HAVERFORD >> As a kid, Stephen Michael Giglio watched movies with his late grandfather, Mike Pomerantz, who introduced him to classics like “King Kong,” Charlie Chaplin, “City Lights,” along with films by Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock.
But it was his older sister, Jen, who introduced him to the horror genre by letting him watch “The Exorcist” at the age of 11, which led him down a twisted path.
“I was so afraid from that film the next few weeks that followed,” he said. “That was an incredible feeling that something could do that to me. I fell in love with horror movies and just films in general,” said Giglio, 33, of Haverford.
Now his first film, “Epidemic,” is set to be released on Sept. 4.
“Epidemic” was shot in and around Philadelphia with a local cast and crew. The flick tells the tale of a deadly pathogen that is unknowingly carried to a woman’s 30th birthday party, where her estranged father comes to make amends. What begins as a family drama soon takes a horrific turn as the epidemic spreads and the dad fights to save his daughter’s life.
Giglio wrote the screenplay with his childhood friend, Adam Romanchik, who is also co-producer and edited it with Giglio.
“We wanted to work on something together,” said Giglio. “We were going back and forth on ideas. My idea was instead of finding the horror, let’s find a really great story.”
“Epidemic” is “inspired by family events, pulling from my own life but also from my imagination,” he said, “an estranged father making amends with his own daughter.”
“Through that [family drama] thread, Adam and I found the elements of a horror film. We conceived of a story that’s very strong, very rich. A lot of critics have complimented film that’s more of a drama set in a horror film. I also intuitively hint about the disease, whether addiction or physical manifestations ... weaving it into an original narrative.”
Giglio grew up in Bethlehem, the middle child of three. His parents divorced when he was a teenager, and his father, Robert Giglio, a psychologist, now lives in Bucks County and his mother, Susan Pomerantz resides in Chesterbrook.
Giglio graduated with a BFA from the University of the Arts, then worked in Los Angeles doing film trailer editing for five years before moving back East. He has worked at Breaking Glass Pictures in Philadelphia since 2014, where he edits film trailers. Breaking Glass partly funded “Epidemic.” The filmmaker also raised money from his family and an Indiegogo campaign toward production costs.
“Epidemic” will stream online and be available on DVD and Blue Ray and on iTunes and Amazon Prime and on demand on cable television services.
“This is my directorial debut,” said Giglio. “I’m very excited about it. It’s been a dream for a long time.”
From the time he saw “The Exorcist,” Giglio has gravitated toward the horror genre.
“I love the excitement horror brings,” he said. “I think it’s part of the fear component that stems from my love for rollercoasters, waiting for that moment of fright, the adrenaline, tapping into an emotion that’s hard to tap into. Nowadays there’s so much thrown at us, it’s hard to get to the root of what defines fear. I like the kind of fear that sinks in and stays with you.”
Giglio has always loved to draw and continues to make pen and ink drawings and paints watercolor and oil paintings in his spare time. He also hikes, particularly in Valley Forge National Park, and spends time with his family. Giglio is also a fan of comedy, particularly Rodney Dangerfield, and enjoys going to concerts. Saying that he has eclectic tastes, Giglio enjoys classical music, rock and alternative groups.
“Whatever catches my ear I’ll take it in,” he said.
The trailer for “Epidemic” can be viewed at youtube.com/watch?v=uDX7Fk-5ggU.