Earlier this month, Dread Central was invited to the set of Yummy Meat: A Halloween Carol, directed by John Fitzpatrick (Skypemare) and written by our own Sean Decker (L.A. Slasher), to check out shooting on an especially gore effects-heavy day – that’s our favorite kind!
We headed out to Northridge in the San Fernando Valley area of Southern California, where the scary short was being shot in a private residence – which makes sense since the action takes place on Halloween night, when the kids are out trick-or-treating in a suburban neighborhood.
We caught up with John and Sean, plus got to take two of the actors aside between gruesome scenes – check out our exclusive interviews here. We also saw some of the amazing costuming (full-on werewolf!) and various gooey body parts cast from one of the more unfortunate actors (whose character doesn’t quite make it intact till the end). Below are some cool pics plus a couple of exclusives you’ll only see here.
Yummy Meat: A Halloween Carol stars Miracle Laurie (“Dollhouse”), Lou Ferrigno, Jr., Luke Albright (Devil’s Pass), and Lucas Jaye (“Fuller House”); producers are Adam J. Yeend, Ryan Dillon, Sarah Fitzpatrick, John Fitzpatrick, Brian Chandler, and Jessica Chandler with Sean Decker as a co-producer. Its synopsis reads: On Halloween night, snarky dentist Amber (Laurie) passes out toothbrushes to the neighborhood kids, only to discover that one of them may soon be brushing bits of her from his teeth.
You can find the film online TODAY via the “Scary Endings” platform. Be sure to subscribe to their YouTube channel too so you don’t miss any episodes! In addition, if you’re in or near Los Angeles, Yummy Meat has been selected to premiere out of competition at Screamfest on Sunday, October 18, at 7:30 PM. Cast and crew will be on the red carpet at 7PM.
Up first was director Fitzpatrick:
Dread Central: I’ve been watching the shoot, and you’re really taking your time to get just the right shots. You’re packing a lot into a five-minute, or close to five-minute, short film. Still, you have to be able to say a lot in a very short amount of time.
John Fitzpatrick: Yes, you can’t take as much time in the story. The other thing about it, especially for online shorts, is you have to keep it moving. So while this particular scene is just a conversation on the phone and someone at a doorway, there’s many ways to just have somebody on the phone. It could become boring and just be somebody sitting on the phone so we incorporate a lot of movement and moving around the house, which spans as a lot more time and more shots, so you don’t feel as if you’re sitting in one spot because it’s packing a lot of visuals — not just visual effects and wolves and crazy things, but also visual landscape.
DC: How would describe your visual style as a director?
JF: That is actually a really good question because lately I’ve been evolving, and my most direct reference always has been, even when I was younger and just dabbling in it and messing around, Hitchcock. I enjoy longer play, very well blocked scenes. But this is different from that; we’re doing it a little bit, but we’re also moving a lot so I’d say it’s kind of an evolution. It definitely has some 70’s feel [where] we are letting the scenes play without moving the camera so it’s definitely steady cam versus dolly where we move around. But lately I have been like, “Whatever the script says, I adopt it.” I’m trying to develop myself in multiple ways to shoot something.
DC: You have to be very versatile these days, don’t you?
JF: I would love to do features as a living. I also think doing an episode of television would be fantastic. There’s some groundbreaking, amazing things with stories because of technology with camera[s] and people are able to break through what used to be just boring or simple or basic just to fit the schedule. They can do some pretty amazing things now so yeah, just the tools to try and develop that, because you have to move faster in that space. You have to know it quicker, and know the tools, so it’s just practicing with the tools.
DC: Out of all the elements of Sean Decker’s script, which I thought was pretty amazing due to the fact that it’s only five pages long; yet. there’s humor, there’s horror, there’s suspense… what specific aspect of that made you most excited about directing Yummy Meat?
