For the Boston Underground Film Festival, Craig had the pleasure of interviewing writers/directors Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski about their feature film THE VOID, and discussed everything from H.P. Lovecraft, practical creature effects, and the THE SUICIDE SQUAD.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Thank you for talking with us today. Since you made THE VOID, I am curious, what are some of your favorite creature features through the years?
Steven Kostanski: One that’s really grown on me is the remake of THE BLOB (1988), it is an underrated horror classic, I think. And THE RESURRECTED (aka SHATTERBRAIN 1991) as well, is another good one. Dan O’Bannon directed it and it’s an adaptation of THE CURIOUS CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD, so a Lovecraft story and it has a lot of creature effects in it.
Jeremy Gillespie: I don’t know if that one ever technically got a real release, so it’s not super well known, but it’s his movie after RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985). Yeah, it’s fantastic, and the creature effects, like some of the stuff in it, it is almost unbelievable with what they did.
SK: Truly haunting too. I like it when creatures go in more of a sad direction, rather than scary and everything has furrowed brows and jumping at the camera. Stuff like THE RESURRECTED is more about these pathetic, sad, gross vaguely humanoid creatures that you sort of feel bad for and I feel like that’s more horrific. Even THE THING (1982) is like that. There are no real angry monsters in THE THING, they’re just sort of these tortured ever shifting things.
JG: THE FLY (1986) too as well as it’s sequel. I don’t think there’s any sadder monster than that dog in THE FLY II (1989) – that is the most depressing scene in that movie.
SK: Too bleak.
NC: Since you mentioned Lovecraft, what Lovecraft stories would you say inspired THE VOID?
SK: I don’t know of any specifics. It was more overall tone that we wanted to capture, because I love stuff that feels Lovecraftian without just being an adaptation of his stories. I also don’t really feel like his stories are that adaptable to film anyways; they feel very rooted in their literary origins and the way they are told do not really lend themselves to a visual medium like film. It’s so rooted in reading letters and stuff.
JG: Also so much of it is like describing the indescribable, where it gets to levels of poetry and you can’t show that, because to show that is defeating the purpose.
SK: Or it diffuses the fear of that moment, if you know what you’re looking at.
JG: So, in a way I would say this is like, not really on the same page since we are very much showing you the things. But definitely his overarching body of works has a tone or a feeling to them that I think was the inspiration. And not just Lovecraft, too, because there’s a whole world of that stuff and other authors that people should absolutely check out. Clark Ashton Smith was a contemporary (of Lovecraft’s) and people should absolutely check him out. William Hope Hodgson is one that people talk about a lot and I don’t know his work as much, but from what I understand he is kind of like a precursor. Anyways, there’s lots of that stuff that people should check out.
SK: Anything that invokes a sense of cosmic dread is the kind of tone we are aiming for with this movie and we drew from a lot of influences from literary to film to video games.
NC: EVENT HORIZON (1997) and DEAD SPACE (2008-2013), for instance?
SK: Yeah, I’d say a little bit of both, yes. I love DEAD SPACE and EVENT HORIZON.
JG: EVENT HORIZON is not at all an inspiration for this movie, but in a weird way I sort of think it exists on the same shelf as that movie.
SK: I think it was an inspiration purely in the sense that we appreciate that the movie exists, and what they tried to do with that movie, and we aim for that same kind of dread.
JG: So whoever is in charge of the remake of that movie and is reading this article right now; give us a call.
SK: Find us on Facebook
JG: I’ve got a Myspace Page
SK: (Laughs) Listen to Jer’s tunes on his Myspace page, then give us a ring.
NC: Working with the creature effects, what are your most proud moments of pulling off the practical effects?
SK: It was weirdly satisfying that we had a budget and a crew and a team of very talented people, and then at the end of the day in reshoots and inserts it still ended up being me in a shop by myself kind of cobbling stuff together out of garbage. Which goes to prove that no matter how much money you have, you always kind of go back to what you know and that kind of “do it yourself” aspect is something I am very rooted in. I had a lot of fun with the stuff when I was not on a schedule and could be creative on my own. At the same time the total opposite of that was having such a big crew of such talented people making so many beautiful works of art. They sculpted and painted or built these creatures that were so well executed, that it was awesome to be in that position to guide them or direct them and come up with all these crazy things and have them execute them so wonderfully.
