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AICN HORROR: Ambush Bug talks about CREATURE, theatrical horror releases, & practical effects with director Fred M. Andrews!

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What the &#$% is ZOMBIES & SHARKS?

Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with a special AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. I had a chance to catch up with director Fred M. Andrews and talk to him about his film CREATURE, which will be released on DVD/BluRay today! Below the interview, I’ll review the film, but first, here’s what Mr. Andrews had to say…

FRED M. ANDREWS (FA): Hey, Mark.

AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Hi, Fred. How are you doing today?

FA: Super.

BUG: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. I actually saw CREATURE last night. I saw it for the first time last night. It was a really cool film. It’s really funny, I just kind of wanted to…just to start out, how would you describe it to people who haven’t heard of the film or don’t know much about the film yet?

FA: You know, I think one of the ways that I would describe the film is it’s a typical horror movie setup, certainly a typical slasher movie a la WRONG TURN. It’s a WRONG TURN kind of film and hopefully, though, the thing is that once you get into the film, as it leads you down what seems like a familiar road, it becomes less familiar with the twists and the turns that it ends up taking along the storyline. So that’s what I would say. It’s kind of a unique horror film.

BUG: I was doing some research online just about the evolution of the story and how the film sort of came together. I found it interesting that originally it was supposed to be a comic book. Is that correct?

FA: Yes. Well, originally it was, and I’ll give you the brief version. There was an original script called LOCK JAW. The project was titled LOCK JAW to begin with by Trace Morris. Trace Morris and I have been friends and writing partners and we had, I believe back in 2002 or the early 2000’s, so I could be a year off, but we kind of tweaked this script that he had that was like a serial killer with alligator teeth into an actual monster in the swamps of Florida, originally. We were trying to get that film off the ground and we weren’t able to, but the storyline is the more I thought about the monster it kind of stuck with me. So I started doing a bunch of back story about how the monster came about, and being a visual person and an artistic person I started writing it and drawing what at the time was going to be the graphic novel, or a six issue limited series for that. Then that’s how I met my producer Paul Mason. I was talking to him about producing the graphic novel and he saw it would end up being a better script. So the original story had gone through kind of a transformation during a five year period or so, becoming more and more about the monster and more and more about the town. So we wrote the film script and Sid Sheinberg liked it and responded to it and gave us the go ahead. That’s kind of the evolution of the story there.

BUG: Very cool. One of the things that I really liked about the film was the fact that it has pretty much all practical effects. Is that correct?

FA: Right.

BUG: Did you use any CGI?

FA: No. Actually I take that back, there is a shot in the film where they look out of the tunnel in the creature’s cave and they are looking up and you see lightning. That’s really the only CG that we did. We didn’t really have a budget for CG at all, plus I think if you can do it well, fantastic, but we weren’t financially going to be able to do it well.

BUG: I’ve seen so many…I do the horror column on Ain’t It Cool News and I see a lot of really bad CGI and I’m kind of thankful to see films that still will rely on practical effects, because when it’s bad CGI it’s so obvious and it really does take you out of the movie.

FA: I also think it goes back to my personal affinity to the Ray Harryhausen films…I’ll go back as new as CLASH OF TITANS. It’s like he created characters, so even though they are flawed, to me there’s a certain amount of nostalgic charm to having something that you actually built like having a guy in a creature suit. It’s one of those things like with the newer GODZILLA films or the new GAMERA films… When you try to go 100% CG I think it loses some of the personality in the creature, but when you put a guy in a suit and do things practically I think it just has a certain quality to it that a lot of people appreciate, certainly from my generation.

BUG: Definitely. I’m in my late 30’s right now, so yeah I totally know what you mean. I grew up on seeing JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS and CLASH OF THE TITANS and things like that and with all of those films the effects were so memorable. It’s gotten so half assed these days with CGI, I think.

