ARTICLES

LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Interview with Stewart Sparke, director of Book of Monsters
By James Whittington, Friday 29th April 2022
Director Stewart Sparke watches a scene

A birthday bash becomes a bloodbath when monsters escape from a supernatural storybook, leaving a group of teenagers to fight for their lives and shut the party down in the UK TV premiere of Book of Monsters on May 16th on Horror. We chatted to its director, Stewart Sparke about this fun, retro-filled fright-fest.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a film director?

SS: I remember first realising that I wanted to make films during one of many viewings of The Mummy (1999) on VHS in my bedroom on an old 15" TV. I became quite obsessed with the film and tried to make all my friends come over to watch it because I wanted to share all the amazing trivia about how they made the special effects. This sparked the idea that perhaps I could make my own films and so my first effort was to remake the entirety of the Phantom Menace in my bedroom with myself and my friends miming along to the audio of the VHS being played in the background. I didn't even have a camcorder back then, so we shot the whole thing from a webcam mounted to the top of my computer monitor! Things escalated from there and I have been making films ever since, although I'm glad to say that we upgraded from the fixed webcam long ago!

HC: How did Book of Monsters come about?

SS: Book of Monsters was the result of myself and writer Paul Butler's love of all things 80s horror. Practical effects, humour, and a classic Misfits vs Monsters story that we love in movies like Evil Dead 2, The Monster Squad and Fright Night. We developed a story designed to be filmed on a low budget in a single studio set over just a few weeks and doubled down on our commitment to practical effects, bringing in the fantastic team from DDFX Studio to create our monsters! The movie was also heavily influenced by the horror community who, via Kickstarter, actually chose which monsters showed up in the movie and how some of our hapless characters were brutally dispatched! I'm still really proud to say that Book of Monsters is very much a movie made for horror fans, by horror fans as they had a huge hand in the way everything turned out on screen!

HC: It's very different to you first feature, The Creature Below, was this a deliberate choice?

SS: As a psychological horror movie, The Creature Below took itself very seriously which was something of a blessing and a curse to shoot. On the one hand, Paul and I loved drawing upon the Lovecraft mythos for inspiration and playing with the serious themes of madness and motherhood in a very domestic setting. At the same time however, we had so much fun with the practical effects creatures in the film that we felt somewhat shackled by the serious tone which restricted us from doing some of the more camp, 80s inspired, silly fun that you can have with a killer squid monster that you're keeping in your basement. Which is why, when it came time to make Book of Monsters that we fully committed to going all out on a practical effects driven movie with lots of opportunity to have some Gremlins 2 style fun!

HC: Did it take long to cast?

SS: We already knew going in that we wanted to bring back some of the fantastic cast that we'd had the pleasure of working with on The Creature Below but this time in very different roles. Anna Dawson (Arya), Michaela Longden (Mona) and Daniel S. Thrace (Gary) all returned to be splattered with buckets of fake blood and were fully onboard for the shift to a more comedic tone this time round. Knowing that they would be returning allowed us to write the film with them in mind and so our focus was on finding actors who would complement their existing talents. Lizzie Arryn-Stanton had previously auditioned for our last film and we immediately thought of her for the role of Beth, making our job very easy! For our lead Sophie, the incredibly talented Lyndsey Craine came on very early in development as we knew immediately that she could convey the sweet and unassuming nature of our final girl who could swing a chainsaw with the best of them when she was called to action.

HC: What was it like working with the legend that is Nicholas Vince?

SS: Working with Nick was an absolute dream come true! We were lucky enough to have met him a few times at FrightFest London and had the pleasure of being guests on his horror themed interview series Chattering with Nicholas Vince when we were promoting The Creature Below (he is now hosting the brilliant The Chattering Hour on YouTube which is well worth checking out!). As someone who is known for playing horrific monsters on film, we really wanted to give Nick a completely different role in Book of Monsters and he excelled in the movie as Sophie's father. The cast and crew certainly geeked out when we first had Nick on set and one of the first things I did was thrust my VHS copy of Hellraiser at him and excitedly asked him to sign it!

HC: Was it a tough shoot as it takes place in just one location?

SS: Having the single location of Sophie's house made things an absolute dream to shoot! We built the entire interior of the house at Prime Studios in Leeds which is just next to ITV's old Emmerdale studios. Having a set build rather than an actual location meant that we had so much more control over lighting and could do whatever we wanted when it came to flinging fake blood and guts all over the walls! With everyone being confined to the studio for two weeks the set almost started to feel like home by the end of the shoot and it was sad to see it all taken down when we wrapped shooting.