JG: There’s two monsters in this movie that I am so proud of, and I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a nurse that turns into something, which I really love and which I believe turned out beautifully. The climax monster is a very demented creature and I’m very happy with how it turned out as well. On the kind of budget that we had for this film, the fact that we were able to pull that stuff off made me impressed (laughs).
SK: (Laughs) And nothing impresses Jeremy.
JG: Nope, I’m dead inside (laughs).
SK: You’re DEAD SPACE inside.
JG: My insides are just DEAD SPACE. That’s the quote of the article. Big bold quote (laughs).
SK: That’s your description on your Myspace page (laughs)
JG: (Laughs) Yeah.
NC: EVENT HORIZON is not calling now.
JG: (Laughs) Please call.
SK: Or they’re very interested now.
JG: I will be waiting by my phone.
NC: On the other side of the coin, what went wrong in the practical effects department that was memorable for you guys?
Both: Everything (laughing)
SK: That’s the secret of practical effects that nobody talks about: they never work. You’ll shoot, like, ten minutes of footage of a monster flailing around and it is 99% unusable; except for the two seconds where the light hits it just right and the slime is the right consistency and it looks amazing. You use that two seconds and the creature, in the context of the film, is great. People don’t see the rest of it where the tentacles top working and the cables break or there’s a seam showing. Everything, essentially, is what it is, like people in rubber monster suits just flailing around. People hold creature effects in such a high regard as being the only way to create such fantastical things, but ultimately it’s just people in rubber suits playing pretend and it looks goofy ninety nine percent of the time. We experience that on the movie where it’s like tentacles made out of bubble wrap and latex that we’re dragging through the frame while we cover stuff in slime and hope it looks cool. I would say everything went wrong, but that’s just the nature of practical effects.
JG: Yeah, well exactly, you have to kind of be able to do it again and again and again to get that two second of usable footage and we had time to do it again one time maybe.
SK: It was mostly just once and we had to really hope it worked that one time.
JG: Yeah, so it’s a lot of something made out of nothing, but it worked out.
NC: I am curious, in another interview you talked about enticing people off of SUICIDE SQUAD (2016), so what was that sales pitch like?
SK: It was just unfortunate timing because I had built a team of people who were committed to work on our movie and we were waiting and waiting for the green light to work on THE VOID. Then we all got real jobs on SUICIDE SQUAD, making great money and having a great time (laughs).
JG: It could have been a very easy summertime (laughs).
SK: We made lots of crazy stuff for that movie, but it just turned out we had to start our build for the creatures immediately, which means I had to pull a bunch of people off of SUICIDE SQUAD. To the credit of Steve Newburn and Neil Morrill, who were supervising me on SUICIDE SQUAD, when I told them that I was leaving and that I had to take a bunch of people with me, they didn’t murder me. They were very nice about it and I want to go on record saying that I appreciate that, because otherwise our movie would not have happened.
JG: You know what, SUICIDE SQUAD went on and won an Oscar for makeup, so fuck them (laughs).
NC: I can quote that, right?
JG: Uh, well… (laughs).
SK: (Laughs) I’m going to say on behalf of Jeremy, yes.
NC: Since fans are already saying they want a sequel
JG: Who said that?
NC: Like, everybody. So, would you do a sequel in the same universe like 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (2016) or direct sequel?
JG: We know exactly what we’re doing; it’s going to be a team of NAVY Seals that get sent into the void to rescue everybody. This time it’s war (laughs).
SK: Yeah, and it’s called Voids. Voids, plural.
NC: You must be sad Bill Paxton is out of the picture, then?
SK: Way to bring the whole interview down.
JG: No, no no, ROGUE ONE already figured this out. Just CG him back into the movie.
SK: And have a CG Peter Cushing.
JG: Yes, Peter Cushing, Bill Paxton, Voids (laughs).
SK (Laughts) Top Billing
JG: I love it.
THE VOID opens today, April 7th, in select theaters. For more information on the film, visit Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheVoidMovie