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Exclusive: Director Steven C. Miller Talks Monsters and More for Under the Bed

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Exclusive: Director Steven C. Miller Talks Monsters and More for Under the BedArriving in limited theatres July 19th and on Blu-ray/DVD July 30th is indie horror maverick Steven C. Miller’s latest project, the super creepy and equally fun Under the Bed.

A modern horror fable for a new generation of creature lovers out there, Under the Bed, which is already available on VOD platforms everywhere, follows two brothers named Neal (Jonny Weston) and Paul (Gattlin Griffith), who are dealing with a monster lurking underneath their bed which comes out to terrorize them every night when the lights go out. Their parents aren’t much help at all (of course), forcing Neal and Paul to defend themselves alone against the supernatural menace living beneath their bed.

Dread Central recently chatted with Miller about what inspired his kid-centric (but still fun for adults) horror project, more on the monster mythology we didn’t get to see in Under the Bed, a tease of the always busy indie filmmaker’s upcoming projects and much more.

Dread Central: Because you’re a dad now, did that inform your decision at all to make a kid-friendly horror movie?

Steven C. Miller: In some ways it definitely did. I think the basic idea that Brad (Miska), Zak (Zeman) and I had was that no one these days was really making horror movies for kids; Joe Dante made The Hole recently, but other than that, there weren’t any other movies being made for that audience. So the basic idea was, how far could we take a kid’s horror movie? I wanted to hearken back to movies like The Gate or Little Monsters or The Goonies, movies that were pretty frightening but were still meant for younger audiences. Ultimately, I just wanted to do a kid-friendly horror movie where we could still see some of the kids get their heads ripped off by monsters (laughs).

Dread Central: What’s interesting to me is that many of your films involve people moving around a lot or settling into a new environment- is that a conscious choice at all on your part?

Steven C. Miller: Wow; I never really thought about it that way, but I think you’re right! As a kid, we were always constantly moving, kind of like a military family does, so maybe subconsciously I put some of that into my films.

Dread Central: Well, let’s talk a bit about Jonny and Gattlin, who played the heroes of Under the Bed; I thought they had some really nice moments together in this. How was it collaborating with them?

Steven C. Miller: They were both awesome; I think this may be my favorite core cast I’ve ever worked with. Gattlin’s done some great minor roles so I knew he was going to be great, but when we got the two of them alone in a room together and just let them work together, it was perfect. If that relationship didn’t work, Under the Bed wasn’t going to work.

Because I grew up with brothers myself and we did everything together, I imagined that these brothers would be the same way. And that included taking on the monster. They would want to tackle this problem themselves because the adults in their lives don’t understand them at all. So we knew we needed two kids that could still act like kids but hold their own also in some of the more ‘adult’ situations they were put into.

Dread Central: I thought some of the mythology you and Eric (Stolze, writer) worked into the story was really interesting with the monsters, especially the bits about them feeding off dead skin cells. That’s definitely something I haven’t seen in a monster movie before and thought it was kind of cool.

Steven C. Miller: Oh thanks! I think some of the ideas for the monsters came from my nightmares, and Eric was really great at figuring out just how the monsters would transition in and out of our world and what would be the catalyst for that. That’s where the dead skin cells idea came in. I watched one of the gross mattress commercials that would show you all of the crap stuck to your mattress and it was kind of crazy seeing how we sleep in millions and millions of dead skin cells on our bed and mattress and don’t even realize it. Eric found a great way to use that as fuel for the monster, which I really thought was a nice twist and something you don’t see being done too often in the movies.

Dread Central: It seems like you guys had a lot of ideas about this world going into Under the Bed; did you ever consider incorporating other monsters at all into this story? Is that something that you’re maybe thinking about for a sequel- introducing us to more monsters?

Steven C. Miller: Oh for sure. A lot of what didn’t make it into the movie ended up being cut from the story just because we didn’t really have the budget to do more than one monster or spend too much time in that other world. I really thought about movies like Little Monsters or even Monsters Inc., where you get to follow them into that world and get introduced to more creatures, but that just wasn’t going to happen for this. We have talked about maybe doing a sequel where we get to see more monsters, but that all depends on how Under the Bed does once it’s released.

