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Q&A: Michael S. Rodriguez on Short “NIGHT OF THE SEA MONKEY”

SeaMonkeyLowry

Remember those funky Sea Monkey ads wedged in the back of the comic books you ran your grubby digits over as a kid? The goofy full-pagers usually boasted bold come-ons geared towards less-savvy lads, pushing them to beg their dads for the scratch to order what was meant to be an “instant pet”; just add water and watch ‘em grow!

The illustration depicted showed a family of lithe, grinning humanoids with fleshy crowns and long tails, hanging out by some class of castle. Of course if you – like this writer – actually convinced your parents to purchase Sea Monkeys, you’ll know that they were absolutely nothing like that. In fact, if they actually worked, they were really just dehydrated brine shrimp (I think), each no bigger than a pinprick, that swirled around in water aimlessly, like sediment that never settled.

Yep, Sea Monkeys sucked, but director Michael S. Rodriguez’s short horror thriller NIGHT OF THE SEA MONKEY: A DISTURBING TALE does not.

In it, an equally easily fooled kidlet named Toby gets himself a pack of Sea Monkeys from the back of a comic and when the damn things refuse to hatch, he washes them down the drain where one of them blossoms into a full blown beastie, and an angry one at that.

Did we mention the always lovely Lynn Lowry is in it? Well she is. FANGORIA chatted a bit with Rodriguez about his aqua-simian shocker.

FANGORIA: Why Sea Monkeys? The most benign of urchins! What made you think you could spin horror out of a comic book rip-off?

MICHAEL S. RODRIGUEZ: I was a child of the 70s and early 80s, and comics and sea monkey ads were a staple of my childhood. Back then we didn’t have Google to research what they actually were, so there was some sort of mystique about them. Once a year I’d beg my parents for them… Of course they’d drop dead after two weeks of watching them through cloudy water and my mom would dump them on the lawn. Always having an active imagination, I would lay in bed thinking what if one survived and fed off the nutrients of the lawn and eventually came back for vengeance… So this story has been with me for some time.

SEAMONKEYFANG: You cast the great Lynn Lowry, a fantastic actor that never gets her proper dues. Talk about working with her and casting her.

RODRIGUEZ: Lynn was absolutely amazing! The woman is mega talented and really energized the cast to give top notch performances. Now casting Lynn is an interesting story… Lynn and I were Facebook friends and in a casual conversation last November, she had asked if I had any roles available that she might be interested in. At the time I had just finished co-writing a European thriller, but had no affiliation with the casting of the film. So I told her I had nothing at the moment, but if something develops I would definitely contact her. The end of January 2013 I woke up one morning like a man possessed and wrote a 60-page script tentatively titled NIGHT OF THE SEA MONKEY: A DISTURBING TALE. Right away I thought of Lynn and emailed her a super horrible rough draft. I was worried that she may reject the role as she is still as sultry as ever and I was asking her to play a senile grandmother. So I did what most directors do and enticed an actor by saying to her “Look you get the be the heroine of the film, plus your are senile so that gives plenty of room to ad lib and free range to act as crazy as you want.” Well, with all enticing aside, Lynn fell in love with the character and, to no surprise, knocked it out of the park. The rest is history in the making.

FANG: Can you describe the first time you saw it with an audience?

RODRIGUEZ: The first time the cast and crew watched SEA MONKEY with an audience was at the Jerome Independent Music and Film Festival in Jerome, Arizona, which is actually a ghost town on the side of a mountain. I must admit, in a rush to get SEA MONKEY submitted and selected, we sent over a very rough cut of the film. The producer Ricardo Vasquez and I were biting our nails at the opening credits and, to our amazement, the crowd went wild and even asked for an encore. Well we didn’t win Best Picture, but we were nominated for Best Horror Short of the festival. Now the second time we screened MONKEY was in my hometown of Fresno, California and Victor Miller (FRIDAY THE 13TH) happened to be in the audience. Afterwards Victor approached me and said he’d love to give a quote for our movie poster, which he very kindly did. Thanks Vic!

Since SEA MONKEY premiered in May, there has been so many wonderful blogs, reviews, film fest selections and some podcast interviews. I feel that given more time and exposure this film could snowball into something larger than I could have ever imagined.

FANG: Any plans to develop SEA MONKEY into a feature?

RODRIGUEZ: Are there plans for a SEA MONKEY feature? Well our fan base that has seen the film, and critics as well, are asking for more… So who knows, if we get a big studio attached I’m willing to take that plunge…

Campy, bloody and ludicrous, the short is a bucket of fun and is currently being sold by Rodriguez and pals via their Facebook site.

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About the author
Chris Alexander
Author, film critic, teacher, musician and filmmaker (not to mention failed boxer) Chris Alexander is the editor-in-chief of FANGORIA Magazine. He got his first professional break as the “Schizoid Cinephile” in the pages of Canadian horror film magazine RUE MORGUE before making the move to FANGO in 2007. His words have appeared in The Toronto Star, Metro News, Wired, Montage, The Dark Side, Tenebre and many other notable publications and he appears regularly on international television and radio.
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