“Stan Against Evil” is a personal show for Dana Gould — not just because he’s the creator and writer, but because it reflects his personal fandom. He’s a self-avowed horror aficionado, the perfect background for someone behind a show about a pair of present-day New England sheriffs dealing with some unfriendly evil spirits.
Horror comedies aren’t a new phenomenon and Gould was quick to mention that some of his favorites were big influences (among the films name-checked over the course of the panel were “An American Werewolf in London” and “Evil Dead II”).
But aside from the personal connection that Gould has to the material, it’s also tied into his professional career. “I was a writer on ‘The Simpsons’ for a long time, and my favorite episodes were always the Halloween episodes,” Gould said.
Beyond bringing that Treehouse of Horror sensibility to a live-action scripted show, Gould explained why scares and laughs are such a natural fit.
“Comedy and horror are cousins. Laughing and screaming do the same thing. They release tension, and they each rely on separate but equal suspensions of disbelief. And what ‘An
American Werewolf in London’ does so brilliantly is that never the twain do meet. What’s scary is scary, and what’s funny is funny, and the funny is grounded in reality as is the horror,” Gould said.
Part of fleshing out something new came from the cast, headlined by Janet Varney and John C. McGinley, who were also on the afternoon panel.
“The first meeting that I had with Dana, when we decided we were going to do this
together, I wanted to ground Stan in loss,” McGinley said, talking about his title character, whose wife has recently died. “This huge piece of his life is now gone, and how are you supposed to organize loss? So that grounded the whole thing for me. And, then, when witches come along, you just bash them in the fucking head.”
In addition to the undead, the panel hinted at some other malicious forces in “Stan Against Evil” that might scare folks. Varney described herself as an extreme arachnophobe, something that worked its way into the show without her knowing. “I remember cracking open that script and going, ‘You bastard,'” Varney said, playfully laughing at Gould. “I didn’t even tell you about my loathing of spiders.”
Despite the subject matter, Gould reiterated that McGinley and Varney’s characters aren’t outrageous. “Stan and Evie are very normal people. They live in reality. They are very grounded. They behave in a normal way, and they are faced with these supernatural situations that they have to deal with. But they never descend into tropes.”
“Stan Against Evil” premieres November 2 on IFC. A sneak preview of the first episode will also air Halloween night, October 31, at 10pm.