JF: The lighthearted nature, the lighthearted fun, comedic side of the horror genre. We’re not afraid to have fun; the character is fun, even the end is fun. It’s not disgusting and gross; it’s fun. The series that’s part of “Scary Endings” is meant to be fun; some people call it cliché, but it’s not. It’s using the tropes, and it’s getting back to the fun of it. Best reference would be when [Steven] Spielberg and [George] Lucas chose to make Raiders of the Last Ark — it was fun, and you [can’t] take any of that too seriously… Same idea [here]; just have some fun with the format, the genre, and the tools of the genre; and see what you can do to change it a little bit your way, shade it your way, and make it fun. That’s what we’ve been doing with the whole series. We’ve done one with a boogeyman, we’ve done one with a haunted ghost, now the werewolf, and [it’s not] like, “Whoa, this is so brand new; we’ve never seen any other before,” but we have fun with it. It’s just taking the same thing that we’ve seen before and having some fun with it. The best analogy would be, if you’re talking about entertainers, you’ve got David Copperfield and some of the big crazy effects magic tricks he’s done, but it’s the same tricks we’ve already seen. His does set up a little bit different: He cuts the lady in half way cooler.
DC: How did you get Lou Ferrigno, Jr., to get into this all-engulfing werewolf costume and makeup? He said he’s never done anything like this before.
JF: But that’s exactly how: We reached out to him through one of the co-producers, Adam [Yeend], that knows him and basically said, “Hey, you’ve never done anything like that before.” He’s been boyfriends, he’s been business associates on TV, he’s been every other normal thing, but he’s never done anything like this. So he’s said, “Man, I’d love to do something like that for fun; it sounds like a good time.” So he came on board, we met him, we hit it off, he seemed to understand, he was on the same page; we were having fun.
DC: He’s not the method actor of werewolves.
Speaking of Ferrigno, here’s what he had to say about the project:
Dread Central: I was watching the insert shots, and you were doing take after take, just swiping the werewolf claw by the camera. They want you to be so precise with those hand movements!
Lou Ferrigno, Jr.: I know, it takes a lot, but it’s worth it.
DC: Definitely. So, what did you think when you first read the script? Did you realize that you’d be in such a full-on body costume?
LFJ: It’s silicone and it doesn’t breathe, but it’s nice. The first feeling is nice; then you get into it, and then you’re sweating, and you get more into it, and you’re all fur. But it’s good; it’s actually less than I thought I would be in it [I only wear portions of the costume for close-ups], which is great. I thought it would be a full-body latex kind of silicone. Everyone’s really cool about keeping me in the costume as minimal as possible, and that’s cool.
DC: Have you done costume work before or stunts?
LFJ: I’ve done a lot stunt work, a lot of stage combat stuff, but never as a werewolf so it’s a first!
DC: Well, your co-star Miracle [Laurie] was saying this is her first horror film and she was excited about getting into the attack aspect of it; do you feel the same?
LFJ: I’ve always believed that my spirit animal is a wolf and people told me it is a wolf so I think I’m halfway there. And I was raised as a kid with a dad who is a transformational type of character [“The Incredible Hulk”] so any opportunity to play something where you lose yourself and transform is just appealing. So it’s cool; this is exciting.
DC: How did you come on board with this? Are you friends with the director, the producers?
LFJ: I knew Adam; we met at a couple of auditions and basically forged a relationship from that. We kept in contact, and then he needed someone who could fit the bill physically for this, and he asked me to jump on board. I didn’t hesitate, and now I’m just really excited about it.
DC: Did you read the script first?
LFJ: Yeah, and I didn’t hesitate.
DC: Such a killer role, right?
LFJ: Yeah, so it’s nice. I’ve played a lot of roles where I died, and I’m kind of over the dying thing. I wanted to do the killing.
DC: Are you a fan of the season Halloween? It’s not only a theme of this film, but the holiday is coming up.
LFJ: Absolutely. I love candy, I love scary, I love creepy, I love all that stuff. It’s just the blood and the gore that gets to me sometimes. It gets a little too close to home; it gets a little too real.
DC: The fangs look so real, and so does the replica of the person’s face.
LFJ: It really does because it’s the mold of her face, so it’s actually really close. But when it comes to the blood and the guts, then I’m like, “Okay…” but everything beyond that, the suspense, the other stuff, it’s just really great and excites me to a point where it’s like, “Wow!”
DC: There’s a lot of suspense in this, for being a five-page script. I don’t know how long it’s going to actually be edited to, but still it’s amazing how there are three distinct acts and there’s suspense.
LFJ: Totally. When I saw John’s work, whether it be Skypemares or a couple other ones he did, I was floored with how little they’re working with and how great professionally it came out to feel. And just the way it was written, the way the camera was set up, the lighting was such a great combination of factors that led to a really refined product, so when I saw this, I was like, “You’re going to do a werewolf short now?”
