Amazon Prime Video’s ready to give you nightmares once again with the release of season two of the creepy anthology series, Lore. Both season one and season two run six episodes, perfect for a night of binge-watching, and are inspired by stories from Aaron Mahnke’s podcast as well as new tales not currently available via the podcast.
In support of Lore‘s second season which premieres on October 19, 2018, I spoke with executive producer/showrunner Sean Crouch about what fans of the spooky series (and podcast) can expect from the six new episodes. During our interview, Crouch described the process used in selecting which stories made it into the series second season. He also talked about his personal favorites as well as changes made to the way each episode plays out in the new season.
Crouch was also an executive producer on season two of The Exorcist. Fox canceled the series after its second season, however fans haven’t given up hope the show will be resurrected on a different network or streaming service. Crouch confirmed he’s remained determined to find a way to make a third season of The Exorcist.
Which of the stories from the first season of Lore really got under your skin? Which one couldn’t you shake for a while after watching it?
Sean Crouch: “So, season one it was the lobotomy episode. I liked the style of it where it felt almost like one story without too many diversionary paths off of it. Which is why we sort of moved season two in that direction where it’s just one story that’s based on part of one of his podcasts.”
The lobotomy episode is the one that I can still remember the last scene of the guy on the floor looking at all the thank you notes. They’re all obviously written by mentally deranged, brain-damaged people because he damaged their brains. Just the idea of those things going up the nose and digging out that part of our brain…that to me is horror. It’s that David Cronenberg body horror that really bothers me. It probably bothers me more than any other type of horror.”
And from season two, which one were you most affected by?
Sean Crouch: “Season two is ‘Hinterkaifeck: Ghosts in the Attic.’ It’s the one that gets me because it’s six real people that lived less than 100 years ago that were all massacred. And, they’ve never had someone to speak for them. They haven’t had justice.
To me, it’s three different things. Part one, it’s a dysfunctional family. Part two, it’s a day in the life of Michael Myers from Halloween walking around killing everybody. But then part three is the part that I cry at. I actually get…still, even though I’ve seen it a thousand times…I still cry at the funeral when the cop walks away knowing that there’s never going to be justice for these two children and these four adults that were killed. That one still lives with me. It still really bothers me. It really bugs me that there was no justice. I think it’s pretty clear who the killer is, too, so it really bothers me that they never sort of named him.”
It’s really interesting that each of these stories in Lore could be expanded into a feature film. How difficult is it to get all that storytelling into one segment?
Sean Crouch: “That’s a great question because that is probably our biggest problem. I mean, look at ‘Hinterkaifeck.’ I wrote a feature based on it six years ago that was 130 pages. And, our script was probably 40-45 for this. That’s definitely the toughest part of, especially coming from the podcast where he has as much time as he wants and he’s able to tell all these really, really fascinating, really cool stories and go off on all these diversionary paths to say A leads to B leads to C. Where all we had time to do, at least coming into season two because of what I wanted to do, is we have time for a Twilight Zone episode. We have 30 minutes. Some of these are up to 50 minutes, but we have very little time to tell our Black Mirror episode.
Thank god, I think I have the best writers on the planet, these five other writers on the show – and the producers – who really knew how to boil down that ton of information to a really tight 35-minute storytelling process.”
Does it help that you’re working with Amazon instead of a network that will make sure you hit that 45-minute mark?
Sean Crouch: (Laughing) “42 minutes and 34 seconds. That’s the time frame. I’ve lived with that time frame for 20 years almost until this year. I love doing it because we first started out really trying to make a Twilight Zone episode, meaning 25-30 minutes. But, with Amazon it was great. Some of our episodes are 30 minutes and some of them are almost an hour.
It’s funny. I think we’re just all so brainwashed by that 42:34 that we still kind of hit it a lot of times. I think people are always like, ‘Yeah, the sweet spot is 40 to 45 minutes.’ I heard that many, many times from a lot of different people. I think it’s just going to have to be another generation that grows up and moves us away from that weird commercial timing that we’re all stuck with right now.”
Not only are you changing things up by not using narration in season two, it seems to me this second season is a more impressive production overall. What else shifted behind the scenes to make it a bigger production?
