He's a storyboard artist, photographer, designer, illustrator... oh yeah, and he directs. Yes, creator Brian Singleton is indeed a modern day Renaissance man and with his latest creation, Werewolf Fever, he's out to show that there are still some original ideas out there for horror films.You've been working on this film for three years now. How did the concept for this story originate?
With a simple setup of a werewolf terrorizing a band of burger stand employees, Werewolf Fever revitalizes the DIY school of film by way of Sam Raimi using its modest budget, unknown cast, and creative fx to great affect over the course of its 60 minutes run time. Here to tell us more about the film is none other than Singleton himself...
I was actually location scouting for a different film I had in mind. It wasn’t working out, so on our way home, we stopped in Renfrew to eat lunch at the Kingburger. We loved the location right from the start, then my friend made a joke about shooting a movie at the Kingburger instead. Then we thought of the werewolf story and I knew it was a great idea. It was the most appropriate monster we could think of to attack that, I went up and asked the owner if I could shoot a werewolf movie at his restaurant.
So there's an actual Kingburger out there?
Yes. The Kingburger is Renfrew’s favourite burger joint and it’s basically exactly as you see it in the film. The best part was that we really didn’t need to do any set decorating. It fit the look of the film perfectly and it was already ready to go.
So you basically went the Kevin Smith (Clerks, not Mallrats) route of DIY by funding the entire film's budget on your credit card. Does that mean this a make it or break film for you?
No, not really. Every film I have made has been done this way. I know it’s not the smartest way to make a movie, but there are benefits to it. Each time I make a film, it always comes down to timing. In this case, I had a small window of opportunity to make this movie. All the resources and people were in place to shoot that summer, so I knew it was now or never. If I chose to apply for grants or hunt for funding, I may have got more money, but I would have missed my chance. As far as marketing goes, I would like to make as much money as possible from Werewolf Fever and get some good distribution deals. I’m confident in the movie and I want it to do well, so I’ve been promoting it full time all year.
What has the response been from the horror community as a whole?
The response has been great. With every screening I’ve had, the audience reaction has been very positive. Ironically, a few of the major online media outlets for horror have panned it, but that’s OK. I know it’s not the kind of horror movie everyone is going to like, and that’s fine. Some people are used to big budget independent horror with high production values, so they have a hard time accepting a truly independent horror film. I think the key for the success of any movie is to find your audience. There will always be people out there who will love your movie and those are the people you want to reach. So far, Werewolf seems to have a growing fan base which is much more important to me than anything else.
Werewolves are one of those legendary movie monsters that are timeless. Were there any films that you referenced during the making of Werewolf Fever or did you set out to create your own mythology?
No, nothing in particular. I think Werewolf Fever shares it’s spirit mostly with monster movies of the 50’s and 60’s, like When I Was a Teenage Werewolf. It’s also been compared to a Fred Dekker movie, which is a huge compliment because he’s one of my favourite filmmakers. If anything, Werewolf Fever does share some sensibilities with An American Werewolf in London because it has a lot of intentional humour and some comedic characters, but plays it straight and serious when it comes to the monster elements. My brother, Mark, and I came up with the story and we really tried to be original. We wanted to make a werewolf movie that was different than everything else, so we were conscious about what had been done before. We couldn’t think of another movie with a werewolf terrorizing a burger joint, so that’s what we made.
Speaking of which, your werewolf is visually quite different than most. Who designed the costume and what was the motivation behind making him more wolf-monster than wolf-man?
The werewolf suite was designed by Jason Thomas at Fiendish Curiosities in Guelph, Ontario. He was excited to do it and he did a great job. Keeping with the originality of the story, we wanted to make the werewolf look different than others as well, so we avoided the typical dog-faced look and went with a more unconventional appearance. Ironically enough, I’ve got more comments and criticisms about the werewolf’s appearance than anything else. I’ve heard that it looks like a “giant bat”, “giant rat”, and “rabid beaver” - among others. Which is ironic because in almost every werewolf movie, the werewolf looks different, so, it’s funny that some people can’t accept another variation – at least he doesn’t talk or make jokes!
Growing up with movies like Gremlins, Evil Dead 2 and The Fly I'd much rather see practical effects over CGI any day. Aside from budget, what's the advantage of having a rubber suited monster versus CGI?
