Let’s just say – we’re talking hypothetically here – that you’d never been to Massachusetts, and you wanted to visit the state’s more notable landmarks and locales.
Where would you go?
Faneuil Hall and Fenway Park, for sure. Probably the Common and the State House. Maybe Salem, maybe Plymouth, possibly Holliston.
Wait a minute ... Holliston?
You know, fabled home of the Mudville nine in Ernest Thayer’s poem “Casey at the Bat.” Childhood abode of Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom. And now, setting for the comedy-horror TV series “Holliston,” created by Adam Green, the native son filmmaker best known for the gory-but-fun “Hatchet” movies, and the stranded-with-nowhere-to-go genre flick “Frozen.”
Billed as a fusion of comedy and horror – which Green has fittingly dubbed “hori-com” – “Holliston” airs Tuesdays at 10:30 p.m. on FEARnet through May 8.
“It looks like ‘Seinfeld’ or ‘Friends,’ but it has a very genuine sensibility of horror culture,” the 36-year-old Green, who moved from Holliston to LA more than a decade ago, said during a recent publicity tour of the area.
The premise: Adam and Joe, two best friends and recent college grads (played by Green and Joe Lynch, director of “Wrong Turn 2”) are desperate to escape their hometown of Holliston to become big-time horror directors. While they work on their side projects — “Faucethead,” which they boast will do for dishwashing what “Jaws” did for swimming, and “Shinpads,” about zombie soccer players — they eke out a living shooting commercials at the local cable access channel where they’re supervised by a big-haired, spandex-wearing, stuck-in-the-’80s boss named Lance Rocket (Dee Snider of Twisted Sister).
Meanwhile, they’re on the cusp of poverty — subsisting on peanut butter, renting a dingy apartment, and stealing toilet paper from gas stations to save money to buy fake blood for their films.
As for their love lives? Adam lusts after his former longtime girlfriend, Corri (played by actress and country singer Corri English), while Joe mooches off his girlfriend Laura, (played by Laura Ortiz from the remake of “The Hills Have Eyes”), a lovable airhead and morbid painter.
If you hadn’t noticed by now, the actors and their characters share first names, and their real-life personalities defined their characters as Green was writing the show.
Holliston, meanwhile, is as much a star as any of the actors. Though most of the show was shot on an LA soundstage, exteriors highlight local destinations such as Casey’s Publichouse, Holliston Grill, and the gravity-defying landmark Balancing Rock, while characters shop at Cumberland Farms and Market Basket (one running joke revolves around the pronunciation of the store’s name). As any native New Englander might, they sprinkle the word “wicked” on their sentences like salt.
“It’s a comfortable, quaint town,” said Green, who’s made references to it in his films as well. One quickly — and brutally — whacked character in “Hatchet” wears a Holliston Panthers sweat shirt, and a trio of skiers in “Frozen’’ get stranded on “Mount Holliston.’’
“I like to keep acknowledging home and where I came from,” he said. As a director, however, he likes to change things up. Besides the hori-com of “Holliston,” Green has launched his own production company, ArieScope Pictures, and is working on “Killer Pizza,” an adaptation of the Greg Taylor young adult novel for MGM.
Melding gore and guffaws isn’t as dichotomous as you might think. The same “beats” that go into generating a scare apply to delivering a joke — that is, you set it up, get their attention, then “hit ’em,” Green explained.
In the show, comedic antics are entwined with absurd and cartoonish gore and violence: Joe and Adam get sprayed by a skunk and spend the entirety of one episode in a bathtub together. In one fantasy sequence, Adam peels off his own skin in a nod to an atrocious effect from “Poltergeist. ” In another, he and Joe telepathically explode people’s heads, “Scanners”-style.
Then there’s Adam’s imaginary friend (played by Oderus Urungus of the metal band Gwar): a thorny-faced, putrid-smelling, leather-thong-wearing alien who lives in his closet, and often dispenses the worst advice possible.
Popping in and out of all this is a series of cult-status guest stars: Bill Moseley from “House of 1,000 Corpses,” Tony Todd of gravely-voiced “Candyman” fame, and Kane Hodder, who has played his share of mute, mindless, and ever-purposeful killing machines, including Jason in “Friday the 13th”.
“It was a chance to really do something special with the traditional sitcom,” said Green, in jeans, a Megadeth T-shirt, and a backward baseball cap, as he sat in Holliston Town Hall before a recent screening with his castmates, the four of them cracking jokes, ribbing each other, and all admittedly a bit loopy from a lack of sleep. “And you don’t need to like horror to get it.”
Although the show is “outrageous,” said Lynch, a perpetual jokester dressed in black, his wild hair tamed by a baseball cap, it “really relates to everyone. There’s a lot of heart in the show.” (And no, he’s not talking about the kind that get ripped out, a-la “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”)
Ultimately, that’s because it’s semi-autobiographical (minus the exploding heads and all that, of course), and it’s also something Green has been trying to get off the ground for more than a decade, since making “Coffee and Donuts,” its inspiration, for $400 while still living in Holliston.
“This is genuinely my true story,” Green said, noting that, at the beginning, he was so poor he ate out of the trash at the LA bar where he worked. But then he made “Hatchet,” which premiered in 2006 and quickly gained a cult following, and its even more notorious sequel, which the Motion Picture Association of America pulled from theaters its opening weekend in 2010.
“These struggles, these hard times, it does get better,” he said, noting that you have to embrace the struggle to get where you want to go, rather than let it “disenchant” you.
Still, as he noted when he returned to Holliston for the screening (his first visit back in 13 years; his parents have since moved to Las Vegas), “so much of it feels exactly the same. The whole show is about wanting to get out of here, but at the same time, I miss it.”
And apparently, townspeople — and others — feel the same. As they crowded the town hall’s auditorium for the recent showing, there were many hugs, handshakes, and exchanges of “howaya!” Fans lined up to meet Green afterward.
“This is what he wanted to do his whole life, and he never lost sight of his goal,” Marty Perlman, his former communications teacher, said admiringly.
“I love that he’s making a show about horror fans,” said aspiring actor James Baker, a fan who made the trek to the showing from Derry, N.H. “Hopefully this can do for Holliston what ‘Cheers’ did for Boston.”For more on the show, visit fearnet.com/holliston or ariescope.com. Taryn Plumb can be reached at taryn.plumb@gmail