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Adam Green sets TV sitcom ‘Holliston’ in old hometown

Horror-film icon Adam Green, in homage to old hometown, uses Holliston as setting for cable TV series mixing frights, fun

Adam Green (foreground) and longtime collaborator Will Barratt took in a few landmarks while shooting exterior scenes in Holliston. Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

Transylvania terrifies. Jack the Ripper’s playground in Whitechapel strikes fear. The Salem witch trial sites inspire chills.

But Holliston?

The quiet suburb is more likely to soothe than scare.

Well, for now, at least.

The unassuming town, with its classic New England center and mix of Colonial and upscale homes, could become the next bastion of high anxiety, after a new TV show set within its borders airs on the cable channel FEARnet.

“Holliston,’’ the latest project of gore-loving native son Adam Green, is lined up to premiere in the spring.

But why Holliston, of all places?


Because the autobiographical show was conceived there, before Green’s transformation from a townie with big dreams to a successful movie director, and the 36-year-old wants to pay homage to his old haunts.

“I loved every second that I had in Holliston, and I genuinely do miss it,’’ Green, best known for popular slasher films including “Hatchet’’ and “Frozen,’’ said in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “I’m very fortunate that I got to grow up there. It’s one of the greatest places in the world.’’

And it may soon become beloved to horror fans, too. Set to air on Tuesday nights beginning in March or April (the exact date has yet to be set), “Holliston’’ is billed as a hybrid of horror and situation comedy - or a “horri-com,’’ as Green calls it.

Initially inspired by a full-length movie that Green and his longtime cinematographer and business partner Will Barratt made in 1999 for $400, the TV series follows two recent college grads living in a small New England town while striving to become filmmakers.

Green and fellow director Joe Lynch (fans of the genre may know his “Wrong Turn 2’’) are the stars, playing younger, Hollywood-hungry versions of themselves.


“The best way to describe it is ‘The Big Bang Theory’ meets ‘Evil Dead II,’ ’’ said Green, whose ArieScope Pictures production company is making the six-episode series for FEARnet.

As he explained, “Holliston’’ looks like a traditional sitcom and has a laugh track, but there’s also an irreverence to it, as well as a cartoonish sort of violence. For instance: Green’s character has an imaginary friend - an alien that lives in his closet. Guest stars will include former Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider and Gwar lead singer Oderus Urungus. Green also cautioned that “at any moment, someone’s head could explode.’’

But at the same time, the half-hour show has a stark reality to it, the director and star said, with the two friends living on low incomes, wearing grungy clothes, making use of hand-me-down and yard sale furniture, and resorting to stealing rolls of toilet paper from gas station bathrooms and fighting over the last Pop-Tart (or, at least, the generic kind).

The show was mostly shot on a sound stage in LA, but exterior and establishing shots were recently captured around Holliston by Green, including at local landmark Balancing Rock, Casey’s Public House, and Holliston Grill.

Ultimately, while it may not give Holliston the notoriety of some North Shore communities, locals are boastful about their town’s star turn.

“I won’t have to drive to Salem for some scary stuff, I guess,’’ quipped Pam Zicko, whose husband, David Ullenbruch, owns Holliston Grill. “We’ll have walking dead downtown.’’


She added: “But they’ll be funny walking dead.’’

John McCarthy, owner of Casey’s Public House, meanwhile, said horror and Holliston isn’t as unusual a pairing as it may seem.

“I can absolutely picture that type of a show,’’ he said. “When you think spooky, you think an old town like Holliston,’’ he said, citing its history, rural nature, and unique architecture, including Casey’s, which was built in the mid-1800s and has a mysterious tunnel running beneath it.

“A lot of people are going to have the opportunity to see what a true New England town is all about,’’ McCarthy said.

Which was Green’s intention; he called Holliston “comfortable’’ and “quaint,’’ and reminisced about his evening and morning radio shows at Holliston High School, working at Holliston Cable Access TV, playing in a band, and taking part in school plays.

A year after he and Barratt made “Coffee and Donuts,’’ the inspiration for “Holliston,’’ Green left for Hollywood, and hadn’t been back before his recent visit, as his family eventually moved out of town.

“Love being home in Holliston,’’ he tweeted on Oct. 26. “Love how stoked the people here are about the show. We’ve received so much hospitality.’’

But despite spending more than a decade away, he’s never forgotten Holliston - and throughout his work, he has subtly referenced his old hometown.

In last year’s trapped-with-nowhere-to-go psychological thriller “Frozen,’’ for instance, a trio of unlucky skiers are stranded on a ski lift on the fictitious Mount Holliston. For “Hatchet,’’ featuring deformed, slaughter-minded, Louisiana-swamp-dwelling killer Victor Crowley, one character dons a Holliston Panthers sweatshirt (but not for long; he is maimed relatively early in the 2007 flick).


Despite his firm stake in the horror genre, though, Green surprisingly admits to being a bit of a softie.

His favorite movie? “E.T.’’ He’s seen it 17 times in the theater - and says he cries every time.

But of course, he also loves horror. Two of his favorites are John Carpenter’s “Halloween,’’ and the John Landis-directed “An American Werewolf in London,’’ which has touches of kitsch that Green strives to emulate.

“Hatchet,’’ ultimately, Green said, was his response to a deluge of forgettable or overly sickening horror movies.

Something happened in the 1990s and early 2000s with the genre, he lamented, when directors started pumping out remakes of old and new classics, and there’s also been a proliferation of movies that have been termed “torture porn.’’

“There was a time in the ’80s when it was fun,’’ he said.

It’s a time he’s trying to bring back, and this time, Holliston may be the star.