Interview: Writer/Director Peter Sullivan for CUCUY: THE BOOGEYMAN

Just in time for Halloween, SYFY will be premiering CUCUY: THE BOOGEYMAN, an original horror film centered around the Mexican Boogeyman, otherwise known as Cucuy, a creature that has a taste for children who behave badly. For the film’s release, I had the chance to speak with writer/director Peter Sullivan (The Sandman) where we discussed everything from the urban legend surrounding Cucuy to bringing the creature to life.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Thank you so much for speaking with me today Peter! To start things off can you tell us a little bit about your latest film, CUCUY: THE BOOGEYMAN?

Peter Sullivan: CUCUY: THE BOOGEYMAN is about a rebellious teenage girl under house arrest who begins to suspect that a mythical creature might be responsible for a rash of child abductions in her neighborhood. Naturally no one believes her, but when the horror hits home, she realizes that she might be the only one who can stop it.

Nightmarish Conjurings: What initially inspired you to want to write a story around the legend of Cucuy?

PS: After researching a number of boogeyman myths from around the world, I found that the Cucuy was one that, while well known in Latin culture, hadn’t really been used in a film before. I knew that it wouldn’t feel too familiar or cliched. I also liked the story potential of a boogeyman that specifically targets children, because I feel that the loss of a child is far more frightening than any movie monster or haunted house.

Nightmarish Conjurings: What were some of the challenges you faced in bringing this story to life?

PS: The idea of constructing a story around a teenager under house arrest made sense because the boogeyman specifically targets misbehaving children. However, narratively, it became a challenge to have a protagonist who was unable to leave her house. That presented some limitations in the scripting stage, however I would also stress that it forced us to come up with some unique sequences as a result.  Another challenge was that, because the main character had to witness a variety of actions from her bedroom window, we needed a neighborhood location that we could completely control. I was determined not to end up shooting this movie on a backlot, and, by pure luck, we found a real, empty neighborhood where we could do whatever we wanted.

Nightmarish Conjurings: How did you come up with the design of the Cucuy and what was the process like transforming Mick Ignis into the creature?

PS: Because the Cucuy is a Latin boogeyman, designer George Troester and I wanted to evoke a certain style. There are carvings all over his head that were inspired by Aztec and Mayan artwork. Also, as a legend, he has two defining characteristics: his glowing red eyes and large mouth. (After all, according to the legend, he eats the misbehaving children.) So we knew that the eyes and mouth would be very important. The mouth was oversized and then, in post, it was stretched even further with the use of CG.

Mick Ignis is a remarkable performer who really inhabits whatever creature he’s playing. I had the good fortune of meeting him when I directed THE SANDMAN last year and he played the title role in that film as well. THE SANDMAN was much more monstrous, whereas the Cucuy is more human. The movement and personality were remarkably different, as was the body shape.

However, Mick works hard to make each creature feel unique and there is no resemblance performance-wise between the two characters.

Nightmarish Conjurings: The cast is primarily Latin American and the film does a fantastic job of promoting inclusion. When it came to casting, what was the process like?

PS: There were a number of wonderful actors who came in for these roles.  I made sure I was in the room for callbacks because we were looking at a lot of fresh faces and I wanted to see how they were to work with. The big challenge was finding two sisters who really had that familial resemblance.

Their relationship is the heart and soul of the movie, and if the audience doesn’t buy it, the movie wouldn’t work. We got very lucky with Jearnest and Bella. I had worked with some of the actors previously, including Brian Krause and Pedro Correa, who was in a film I’d produced a while back. Justin Ellings, who plays the school bully, played Corey Haim in a Lifetime biopic I’d produced. I met Jack Erdie, who plays the suspicious neighbor, back when I was a film student at NYU. He was in a short film a friend of mine directed and now here we were, many years later, on the set of a much bigger budgeted project. That was fun.

Nightmarish Conjurings: Last but not least, do you have any upcoming projects we should be keeping our eyes out for in the future?

PS: I directed two Christmas movies premiering on Lifetime this November. On November 21st is MY CHRISTMAS INN, starring Tia Mowry-Hardrict, Rob Mayes, Jackee Harry, Tim Reid and Erin Gray. Then, on November 25th, is JINGLE BELLE starring Tatyana Ali, Cornelius Smith Jr, Loretta Devine, Valarie Pettiford, Obba Babatunde, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Tempestt Bledsoe. I’m also about to start shooting a thriller later this month, that will be released in 2019.

CUCUY: THE BOOGEYMAN premieres on the SYFY Channel Saturday, October 13 at 7pm/6pm CT

Shannon McGrew
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