Kevin O’Neill interview

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Creature Feature Interviews

Kevin O’Neill
(Sharktopus vs Whalewolf, Sharktopus vs Pteracuda, Dinocroc, Dinoshark & Dracano)

ONEILL_01Over the years, I have profiled writers, directors, actors, producers and composers but today, I’m adding a new profession to that list.

I spoke with Kevin O’Neill, one of the best VFX Supervisor in the industry, about his career and the big transition that he went through in becoming a top tier creature feature director for Roger Corman. With directing credits include Dinocroc and the two Sharktopus sequels and VFX credits include Piranha 3D and Crocodile, Kevin has amassed a wealth of experience which he generously took time from his busy schedule to talk to me about.

Read on to discover the day-to-day business of a VFX Supervisor, what it’s really like to work for Roger Corman, what really happened to Sharktopus vs Mermantula and an exclusive scoop on his next project, Intergalactic Shark Attack…

[JS] How did you get started in Visual Effects/ the film industry?

[KO] Well, I grew up on the East End of Long Island during the 60’s/70’s, when the local TV stations and Cinema would run everything from King Kong (1933) to Godzilla to of course, Ray Harryhausen films. I developed and early fascination with Ray H. and Willis O’Brien’s work, and soon found myself immersed in all things related to the process and equipment necessary to produce short experimental films. I was lucky to have taken up this interest at the same time a small but very informative collection of books and magazines dedicated to the technical and art of visual effects films, both professional and amateur were starting to publish on a regular basis.

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Sharktopus vs Whalewolf review

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sharktopusvswhalewolf

When a genetically engineered wolf/whale/human hybrid goes rogue, it’s up to Sharktopus to put it down once and for all. But who will survive the outcome of the greatest battle in history: Sharktopus vs Whalewolf!

Sharktopus returns for his biggest battle yet and it proves the most enjoyable thanks to interesting creatures, a funny script and some gung-ho performances.

Whereas other films foolishly attempt a degree of seriousness that can be detrimental to the finished product, Sharktopus vs Whalewolf maintains a cartoonish sense of humour. Sharktopus is frequently anthropomorphised, Whalewolf behaves like an ill-trained puppy, the dialogue is littered with gags and Casper van Dien’s hammy performance is tonally perfect.

What also differentiates Sharktopus 3 (as it’s known in Germany) is the sheer amount of creature action. Continue reading

Sharktopus review

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sharktopus-ger

After a combat demonstration goes awry, a genetically engineered shark/ octopus hybrid is let loose and it’s not long before it starts a massacre off the coast of Mexico. When it begins to turn its intentions inland, the creature’s creator must work together with his estranged daughter if they are to stand any chance of stopping the dreaded Sharktopus!

The winner of the Syfy Monster Mayhem Tournament manages to breathe new life into Roger Corman’s B-movie operations with a great title, a great creature, a great cartoon poster and an amazing theme song by The Cheetahs Whores.

Sharktopus has quite a complex storyline for a creature feature with numerous story threads running side-by-side but it still fits in comfortably with the Syfy movie formula. The body count is crazily high. Literally 5 minutes does not go past without somebody getting eaten, and some of the kills are particularly terrific with the bungee jump kill being my personal highlight of the entire film. Not to mention that at a mere 89 minutes, Sharktopus doesn’t overstay its welcome.

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Piranhaconda review

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piranhaconda

Whilst in Hawaii, Professor Lovegrove discovers a remarkably rare Piranhaconda egg and steals it from its nest but on his journey to escape, he must overcome a film crew, a kidnap plot and two very angry Piranhaconda parents…

Piranhaconda turns the standard Syfy formula into an entertaining romp with interesting characters, a clear plot, realistic character motivations, witty dialogue, surprisingly ‘meta’ jokes and an interesting hybrid creature.

Despite its meagre budget, Piranhaconda is actually quite adventurous and varied compared to the average Syfy fare. The film has a huge cast, plenty of guns and props, reasonable special effects and vehicle-wise contains cars, vans, boats, quad bikes and a helicopter. Also a rocket launcher.

Gone are many of the cheap production issues that plagued Sharktopus, instead we have nicely framed shots, good editing, no extraneous rubbish or filler material and everything has a nice professional edge. Sometimes the cinematography is a little cheap and the weather changes per-shot occasionally but the entertaining performances, swift pace and clear plot keep the action engaging.

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Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys review

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bloodlake

When lamprey start attacking the citizens of a quiet lake town, it’s up to Fish & Wildlife Ranger, Michael, to uncover the mystery surrounding their on-land assault. However, he must first contend with Mayor Akerman who is unwilling to take any drastic measures so close to tourist season….