Sean Crouch: “Amazon is amazing. They’re fantastic executives who know what they’re doing. They love the show. It’s one of their crown jewels, especially in the unscripted department. They knew that they wanted to spend more money, so they’ve given us a much bigger budget in season two. When they hired me, they gave us a much bigger budget and said, ‘Go make six movies. Even if they’re only 40 minutes, go make six mini-movies. We’ll send you to Prague.’
We got great production value in Prague. But, they spent the money. They invested in quality…I hope. I hope people like it. I think it’s quality, but I’m obviously biased. But even if you don’t like my writing, it looks fantastic. Christoph Schrewe and Alice Troughton directed. The directing is fantastic, the DP. Even if you hate my writing, you can still realize that it looks great.”
I enjoyed the first season, but the second season drew me in more. The first season’s narration sometimes drew my attention away from the main story. When did the idea of ditching the narration come into play for season two?
Sean Crouch: “It was the day they hired me, basically, or the day they brought me in to pitch what my idea would be for season two. I’m a horror fan but I’m also a romantic comedy fan and a romance fan. I don’t ever want to be taken out of the emotion of a piece, whether it’s horror or romance. And season one is fantastic, but it’s a beautiful History Channel-type show. It’s great, but I was able to watch it with my kids and we were able to talk about it and learn something from it. It’s a great show, but I came in wanting to do Twilight Zone, wanting to do Black Mirror, where we just take a little piece and tell that story.
I don’t ever want the audience to be let off the hook. I want there to be constant tension. You don’t know when something’s going to happen. I think it’s what makes horror great is when you can keep people in tenterhooks the whole time.”
Right. You don’t give us very much room to breathe in the second season.
Sean Crouch: “Good. Honestly, that’s my number one goal. I wanted to come in and make a really scary show that I couldn’t watch with my children.”
And you succeeded.
Sean Crouch: “Thank you.”
With so many podcast episodes, how do you choose which ones make it to the screen in Lore?
Sean Crouch: “We hired four writers and I said, ‘Come in with two of your favorite podcasts,’ which was hard but I wanted everyone to pick two they’d be passionate about. And then a new story, too. ‘Find a story that could fit within the purview of what Aaron could do but he hasn’t done yet.’
Like I said, I have the best writers in the world so I asked for two and they bring in 20, which is a lot. So, we started with 40 or 50 on the board. That’s all we did on day one. And then we narrowed it down, narrowed it down until we had 15 that we were passionate about. And then we were just arguing with each other, which is what a writers room is basically is. It’s a bunch of idiots arguing with each other.
Then I took it to Amazon and to Gale Anne Hurd and to Brett-Patrick Jenkins at Propagate and let them decide which six we should do from there. That’s how we narrowed it down at that point. That’s why you have great producers and great executives. They can basically break up the cage match of the writers room.”
So, you basically already have a third season laid out from the ones you didn’t use for season two?
Sean Crouch: “Exactly. And not only that but we have 30 new ones that we’ve all been listening to to choose from. So, yeah, we have the nine rejected ones. I’m sure some of those will come back to life because we’re a horror show and we love zombies. And then we’ll have a whole bunch of new ones. Hopefully there is a season three. (Laughing) But I like the way you think.”
Among the ones the writers were pushing to use, were there any you figured out were simply not filmable?
Sean Crouch: “Yes. We had a few of those. We really were trying to figure out how to do the Pied Piper. That’s a really interesting story. That could be historically that he was recruiting for the Children’s Crusade when the kids went. They sent kids over in the fourth crusade and the kids went to the Holy Land.
There’s so many different stories there. But, one, we just didn’t know how to do it. Two, it’s really hard to shoot with children. And three, we didn’t know how to do it. I know I said that was one. What’s the simple story there? That was the main thing. The difference between the podcast and the show is like Elizabeth Báthory, it’s the last day and the last victim. It’s her last day on earth. What is that like? What’s that story? Pied Piper, I didn’t know what that was, what the simple story was. It’s a cool epic story; I didn’t know what the simple, human story that you have to actually connect with and feel at the end of the day was.”
You’d have to take a much longer time to tell that story to have it make sense.
