Interview with Marko Makilaakso director of It Came From The Desert
By James Whittington, Tuesday 17th October 2017

Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film It Came From The Desert at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Marko Makilaakso shares his admiration for Roger Corman, love of B-Movies, spoofing and overcoming homeland obstacles.

It Came From The Desert is inspired by Cinemaware's cult 1980s video game, which in turn was motivated by the giant creature feature craze infesting 1950s Hollywood. What was the main inspiration for you?

MM: There's so many movies and makers which inspired ICFTD, but the main inspiration was exactly that; creature feature infested 1950s Hollywood films, and the legendary Cinemaware Desert games and creature features and action comedies I grew up with in the 1980s. I love B-movies and mainstream filmmakers who give homages to those in their works, like Joe Dante, John Landis, Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg etc. There's something so pure and honest about B-movies and even though done with tight budgets you can see and feel that the makers put their hearts and souls into making the movie. That's really inspiring! I've always loved Cannon Films action movies like American Ninja and Delta Force, and comedies like Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure, Ed Wood, The Burbs' as well as creature features like Piranha and Gremlins. 1980's TV shows like V, Knight Rider, Street Hawk, Amazing Stories and I am sure there's a little bit something from all of those in my movie. The modern creature feature craze are the Syfy channel movies. Some of them are fun, but most of them are too lazy and poorly done. I don't mind low budgets, but when companies just want to cash in without any passion to the project then it's doomed from the very beginning. Roger Corman did it correctly! He hired passionate filmmakers to give their everything and in the end the movies had something extra, something special. Like the It Came From The Desert game was spoofing those and other 1950s monster movies, my movie is also spoofing the modern creature feature craze of Syfy movies.

It's smartly scripted, extremely funny, with an OTT deadpan delivery. How did you go about developing and writing the script to achieve that style?

MM: Nice to hear, thank you! The tone of the movie was very clear to me from the very beginning. I couldn't see the movie done in any other way. This was my love letter to movies I grew up with. I wanted to bring back this kind of old school "Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure" style of characters and the silly and fun moments that brings. I wrote the first draft which was still much leaner and meaner in scope but had the story, main characters, tone and comedy already set and once Cinemaware gave their blessing to "adapt" the game we expanded the scope. Talented writer Hank Woon came on board and wrote the next drafts expanding the tale. And then I wrote a few drafts mainly to keep the humour and action the way I imagined it. Then UK based AMP joined the party to co-produce and co-finance the movie and they suggested that talented filmmaker Trent Haaga polish the script. Trent got the tone right away. He did a wonderful job and made the script even better! Also one crucial element was the casting. I went through many, many actors to find the right cast who got the tone and could deliver the humour I was aiming for. The cast was just perfect for their roles and I had the luxury to allow them to improvise while shooting. I think the movie got funnier and funnier while shooting and that's only because we did the casting right!

The giant ant special effects are terrific. Is it true they are a homage to Ray Harryhausen?

MM: Ray Harryhausen was AMAZING! I love his work and there's definitely some Harryhausen spirit in the ant effects. Production designer/co-ant designer/practical ant effect creator Kari kankaanpaa and I are both big fans of Harryhausen's work, stop motion and miniatures. We even thought about using some miniatures in the movie, but the budget disagreed with that crazy idea. I actually have a movie treatment ready which is homage to Harryhausen and Toho. I even sent it to Julie and Roger Corman. It's awesome and hope it will get made someday.

It's been described as a 'pulp action horror mutant monster movie'. Is that what you set out to make?

MM: I set out to make a fun, entertaining, nostalgic, pulpy action-adventure-comedy-creature feature with a touch of horror, so yes... that sounds about right!

You're known internationally for your strong visual style. How much does being a successful music video director influence your movie career?

MM: I think that has a lot to do with who I am as a director and also how I work. Music videos have been a great learning ground for filmmaking. You need to shoot fast and make cool looking images and tell a story (if the video has any) in a visual way. So, yes, I owe a lot to that. But of course making a movie is completely its own beast.

You come from Finland. How important a part would you say your native roots play when writing and directing?

MM: You know, that's tricky thing for me. I always felt that I was born in the wrong country because of the kind of movies I wanted to make. I was never taken seriously or supported much by the Finnish film industry, except by the great filmmaker Antti J. Jokinen who gave my start. People look down on these kind of genre movies and that's sad I think and that's why I packed my bags eight years ago and moved away from Finland. Don't get me wrong, I do love my country, but it also pushed me away. I was the outsider in the industry with weird ideas and thoughts of making action horror movies. I was literally laughed at! So I went elsewhere and made my two first movies with countries and people who did get it. Even now, I am not considered as a "serious filmmaker" because of the movies I make, but I am happy that Desert is a Finnish co-production. We also shot one week in Finland which was a wild contrast coming from hot Spain to cold wintery Finland. I give all the respect in the world to Finnish Film Foundation who bravely supported and gave financing to the movie. Trust me; it's a really brave thing to do in Finland! So maybe after this movie the Finns we'll see that's I am not giving up and I'm still making these genre movies which I LOVE from the bottom of my heart!

