Was there ever any pushback from Disney+ or anything as far as how scary you could push to make it? Because this definitely leans into more mature territory and it has a teenage level of horror. Was it difficult trying to crack that balance and figure out what was maybe too scary?
Welch: I wouldn’t say pushback, but we definitely worked hand in hand to make sure that we were toeing that line the whole way through. They were intimately involved right along through the VFX process, making sure that things were scary without ever getting too gory, or funny without ever dipping into the inappropriate territory. Because it’s really important to us that this be a tone and a ride that adults can enjoy without children, and that parents can also watch with their kids and be excited and not nervous about that. But similar to the book series, as Pavun alluded to earlier, it should be a little bit scarier and a little bit funnier maybe than the audience expects. I think that’s part of the excitement of it. It makes it feel a little bit taboo for the younger audience, but still a thrilling ride for the adults.
You mentioned “Freaks and Geeks” as your touchstone for the comedy, but what were some of the inspirations that you took from horror? There’s a little bit of “It” in there, there’s a little bit of “Nightmare On Elm Street.” What were some of the other key influences for you guys?
Shetty: Yeah, I think those are good ones. It obviously has kids dealing with real horrors and trying to save themselves in their town. And “Nightmare On Elm Street” has an angle with the parents too in the original “Nightmare On Elm Street,” which this does also. I think we talked about “Scream” a lot, the original “Scream” too. Because obviously that was super scary, but it was also genuinely funny, and they were really surprising in what they did with that movie in combining those two genres. So we talked about a lot about “Scream” in the early development.
One of the best things about the show is you guys play with the books in such an exciting way, where you’re not necessarily being super dedicated to the lore of the books. You put fresh spins on their concepts, and the nostalgia, moreso, comes from the ’90s itself. Can you talk about the discussions as far as how loyal you wanted to be to the books, and just letting the vibe of the series lean into that “Scream” territory? Because “Scream” happens in the 90s, in what was present day then, and this series has that ’90s vibe, especially with the soundtrack, without feeling overly nostalgic and sentimental about it.
Welch: Great. Yeah, it was important to us to capture the DNA of the original R.L. Stine series, because there’s a reason that it is the second-highest selling young adult book series of all time. And it’s because it’s surprising at every turn. It’s a little funnier and a little scarier than you expect. And all of the plot and stories and complications grow out of very relatable everyday issues that kids and adults go through. That was super important to us as well.
The architecture of the series, the first five episodes are inspired by five of the more popular books in the cannon. Each of the totems from these books are what haunt each of our five main high school characters. So those, again, were born of very relatable issues — whether it is identity or trolling, or being a wallflower, or having the weight of the world on your shoulders — and then elevated through these horrific totems to a very cinematic place. Then, about halfway through this season, each of our five main characters realize that these hauntings are probably related, so they have to get together to solve the mystery and save the town.
Shetty: I think those issues that Conor talked about exist with high school kids now, and they existed with high school kids in the ’90s. Those are timeless issues that every kid faces. In the show, we do jump back [in time at one point], but our kids see that their parents were dealing with the exact same things they were going through. So even though they’re wearing scrunchies and Starter jackets in those scenes, the actual things they were doing on a day-to-day basis were actually identifiable to our high school kids in the show, and hopefully to audiences of different generations who are watching it too.