DC: Is there anything else that you’re working on that’s coming up soon we could check out?
LFJ: I’m doing an action hero character in a Nickelodeon show. My range recently has been kind of broad so I go from a werewolf to action superstar within a month. It’s a lot of work, impressive stuff. I try to keep it as busy as possible, and every minute of it is fun.
We next chatted with the aforementioned Miracle Laurie:
Dread Central: I read the script, and I just love your character. How did you get to play this awesome role?
Miracle Laurie: I‘m good friends with Adam and Ryan [Dillon], who are some of the producers on the show [“Scary Endings”], and they have been trying to get me to do a couple of episodes, so this is the one that worked out. When I read Sean’s script, I just thought it was fantastic, and I was laughing out loud at parts and thought that Amber was great and hysterical. Then I was terrified at moments even reading the script, and I was nervous to shoot; I’ve never done anything in this genre before. I’m kind of a wuss actually.
DC: You’re getting quite an education, aren’t you?
ML: I love every second of it, so it was an easy “Yes.” The last couple of days have been amazing… so it’s been a dream really. It’s a lot of fun.
DC: What was it like getting your face cast and now seeing this disembodied face just lying around on the set?
ML: It’s amazing! It’s something I got to be excited about; I loved every second of it. Juli Hapney, the makeup artist, did the life cast for me; she was so gentle and just kind of walked me through everything and said, “It’s all going to be okay.” I think she said “2 hours” and I thought I would freak out really hard, but it ended up being like 45 minutes. She’s a pro.
DC: She cast your whole face?
ML: We did the whole face so I had little breath holes. It was from the top of my forehead down to underneath my chin. I could still hear what she was doing. My husband, he’s an actor too, and he did a full head, front, and back and hair down to the shoulder, for another job… that might freak me out a little.
DC: Some people say they get very “zen” about it, while other people are like, “Get me out of here!”
ML: Yeah, that can happen. The first part, which is putting the goo on – I don’t know if that’s the technical term – it just felt so heavy on my face and going over my eyes and mouth, and I was like, “I can’t see and I can’t breathe.” It’s when I imagined being scared a lot so that five minutes was terrifying, and then it was really fine. It was really fast. I brought my face to set yesterday just without any beauty make-up and effects make-up on it, and I just couldn’t believe that it really works, but I’ve never done this before. To see it happen and to see my face, it was like, “Oh my god, these are my lips, my eyeballs!” And then when they painted her up and did the whole face, it was amazing. It’s really fun; it’s terrifying. Everyone was taking pictures of me all excited, and then they get a little bit sad and go, “Is she okay?” So it’s good; she did a great job.
DC: When you read the script, which is only five pages but there’s so much in it, which part were you most looking forward to?
ML: I was excited to see my face in the bucket. I went like, “Ooh, how are they going to do that?” So that’s been a treat. And I love werewolves actually, and I love Halloween. I loved every inch of it; it was just perfect for me. I love Halloween; I love getting dressed up for the holiday. I just think that it’s the sweet side of it, the funky side of it, I love every side of it. The werewolf story, she was funny, I thought the character was great.
DC: The exchange that she had with the kid at the door… kind of mature content…
ML: I had to shoot some parts of it before he got here because he’s a minor. It’s a very touchy situation, but he was a total pro. I think he was a little nervous about having to be angry actually, and it was interesting because he’s such a sweetheart. I think I was just like, “Oh no,” but then we locked eyes, and he was just in it; it was amazing, and then we were two professionals working together. I’ve never worked together with kids before either. There are so many firsts.
DC: Your character, Amber, is kind of fussy. Did you know anybody like that when you were growing up who would have actually given kids toothbrushes as a Halloween treat?
ML: I definitely knew some neighbors that would do stuff like that. Think it’s just hilarious. I think it’s a good character choice and really fun to put in the script, but yeah, we definitely had people like that. Or they just shut their lights off and didn’t participate in Halloween at all.
DC: When you were a kid, what was one of your favorite costumes?
