Best of 2015

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What a year 2015 has turned out to be!

From Star Wars to Furious 7 to Avengers: Age of Ultron to Mad Max: Fury Road, it has been one tremendously fun year for movie-goers and just like every year, there were plenty of fantastic creature features. We were lucky enough to see the return of not only the greatest creature feature franchise of all (something about dinosaurs?) but also Syfy’s Sharknado Week, which is a fantastic opportunity to highlight some of the more obscure and low-budget offerings.

Rather than do an outright Film of the Year award or any kind of formal ranking, I have handpicked 6 of my favourite creature features that were released (in the UK) this year to highlight as noteworthy additions to the sub-genre. Now a lot of them, I have already reviewed and you’ll find links to those reviews in the article as well as links to the Creature Catalogue!

Let’s start off with the most seasonally appropriate film…

KRAMPUS

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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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Grizzly Rage review

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grizzlyrage

Whilst on a camping trip in a secluded forest, four teenagers find themselves set upon by a toxic waste mutated Grizzly Bear. Will they be able to survive the mutated bear and its Grizzly Rage?!

Grizzly Rage is a scaled-back feature which leans more to being a thriller than being a standard horror movie.

Simple is probably the best way to describe Grizzly Rage. First of all, there are only 5 characters in the entire movie, 4 of whom are human and one is a bear. There are no supporting cast, background extras or any other humans in the movie. To call this movie character focused would be an understatement.

There are also only 3 locations; a forest, a rock quarry and an abandoned cabin in the woods. Unfortunately, a lot of the run time is spent in these simple locations on events that have no real effect on the overall storyline such as Wes climbing the quarry, Sean exploring the cabin, fixing the car engine and Wes getting topless and climbing a tree. However the run time is swift 86 minutes and Grizzly Rage doesn’t overstay its welcome.

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Jon & Al Kaplan interview

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Creature Feature Interviews

Jon & Al Kaplan (Zombeavers, Dinocroc vs Supergator, Piranhaconda, Gila)

Zombeavers-posterThe horror comedy sub-genre is one of the most difficult balances to achieve on film. Too funny and there is zero tension in the scarier scenes. Too scary and the tonal shifts into comedy ruin the suspension of disbelief.

One of the best example of a great horror comedy is last year’s Zombeavers (review here). One thing that caught my eye in particular was that the film’s screenwriters were also the composers.

Music and screenplays were two fields that I was certain had little to no crossover and I was fascinated about how these guys could be so skilled in two completely different crafts.

So the best way to find out was to chat with the immensely talented Jon and Al Kaplan who, as well as writing and scoring Zombeavers, also served musical duties on Dinocroc vs Supergator, Gila and Piranhaconda.

Read on for our conversation where we discuss how to score a movie, musical influences, Zombeavers 2, other creature feature ideas and the fantastically titled The Hills Have Thighs…

[JS] Let’s start from the beginning; how and why did you get into composing / screenwriting?

[J+AK] Our dad was a concert composer (at least while he was at Manhattan School of Music), and he introduced us to film music right from when we were born. We’ve been composing since we were kids, and while we never thought of it as a career path to start, we ended up doing the USC film scoring program. That still didn’t lead to a career in composing, so we tried screenwriting as a different creative avenue. Then we were looking for ways to combine music and writing, so we did Silence! The Musical. Eventually, we ended up writing Zombeavers because we wanted something new to score.

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Zombeavers review

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zombeavers

When some nuclear waste is accidentally dumped into the local lake, the wildlife starts mutating into freakish monstrosities hungry for human flesh. Fortunately for them, a group of sorority sisters and their boyfriends have just arrived at the lake for a quiet weekend getaway…

Zombeavers is very much a film of two halves.

The first half is carried almost exclusively by the three female leads and despite great performances by the actresses, their boyfriend melodrama is a little dull and their extreme personalities make it difficult to accept that these characters would actually be friends.

However as soon as the titular Zombeavers show up in the second half, the film really comes to life. The action is relentless as the titular creatures do everything they can to try and kill the protagonists. Within minutes of the invasion, I was swept up for the thrilling ride and lost myself in the pure enjoyment that Zombeavers offers. To my surprise and to the credit of the screenwriting, I was genuinely caught off-guard by some legitimately unforeseen revelations between the characters late in the film that only served to suck me into the story further.
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Mary Alexandra Stiefvater interview

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Creature Feature Interviews

Mary Alexandra Stiefvater (Supergator, Bear)

Theo_And_Juliet_17Many actors and actresses get their first big feature film roles in Creature Features and today’s interviewee is no exception. Also a writer, producer, model and poet, Mary Alexandra Stiefvater got her first important feature role in Syfy’s 2007 killer crocodile movie Supergator as Dr Alexandra Stevens.