HC: It has a cool retro vibe to it; was the feeling and tone of the movie influenced by horror from the 80s and 90s?

SS: Writer Paul Butler and I were hugely influenced by 80s and 90s horror. Since the movie came out people have likened it to everything from Spookies to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and they're not wrong! We drew inspiration from the entire spectrum of horror from those decades, specifically creature features which we absolutely adore. A huge part of my childhood was wearing out VHS copies of Tremors, Gremlins and Aliens which all burned into my brain and influenced so many moments in Book of Monsters!

HC: There's a lot of practical effects here for fans of old school horror, was this a deliberate choice?

SS: We made a commitment to have all of the film's monsters realised with practical effects as soon as we had settled on the basic concept of the movie. As huge fans of old school horror, it was incredibly important to us that we paid tribute to the genre and did things how they would have been done in the 80s. CGI has its place and we did end up using it to enhance a few effects but when it came to the monsters themselves, we knew it could only be practical. The beauty of practical effects creatures is that they are a real, tangible presence on set that the actors can interact with and react to. Even if it's a performer in a rubber suit, once you get the lighting right and slather on the slime, the monster comes alive in a way that CGI can never realise. It's also an amazing feeling to see everyone on the cast and crew light up with joy every time we had an actual monster on set!

HC: Did you have much budget to play with?

SS: The entire budget for Book of Monsters was probably the equivalent to what a Hollywood movie would spend on just a single shot so I'm proud of what our amazing cast and crew were able to achieve on such a tiny budget. We have the incredible international horror community to thank for making the film a reality in the first place as most of the film's budget was raised on Kickstarter. Without their belief in us and the movie, I wouldn't be talking about it with you right now, so I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone who backed the Kickstarter campaign and the outpouring of support that we've seen for the film since its release!

HC: Are you a big fan of monster movies and do you have a favourite?

SS: I absolutely adore monster movies and my all-time favourite is Aliens! I'm obsessed with the Alien franchise in general and the Lovecraft-esque mystery of the Xenomorph as a monster is so intriguing to me. Aliens really expanded that mythology with the Queen and it's a movie I can watch repeatedly without ever getting bored. Coming in at a close second is The Thing with a creature design that is just stunning in every way. Rob Bottin's work on that movie is timeless and the monster is truly terrifying. The defibrillation scene completely blew my mind when I first saw it and it's movies like that which inspire me every day.

HC: You're a multi-talented creative, do you have a favourite job?

SS: Directing is certainly my favourite role as there's nothing quite like being on set with passionate, like-minded people who love monsters as much as you do. The reward of seeing something you've spent months (or sometimes years) visualising in your head suddenly materialise in front of you is unparalleled. I've been incredibly lucky to have directed two features and on both I was blessed with cast and crew who poured everything into making the films the best they could be.

HC: So, what are you up to at the moment?

SS: Since Book of Monsters, myself and Paul Butler have been busy working on the script for our next movie which will be produced by our studio, Dark Rift Horror. We're excited to start shooting the movie this summer and whilst we can't reveal anything just yet, fans of old school, practical effects driven monster movies will be very happy! Dark Rift Horror is also working with the wonderful Nicholas Vince to adapt his one-man stage show I Am Monsters into a feature film which has been such a privilege for us. Those who were lucky enough to see the show during its run will know how witty, fascinating, and uplifting Nick's story is and we've had a blast working with him to give it a cinematic feel that does justice to his incredible journey. Finally, we've been working with some hugely talented indie horror filmmakers to bring their movies to Blu-ray later this year under our new Dark Rift Presents label. We had great success when we released Book of Monsters as a UK exclusive Collector's Edition Blu-ray last year and that inspired us to give more indie horror movies the premium physical media release they deserve. We will be announcing our first two titles later this year, but horror fans can expect plenty of practical effects driven blood and guts with a darkly comedic edge!

HC: Stewart Sparke, thank you very much.


Related show tags: BOOK OF MONSTERS, EVIL DEAD, EVIL DEAD 2, THE EVIL DEAD, THE THING
MORE ARTICLES
Horror Channel launches assault of premieres for June plus further seasons of Farscape
Posted in Features, Thursday 12th May 2022

Ryan Simon's British supernatural chiller Demon Eye, starring Darren Day, and Liam Fox, and Brad Baruh's Coen-sequel mystery thriller Night Drive, starring AJ Bowen and Sophie Dalah, both receive Friday night UK TV premieres on Horror Channel.

