FrightFest 2013 rocked. As well as all the amazing horror movies I was lucky enough to score some great talent to interview. As well as Dyatlov Pass Incident’s Gemma Atkinson and No One Lives’ Derek Magyar, the wonderful PR people at Fetch hooked me up with the director of Richard Raaphorst, as well as the film’s star: Alexander Mercury.
In Frankenstein’s Army a troop of Russian army guys head off to a village behind enemy lines, after intercepting a distress call. They soon find themselves cut off, surrounded by hideous, goose-stepping Nazi beasties, covered in saws and claws, and that one of their number (Alexander’s character) is not all he appears to be.. A found-footage, World War 2 creature feature full of amazing and outlandish monsters, Frankenstein’s Army is released on DVD on the 30th of September.
Live for Films: Hiya guys, I’m Alan from Live for Films. You alright?
Richard Raaphorst: Yes. Busy!
Alexander Mercury: Not bad, thanks. Yourself?
LfF: Grand, ta. This both of you’s first time at FrightFest, are you sticking around to watch any movies?
Richard: No, no, no, no. Not yet, not yet.
Alexander: Haven’t had a chance! We only flew in yesterday. I’d like to see The Lone Ranger though, and Elysium.
LFF: Lone Ranger’s not as bad as everyone says it is. It needs forty minutes cutting out of it though. I haven’t had a chance to see Elysium yet either. Are there any films that you want to see at FrightFest though?
Richard: Ummm, well… What was it? You’re Next!
LfF: It’s amazing!
A: Have you seen it?!
LfF: I have. I was reviewing it, so got to see it a little while ago. I love it. Brilliant film. But I want to talk to you guys about your film! I really, really enjoyed Frankenstein’s Army, Richard, where did you get the idea? It’s pretty… out there.
Richard: Umm… Errrrrr… Well… It’s not simple. That you get an idea, like “I’m going to make a movie about zombies”, but… frankly, I always played with the though of doing something with undead. And, on a sidetrack, I wanted to do something with robots. And, on a certain moment, those paths just crossed each other… and I came up roughly with the idea to do something with bio… mechanical… creatures. Yes. Then later I just came to the decision to do it and it was very easy to change it to the German… Nazi… troops. Ja. So it’s just like a collection of ideas… it evolves into this.
LfF: Tell me about the creatures, what was the process? They’re amazing and outlandish designs, where did they come from?
Richard: Umm… I’ve been a toy collector myself for years and years and years, until I just sold everything and was really… I started to focus on movie making. Err, but I always got influenced by, erm… movie merchandise: what is really attractive for… to… collectors, or not, you know? There are certain rules. Which makes a good design? One is: create a clear silhouette.You can see it in Star Wars, like Darth Vader, or Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck… a clear silhouette means a very recognisable character and I just designed all the characters first from silhouettes. Then, later, I just textured them in.
LfF: What were you taking inspiration from? They’re all completely bananas…
LfF: …so where were you getting these crazy ideas from?
Richard: They’re all around you! If you just… have a mission, like: I have to create those designs. Then everything you see in real life, you try to figure out: “does it fit in my design?” It can be that glass, it can be that cup… on the bar, you know? Every thing is inspiration. Every single detail. You just have to open up to it, and then… it just comes in, or not. It’s like a filter, and then it grows. You just let it grow! One rule. Just don’t use Google images! Ja. Go to the real life.
LfF: Were there any creatures that didn’t make the cut because they were too crazy?
Richard: Yeah. No! Never too crazy! Err… just not crazy enough! The longer you stay in the movie.. the crazier the creatures become. It’s literally like spiralling down into madness.
Alexander: Erm… Pff… You just… I don’t know… You go to drama school!
Big laughs all round.
Alexander: You just… We, more or less, shot in sequence – didn’t we?
