Earlier this week, we brought you an exclusive clip from the upcoming dark fantasy comedy/horror film The Cleanse. The story of a heartbroken man who goes on a spiritual retreat only to create a real life monster, the movie is the first feature-length film from Bobby Miller, whose short films have been making waves in the festival circuit for nearly a decade.
Today, we’ve got an interview with Miller, who takes us through the process of writing this film, what it was like to work with such a phenomenal cast, and what he’s got next on his plate, as well as some other fun topics! We’ve also got some really cool behind-the-scenes photos that show how the practical creatures came to life on set.
“A heartbroken man attends a spiritual retreat to cleanse himself and fix his broken life. There he meets a fellow lost soul, and together they discover that “the cleanse” releases more than everyday toxins…a lot more.”
Directed by Bobby Miller, The Cleanse stars Johnny Galecki, Anjelica Huston, Anna Friel, Oliver Platt, and Kevin J. O’Connor. It comes out this Friday, May 4.
Dread Central: Tell me about the inspiration for writing this script.
Bobby Miller: I grew up on the films of Joe Dante, Tim Burton, and Steven Spielberg and, when I got older, John Carpenter and David Cronenberg. This being my first feature I think a lot of those influences and inspirations are jumbled up inside of it. I hope with The Cleanse and my two shorts Tub and End Times that I’ve cleared my own path though.
DC: The story plays with all sorts of genres, from comedy to fantasy and certainly with horror elements. How did you juggle and balance those genres in your script?
BM: I think of the film as having a certain wavelength. And my job is to keep all of these elements within that wavelength. The funny or surreal elements can’t go too far above (or below) that wavelength in my head or else you run the risk of it feeling tonally uneven or misshapen. It’s hard to articulate, but it’s something I take great joy managing, and I believe the film has a unique vibe all its own.
DC: What were some of the pros and cons of directing a film based on your own script?
BM: I think the thing you always worry about with directing your own writing is being objective with the material. I’m particularly hard on myself and my writing so if something doesn’t feel right I’m usually the first one to want to throw it out and figure out something else. The other important thing is to work with collaborators who will speak up if something feels off. I seek out folks who won’t just pat me on the back and say “good job.” All of the actors and Jordan Horowitz, my producer, really wanted to make the best film possible because we all responded to the central premise. I think that’s how you keep the cons of directing your own writing in check.
DC: The creatures in the film are both adorable and terrifying. What was the process of picking the right design for these critters?
BM: I was really into the idea that our inner demons, our baggage, was something that can be initially cute at first. Like, a character being socially awkward at a party is usually really endearing and lovable in a movie. But, in real life, if that social anxiety isn’t kept in check, it can fester and become ugly. So, that was the metaphorical reason for the “cute to ugly” design of the creatures. And from there it was just scouring the internet for great artists. It all started with Brent Hollowell and Shreya Shetty. Their paintings are what we brought to the practical FX team to the creature the puppets, animatronics, and even man-in-suit creatures.
DC: The Cleanse has a stellar cast. What was it like to work with Anjelica, Oliver, and Kevin?
BM: All of these folks are legends to me. They couldn’t have been more of a pleasure and brought so much to the film. I’m a big fan of Anjelica and have a particularly soft spot for when she does stuff like The Witches. So, having her step back into the world of weird fantasy/horror on this film was a huge honor. Oliver’s role could have been just a stereotypical “bad guy” role, but he imbued it with human frailty and really grounded the film and it’s third act. And Kevin. Kevin is super intense. There was a scene that he literally beat himself up before the take. I remember Johnny Galecki saying, ‘Shit, man. I need to up my game.’
DC: IMDb lists Steve Blum as the voice of the monster. I have to know, what was it like in the studio getting him to make those monster sounds?
BM: Oh man! It was so fun. Steve would come up with these noises, and the sound mixer and I were like, ‘How are these coming out of a human being?’ And he did ALL of the creatures and monsters in the film. It’s tour-de-force. We were very lucky to have him.
DC: Would you undergo Ken Roberts’ cleanse program?
BM: Totally! I think a lot of people would. You get to finally face the crap that’s been festering inside you? With the hope of putting an end to it? I’m on board. All I have to do is a vomit up a creature? Sign me up.
DC: What are you going to be working on next?
BM: I’m really excited about this bigger creature feature and supernatural television show idea I’ve been polishing up. I’ll be taking that around and seeing if anyone is interested in making them. And I just finished a short film called End Times, which is touring the festival circuit and just won an award in Boston.