FA: I think it’s relied upon a little bit too much and not that it can’t be really great when it’s done well, because it can and I think that also too like a movie like BLADE 2 does seem a little dated now, but I think BLADE 2 was the first time that I had seen a film where the integration of practical makeup and CG worked really well. It wasn’t too far with everything being CG, so I thought definitely when you’re making a little monster film that for sure building stuff would be a better way to go, and again, certainly a lot more memorable and your actors can respond to it a little bit better.

BUG: Just in the name of the film and the fact that you have a man in a monster suit, it does bring back thoughts about like CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and things like that. What other films inspired you in making this film?

FA: For sure…look, I would say definitely the original ALIEN film, Ridley Scott’s film for sure. It has probably influenced me my entire life. I saw it when I was a kid and it terrified me. Then, too, I would have to say probably THE THING as far as wanting to go practical and what you could do practical. Obviously there were much different constraints on those, but I think for this film it’s really going back to films like PROPHECY or JUST BEFORE DAWN and then maybe THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN and a lot of Rick Baker’s early work where a lot of times you had a slower paced film and they did try to save the monster towards the end where you just caught pieces of the monster. I think that those films are relatively working at about the same budget that we were working at. I still think that they were memorable. IT’S ALIVE is the same way. If you hold too long with the IT’S ALIVE baby, it’s kind of goofy, but it’s a great film.

BUG: It’s all in the editing and everything like that, it seems.

FA: Yeah, editing is very important.

BUG: Definitely. Well I did want to talk about the cast, because you’ve got a lot of really impressive…as I was watching it yesterday I was like “Hey, I know that person and I know that person.” I saw Amanda Fuller in there, and Eggs from TRUE BLOOD.

FA: Yeah, Mehcad Brooks and Serinda Swan who was still on BREAKOUT KINGS, I believe, and Aaron Hill from GREEK and Dillion Casey who was just in THE VOW and he’s also got a reoccurring role in NIKITA, a Canadian actor…yeah, Kelly Wagner was our casting director who had done the HOSTEL films and quite a lot of films. She was very enthusiastic, and certainly with the younger cast really put a lot of really great people who had a good balance between feature and television credits, really these fantastic and capable actors and then of course with the character actors, which I think are great—obviously, you know Sid Haig was a huge score for me that he was able to do the film and have him in there, but Pruitt Taylor Vince doing a cameo in the film was great and David Jensen and Wayne Pere, who are big character actors. They just have great faces and are total professionals. I think part of it too was obviously a finished product is a finished product, but when the script was going around there were enough interesting and different things on the horror movie genre that I got to put into the script that I think appealed to actors that normally really wouldn’t want to do that kind of film. So I feel very fortunate.

BUG: Sure. Specifically Sid Haig--I was really impressed. It seemed like a film that was made to have a character actor like Sid Haig in there. What’s it like working with him? He seems like a madman.

FA: You know what? He’s not. Number one, he’s a fantastic person, just super nice and really super smart, total professional…Sid was great. I can’t say enough good things about him, but I think one of the things I think I was really grateful for, and very impressed with too, is that even if Sid was filming one or two scenes a day, he would stay and he would stay on set and I really think he kind of…and for a lot of the younger actors too, I think it was something that he was really leading by example. It was hot. I mean the conditions on the film, I’m not going to lie, were miserable, because we were really 30 miles out in the middle of the swamp in Louisiana in the summer and I mean it’s ridiculously hot…we have bugs everywhere, we have snakes everywhere, we have real alligators…it was frying and I think that one of the things that Sid really brought was being there and really being, from the moment he showed up to work, until we wrapped and I was very grateful to him about that.

BUG: Yeah. I can’t talk to you without having a conversation about the theatrical run and everything. Looking back on that, what are your feelings about that? I just read a story about JOHN CARTER just the other day about how it’s this huge failure just because it didn’t make money on its opening weekend and everything and I feel that people are just really itching and rooting for films to fail.