There are also channel premieres for John Carpenter's cult classic Assault On Precinct 13 and Finnish-German sci-fi Nazi horror spoof Iron Sky: The Coming Race, directed by Timo Vuorensola (Iron Sky) and starring Udo Kier, reprising his role as Adolf Hitler.

Plus, cult classic Farscape returns with the channel premieres of Season 3 and 4. This Australian-American Sci-Fi TV series, created by Rockne S. O'Bannon, has proved a big hit with Horror...

SHARE: READ MORE
Wyrmwood: Apocalypse - Blu-ray review
Posted in Reviews, Saturday 30th April 2022
Wyrmwood ApocalypseWyrmwood: Apocalypse
101 Films
Certificate 18
***

Zombie cinema is a genre that's literally dying on its feet. Restrained by its own concept strong or original movies of the undead are few and very far between. The TV series The Walking Dead and all its spin-offs has ensured that every possible avenue of interest or uniqueness has been followed. Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is a brutal and bloody entry and attempts to deliver a more violent and relevant to today's de-sensitised audience.

In a zombie infested Australian wasteland, hard-edged soldier Rhys (Luke McKenzie) - who uses zombies as fuel for his barbie - dedicates his days to tracking down and capturing s...

SHARE: READ MORE
From Rob Savage comes Dashcam
Posted in News, Saturday 30th April 2022
DASHCAM POSTER

Rob Savage's provocative new horror Dashcam will be released in selected UK cinemas on Friday June 3, by eOne and will be available for digital download from Monday June 6. Savage, who was the genius behind Host in 2020 seems to have tapped into what makes found-footage such a chilling genre and this time has turned the tension up to 11!

Dashcam follows Annie Hardy on a crazy horror road trip. Viewed through her livestream, this abrasive musician's night takes a dangerous turn after she agrees to help transport a frail elderly woman out of town. As you can guess, things don't go to plan and a surreal road-trip begins to unfold...

Written by Gemma Hurley, Rob Savage and Jed Shepherd ...
SHARE: READ MORE
The Boy Behind the Door - Blu-ray review
Posted in Reviews, Friday 29th April 2022
The Boy Behind the Door CoverThe Boy Behind the Door
Acorn Media
Certificate 15
****

This title crept up on me, I knew little about it so went in blind, came out the other end disturbed, challenged and I have to admit, a bit emotional. The Boy Behind the Door takes a very sensitive subject, that of child abduction and the evils which go along with it, and ramps it to an extreme and intense level.

Twelve-year-old Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and best friend, Kevin (Ezra Dewey) are abducted on their way home from school and taken to a house surrounded by miles of bleak, dark country in every direction. Bobby manages to escape his confines and quietly navigates the dark h...

SHARE: READ MORE
Dare you see The Boy Behind The Door?
Posted in News, Tuesday 26th April 2022

The Boy Behind The Door is the dramatic and evocative feature film debut from writing-directing duo David Charbonier and Justin Powell. This Shudder Original from the talented team - who went on to create the critically acclaimed horror The Djinn - has been described by the NME as 'practically flawless' and is now set for its UK Blu-ray, DVD and digital release, from Acorn Media International.

The film, set for its UK physical premiere on 2 May, is unrelentingly fast-paced and conjures up the nerve-jangling sense of dread of a childhood nightmare. A night of unimaginable terror awaits twelve-year-old Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) and best friend, Kevin (Ezra Dewey) when they are abducte...

SHARE: READ MORE
Dominic Brunt's new horror movie, Wolf Manor, enters post-production.
Posted in News, Tuesday 26th April 2022
Wolf Manor - WEB2

The werewolf horror thriller Wolf Manor has entered post-production.

Directed by Dominic Brunt, this full-throttle, gore-filled tale of a film crew caught in the claws of a manor house's resident werewolf, was shot in three weeks in locations in Shropshire.

Brunt's UK-produced film, which was written by Pete Wild and Joel Ferrari, stars James Fleet, (Bridgerton, Operation Mincemeat) Jay Taylor (Donkey Punch, Misfits), Thaila Zucchi (Evie, Attack of the Adult Babies), Rupert Procter (Luther, Ripper Street) and John Henshaw (The Keeper, Looking For Eric).

Wolf Manor's creature design was created by renowned special make-up effects artist Shaune Harrison (Star Wars, ...

