008 as a staff artist and writer and always attended their conventions as a guest. It just so happened that the show in September 2015 was one of the biggest Elm Street Reunions ever put on. 25 guests from the series were invited including Robert Englund and Heather Langenkamp. If there was ever a stage for a fan film homaging the series I loved, this was it. The goal was to get the film made in time to premiere it at HorrorHound Weekend. I put the film into production and served as director, writer, producer and just about anything else I could work on to make it the best it could be. David shot it and edited it and Kevin played Freddy. We shot it in June and July of 2015 (4 days of shooting) and it premiered at Horrorhound Weekend as planned. The film has been called the best Elm Street fan film ever made by several critics. It is available for free to watch on YouTube. It has been on YouTube since September 2015 and currently has around 215,000 views. It is my love letter to the series but mostly to Wes Craven’s original. Sadly, Wes passed away only two weeks before the premiere.” The Confession of Fred Krueger was the recipient of several film festival award nominations and wins in 2015.
Mr. Milliner had already contributed to the first installment in the budding anthology franchise when Volumes of Blood hit the masses in 2015. His segment, The Encyclopedia Satanica, became the stand out in the bunch and opened the door for him to return for Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories in 2016. On jumping back to the film family, Nathan says, “I was the only returning filmmaker from the first Volumes of Blood and PJ Starks had expressed to me that he wanted me to write and direct a segment for the sequel. I went through several ideas but PJ kept changing directions for the film. He offered me the opening segment of the film and I could write whatever I wanted as the opening was not tied down to the core story about the house. My goal was to try to connect the film to the original and capture things that made the first one work for people. One of the most popular things about the original film was the meta ending where PJ Starks played himself and several other cast and crew appeared and even died. It was this great comedic relief for the film. I decided to do the meta thing again to open the film and since I was one of the only surviving filmmakers I decided to appear in this sequel as an alternative version of myself along with Kevin Roach. Kevin and I would play horror fan boys who hate everything, especially remakes. It was a chance for me to do a commentary on the current negativity that a lot of horror fans have and to sort of turn the mirrors on them.”
“The original film opened with a short PJ made that was his nod to the Friday the 13th films. It was an 80’s slasher film called Murder Death Killer 3: Dead of Autumn. I decided to remake the Murder Death Killer original film, that is how Murder Death Killer came to be. It was there to give these two fan boys a reason to hate on remakes.” This sounds like an innovative and comedic way that would successfully tie the two anthologies together; something to really bring back the old audience while entertaining the new viewers. Nathan goes on, “Around November of 2015 the other writer had a falling out with PJ and he was no longer involved in the film. This opened up a segment for the film as he was taking his scripts with him. The open segment was the Christmas segment. I immediately offered to write a new script and PJ said that was fine. The MUSTS for the story were that it be on the first floor of the house, be set on Christmas Eve, and feature a strong female lead as he had already cast an actress he liked for the previous segment. The film also had a director attached who would now be directing whatever I wrote.” The short eventually went on to star Jessica Schroeder and Julie Streble.
The film-maker continues, “I wrote a script called Fear, For Sinners Here, but the problem was, the film was so catered to me and I just fell instantly in love with it. I desperately wanted to direct Fear but had to turn it over to this other director. As luck would have it, the other director wrote me one night troubled. He said he loved the script, but he wasn’t passionate about making it. It was a slow burn story and he was more interested in making something more action packed and exciting. It didn’t really fit his style or sensibilities. The thing was, Fear, For Sinners Here fit me more than Murder Death Killer did. I suggested we swap because Murder Death Killer was exactly what he was looking for. He liked the idea, but needed to think on it. Seeing a chance to make Fear, I wrote him back and said, ‘I need to make Fear, For Sinners Here!’ He said I needed to do it and we swapped. Then the director of Murder Death Caller called me up once again telling me he was walking from the project because he was too busy and didn’t think he’d do the film justice. With only two months to make this film I immediately offered to the producers to return to the project and also direct Murder Death Killer as well.” The short stars singer Warren Ray, MMA fighter Atticus Crow, Tom Dunbar and Barbie Clark.
Now that Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories is available to the public, I was wondering how Nathan Milliner felt about the positive attitudes and reviews in regards to the anthology. He gushes, “To be honest, the first film’s success took all of us by surprise. We never expected the level of postivety and love that original received. When it came to the sequel, I think we were all very nervous of being called a fluke or a happy accident. We definitely wanted to up the game with better scripts, strong directors and actors and overall better production. We took it deadly serious. In fact, when I was sent the scripts that PJ and the other writer had written and were moving forward with I actually threatened to walk from the project because I felt the scripts weren’t strong enough. They needed serious re-working and thankfully they agreed and the producers and writers held a meeting to go through each script word for word, speaking up until we were all very satisfied that they were as good as they needed to be to ensure this film was as good and better than the original. But you can never assume what people will think when they see your film. We had no idea people would respond to certain things in the original in the way they did so the audience is always a mystery. The positive reviews on the sequel has definitely been great as it validates us. It says that the first film was not a fluke and it also shows that we weren’t one trick ponies as the sequel is pretty different with only a few moments that reflect the original. But it’s not a repeat at all. If it repeats anything, it is the spirit.”
Film production is very much an art form. With so many ideas and scripts floating around, I asked if Milliner has any other way of expressing himself and showcasing his creativity. He says, “I spent my life training and working to be a commercial artist and I have been able to make that dream come true. In the last eight years I have worked with big companies for the releases of magazines, dvds, blu-rays, films, tee shirts, action figures, novels, comics. Producing cover art for the blu-rays of some of my favorite films like Halloween 2-8, Day of the Dead, The Howling, The Burning, Shocker, Motel Hell, Martyrs and The Crow. I got to do the cover to the coffee table book Never Sleep Again —the ultimate tribute to Wes Craven’s original Nightmare on Elm Street film. I have produced package art for NECA’s throwback action figures that include several Freddy figures, Leatherface and Captain Spaulding. My dreams have been realized and film has always been a passion of mine and I see it as a new challenge. Volumes of Blood and Confession has sparked the sleeping filmmaker in me and I see it becoming a part of my future in a big way. I want to do this. I want to do this more and more. I am determined.”
With his career in high gear and the development of a following, what’s next for Nathan Milliner? He finishes, “Apart from my art career which is still going (currently working on an album cover for a metal band, two new blu ray covers for some classic 70’s and 80’s flicks and several tee shirts for Fright Rags), I am about to write and direct a new short that I cannot talk about just yet but it’s a chance to work on something very near and dear to my heart. Some local filmmakers asked me a few weeks ago if I would be interested in coming on as a writer and director and we literally just had our first production meeting this weekend. I will be making this film in the Spring. I have been working on a feature film script for about a year and a half called “The Dark and Bloody Ground,” which actually began as a possible short for Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories. Once PJ decided to set the sequel in a house I could no longer make this one but that was a good thing because “Dark and Bloody” needed to be a feature. There was a lot of room for stretching it out. It is sort of my homage to Spielberg and King with a little Peckinpah thrown in there. The script was formed by combining three gothic rural horror short stories I had written in college. I finally wrote the final draft and I hope to be in pre-production on this film by the Summer and hopefully filming in the Fall.”