Your debut film was the well-received action/horror War Of The Dead, which you also wrote and co-produced. Have you always been drawn to the horror genre?

MM: I love horror! I love action! I love comedy! I love drama! Dammit! I love movies no matter what the genre is! But horror has a special place in my heart. It's so honest and visual genre. We all have nightmares and fears and it's very easy to identify with those no matter how fantastical it is. It's the primal fear in all of us and it is so damn fun to watch knowing that no matter what happens you'll be safe! Shooting horror is also lots of fun and horror is also a genre where you can mix action and comedy without rules. Just pure damn FUN!

After Deadly Descent, your savage, war-like abominable snowman movie for SyFy and Universal, you turned your hand to a home-grown family comedy film, Ella And Friends 2. Why?

MM: Well, that''s good question. I have kids, three of them, and they are dying to see movies I've directed, but I can't really show them, so out of the blue I was offered to direct Ella 2 and I was shocked! Me? A kid's movie? Maybe the producer liked my more family friendly music videos and stuff. No matter what this was a wonderful opportunity to make something for my kids and also to direct my first Finnish movie and my first comedy! So I took the job with open arms. My oldest daughter, my dad and my brother are in it and I'm acting in it too! It's a real family affair! And I was working with one of my childhood heroes, Pirkka-Pekka Petelius, a comic genius!

You've also appeared as an actor in two of your films. Will we see more of you in front of the camera in future?

MM: Ha! Funny thing was that I had a real character in War of the Dead. I played Corporal Peter Jackson and I had few dialogue scenes with Andrew Tiernan who played the lead, but I needed to move along faster with the story and I cut out those scenes. I am still in the movie, but not talking. Maybe better so! Ella 2 was an opportunity to act a small role, so I did it. It was lots of fun! I am also in ICFTD, but briefly in the background. So more acting in the future? Well, maybe more cameos!

Finally, what's next? Will you stick with action horror?

MM: Not sure yet. There's many projects in development, but let's see which one gets first financed. There's definitely more action horror coming!

It Came From the Desert receives its UK premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest Halloween 2017 on Saturday 28th October, Empire Haymarket.

Interview with Richard Elliot, Managing Director of 88 Films
Posted on Saturday 17th March 2018

Recently I've been lucky enough to review some rather tasty Blu-rays from 88 Films. This company has been behind amazing releases of titles such as A Cat in the Brain, Anthropophagous and Don't Go in the Woods...Alone. So I decided to chat to managing director Richard Elliot about 88 Films and how they survive in a cut-throat market.

HC: How did 88 Films start?

RE: 88 Films started after James and I met working for another label and it was the usual "we think we can do it better than the boss" scenario. So we slowly developed an idea of what we wanted to do after work down the pub and after lots of head scratching and pork scratchings and some setbacks BE Movies was born... which quickly became 88 Films...

Interview with Paul Urkijo, director of Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil
Posted on Thursday 1st March 2018

One thing that Horror Channel FrightFest prides itself in is by championing new talent. This year's Glasgow event is no different with a whole host of newbies bringing their first features. A real highlight is Paul Urkijo's Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil which is a sumptuous piece that Terry Gilliam would be proud of. Here he chats to us about this stunning movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil come from?

PU: I was inspired by the Basque story "Patxi Errementaria". He was registered by JM Barandiaran, an anthropologist priest who dedicated his life to recording stories and legends of the Basque Country. It is a legend about a blacksmith who was so ev...

Interview with Adam MacDonald, writer and director of Pyewacket.
Posted on Wednesday 28th February 2018

There have been a number of occult and demonic movies over the last few years but none have come close to the tension and terror of Adam MacDonald's Pyewacket. The superb piece of cinema is showing at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow this week so I had a quick chat with Adam about this superior shocker.

HC: Have you always been a horror fan?

AM: It really started when I was about 7 years old when my older brother showed me Evil Dead. I couldn't believe what I was watching, it truly rocked me. The card scene in the film did not leave my mind for days. That film is stained on my brain. I was terrified. But then I had a realisation that I loved that feeling. It was primal. Then I watched The Shinin...

Interview with Kelly Greene, writer and director of Attack of the Bat Monsters
Posted on Tuesday 27th February 2018

Making movies can be a tough business but to have to wait almost two decades to release your work takes true dedication. At Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow this weekend Kelly Greene's Attack of the Bat Monsters is finally unleashed. Here he tells us the story behind this celebration of 1950s creature features.

HC: You were inspired to write Attack of the Bat Monsters when you were researching 50s movies, did it take long to write?

KG: It took quite a while because I was working 50 to 60 hours a week at a video production facility while raising a 2-year old and 8-year old, along with my wife, who was also working. I would write at night between 9 and 11pm, and maybe a little more ...

