The hills have eyes... and teeth, claws, and more.
On October 7, Cullen Bunn launches a new miniseries at Oni Press with Drew Moss titled Blood Feud, which mixes the epic rivalry of the Hatfields and McCoys with some hillbilly horror. Bunn is no stranger to horror with his recent Dark Horse series Harrow County, but Blood Feud mixes in some humor with that terror -- as well as a heaping helping of 1980s cult horror films.
Set in the Ozark mountain hamlet of Spider Creek, a group of friends are caught in the middle of two feuding families -- the Whatleys and the Stubs -- as their ages-old bickering turns into an all-out backwoods black magic war.
Newsarama: Cullen, what can you tell us about Blood Feud?
Cullen Bunn: Blood Feud is a horror/action/comedy tale set deep in the Missouri Ozarks. Imagine, if you will, the story of the Hatfields and McCoys... if the Hatfields were demon-worshiping practitioners of black magic. When one of the families works a dark ritual to destroy their rivals, they unleash a horde of bloodsucking beasts into the world. A trio of "good old boys" find their weekly poker game interrupted by these supernatural goings-on, and they find themselves standing between the forces of darkness and the rest of the world.
Nrama: Can you tell us more about the Whatley's and the Stubbs' families?
Bunn: Few people living in and around the town of Spider Creek remember why the Whatleys and Stubbs hate each other. Some folks say it has to do with the secret of using magic to call up gold from the ground. The Stubbs are some of the meanest so-and-sos to ever stalk the earth, but the Whatleys are much, much worse. Everyone around town has heard the rumors. They've heard that the Whatleys hold dark congress with creatures lurking in the shadows. They've heard that on nights of the full moon the Whatleys venture out to the barren hills and play drums of human skin to communicate with foul demons. Until now, it's just been rumor. But the Whatleys have made a bargain with hideous forces that could consume the entire world.
Nrama: And what about the crew of guys at the center of this?
Bunn: R.F., Cecil, and Big Jack grew up in Spider Creek. They do odd jobs around town to make ends meet. They drink beers and (sometimes) home-brewed moonshine to pass the time while they play cards and ponder what kind of world lies beyond their little town... and how they don't have all that much interest in seeing it. They're not really the type you'd expect to be the world's last line of defense, but they're the best we've got.
There's a fourth player on the side of the angels, too. Sue Hatchell is a young college student who has come to Spider Creek to study the tarantula population. In many ways, it's Sue who draws the poker buddies into the horrific adventure.
R.F. Coven, by the way, is inspired to some degree by my dad. There are elements of the story--folklore and tales of strange adventures--that are pulled right from stories he used to tell me. There's a bull, for instance, who appears in #2. Much of what transpires with the bull is a "true" story... except, of course, for the bit with the vampires.
Nrama: Spiders are a big part of this, especially given the town name of Spider Creek. Where do you fall in the spider-range - love 'em, hate 'em, what?
Bunn: I don't hate spiders... but I don't go out of my way to associate with them... except in the pages of a comic book.
Years ago, my family moved to a small town in the Missouri Ozarks. Our house could be reached by driving down a long, winding dirt road that wound through the woods and through a couple of creeks. Actually through the creeks. There was no bridge. You had to drive right through the water, and after a significant rain the creeks might be impassable for days.
Anyhow, one day I was driving along this dirt road and I noticed hundreds--if not thousands-- of tiny objects on the dirt. At first, I thought they were rocks, but i quickly realized they were tarantulas. Every year around that time, they migrated through the area. It looked like something out of Kingdom of the Spiders.
Nrama: And how did that come to influence you with Blood Feud?
Bunn: When I saw all those spiders, I instantly knew I'd have to incorporate that kind of imagery into a story. It's the kind of thing that few people believe unless they've lived in that neck of the woods.
A little later, I found myself watching Night of the Living Dead on TV. It was dark out, and the living room window looked out across a large, foggy yard stretching out toward the tree line. I imagined a horde of zombies shambling across the yard toward the house.
Those very real spiders... and those imaginary zombies... stuck with me for a long while. They were just waiting for me to write this story.
Nrama: The covers for #1 and #2 evoke 1980s and early 1990s cult horror movies. What can you tell us about influences on this?
Bunn: Each of the issues will feature an homage to some of our favorite horror movies of the 80s and early 90s. Blood Feud is definitely influenced by cult horror movies. Night of the Living Dead (as I mentioned), Evil Dead (or maybe more Evil Dead 2), Fright Night, House, Pumpkinhead, Phantasm (and Phantasm 2), Nightmare on Elm Street... these were movies that inspired me, and I think that comes across in this story. I think it was Drew Moss (who loves that horror stuff as much as me) who came up with the idea of doing the homage covers.
Nrama: Drew worked with you on Terrible Lizard, and colorist Nick Filardi worked with you on Helheim. How much of the book did you have figured out before you brought them on board, and what they did they add to it?
Bunn: The story of Blood Feud has been mapped out in my head for years, but Drew and Nick definitely bring their own sensibilities to the book. Drew's monster designs and imagery that dances between creepy and humorous... Nick's colors bring a terrific moodiness to the whole thing. I love working with these guys.
Nrama: In some ways, this is the latest in a string of backwoods horror tales after Harrow County. What do you think piques your interest about the Ozarks and this unique blend of horror?
Bunn: I think Harrow County and Blood Feud are "kissing cousins" of a sort. Harrow County is a little more serious and somber, while Blood Feud is a little more action-packed, two-fisted, and funny. I've called Blood Feud a "Budweiser and popcorn" kind of story.
Many of my stories take place in the backwoods of the Ozarks and North Carolina. I grew up in those places, and those memories haunt me like a ghost. I think it's a wonderful setting for horror yarns, with the pitch black nights, the almost surreal quality of life, and the strange folktales and occurrences. I feel like it's easy to imagine something dark and forbidden happening in those isolated, lonely places.