Sean Crouch: “I think so. But maybe someone… Again, I’m the dumbest person in the room so maybe one of the other writers will come up with the answer, if there’s a season three. And then I’ll take all the credit because that’s what my job is.”
How involved is Aaron Mahnke in the series at this point? Does he provide input on each episode or what is his role?
Sean Crouch: “He actually came in for the first week. So, way back in January, our very first week, he came in and it was an amazing experience to have a week with him. He’s probably the number one podcast person in the world, or right up there. And to have him in there where we could say, ‘Let’s talk about the Pied Piper,’ and then we just look at him and we’d basically get a little mini podcast for 20 minutes as he talked about the Pied Piper. He talked about Hinterkaifeck. He helped us choose what we were going to do. He was integral to that process and then all along the way.
He’s in one of our episodes. He’s in ‘Mary Webster’ which is ‘Half-Hanged Mary,’ one of his podcasts. He’s in the episode; you can find him. His name is Goodman Caster, as in podcaster – which is a little Easter egg. But, yeah, he’s been helpful all along. I talked to him, I know the producers talk to him once I week. I talk to him probably every other week. He loves the show. He’s a big fan and he’s been a huge help with the transition, too, from one to two. It’s a very different show. He’s been very supportive, thank goodness.”
Did he campaign for any particular episode?
Sean Crouch: “One of his podcasts was ‘All the Lovely Ladies’ which was Elizabeth Báthory. That was one that we knew from day one that we were going to do. He wanted it; we wanted it. I think ‘Hinterkaifeck’ is another one of those that I had in the back of my head. I’ve had it there for five years, and he came in and said he really wanted to do that. So, that one too. And then ‘Half-Hanged Mary,’ the ‘Mary Webster’ episode. He loved it and he wanted to be in that one because that one means so much to him. I think because he grew up and he lives within driving distance of Salem, Massachusetts, so it’s in his DNA.”
I have to ask a few questions about The Exorcist because I’m a big fan of that series and did episode recaps. Are you guys still shopping that around or is it totally dead at this point?
Sean Crouch: “Jeremy (Slater) and I will never let that go. We just won’t. We love it. I mean, Ben and Alfonso… The thing is, I love them so much I call them by their character names and by their real names interchangeably. Father Marcus, Father Tomas, Ben (Daniels) and Alfonso (Herrera), they are the brothers…I have three brothers…they are the brothers I’ve always wanted to write. And John Cho, I’m looking at him right now on my bookshelf. I have a picture with my family, my parents and everything, and there’s also a picture of – it’s like the last scene in episode 10 there’s a picture of Andy and his five kids and mom, Alicia Witt. I have that up on my bookshelf as well.
They feel like family to me. That’s why I love that show. It was a family show that happened to have a demon in it. It had these two amazing priests. I wanted to be a priest growing up so I got to write the priest that I wanted to be, not a lot of what is happening in the Catholic Church now but sort of the fantasy priest.
But long answer long, yes, we will never let that go. Hopefully there’s a place for it. Hopefully if I can get some traction or power somewhere along the way, maybe we can get a season three back. It might be a few years away.”
Sean Crouch: “I know. Amazon would be perfect for it.”
I really loved that series. The writing was so sharp.
“Jeremy is an amazing writer. He’s such a great writer. So, yes, his writing’s fantastic.
Thank you for talking about Exorcist. It’s one of my huge passions. We loved it. You know, when Andy Kim got killed on the show – spoilers! – we lost Andy but then the show wrapped and so I felt like I lost Andy and John Cho. I felt like I lost these actors and the characters. It was like a double loss for me. It’s really tough. Such a great show, such a great cast, such great writing. All around it was one of those perfect moments in time where everything comes together and you get greatness and then like, you know, four people watched it.”
It had a really passionate fan base.
Sean Crouch: “The best fan base in the world. That’s why it had a season two, because of the fans. Only because of the fans. Friday night at 9, I just wish we could get more than a million. If we would have gotten two million we’d be in season three right now.”
I wish you luck in bringing it back to life.
Sean Crouch: “We will work on it. We will never let that go. I promise.”
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Amazon Prime Video’s Lore season one is currently streaming to subscribers. Season two will be available beginning October 19, 2018.