Considering its 2014 release, Blood Lake is a very classic creature feature.

Whilst the story isn’t overly original, the film hits all the right beats and the action is very well paced. The majority of the named characters have motivations and agency and on the whole, the acting is actually pretty good (Zach Ward in particular).

The cinematography is solid and it seems like a lot of thought was put into the shots as the majority of the framing looks great and the tracking is very professional. Blood Lake serves as an antithesis to shaky handheld camera work which so many low budget productions rely on.

There are even a few very interesting flourishes including the inside-the-bucket shots and a fantastic moment where Nicole trips whilst fleeing the Lamprey horde and the camera just flows over her body.

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Mike MacLean interview

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Creature Feature Interviews

Mike MacLean (Dinocroc vs Supergator, Sharktopus, Piranhaconda)

Sharktopus 3Screenwriting is a very difficult field to get into and a common statistic thrown around is that 95% of writers never get to see their work on the big screen. But what are the chances of having 5 of your screenplays produced by the Syfy Channel and be the go-to guy for the legendary producer Roger Corman?

The odds of that happening are minuscule yet there is a man who can flaunt these credentials and his name is Mike MacLean. Over the past 5 years, Mr MacLean has had a tremendous impact on the Creature Feature world after writing such Syfy hits as Dinocroc vs Supergator, Sharktopus & Piranhaconda.

The remarkably down-to-Earth and hilarious Mr MacLean was even kind enough to answer a few questions for me about his movies, his writing habits and what he has coming up in the future. Anyone planning on penning the next Creature Feature goldmine will definitely want to read below:

How did you get into screenwriting? And why?

I could blather on about my love of movies and how I dabbled in screenwriting during college, but ultimately I fell ass backwards into the film industry. I wrote a story called “McHenry’s Gift” which ended up being published in The Best American Mystery Stories (alongside Elmore Leonard, James Lee Burke, and Walter Mosley). Someone at Roger Corman’s office read it and shot me an email asking if I’d like to try screenwriting.
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Piranha II: The Spawning

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Creature Feature History

Piranha II: The Spawning

piranha2When constructing a list of the most influential film-makers in history, it would be hard to overlook James Cameron. The multi-award winning writer/ director has created some of the most creative, thrilling and financially successful films in living memory including The Terminator, Aliens, Terminator 2, Titanic and Avatar.

Yet the famously hard to work with Canadian who single-handedly ushered in the new era of stereoscopic 3D, came from rather humble beginnings. Like many successful industry professionals today, Cameron was a graduate of “The Corman Film School” and began his career as a model maker and SFX cameraman for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures production company. It was his work for Corman which would lead to his big break and debut directorial gig.

The film in question was Piranha II: The Spawning and this is the story of James Cameron and his fishy first feature film.

A scuba diver instructor must team up with her biochemist boyfriend and her police chief ex-husband in order to get to the bottom of a series of mysterious murders. However, their investigation leads them to a sunken ship in the Caribbean Sea which is home to a swarm of mutated flying piranha!

Although this story doesn’t start with Cameron; instead, and like a lot of creature feature stories, it begins with Jaws.
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Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack review

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UK DVD cover

UK DVD cover

Where do I begin…?*

Profile: Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack (2012)

Summary

Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack is a 2012 horror anime based on the titular manga by Junji Ito (Tomie) that ran from 2001 to 2002. Arguably the only creature feature anime available in the UK, the OVA was written and directed by Takayuki Hirao and wins the award for being the most bizarre concepts I have ever seen for a Sci-Fi Horror film. Gracefully short at a mere 71 minutes long, Gyo was produced by the Ufotable animation studio and was released in the UK via Terracotta Distribution.

Kaori is on holiday with her friends when walking fish begin to rise from the sea and invade Japan, bringing with them a ‘death stench’ that smells like rotting corpses. Leaving her friends at the vacation home, Kaori teams up with cameraman and reporter Shirakawa as she struggles to make her way back to Tokyo and find her finance Tadashi. This is where things start to get really weird… Continue reading

Jaws Revenge app game review

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Jaws revenge 1Jaws Revenge is a 2012 app game developed by Fuse Powered Inc based on the titular Jaws franchise that is available for iOS and Android devices. The 24MB game is completely free and carries a ‘High Maturity’ age rating. During the game you play as ‘Jaws’ the shark from Jaws and the aim of the game is eat enough people to stay alive whilst your health continuously drops. Continue reading