FA: To me it’s like news--you know, if somebody dies it’s probably a “better” story than if somebody escapes death. You know I think the thing with this is you have to look from my perspective, which a first time feature director and I had producers that believed in the film enough that said they wanted to reach a larger audience, so much so that they said “You know what? Great. If we are not getting the numbers that we want as far as theatrical release, then we will release it ourselves” and so they did. Again, though, it’s a small film that’s a very wide release and you’ve got to have a lot of advertising for that and you’ve got to get penetration. You’ve got to be able to let people know where it’s going to be that it’s coming out and I just don’t think that the marketing of the film really achieved much with that, but you know, trying to look at the bright side of things there was quite a lot of negative press that came out about the failure of the release, the financial failure of the release at that many screens. What that ended up actually doing was getting the film into more people’s heads than not, so people ended up actually seeing the film. It’s finding out first hand that no press is bad press, because we ended up getting a lot more people in if anything. They were like “Oh my God, what’s this film?” They had never heard of it before.

BUG: There are so few horror films out there that are original and that are in the theaters that I try to support them as much as possible and go out and see them. It seems like there’s such a bigger market these days on just rentals and video on demand and things like that for horror. It seems like that’s where horror is moving. How do you feel about that?

FA: You know, I could see why and I think most films with On Demand, if you don’t see the writing on the walls…that’s where everything is going. Everything is going to be streaming. It’s instant gratification. DVD sales are down. Theatrical sales are down. So it is the age that we live in, so these films can come out online or come out first on a streaming kind of situation and are marketed right and not just word of mouth, I think they will be very successful. I think it’s just the new paradigm. I don’t think it’s going anywhere. If anything I think it’s going to be more and more of that until that’s all there is. I’m fortunate again to have such a little film come out in so many theaters. That was cool for me. Obviously I’m certain they would have loved it if it were financially successful at the box office, but you know, I think the thing I’d say the most about that is independent horror in theaters…I think horror as a genre is a place where people, writers, directors, and filmmakers are allowed to take more risks. Historically that’s where you deal with uncomfortable subjects, riskier material, because of the genre that you are dealing in and that’s definitely something I was trying to do with CREATURE, have something unique and something that was new, but still had enough of a nod to the classics. Do you know what I mean?

BUG: Yeah. I definitely see it as a really fun throwback kind of film. You don’t see those types of films that much anymore and I appreciate you making the film and also it seems like you’ve kind of taken quite a beating here the last couple of months and it’s good to see you still pushing the film and still working for it.

FA: Making a film is hard, man, and if it weren’t then everybody would do it, so again for me it’s really…I can’t really get down about that, and look, if you’re going to make films, nothing’s really going to stop you from making a film now. There’s just too many ways to do it nowadays, so yeah, of course. I’m really excited that it’s coming out on DVD. The more people that can see the film, it’s really for all of the people that wouldn’t like the film, then there’s the people that will like it and that to me is kind of worth it.

BUG: What’s next for you? What are you working on now?

FA: Well let’s see. Horror film-wise, I won’t do another horror film until the fall. We are scheduled to start casting around late August or the beginning of September on a film called BLAST with Stone and right now the producer of that film is still waiting on whether we are going to shoot in the United States or whether we are going to go to Bulgaria. There’s been talk about that. That’s kind of a fun popcorn film with zombies and super soldiers and, you know, government conspiracies and stuff. It’s a lot of fun. Yeah, but that one would be in the fall. Currently right now what I’m working on is I have an animated series that’s in the pilot stage right now, but it’s more of a dark comedy. There will be horrific elements in it, but it’s primarily a comedy kind of thing and hopefully I’ll be talking about that a lot more here in the near future. (laughs)

BUG: Oka,y and comic books? Are you still going to just do films or are you still going to work a little bit in comics as well, since that’s where this all started?

FA: Well, you know what? The thing is, regarding my own comic work, as far as LOCK JAW is concerned, that would be up to the producers, because they own the license. So whether they would want to go forward with a comic version or not…which I would love it if they did, but I will continue with other things and other projects in that direction as well.

BUG: I appreciate you taking the time out and good luck to you in all of your projects.

FA: Hey, thank you so much man. It was nice talking to you.

BUG: You too. Take care. Thanks.

And now, here’s my review of CREATURE; released on DVD/BluRay today!