Dread Central: What’s coming up next for you after Under the Bed‘s released?

Steven C. Miller: I’ve got two projects actually. The first one is a completely crazy action movie- like completely all action, no horror at all. The other project I’m working on is a thriller in the vein of Buried. It’s about a group of kids riding in a limo who end up going off a cliff and get trapped inside the limo underwater and have to figure a way to get out alive. I think it’s going to be really intense.

Under the Bed, the new horror/thriller from the producers of V/H/S and director Steven C. Miller (The Aggression Scale, Silent Night), stars Jonny Weston, the young star of Chasing Mavericks, and Gattlin Griffith (Green Lantern, Changeling). Written by Eric Stolze, the film also stars Peter Holden, Musetta Vander, and Kelcie Stranahan.

Synopsis:
Every child knows about the monster under the bed—Neal Hausman’s mistake was trying to fight it. Neal (Jonny Weston) has returned from a two-year exile following his tragic attempt to defeat the monster, only to find his father ticking ever closer to a breakdown, a new stepmother who fears him, and his little brother, Paul (Gattlin Griffith), terrorized by the same monster. While Neal and Paul work together to try to fight the nocturnal menace, their parents are taking desperate measures to get the family back to normal. With no support from their parents, the brothers have nothing to rely on but each other and courage beyond belief.

Under the Bed

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The Open House Review – Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here

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Starring Dylan Minnette, Piercey Dalton, Patricia Bethune, Sharif Atkins

Written by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote

Directed by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote


Mere weeks, even days, after effusively beating Netflix’s original horror content drum (The Babysitter, Before I Wake, Creep 2), I’m here to confirm that The Open House is emptier than an vacant bomb shelter. Cold, unappealing and thoughtlessly plotted to the point where “generic” would have been an improvement. From the moment we’re welcomed into Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote’s scripted imprisonment, it’s nothing but loose floorboards and busted plumbing. The home invasion genre has rarely been navigated with such little attention to detail, asking for our suspension of coherent storytelling early, often, and without earning the right to be deemed mindless genre fun. Not even Ty Pennington could save this extreme renovation disaster.

Dylan Minnette plays Logan Wallace, a track star and student who must find closure after watching his father fall victim to a fatal car accident. It is his mother Naomi’s (Piercey Dalton) idea to spend a little time away from their suburban home – escape those painful memories – so they retreat to her sister’s luxurious mountain getaway. The catch? It’s in the process of being sold and open houses are on the regular, so Naomi and Logan must vacate their temporary premises on certain days. It’s after one of these very showings that Logan begins to notice slight changes around the house, and he fears that an unwanted visitor may be in their midst. Guess what? He’s right.

To understand how little The Open House cares about conscious blueprinting, just read the poster’s tagline. “You can’t lock out what’s already inside” – right, but you could have prevented them from coming in, or checked the house to make sure they weren’t squatting, or explored numerous other possibilities to avoid this scenario. The mansion’s realtor allows prospective buyers to come and go but it’s not her job to make sure no one’s hiding in the basement? Naomi can’t even keep track of the *single* visitor she lets look around the house? It’s infuriating to see so many people neglect safety out of forced coincidence because the script couldn’t rationalize the killer’s entry any other way – a confounding strike one.

This is also a film that admits no reasoning for why its own murderer has targeted the Wallaces, or why he stokes a violent fetish when it comes to open houses. We never actually see his face, just his imposing handyman-looking attire, nor do we savor any kind of tangible backstory (his family died during their own open house and he suffered a psychotic breakdown – just give me *something*). His undefined form never demands curiosity like John Carpenter’s “The Shape” once did, because scripting is nothing more than bullet notes for basic horror movie necessities. Here he is, your bad guy – too bad he’s introduced without fear, handled without originality and unable to characterize beyond torturous kidnapper dotted lines. He’s just, you know, a guy who sneaks into open houses and kills – COMPLETE WITH A FINAL PAN-IN ON AN OPEN HOUSE SIGN WHEN HE MOVES TO HIS NEXT TARGET [eye roll into infinity].

