Quibi’s 50 States of Fright tells the story of an urban legend from each state. Season 2 contains tales from Iowa, Washington, Colorado, and Missouri.
THS (virtually) sat down with Lee Cronin, who directed the Washington episode “13 Steps to Hell.” Check out all the scary details below.
On Joining the 50 States of Fright Team
Cronin boarded the project thanks to his relationship with series creator Sam Raimi. (The two are working on the next Evil Dead flick, Evil Dead Rise, together.) Having previously shifted his career to focus primarily on directing features, Cronin hesitated at first to take on 50 States of Fright.
“At first I was a little reticent. I love the short form, but having just made a feature film, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back and do something short. But I received the script from Sarah [Conradt] and it spoke to me,” Cronin recalled. “It reminded me of things I’d written and the types of stories I want to tell. So I sort of slowly worked my way into it until the next thing I knew, I was on a plane to Canada to go make the thing.”
The challenge in creating content for Quibi is – of course – the length of the project. The streamer specializes in short-form content. (“13 Steps to Hell” is split into two parts, each clocking in at under 10 minutes.)
But it’s a challenge Cronin was happy to rise to.
“You have to be very aggressive with your editorial control from early on,” Cronin explains. “You have to really tighten it all up. But that’s something I’m comfortable doing. I always want quality over quantity.”
On the Horror of “13 Steps to Hell”
Cronin’s episode tells a tale from Washington state. The story follows a girl who descends a strange underground stairwell adjacent to a cemetery to retrieve her little brother’s lost toy. But she finds more than she bargained for at the bottom of the steps.
Cronin, known for The Hole in the Ground and Ghost Train, is no stranger to the horror genre. And he knows in order for horror to succeed, it has to ground itself in something deeper.
“For me, it’s never about what is scariest, though I always like something scary to play with,” said Cronin. “What I liked about this story is it’s about grief. It’s about regret, and the things from the past that we haven’t dealt with coming back to haunt us.”
Cronin said the concept of the pasting coming back to haunt us has been a running theme in his work. Conradt had already written that into the episode, which again helped sell Cronin on directing it.
“You have to identify with the characters. If you don’t identify with them, you won’t feel the fear.”
On the Urban Legend That Scared Him Growing Up
50 States of Fright succeeds because everyone has their own scary urban legend from where they grew up. Cronin himself grew up in a seaside town in Ireland.
“It always felt to me that I lived in a Stephen King-like world. There’s the beach and the lighthouse and the quarry and the caves,” Cronin recalled.
And of course, that atmosphere came with its own creepy legend.
“On the drive to the next town up the coast, there’s a place called The Lady’s Stairs. It was a footbridge from the grounds of this estately home over a railway track and down some dramatic cliffs to the beach. And there was this Irish Banshee, a woman who wailed for a lost loved one. As a kid, I would curl up in the back seat of the car and close my eyes when we got close so I wouldn’t see the lady on the stairs.”
Meanwhile, check back to THS for Fright-A-Thon, our celebration of all things scary.