Interview with Patrick Magee, writer and director of Primal Rage
Posted on Monday 26th February 2018

There's been a spate of "bigfoot-style, beast in the woods" types of movies recently but none have come anywhere near Primal Rage. This superior creature feature from Patrick Magee will be having its European Premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow this Friday so I decided to have a chat with this very talented and creative person.

HC: Did you know from a young age you wanted to work in the film industry?

PM: Since a very young age I was always into, even obsessed, with movies. Specifically horror movies, monster movies really. As a hobby, I got really into special make-up effects and drawing. It got to the point where I was so obsessed with it, I decided when I was a teen that I ha...

Interview with Gabriela Amaral, writer and director of Friendly Beast
Posted on Sunday 25th February 2018

As we get ready for the trip to Scotland for this year's Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow I've been lucky enough to chat to Gabriela Amaral about her powerful movie Friendly Beast which is getting its UK Premiere at the event.

HC: Was there a certain piece of work or person that inspired you to work in the industry?

GA: Yes, there was. I am a huge fan of Alfred Hitchcock and I decided to study cinema because of him. In the beginning, I didn't know what would I do with movies. Would I be an academic? A film critic? A director? I just knew I had to live doing something that had to do with movies. I graduated in Communication Studies in Brazil where I studied horror movies and literature (specific...

Interview with Ruth Platt, director of The Lesson
Posted on Wednesday 6th December 2017

On the eve of Horror Channel's network premiere screening of The Lesson, director Ruth Platt talks about the decision to quit RADA, why her film isn't 'torture porn' and what the future holds.

The Lesson received its World Premiere at FrightFest. How did you react when it was chosen? And what was the experience like?

RP: I was really excited when I found out we'd been picked - we got a call from the team, and they were passionate about the film, and they are such a knowledgable and experienced small team, Greg, Paul, Alan and Ian, and it meant so much. Especially when the making of it had been such an arduous and difficult process! I had no idea how people would react to the film - it was su...

Interview with John Shackleton director of Panic Button
Posted on Wednesday 15th November 2017

As social media horror feature Panic Button gets a remastered DVD and Download release, writer and producer John Shackleton reflects on the film's inspirational journey.

To start at the beginning, what was the genesis or the seed of the idea for Panic Button?

JS: The model of how to make a film actually came before the concept. I'd made a short film with a group of trainees using a bunch of self-imposed restrictions for practicalities sake, to make sure we completed and delivered within the three-week timeframe of the training scheme, who were my employers. The rules were quite simple - no more than five minutes' walk from the office (we couldn't afford a van), no dialogue (we did...

Interview with Damien Leone director of Terrifier
Posted on Saturday 28th October 2017

Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film Terrifier at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event today, director Damien Leone talks about the 'Art' of extreme clowning, his debt to Tom Savini and a terrifying Halloween experience...

Art, The Clown initially appeared in your 2008 short The 9th Circle, then the 2011 award-winning short Terrifier and in your first feature All Hallow's Eve. What made you decide to give him a fourth outing?

DL: Up until this point I never felt like I fully showcased Art's potential. I believe between the short films and All Hallows' Eve, there only exists about 20 minutes of Art the Clown screen time. For a character who's done so little, he seems to really resonate with horr...

Interview with Mathieu Turi director of Hostile
Posted on Wednesday 25th October 2017

Ahead of the UK premiere of his debut feature Hostile at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Mathieu Turi shares his admiration for Tarantino, describes the challenges of filming in three continents and reveals his 'magic hour'.

You were born in Cannes so you grew up with film all around? When did you know for sure you wanted to direct?

MT: I think it's always been there. As a child, I used to steal my dad's VHS camera to make mini-movies. They were basically all about my Jurassic Park toys eating my dog or invading the garden. Later, I did more elaborate short films with friends, instead of studying. Then, I remember watching Braveheart and the making of the ...

Interview with Can Evrenol director of Housewife
Posted on Thursday 12th October 2017

Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film Housewife at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Can Evrenol tells us why film is a 'pervert's art' shares his feelings for Fulci and reveals his contribution to Horror anthology, The Field Guide To Evil.

Was it important to make your follow-up film to Baskin in the English language?

CE: I wanted to make the film available for a wider audience and to test myself with a different language movie. I thought it was a fun thing to do.

How do you describe Housewife? What would be your perfect pitch line?

CE: Man, I had this crazy f****d-up dream last night! Do you want to see it?

Like Baskin, Housewife shares man...

Interview with Dominic Bridges, director of Freehold
Posted on Wednesday 4th October 2017

One of the stand out movies from Horror Channel FrightFest 2017 was the psychological chiller, Freehold. Dark and at times truly unnerving, the film caused quite a stir and will be released onto DVD on October 9th. Here the film's director Dominic Bridges talking about this superb debut.

HC: Where did the idea for Freehold come from?

DB: Based on personal experience my wife and I suffered a miscarriage whilst trying to buy a house in London whilst the Estate Agents had us bidding against ourselves... I reacted badly which was embarrassing to my wife and myself it all felt like too much fighting for a roof over our heads just tainted the whole of London for us and we moved also the realisation...

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