Horror Icon Mini-Marathon: GLEN MORGAN
Until very recently, film and television were antagonistic entities; television was the inexpensive stepchild of film, and the creators of each were unlikely to be found working in the other. It changed in 2005, when Geena Davis and Glenn Close decided to appear on television series, and the act of creators and performers crossing back and forth between the two mediums is relatively common. But in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, it was unusual that a creator could easily jump back and forth between film and television. One creator who did was Glen Morgan.
With a career that began writing in television for series such as “21 Jump Street” and The Commish,” with occasional low-budget horror and thriller films to his credit (anyone remember the awesome heavy metal horror film “Trick or Treat”), Morgan’s major recognition as a horror creator began when he and his writing partner James Wong were hired as writers for “The X-Files.” Creating some of the most iconic and memorable episodes (and monsters) of the beloved series, Morgan and Wong parlayed that success into a short-lived but still beloved cult sci-fi series, “Space: Above and Beyond.”
Though the series was short-lived on Fox, Morgan and Wong came back to “The X-Files” for a time before taking over the reins of the serial killer procedural series “Millennium,” which took investigator Lance Henriksen into some fascinating conspiratorial new places.
But it was in 2000 that the duo would make their biggest mark on the horror film world when they brought the first “Final Destination” to screen. Jumping back and forth from film to television for the next few years, working alternately on supernatural TV series like “The Others” and high-concept science-fiction action films like Jet Li’s “The One,” Morgan and Wong kept creating fascinating work that refused to be easily categorized.
After deciding to work separately on projects around 2006, Morgan continued to alternate between film and television, working on two great cult TV series (“Tower Prep” and “The River”, the latter produced by “Paranormal Activity” creator Oren Peli) and a couple of enjoyable remakes of classic 1970’s horror films.
Still working currently on A&E’s new investigative series “Those Who Kill,” Glen Morgan has made several classic television works and at least a couple of noteworthy horror films in his career that are deserving of remembrance.
Morgan and Wong may have been no-brainers when it came to this fun, high-concept idea that could have been a great episode of “The X-Files.” Combining surprising and shocking deaths with a dark sense of humor and loving reference to classic horror films from generations before, the original “Final Destination” was a groundbreaking horror film that redefined horror in the self-referential late 1990’s and created one of the few non-torture porn horror franchises of the first decade of the new millennium.
Based on the classic 1971 Bruce Davison film, Morgan’s remake of the film (taken from the source novel “Ratman’s Notebooks”) is an excellent film at the wrong time in cinema history. Trapped in a horror arena steeped with PG-13 remakes of Asian horror films, “Willard” was a gleefully dark and R-rated film that was anti-authoritarian and truly unusual (thanks largely to an unnerved central performance from Crispin Glover). Some truly creepy moments, and an inspired turn by R. Lee Ermey as the boss from hell (which would later be reworked to bring the “Texas Chainsaw” franchise back to life) make this a fun film that escapes the money-grab mentality of most horror remakes.
A good horror film that was tortured in post-production in much the same manner as the lead characters in the film, “Black Christmas” was a troubled production from the moment that the Weinstein Brothers became involved. Based on the seminal 1974 film of the same name (which many believe was hugely influential on John Carpenter’s genre-defining slasher “Halloween”), the film had a relatively smooth shoot, but was then plagued with issues from advertising (director Morgan spoke about seeing previews in which footage appeared that he never shot), to theatrical release (a Christmas-themed horror film released on Christmas day was a bad decision which the director fought over and lost), and even the final DVD release (for which the director was never even consulted). A fun reinvention of the original, with an exploration into the originl of the killer that would be borrowed wholesale a year later for the remake of “Halloween.”
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