Q+A: Director Lowell Dean on his CineCoup Top Five Finalist WOLFCOP
It’s crunch time for pending horror-comedy WOLF COP, a Canadian-based entry in the Cine-coup Film Accelerator contest which will see an independent director awarded with a million dollars in order to complete production. The film was fan-voted one of five top projects that will be sent to Banff before a final jury at the Banff World Media Festival.
WOLFCOP is the brain-child of Saskatoon director Lowell Dean, most notable for his 2012 zombie vehicle 13 EERIE. The movie, in its nascent stages, will follow the schizoid exploits of “Lou Garou,” a small-town sheriff who might just provide a new twist to the phrase “good cop, bad cop.” If it is accepted, the project, in addition to receiving funds, will also be guaranteed release in select Cineplex Odeon theatres. The top-winning film will be announced on June 10th.
As part of a larger werewolf piece planned for Fangoria later this summer, I questioned Dean for his take the role of werewolves in horror movies generally, and what his unique variation has to offer.
For more on the project visit: http://wolfcop.com.
FANGORIA: In recent years, it seems that werewolves have been relegated to a lower status, and possibly that interest in that monster is on the wane? Your work is an example, however, that it is alive in the “underground,” and that the werewolf is still a malleable character in terms of narrative. What are you trying to achieve with this particle werewolf, and why?
LOWELL DEAN: I don’t think interest in werewolves is dying. I think – like most things in pop culture be it other monster films or superheroes – popularity is cyclical. There may be lulls in which we have fewer werewolf films, but since the release of the original Wolf Man the character is an iconic staple of cinema. There will always be some form of dual identity character on the big screen – be it a new DR. JECKYLL AND MR. HYDE film or THE INCREDIBLE HULK.
In my personal opinion, the werewolf is underused right now and has great potential. Not just as a CGI puppy or as a sidekick to a vampire. I think the concept is ripe for development. I can tell there is still a strong desire for a new spin on the Wolf Man just based on the reaction we’ve been getting for our WOLFCOP trailer. People are really getting behind the idea!
FANG: One of the usual themes with the man/wolf dualism is that the man is tortured by his condition, and either embraces it (such as the father figure in the Wolfman remake, or the creepy stepdad in BIG BAD WOLF) or struggles with the horror of his behaviours – such as in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. Where does your wolf sit, psychologically?
DEAN: WOLFCOP, like most werewolf stories, is about internal conflict. In a way I think of it as a superhero origin story, so we get to see the character wrestle with a few extremes. At first our police officer Lou Garou is in disbelief that he could even be a werewolf, but once the reality of it sinks in, he adapts to his new condition and – as you’ll see in the film – he seems to almost relish his new found powers. Ironically, becoming a monster makes him want to be a better man, and a better cop. Which is much easier said than done when you now have really long, sharp claws.
FANG: Most die hard werewolf fans dislike CGI effects, simply because the wolf looks cartoonish and loses its “hulking” quality. I am in this category, and feel that creative transformation scenes and shot angles fill in the gaps where the “reality principal” is concerned. What challenges did you have with your makeup and how would you assess your monster in terms of the finished product and possibly as he relates to other werewolf archetypes (he’s clothed so that seems to make his humanity a stronger feature).
DEAN: I prefer practical effects when it comes to my monsters, as much as possible. I think there is something to be said for actually SEEING the creature there, in person. The weight, the movement – it looks real because it IS real! You know instantly what works and what doesn’t. Plus, I happen to be good friends with a very talented practical effects artist, Emersen Ziffle. He created the zombie-like creatures for 13 EERIE, my first feature film.
Emersen has a natural talent for bringing monsters to life that would otherwise just exist in your nightmares. We had lengthy discussions about the look of the WOLFCOP character, and spent time refining it and doing makeup tests. I really want to walk the line between humanity and monster with this character. We don’t want him to just look like a guy in a mask, but some of the fun of the character comes from this beast doing human things. We want him to be equal parts beast and man. Sometimes he’ll smile and you’ll see shades of a friendly TEEN WOLF, but before you can go in for a high five… he’ll rip your arms off.
FANG: One of the new roles for werewolves in the last decade is that of the “henchman” or the other/and creature who plays off of a vampire as central villain. Obviously your guy is not a villain. How complex is he?
DEAN: I hate when werewolves are relegated to the henchman role, like the pet for the main boss villain. We are taking a different approach because not only is our werewolf the protagonist, but he is also arguably a hero, or at least a hero in progress. He’s still very much a monster, but you will be rooting for him. This film is like an origin story for WOLFCOP. His issues are far from resolved by the end of the script, but there is hope for him. Hope that he can either keep his inner-monster in check… or at least use it for the forces of good.
FANG: What drew you to werewolves? Have you been a big consumer of the genre? Do you reference or draw upon other works with WOLFCOP?
DEAN: I’ve loved werewolves since I saw TEEN WOLF as a kid. I saw AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON in my teen years, and it is one of my favorite films to this day. I aspire to make something that can walk the line of horror and comedy, with an added twist of the hero’s journey for this project. When I was writing the script, I referenced mostly detective films and superhero origin films for the main beats of the story, but WOLFCOP has a far greater learning curve than most heroes so there is a lot of absurd moments and ridiculous violence thrown in along the way. It is just such a fun idea to play with; the whole notion of dual identity, and of getting to do such bad things and somehow not being responsible for it!
FANG: To you, judging from what you’ve seen in recent years; is the Werewolf always going to be inconsistent in terms of its role in films, and does it really matter if he/she is a central (Hollywood) monster again?
DEAN: I think that both the quantity and quality of werewolf movies is often inconsistent in Hollywood, but it is a resilient character. Sometimes all it takes is a twist on the formula to breathe new life into something. I am hoping WOLFCOP will be a return to form for fans of the retro-style werewolf and practical effects, but I am also hoping it opens up a whole new audience to werewolf films; perhaps those who are more fans of police films, or mystery films, or films about superheroes. I think the werewolf will have it’s day again. Even if it’s only once in a blue moon. (sorry…I couldn’t resist.)
FANG: What kind of response have you had to this project in terms of both fans and the industry?
DEAN: The response to our WOLFCOP concept trailer and our whole CineCoup campaign has been phenomenal! Reactions have been overwhelmingly positive from both industry sites and our fans on the CineCoup page. It is very validating. There is clearly a large audience for this type of film, and fans of horror have already embraced the character in all his hairy absurdity! They understand that it is both dark and serious… yet clearly a bit campy too. Their passion and interest has driven me to keep fighting to get this movie made! I just want to do it, and do it right.