This weekend will see the release of the R-rated dark comedy THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS, which features NSFK puppets co-existing with humans in a world where puppets are treated as if they are second class citizens. For the release of the film, I had the chance to speak with Todd Berger, the writer of THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS, where we discussed everything from the film’s relation to Meet The Feebles, to how he shifts from working on kids content to more adult-centered entertainment.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Todd, thank you so much for speaking with me today about the film. For those who may not be familiar with THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS can you tell them a little bit about the film?
Todd Berger: It’s an R-rated buddy cop movie set in a world where humans and puppets co-exist. An ex puppet cop must team up with his old human partner to take on a case involving the mysterious killings of “The Happytime Gang,” a popular children’s show from the ‘80s.
Nightmarish Conjurings: How did you become involved in this project and was Meet The Feebles a show that helped spawn the inspiration for THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS?
TB: Yeah, I went to the University of Texas at Austin and bonded with one of my classmates, Dee Austin Robertson, over “weird cinema.” We both loved Meet The Feebles and when it came time to do a class project, we made a messed-up short film with a puppet. Later, Dee and I moved to Los Angeles and came up with the idea to do a messed-up feature with a puppet. THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS was born.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Have looked at your body of work I’ve noticed you’ve done a lot of kid-centric films and TV show which is interesting considering THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS isn’t kid friendly at all. What is it like to switch from writing content that is kid-orientated to that which is more adult oriented?
TB: It’s definitely a challenge because if anything when doing kids entertainment you’re constantly asking yourself “Can I do this? Is that too adult? Will kids even get it?” And with an adult movie, all systems are go. You also discover that all the adults who work in kid’s entertainment have very adult senses of humor – they just don’t include it in their work.
Nightmarish Conjurings: When writing the script for THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS, was there a specific scene that you couldn’t wait to see play out on the big screen?
TB: There’s a murder scene where a puppet is pulled apart by three adorable little dogs. As someone who has adorable little dogs, I’m excited to see it brought to life.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What were some of the challenges you faced when writing the script?
TB: Having to remember the limitations of what exactly puppets can and can’t do. Even little things like smoking or crossing legs, you’d think would be easy, but you find out it requires a team of puppeteers wearing greenscreen body suits.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Last but not least, do you have any upcoming projects we should be keeping our eyes out for in the future?
TB: I wrote a spy comedy called Cold Warriors that Morgan Freeman is attached to be in and hopefully it’ll start shooting later this year. It’s pretty fun.
THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS arrives in theaters August 24, 2018.
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