SHARE: READ MORE
John Carpenter, Daniel Davies and Cody Carpenter announce original soundtrack for Firestarter
Posted in News, Thursday 21st April 2022
Firestarter LP Cover

The horror master John Carpenter is back with his Halloween series collaborators Daniel Davies and Cody Carpenter for their infectious new soundtrack to the 2022 adaptation of Stephen King's Firestarter. The soundtrack is set for release digitally alongside the film's theatrical release on May 13th via Black Lot, with vinyl, CD and cassette tape due on October 14th on Sacred Bones.

The score marks the first official soundtrack that the team has composed together outside of the Halloween series and their inspiration and evolution as a creative team is on full display.

The film is a new take on the thriller examining a girl with extraordinary ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel celebrates history of genre cinema with The Vintage Vault
Posted in Features, Thursday 21st April 2022

Starting in May, Horror Channel journeys into the history of genre cinema with The Vintage Vault, which will present double-bills of classic sci-fi and horror films every Sunday night.

The season premieres on Sunday May 1st with The Invisible Man, in which Claude Rains delivers a remarkable performance in his screen debut. This is paired with Bride Of Frankenstein, the celebrated sequel to the 1931 classic with Boris Karloff reprising his role as the monster. Then on Sunday May 8th, we have Christy Cabanne's frightening chiller masterpiece The Mummy's Hand, followed by Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman, featuring the original Wolf...

SHARE: READ MORE
Kim Newman dares to check out this weekend's Classic Sci-Fi event
Posted in Features, Thursday 14th April 2022
Kim Newman

Respected journalist, film critic, and fiction writer Kim Newman takes us through the celebrated B-movies joining Horror for our Classic Sci-Fi Weekend event running from 16th-17th of April.

The Horror Channel returns to a decade riven with fears of devastating climate change, imminent global war, mutating diseases and general paranoia... albeit in black and white, with miniature effects and make-up masks rather than CGI and the kind of urgency that means world-menacing phenomena can be invoked, allowed to run rampage and then dispelled in well under ninety minutes of crisp, sometimes poetic, sometimes bombastic melodrama.

The times weren't really simpler, and neither were the movies i...

SHARE: READ MORE
Scream - Blu-ray review
Posted in Reviews, Sunday 10th April 2022
SCREAM 4K COVERScream
Paramount
Certificate 18
****

The last few years has seen a resurrection of genre favourites such as Halloween, Child's Play (and the Chucky TV series), Jurassic Park, Ghostbusters to name a few, and although Scream has already had a successful TV series the studio bosses decided that it was time for Ghostface to come back to the big screen.

Twenty-five years after a streak of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a terrifying new killer resurrects the Ghostface mask. As the deaths mount, Woodsboro's new targets must seek help from the survivors of the original Ghostface attacks. Now, only Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), former sheriff Dewey...

SHARE: READ MORE
Wyrmwood: Apocalypse gets Blu-ray, DVD and digital release
Posted in News, Friday 8th April 2022
Wyrmwood Apocalypse

Having thrilled UK audiences - and sated horror fans' thirst for bloody-bedlam on its UK premiere at FrightFest Glasgow, now Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is set for its Blu-ray, DVD, and digital release on 16 May from 101 Films. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead and Wyrmwood: Apocalypse will also be available as a Blu-ray double set.

Australian brothers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner have penned another gut-splattering sensation with this fantastically frenzied feature, so get set for a hellish, high-octane return to the Aussie outback for some outlandish, blood-oozing rampaging zombie action.

In a zombie infested Australian wasteland, hard-edged soldier Rhys (Luke McKenzie) - who us...

SHARE: READ MORE
Horror Channel reveals raft of UK TV premieres for May plus channel premieres for Dalek movies
Posted in Features, Thursday 7th April 2022
May prems-twitter image

Stewart Sparke's award-winning dark comedic monster movie Book of Monsters and Audrey Cummings's grisly chuckler She Never Died, starring Olunike Adeliyi, are amongst the raft of Saturday night UK TV premieres on Horror Channel during May.

Also in prime-time slots are the UK TV premieres of gruesome action thriller Becky and Henry Jacobson's stylish crime chiller Bloodline, starring Seann William Scott. There is also a Channel premiere for Peter Medak's classic supernatural horror The Changeling, starring George C. Scott.

Plus, there are channel premieres for Dr Who and The Daleks and Daleks Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. The films star Peter Cushing as Dr Who and al...

SHARE: READ MORE
Articles Archive: 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
PICK OF THE WEEK
The Void
THE VOID
Thursday 26th May
10.50 PM
The Vatican Tapes
THE VATICAN TAPES
Thursday 26th May
9.00 PM
Becky
BECKY
Friday 20th May
10.50 PM