Directed by Fred M. Andrews
Written by Fred M. Andrews & Tracy Morse
Starring Sid Haig, Mehcad Brooks, Serinda Swan, Amanda Fuller, Daniel Bernhardt, Aaron Hill, Pruitt Taylor Vince, David Jensen & Wayne Pere
Find out more about this film here!
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug

I really don’t get the ire placed on CREATURE. No, the film is not Oscar caliber, but the scrutiny placed upon this film when it was first released in theaters last fall with blogs and critics touting it as the biggest box office failure in cinematic history seem a bit off base to me. Having seen my share of stinkers since starting up this AICN HORROR column, CREATURE doesn’t even compete in the Worst of the Worst category. Sure, director Fred M. Andrews may have brought a lot of that scrutiny on himself by speaking back at the critics for panning his movie, but still after seeing the film, the unbelievable hate for the film because of mismanaged marketing which touted it as theater-worthy seems unnecessary. CREATURE may not be in the same category a big budget blockbusters, but shouldn’t fans of horror rejoice when a little film like CREATURE is given a chance to go for a stint in theaters?

CREATURE does seem to be a better fit for the straight to video market. The budget is low, the effects aren’t shiny and practical, and the acting is not the best. Andrews seems to focus a lot on horror mainstays which include gratuitous nudity, gore, and sexual perversion. The opening shot is of a woman bathing naked in a swamp then being eaten by either a monster or a crocodile or both. So Andrews right of the bat lets you know what kind of film you’re in for. If the description of that scene offends, then CREATURE is definitely not for you. But then again, there’s nothing in CREATURE that hasn’t been seen in other films and ire for the film could as easily be directed to horror films since Corman’s heyday.

CREATURE is your typical bog monster film in the same vein as BOGGY CREEK, SWAMP THING, and countless other Bigfoot/wilderness monster films. You have your group of kids aka soon to be deads, your hillbilly locals warning the kids to watch out, and finally your monster, which is a man in a suit. For some reason, practical effects seem to equal low budget these days. It appears reacting to a green screen is much more interesting to the general populace than a monster with weight and presence. Though the suit isn’t the most frightening, Andrews does a great job of only showing portions of it, and that’s where the real skill lies with practical effects; the director has to be able to sell the monster. For the most part, because of close ups and quick cuts, you don’t see any zippers or seams in the monster. He is a large slimy, toothy, spikey mess reminiscent of a cross between the Creature of the Black Lagoon, Geiger’s Alien, and the UK low budget horror film SPLIT SECOND from the 80’s. Though the facial articulation is a bit stiff and mask like, the body makeup is actually pretty great.

Andrews relies on horrors both gory and psychological with themes of incest, rape, and torture peppered through the entire film causing more than one uneasy feeling (the scene where the sister jerks off her brother while watching another couple have sex is just wrong). That said, it does add an element of horror that is unflinching and definitely leaves its mark. Moreso than the gore effects, which are a plenty, but less ooky than the sexual nature of the film.

Though the end of the film is rather contrived, the entirety of the film is saved by the impressive cast of genre actors. Eggs from TRUE BLOOD (Mehcad Brooks) stars as the hero while RED, WHITE & BLUE’s Amanda Fuller shows up and does a decent job on camera as well as one of the campers. WALKING DEAD’s Pruitt Taylor Vince cameos nicely here as a schizophrenic hillbilly, while Sid Haig steals every scene he is in as the hilljack who knows all there is to know about the creature in the swamp and ping pongs between wanting to help out the campers and wanting them to perish in as gruesome a manner as possible. The genre cast of character actors elevate this film above a lot of your run of the mill horror films.

In the end, CREATURE is not a perfect film, but definitely not as bad as people would have you believe. If you go into the film buying into the hype of its awfulness, you’re going to be pleasantly surprised like I was, but going in and expecting ALIENS will surely lead to disappointment. I found CREATURE to be a fun throwback to the man in suit monster days with enough low budget charm and a cast that makes the story all the better.

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in October 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released in March 2012.


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