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Interview with Stewart Sparke, director of Book of Monsters
By James Whittington, Wednesday 5th September 2018
HC: Your last movie, The Creature Below was two years ago, what's life been back since then?
SS: Since The Creature Below premiered at Frightfest in 2016 things haven't really stopped for myself and my collaborator Paul Butler. We were lucky enough to have the film released on DVD and VOD in over eight countries under various names. I think my favourite has to be Japan's Leviathan X: From the Deep! The film even had a theatrical release in Taiwan which was quite surreal as it was playing opposite Thor Ragnarok over there so overall, we've been completely blown away by everything that's happened. Paul and I are always coming up with ideas for films and as soon as The Creature Below was finished we were eager to start cooking up our next monster movie!
HC: How did the project for Book of Monsters come to you?
SS: Paul and I really wanted to do something completely different in tone to The Creature Below which was quite a serious and slow-paced movie. We've always had a thing for the fun, popcorn creature features of the 80s and 90s like Gremlins, Tremors and Deep Rising so we wanted to do something that paid homage to that era. Book of Monsters started life as a short film idea with a young girl having to fight off a monster at her eighteenth birthday party and was just a fun opportunity for us to play with creatures again and have some fun gags in there about coming of age stories. It wasn't until after our first film that we looked at the concept again and realised that it would make a great feature length movie with even more monsters in!
HC: Was the idea of using practical effects there from the start?
SS: We knew as soon as we settled on the idea for Book of Monsters that we had to realise the creatures entirely with practical effects. The film is drenched in so much 80s nostalgia that it was important we brought the monsters to life in the same way our favourite films to the era did and this gives the whole thing a true retro feel. I grew up watching Aliens and Braindead so I wanted to recapture the excitement of seeing those real, tangible monsters on screen, actually interacting with the actors.
HC: What was the hardest sequence to shoot and do you have a favourite moment?
SS: The toughest sequence to shoot was the initial monster attack which you can see part of in the trailer. Not only do we have a big, lumbering creature causing havoc, we also had six big practical effects driven deaths to contend with. All of these we're quite complex and required extensive planning to execute correctly. With most gore filled special effects you only get one chance to pull it off and we had to make sure that all the guts, blood and viscera flew in all the right directions! We also had about twenty actors on set at the time either running, screaming or dying so it was quite a challenge to overcome but I'm pleased to say that it went down a treat with the FrightFest audience who all laughed and cheered at the right moments!
HC: Who designed the creatures?
SS: The creatures were designed by the super talented artist Abigail J. Harding who created all these amazing monster concepts for us during pre-production. It was DDFX Studio (Paul & Mark Wilkins) who brought the monsters to life in the creature shop for the film and I couldn't be happier with the result. Their team went above and beyond to bring them to life on set and we not only had performers in costume but also puppeteers operating some of the smaller creatures so that our actors could interact with them.
HC: The score is a mix of synth and orchestra, can we expect a release of this as at all?
SS: Kyoto Dragon did an absolutely amazing job on the score for the film, not to mention the amazing 80s theme song (Ft. Villainest and Tommy Lazer) that plays over the end credits which had people cheering at the FrightFest premiere! Now that the film will be getting a release with Dread Central Presents I'm very hopeful that people are going to be able to pick up the soundtrack in the future.
HC: The poster for Book of Monsters was used to help promote FrightFest, you must be pleased with that?
SS: Yes that was quite a surprise and a huge honour! Paul Mcavoy called me a few days before it was unveiled and asked if it would be OK if they used the image of our three leads (Lyndsey Craine, Michaela Longden and Lizzie Stanton) as a central image in a montage of the films and of course I said it was OK! Little did I know they would be so front and centre with Lyndsey wielding the chainsaw dripping with blood! I have to give huge thanks to Ria Fend who designed the poster for putting our stars out there for everyone to see. Needless to say there were many photos of the cast and crew taken with the poster hanging outside of the Prince Charles Cinema at the festival!
HC: Having Hellraiser legend Nicholas Vince as part of the cast is pretty cool, how did you approach him for the part of Jonas?
SS: We first met Nicholas via the web on his show, Chattering with Nicholas Vince where he interviews a different horror filmmaker every week live via YouTube. Paul and myself were lucky enough to be invited on the show in the run up to The Creature Below's premiere at FrightFest. We had such a great time chatting to him and invited Nicholas along to the premiere and following FrightFest we told him about our idea for Book of Monsters and how we were very interested in having him play a character that is a far cry from the Chatterer. Nick plays Jonas, Sophie's dad in Book of Monsters and he is a key player in the emotional heart of the movie. He has some incredibly emotional scenes with Lyndsey Craine (Sophie) that required a lot of subtlety to pull off and I'm very pleased to say that he did an amazing job. I can't wait for people to see Nick's performance in the film and I think they will find it unlike anything he has done in a horror film before!
HC: What was your 18th birthday like?
SS: It was no where near as bloody as Sophie's, or at least I think so! A bunch of us went to Amsterdam on the ferry for the weekend. I can't say I remember much of it so it must have been good!
HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?
SS: Paul and I are busy working on several feature films, all of which involve monsters of some kind or another and buckets of gore. Our motto at Dark Rift Films is "We make monster movies" so you can expect lots more practical effects driven creatures to come!
HC: Stewart Sparke, thank you very much.
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