Every scene in The Open House feels like an afterthought. “Ah, we need a way to build tension – how about a senile local woman who lives down the street and wanders aimlessly into frame?” Overplayed and in no way suitable to most her inclusions, but sure. “Oh, and we need inner conflict – what about if the breaker-iner steals Logan’s phone and frames him for later acts?” I mean, didn’t Logan canonically lose his phone even before Naomi’s mid-shower water heater issues – but sure, instant fake tension. “How are people going to believe the killer is always around and never blows his cover – think they’ll just buy it?” No, we don’t. Worse off, his cat-and-mouse game is dully repetitive until a finale that skyrockets intensity with jarring tonal imbalance. This closing, dreadful end without any sort of redemptive quality. More abusive than it is fulfilling.

If there’s anything positive worth conveying, it’s that Minnette does a fine job shuffling around as a character with severe sight impairment. The killer makes a point to remove his contacts as a final “FUCK YOU,” just to toy around a bit more, and Minnette frantically slips or stumbles with nothing more than foggy vision. Otherwise, dialogue finds itself ripped form a billion other straight-to-TV Logo dramas about broken families, no moment ever utilizing horror past a few shadowy forms standing in doorways after oblivious characters turn away. You can’t just take an overused subgenre and sleepwalk through homogenized beats…case and god-forsaken point.

Even as a streamable Netflix watch, The Open House is irredeemable beyond fault. The walls are caving in on this dilapidated excuse for home invasion horror, benefiting not from the star power of a temperamental Dylan Minnette. I have seen most involved players here in far better projects (Minnette’s stock has rightfully been skyrocketing, Matt Angel in The Funhouse Massacre, etc), but this is bargain bin theatrics without a fully formed idea. A nameless villain, doomed nice guy (Sharif Atkins), woefully unaware plot advancement – all the worst cliches found in one rage-quit worthy effort. Anyone who makes it through deserves an award…or a dunce cap.

  • The Open House
1.0

Summary

Unless you’re irrationally afraid of cold showers, The Open House fails to deliver on a premise that can be summed up by no more than two lines of text.

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Michael C. Hall Buried in Stephen King’s Pet Sematary

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Now here’s an audio book we can REALLY get behind! Entertainment Weekly is reporting that former “Dexter” star Michael C. Hall will be narrating the first ever unabridged recording of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. Sometime’s audio is better!

Readers have been asking for this audiobook for a very long time,” Stephen King said in a statement. “I know the listening experience will be worth the wait with Michael as narrator.

We’re thrilled to finally bring Pet Sematary to King’s audiobook fans,” Simon & Schuster Audio president and publisher Chris Lynch added. “Michael C. Hall is a perfect match for this timeless story, which has long deserved an unabridged production.

The unabridged audiobook of Pet Sematary will be released by Simon & Schuster Audio on March 27. Speaking of Hall… you know he would make a pretty friggin’ good casting choice to play Victor Pascow in the upcoming Pet Sematary remake. Just sayin’.

BUY IT NOW!

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Saw-inspired Game Play With Me Sets a Trap on Steam

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Saw fans have a lot to be happy about right now. In addition to Jigsaw being teased for Dead by Daylight, a new Saw-themed game called Play With Me has launched on Steam, and although it’s not officially connected with the franchise in any way, developer Airem promised that they created a videogame which looks and plays as though it were made by Jigsaw himself. As you can tell from the trailer and screenshots, the production values and overall quality of Play With Me appear to be considerably higher than most other indie horror games released on Steam, and you’ll probably be very happy to see that Airem took the time and effort to create stylized hand drawn environments rather than using purchased assets from the Unity Store.

The killer behind the sinister traps in Play With Me is known as the Illusion, with the player taking control of investigative journalist Robert Hawk as he tries to fight his way through a series of sick and twisted obstacles created by the lunatic. The voice acting in the trailer was a little cheesy, although we see at 1:09 that the player will be tasked with using a kitchen knife to cut open a dead body (presumably to retrieve an item hidden in the cadaver’s stomach), which is not an image you’ll be forgetting anytime soon.

IQ Publishing are offering a 15% discount off Play With Me for those who purchase the game before January 24, so Saw fans might want to mark that deadline in their calendars and purchase it from Steam before the time is up. After all, it can’t be worse than Konami’s awful official Saw videogames.

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