Even if I had 10 million dollars to make Werewolf Fever, I would still use a practical werewolf costume. To me, there’s no substitute for a real monster. All the greatest monsters in the history of cinema have been practical costumes or animatronic creations. Every time I see a CGI monster in a new film, I instantly feel removed from the horror, because it doesn’t look real. No matter how advanced CGI becomes, it will never be as convincing or effective as something practical.
For those gorehounds out there, what can viewers expect in terms of blood, boobs and/or outlandish violence?
Traditionally, most werewolf movies aren’t very gory, at least not compared to other genres of horror. But as a fan of gore myself, there is no shortage of blood and guts in Werewolf Fever. I even had some great gore props custom made for the film. There are definitely a few creative kills that have been huge crowd-pleasers with an audience, so I hope gore fans will like it.
Awhile back we counted down our Top 10 Favorite Werewold Transformations of all time. How did you go about staging the transformation sequence for Werewolf Fever?
There is only one transformation in Werewolf and it’s mostly implied, simply because I didn’t have the resources to do it properly. However, I think this one is much more effective off screen instead of trying any cheap looking effects. Instead, I decided to use a creepy atmosphere to make it work and I’m happy with the end result.
What's your favorite scene of the entire film?
There are a few death scenes that I was very happy with, but I think the transformation scene is actually my favorite. It’s the only scene that takes place somewhere other than the Kingburger, so it has a unique feel from the rest of the film. Also, because I shot it in the woods with a lot of fog, which I love doing because it always looks great.
Any plans to release the film on DVD?
Of course. I recently signed a VOD deal which should get Werewolf out to the public this spring, and we're currently offering DVDs for sale on our homepage.
Werewolf Fever isn't your first foray behind the director's seat either, is it? Can you tell us a bit about your previous work like Forest of the Dead and Zombie Cop vs. the Alien Terror?
That’s a long story. I’ve been making movies for about 15 years. I had made about 5 short films with a handycam before I did Zombie Cop in 2000. At 33 minutes, it was the longest movie I’d done and the first one with some money behind it. It premiered to a sold-out crowd at a theatre in Ottawa. That night inspired me to go ahead with me first feature, so I wrote Forest of the Dead. I shot that movie in the summer of 2001, but it took years to actually finish, mostly due to post-productions tragedies. The film finally came out on DVD in 2006, so unfortunately, it was released long after it’s time and the advancement in technology had already dated the look for the film. Regardless, that movie still means a lot to me and there’s a lot of things I still love about it. From making Forest of the Dead, I pretty much learned every lesson an indy filmmaker could learn. I didn’t do anything else for a while after that because it was such an ordeal, both financially and emotionally. In 2007, I did a short film called Death Trike, like Christine with a tricycle. It premiered in Ottawa and played a film festival in Boston the next year. After that, I decided to make Werewolf Fever.
You're also an amazingly talented Graphic Designer, having designed the entire site for Werewolf Fever. What other artistic talents do you possess?
Thank you very much. I’m glad you liked the site, I put a lot of work into it because I wanted it to stand out for other indy horror films. Other than filmmaking and graphic design, I’ve been drawing all my life, which helps when you’re making a film. I was able to draw all of my own storyboards to communicate my vision to everyone else. It’s just easier to show someone rather than tell them.
Have you always wanted to be a director or does it simply come with the territory of being naturally creative?
I’ve always wanted to be a director. I’ve never wanted to be an actor, which is why I keep myself out of my own films. But, I think being a filmmaker is something that some people are just programmed with, you either have it or you don’t. Making a film is one of the most difficult things a person can ever do. Some people think that you can just pick up a camera and go “make a movie”, until they actually try and give up. But, for other people, it’s just something that they understand. It also ruins your life, but I just can’t seem to live without it.
What are a few films (horror or otherwise) you remember seeing growing up that have really stuck with you?
There are too many to count, but here’s a shortlist in no particular order: Deliverance, The Exorcist, Halloween (1-4), Stand By Me, The NeverEnding Story, The Wizard of Oz, Three O’Clock High, Planes Trains and Automobiles, Night of the Creeps, Monster Squad, Black Christmas, Silent Night Deadly Night, Friday the 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, My Bloody Valentine, The Gate, The X-Files, True Romance, Thrash’n.
Time to put a silver nail in this coffin... what's the strangest thing you can remember doing as a kid?
I was a pretty normal kid. It was only other people who thought I was strange.