If you think about it, there’s no single day more cinematic or as important in the world of filmmaking than Halloween. The holiday which spawned its own genre thanks to a titular film by John Carpenter has now become almost a rite of passage for any aspiring filmmaker.

While formulaic to start, the slasher genre has certainly evolved over the years to become something very customizable for any filmmaker looking to give it a modern take today.

We chatted with filmmaker Matt Sampere, who wrote, directed, and edited his own slasher horror film Creeping Death which takes place on All Hallows' Eve. Sampere talks about how he was able to take inspiration from the classics, before shooting and editing his modern take on the classic genre.

Creeping Death - Short Horror Film (2021)youtu.be

No Film School: Tell us a bit about your inspiration for Creeping Death.

Matt Sampere: My inspiration for the film came from old Halloween folklore and current Halloween traditions. I began doing research on the holiday years ago and was curious where the tradition of trick or treating originated from. What I learned was it was inspired by the Gaelic folklore of the Aos Si, in which every Halloween these otherworldly deities would enter villages and travel door to door in exchange for an offering from the townsfolk in exchange for a blessing. I took that idea and thought about what it might look like if that concept was turned into a slasher film.

NFS: What are the hallmarks of a horror slasher film to you? What genre elements did you choose to include or not include?

Sampere: At the root of every successful slasher film is a great villain. Before I even had a full story written out I began trying to create the look of the monster. I told myself that if I couldn’t imagine something that could fit in with the likes of Freddy [Nightmare on Elm Street], Jason [Friday the 13th], or Michael Myers [Halloween] then I was wasting my time. We went through many different looks of the monster to try and make it different than those mentioned prior and finally decided on a look that appears in the feature. I’m so excited for the world to see what we created.

Another thing that I think all great horror movies need is atmosphere. One of my favorite movies in the world is Pumpkinhead. It not only has great creature design but is extremely atmospheric and just adds to the look and feel of the film. I knew making a movie set on Halloween we needed to associate all of the colors, sounds, and decor that go into that. If we shot a Halloween movie in the middle of a city with fake pumpkins and green leaves it just wouldn’t feel right to me.

Matt Sampere on set of 'Creeping Death'

Matt Sampere on set of 'Creeping Death'

Credit: Matt Sampere

NFS: Tell us a bit about your decision to shoot on the Pocket Cinema Camera 6K Pro and Pocket Cinema Camera 6K G2 as your primary cameras.

Sampere: Before we shot the feature we made a short film to raise the money for it. It was filmed on our DP’s Pocket 4K and I saw how quick/versatile it was to use these cameras and how great the footage we created was. When it came to shooting the feature, most of the scenes consisted of dark environments. I knew that upgrading to the Pocket 6K cameras would provide us the same ease and allow us to benefit from its low light capability to capture what we needed.

A film crew setting up a shoot in a dining room for 'Creeping Death'

A behind-the-scenes look at 'Creeping Death'

Credit: Matt Sampere

NFS: With the film being set almost entirely on Halloween night, what were some of the challenges of shooting mostly outdoors and at night?

Sampere: There are a lot of challenges with shooting outdoors and at night. I was extremely terrified of doing this because the weather in Upstate NY, where we filmed, is very unpredictable. It can be warm and sunny one day and rainy and cold the next. Luckily the weather held out for the entire three weeks we had for principal photography.

The hardest part about it all was that most of the shooting schedule consisted of overnight shoots. We’d start at 6 p.m. and go til 6 a.m. most of the time. I’d be going to bed after the sun had been up for hours and that really made it hard to get any rest especially when you have to be up a few hours later to prepare for the following day's shoot.

A film crew setting up in a pumpkin patch to film 'Creeping Death'

A behind-the-scenes look at 'Creeping Death'

Credit: Matt Sampere

NFS: As the writer, director, and editor, can you tell us a bit about how you were able to transition between phases of production?

Sampere: Wearing so many hats on this film presented a lot of challenges but also helped me more than I expected. Writing the film helped me with my directing because I knew what I wanted some of the shots to be as I was writing it. I’d make shotlists or storyboards as I went along so I could remember it when it came time to shoot. Directing the film also helped me immensely as an editor because I knew what shots I would need to get in order to make the edit work.

The biggest challenge was playing the lead while also trying to be steering the ship behind the camera. One second I would be taking care of any problems that arose on set and then the next second I’d have to be in character ready to perform. Being in either position takes a ton of work but doing it all at the same time was more than I ever accounted for… I still don’t know how I got through it!

A still from 'Creeping Death'

'Creeping Death'

Credit: Matt Sampere

NFS: If you could give any advice to any up-and-coming filmmakers looking to make their own slasher-horror films, what would it be?

Sampere: If I could give any advice I’d say make something that you are 100% excited about. I’d been wanting to make this movie for years and everyday I’m driven more and more to get Creeping Death out into the world. It takes a TON of time and hard work. If you aren’t committed to it with everything you have in you then it isn’t worth it and will be impossible to accomplish.