ML: I’m pretty tall; I’m 5’9-1/2″, and I was a foot ahead of everybody my whole childhood growing up. So I was freakishly tall compared to everybody else. One year my parents… and this is like back when you would get a costume from CVS… it was kind of a suit down here and then plastic with a little thing on it with shitty strings… so it was one of those. They had me as Tweety Bird and my sister as Sylvester the Cat, and she was two feet shorter than me so it was so funny, and I was like, “The bird could get the cat.” But I thought it was really funny so as a kid that was my favorite.
DC: What do you like best about Halloween now as an adult?
ML: My husband and I both love Halloween so we throw a party every year that we can. We just think it’s great, and we love making goody bags for everybody, all the guests. We always do a costume contest. I demand people to dress up; there’s no point coming to a Halloween party if you’re not dressed up.
DC: That’s cool because a lot of actors say, “Well, I play dress up for a living so I don’t like Halloween.”
ML: Oh, I love it! That’s the reason to love it because if you look at it the other way, you could dress up as things you could never be cast as, right? It could be an opportunity. It’s so playful, I just love it, and I think you get that sense of being a kid. And honestly, I’m finding working in the genre for the first time that I think there’s a sense of that going around. There’s a joy and a playfulness in everybody. Like meeting Sean, I was so pleasantly surprised at how sweet he is; he’s so smart, I love the script, and I’m so happy to know him. I’m so happy to know these people; it has been a total dream for me.
Wrapping things up, we talked with sweetheart Sean:
Dread Central: I know you love Halloween, but how did this particular idea come to you, and was it in answer to, or inspired by, the new Tales of Halloween anthology?
Sean Decker: No, although Mike Mendez [producer of Tales of Halloween] read it recently and said that it would have been a perfect fit, which was quite nice of him to say. The inspiration partially came from a real-life experience as a young trick or treater in northern California. There was a woman who, instead of candy, handed out toothbrushes to the neighborhood kids. Needless to say, we all tried to avoid that house. The other influence I suppose is the “Buffy” episode “Halloween” from Season 2. I’ve always loved that one. But primarily it came from my appreciation of Fitzpatrick’s film Skypemare and its aesthetic and tone. John had suggested we work together following our initial meeting when that film played Screamfest in 2013, and though it took a while, when the light bulb went off, I wrote the script in about two hours. Fortunately, John and his “Scary Endings” people gushed over it.
DC: Is everything being done as you envisioned?
SD: Honestly, I feel as if this project couldn’t be in better hands. John and I have a very similar taste in horror and speak in total shorthand. From early on in pre-production, we’ve pretty much completed each other’s sentences. He really just “gets” it.
DC: How quickly did your cast come together, who plays whom, and which is your favorite character?
SD: It came together fairly quickly. John, Adam and I discussed the casting at length, and I’m thrilled with who we got. Lou’s physicality and body performance as the wolf were just great, and there aren’t enough compliments in the world to bestow on Miracle, who plays my absolute favorite character of “Amber.” I really had a great time writing her. She’s sassy, strong, fun, and I think a complete dichotomy; and Miracle fell in love with the character. I had to stifle laughter during her takes while we were shooting. She was that funny, and we really bonded during the shoot.
DC: What were Halloweens like for you as kid? What did you like best — the candy or the costumes?
SD: Growing up just outside San Francisco in suburbia, Halloween was a big deal. My mom made me hand-made costumes every year, and the entire neighborhood would open their homes to us kids. One homeowner for a couple of years running, who had an FX background, even turned his garage into a haunted house. At the front of the haunt’s queue (which was free) and I remember this vividly, was a severed, suspended animatronic head that would speak directly to those in line. The queue was mic’ed up, and a hidden operator would eavesdrop on our conversations and pick up our names. By the time I’d get to the front of the line, the head would look at me and say, “Hello, Sean.” Scared the hell out of me and made me grin ear to ear at the same time.
DC: Tell us a little more about this web series, when we can expect to see Yummy Meat online, and whether you’ll have a hand in the editing.
SD: John and his team started “Scary Endings” in an effort to create fresh fright content monthly via that platform, content that’s consistent in its quality (that’s the goal), and also just to “create.” It’s so important to do that. To simply make things, and to do so with people you respect and truly enjoy to be around, and that’s been my experience with John and his crew. It’s absolutely a family environment, and they are the nicest, most talented group of people I know. There isn’t an ego in the bunch. As far as editing, I’ll be in the mix, certainly with notes once we have a first pass. I’m really excited to see it. I feel more like a fan than I do the person who wrote it!