“When the clone of a man-eating crocodilian dinosaur escapes from its research facility, the local town’s only hope rests in a team of scientists, tourists and a Texan alligator hunter. Will this band of unlikely heroes be able to stop the sinister Supergator?!”

Stiefvater later returned to the sub-genre starring as the leading female role Liz in the 2010 killer bear movie Bear, produced by internet sensation Freddie Wong.

“When their van breaks down in the forest, two couples finds themselves mercilessly hunted by a grizzly bear after they shoot its mate in self-defence. But when the pressure is on, secrets are revealed that could tear their relationships apart. Will they be able to put aside their differences and work together or will they all fall victim to the vengeful and bloodthirsty Bear?!”

Ms Stiefvater was kind enough to answer a few questions about her experiences on the two different productions and about what she has got lined up in the future… Continue reading

Grizzly II: The Concert

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Creature Feature History

Grizzly II: The Concert

grizzly2There are many creature features with strange and/or questionable origins but none are more elusive than the unfinished and unreleased killer bear movie, Predator: The Concert, or as it is known informally, Grizzly 2.

Last month, I interviewed David Sheldon, the writer/ producer of Grizzly and Grizzly 2, and you can read that article here. But I feel like the bizarre story deserves embellishment and requires its own history so with the information provided by Mr Sheldon, this is the definitive history behind the production of Predator: The Concert.

This is the true story of Grizzly 2.

The original idea for Grizzly was born from the imagination of screenwriter Harvey Flaxman. Based on a scary experience he had on a family camping trip, Flaxman developed the screenplay with his friend David Sheldon. After only a few weeks of work, the completed script caught the eye of Sheldon’s film-making partner William Girdler who offered to get the film financed in return for directing the picture. Sheldon put aside his original desire to film the project and after Girdler succeeded in securing the film’s budget, the movie began production in the mountains of Georgia.
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David Sheldon interview

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Creature Feature Interviews

David Sheldon (Grizzly, Predator: The Concert, Frogs, Squirm)

grizzlyThere are many creature features with strange and/or questionable origins but none are more elusive than the unfinished and unreleased killer bear movie, Predator: The Concert, or as it is known informally, Grizzly 2.

The plot of the film is nice and simple: A park ranger rushes to stop the rampage of a giant grizzly bear before a big rock concert is scheduled to take place at the park. Forced into an uneasy alliance with a bear activist and an intrepid hunter, the ranger must stop the Grizzly’s reign of terror before it ruins the big event.

The film started shooting in Hungary in 1985 but, after shooting 75% of the material, the production was shut down for mysterious reasons. Despite being over 30 years old, the online leak of a 2007 workprint of Predator sparked a lot of interest from the online community mostly due to the film’s fantastic cast including Academy Award winner Louise Fletcher and Lord of the Rings star John Rhys Davies along with future stars Laura Dern, Charlie Sheen and George Clooney in supporting roles.

There are a lot of conflicting stories, reports and theories available online so in order to get to the bottom of things once and for all, I spoke with the writer and producer of both Grizzly and Predator, David Sheldon to talk about the film, the cast and the remake… Continue reading

Best of 2013

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2013 has been an interesting year for films.

Creatures Features became a social media phenomenon thanks to The Asylum’s Sharknado which became a major talking point following it’s SyFy Channel première. Sharks were very popular this year as we also saw the release of Avalanche Sharks, Ghost Shark and Sharkzilla whilst Mega Shark vs Mecha Shark was pushed back to 2014. Announcements for 2014 included Sharknado getting a sequel entitled The Second One, Sharktopus getting two vs sequels and a crossover of the Lake Placid and Anaconda franchises!

Meanwhile the two parent genres of Creature Features, Sci Fi and Horror, equally performed far above expectations. The ‘Avengers Effect’ was finally proved as the box office gross for Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World sky-rocketed from their last respective outings whilst James Wan hit a one-two punch with the super profitable Insidious: Chapter Two and mega hit The Conjuring.

But enough of that, on to my Best of 2013…
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