In the upcoming Disney remake of the 1997 Halloween special, UNDER WRAPS, three 12-year-old friends, Marshall (Malachi Barton), Gilbert (Christian J. Simon), and Amy (Sophia Hammons) accidentally awaken a mummy which they affectionately call Harold as they rush to return him to his resting place before midnight on Halloween. Along the way, the team narrowly escapes a nefarious group of criminals who are intent on selling the mummy to the highest bidder. When Harold is inevitably captured, Marshall, Gilbert, and Amy must band together to stand up to the criminals, face their fears, and rescue their new – but rather “ancient” – friend.
Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Shannon McGrew had the chance to chat with Director/Co-Writer Alex Zamm about bringing this new reimagining to life for a new generation, his favorite Universal Monster, and more.
To start things off, what excited you about reimagining UNDER WRAPS for the modern age, and were you a fan of the original?
Alex Zamm: I was a huge fan of the original. So for me, it was an enormous honor and privilege to bring it to a new generation and to put a little bit of my own spin on it. I wanted to just have a lot of fun with it. I’ve been a huge fan of monster movies since I was a kid. This one fits into a different box in the monster movie genre like E.T. and Iron Giant. There’s not a lot of monster movies in which the monster becomes the protagonist. Usually, they’re destroyed and [are meant] to be feared. So, I just thought this was fantastic. We have an emotive, heartfelt, funny, sometimes fierce, but definitely scary-looking monster. Our task was to humanize this monster and to make him at first be feared and, by the end, to be loved.
The whole cast is fantastic and there seems to be natural chemistry between all of them. What was the casting process like in terms of finding the right actors for these roles?
Alex Zamm: You bring up the most important role of any movie – the casting. If you get that right, 90% of your job is done. We did a lot of different chemistry reads. The Disney casting department is amazing and a joy to work with, and we had a number of casting directors all searching, scouring the earth, and we read hundreds and hundreds of people. It was exciting because, at the end of the day, they’re playing people. We tried to find actors who had a little bit of that person inside them. So, Marshall really is adventurous and Amy is very can-do and Gilbert is a little bit nervous about encountering the supernatural. Those actors really did embody those feelings. So, we did chemistry reads and we stayed open-minded in terms of gender and ethnicity. We just wanted to make the best movie and find the right people for the role. And that’s what made it great. And Harold… there were so many people who understood how to play monsters, but not how to play the vulnerability or how to play the emotiveness without saying anything but grunting. And that was a big challenge.
Speaking of Harold, can you talk about the process of bringing him to life and adding additional touches to separate him from the original design?
Alex Zamm: I wanted to cover up more of Harold’s face. I felt that I wanted more bandages and comedic-ness. So, we broke his jaw and we dislocated it. Not for the sense of being repulsive but we found it gave him this *makes a face* and it made his vocalizations funny, and it gave him a sweetness. We played a lot with his skin color and I gave him contacts. I wanted him to not look like it was a man in a costume. The eyes are such a key part so, we gave him these otherworldly dilated contacts that gave him that quality. And prosthetics now, with silicon versus latex, you don’t lose the performance. They completely transmit the actor’s performance through that. We also did a very lightweight suit so that, having an actor like Phil Wright, we wouldn’t lose his performance, his physicality.
I can’t end this interview without asking the important question: What is your favorite Universal Monster?
Alex Zamm: How could I not do this interview without saying my favorite Universal Monster has been the mummy? Monsters are great because they ask universal questions and vampires, Frankenstein, The Mummy deal with mortality, and those are fantastic for that. The Mummy is wonderful because of its ties to ancient history and I love that. I just love that he’s a historic character in our world.
UNDER WRAPS premieres on Friday, October 1 (8 PM ET/PT) on Disney Channel, and Friday, October 8, on Disney+. For more on the film, check out our review here.
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