The legendary director’s roots in horror may surprise you almost as much as his future plans with Quibi.
According to Variety, Steven Spielberg is writing a horror series for Jeffrey Katzenberg’s new mobile streaming platform Quibi, and it will only be viewable at night. Plot details are under wraps, but like all Quibi shows, it will be broken up into 7-10 minute chunks.
The unusual thing about Spielberg’s new series is that you’ll only be able to watch it at night. According to Variety, a clock will start counting down the hours and minutes until nighttime, at which point the show will become available on Quibi. A second clock will start counting down the hours and minutes until the show disappears…until the next night.
Never heard of Quibi? It’s a new streaming platform, backed by Jeffrey Katzenberg, former head of Dreamworks Animation, and Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay. The two of them have already raised $1B in financial backing for the new service, which is scheduled to launch on April 6th, 2020.
Short for “quick bites,” Quibi is aiming for people in the 25-35 demographic that spend most of their time on their phones. Although shows will be the traditional length, they’ll be broken up into shorter segments and supported by ads, though an ad-free $7.99 subscription will also be available. (A normal subscription with ads will cost $4.99.)
If you're thinking that this move toward horror is quite a departure from Spielberg's traditional fare, think again. Although the director has worked in a wide variety of different genres, from gritty war epics to sci-fi family flicks, Spielberg has had a long history of horrifying audiences.
E.T. the Extra-Terrifying
Everyone loves Spielberg for his powerful, emotional films like Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. And even though Jaws was the “first blockbuster,” it’s technically a horror film. But not a lot of people know about some of Spielberg’s other work in the horror genre.
That’s right: E.T. was originally a horror movie. Back in the 70s, Spielberg hired John Sayles to write a script called Night Skies, about aliens who came to Earth and could kill people just by touching them with one finger. However, Spielberg realized that was too dark, so he repurposed it to a more uplifting story about an alien who was isolated and found friendship in a young boy.
You can still see the horror elements in E.T., especially during the “home invasion” sequence when men in HazMat suits descend on Elliott’s house to take E.T. away. Spielberg made sure to include that scene but made it extra scary by setting it from Elliott’s perspective instead of a neutral point of view.
Poltergeist: Ghost Directing
Although Tobe Hooper is credited as the director of Poltergeist, it’s commonly accepted that Steven Spielberg actually directed it (most people involved would deny this fact, but the film’s visual language is Spielberg to its core). Spielberg is only credited as a co-writer and producer. He hired Tobe Hooper off the back of Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
According to John Leonetti, who was the 1st AC on Poltergeist, Hooper was set as the director and did have creative input. However, there was a director’s strike looming on the horizon. Spielberg set himself as the producer, ostensibly so he could continue the production in the event that Hooper was forced to step away, but ended up directing it himself. Hooper still had creative input, but it was very much Spielberg’s show.
It’s been a while since Spielberg was a credited writer on a project, so we’re all fascinated to see where this goes. He’s also got a reboot of “Amazing Stories” coming out soon from Apple, and he’s working on a re-imagining of West Side Story.
Looking for more on Spielberg’s movies? Check out three takeaways from Scott Frank’s script for Minority Report!