Alexander: So it wasn’t that hard because… I wasn’t allowed to make any eye contact with anyone. As my character is the one doing the filming, a lot of the time the actors were asked to look into the camera, not at me. So, obviously though, they didn’t let me film the film, so there would be the camera operator, the DOP, the grip, so sometimes, back there, I’d be in a very constrained environment – crouched down, hiding, popping out to deliver my lines. But it was fun… and it was a challenge, because you are there, physically, in a scene, but you’re not at the same time, because you’re behind the camera
LfF: How was it on set for you and the rest of the boys? Was there a lot of camaraderie? Or were you all competitive?
Alexander: Both! We did step on each others feet and break each others balls quite a few times, but there was a lot of fun, and pranks, and going out on boys night’s out in Prague… it was fun, it was fun. There was… I mean… I wish there was more girls!
Alexander: Because there was A LOT of testosterone, and, looking back on it, I’m like “fuuuck!”
LfF: The location work and sets were fantastic. Where did you shoot?
Richard: It was actually all locations. Yeah. All. It was an empty mining complex in Prague. We dressed it up, but what you see is 70% existing.
LfF: Alexander, what was it like seeing the creatures on set for the very first time? Was it scary?
Alexander: Yeah, I mean we’d sneak into the workshop and talk to Rogier Samuels, the special effects supervisor…
Richard: Yeah, he was the real Frankenstein!
Alexander: The guy is crazy! Umm… It was alright, it wasn’t too scary…
LfF: But were they not intimidating? I mean, they’re biiig monsters…
Alexander: Perhaps, a little bit. The lady who played the crawling…
Richard: The Dragger.
LfF: The one with no legs that pulls itself around?
Alexander: Yeah, that was a bit… That was actually someone who… an amputee, so… that was a bit… real…
Richard: Ja. Also, she couldn’t hear. So I would say “cut!” and she would keep crawling! So you were “Watch out! Watch out!”
Alexander: She was still coming, she carry on trying to get you!
LfF: Richard, it’s always great to see practical effects. Was that the plan all along, or did you ever consider CGI?
Richard: No. That was rule number one: limit CGI to the minimum. So, the movie shall be made, I said, “let’s pretend that we are living in 1975 and making this movie”. So no computers at all. If you do that then your creativity works differently, and, I think, in a more interesting way. The detours you have to take are much more interesting than the shortcuts.
LfF: I like that. Are you planning on making a sequel?
Richard: I’m keeping… I keep the option alive… I’ve got, also, a story… but no concrete plans yet.
THE LIVE FOR FILMS QUICK FIRE ROUND
LfF: I’ve got some quick fire stuff now, for both of you…
LfF: What is the first film you remember seeing in the cinema?
Richard: Pink Panther.
Alexander: Ahhhhh… God… It was probably some Russian cartoon film, or something… I can’t remember.
LfF: What do you think of 3D?
Richard: I hate it! It’s distracting.
Alexander: Yeah, I’d probably second that. Umm… I was intrigued at first, just to check it out, but ultimately… it should be about story. That’s why people go to the cinema…
Alexander: …and if you’re just going to see effects then you might as well just watch music videos.
LfF: Salted or sweet popcorn?
Richard: You’re sweet enough!
Alexander: More like sweet and sour?
LfF: If you could make, or star in, a remake of any horror film, which would it be and what part would you play?
Richard: Plan 9 From Outer Space. But I would make an animation, like in Tim Burton style.
Alexander: Next question!
Richard and I both still wait expectantly…
Alexander: Plan 9 From Outer Space? Whatever Richard wants to cast me in.
LfF: If you could get killed by any movie monster, which would it be and what would your last words be?
Richard: The Thing? Yeah.
Alexander: Yeah! The Thing or the alien from Alien.
Richard: And my last words would be: “Don’t forget to turn off the stove! ARGH!”
Everyone laughs a wee bit hysterically.
Alexander: I have no idea, that’s really thrown me!
LfF: Richard and Alexander, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me. It was lovely to meet you both and have a great FrightFest!
Frankenstein’s Army is released on DVD on the 30th of September.
Thanks to the Fetch lovelies for organising my interview.
For more FrightFest 2013 coverage head here.