Q&A: Steven C. Miller on what’s “UNDER THE BED”Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Samuel Zimmerman
Steven C. Miller, the prolific independent filmmaker whose varied career has already explored zombies, killer Santas, Banshees and home invasion has found his inner adolescent for monster movie UNDER THE BED. It’s a film that attempts to marry the junior high-aged adventures of kids-in-danger 80s staples and the more gore-hungry sensibilities of (not much) older horror fans. Fango spoke to Miller about trying to find a sweet spot in between.
In UNDER THE BED (on VOD July 3, in limited theatrical release July 19 and on DVD July 30), Neal (Jonny Weston) has returned from a two-year exile following his tragic attempt to defeat the creature under his bed, 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 and 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.”
FANGORIA: You’ve already had a pretty varied career within the genre, but this still feels like something of a departure. I’m curious what your relationship to the script was. Were you searching for something that called for a more mannered approach?
STEVEN C. MILLER: It was something that was brought to me very early on—even before the script was written—as an idea between me, [producer] Brad Miska and [producer] Zak Zeman. We just had an idea for what we could do. I expressed that what I’ve done in the past and what I wanted to do with this, so I wasn’t just repeating myself with every movie. I feel like all my movies are varied, and so I just wanted to keep that trend and do something a little bit outside my comfort zone; obviously a little slower, more controlled. With that, I was pretty involved with the process.
FANG: As varied as your stuff has been, what subset of the genre did you connect most with as a kid?
MILLER: I think I just connected to the idea of kids dealing with adult situations and adult themes. I guess that’s what really attracted me to this, because I grew up in that 80s world of THE GOONIES and E.T. and those kinds of movies where these kids are put in a situation where adults don’t believe them, so they have to deal with the problems themselves. I think that’s a subgenre today’s audience doesn’t see and that nobody sort of focuses on kids and horror movies for kids. So, I was just curious how far I could take a horror movie with kids and sort of push that boundary a little bit. Even if it didn’t get too crazy, I just felt like I could take it farther than what had been done before. That’s something that I really gravitated towards in the project.
FANG: The films you’re recalling in UNDER THE BED were either prior to, or during a certain period of PG-13, do you think that’s why we’re not seeing films like that anymore?
MILLER: Yea, when you look at a movie like THE GATE or even LITTLE MONSTERS for that matter, I tried to watch that with my kid just the other day and had to turn it off. It was intense, she was crying. I remember watching those movies and thinking this was the standard. I think because of the ratings system now, you just do not see that. I don’t know really what it is other than maybe some correlation with cartoons now and how cartoons are so different from where they were in the 80s and early 90s and where they are now. They’re obviously not as violent.
I think that translates into what movies we feed our kids now. I just wanted to try something that people weren’t watching and give them something a little bit different. Say, for that world of the teens from the 12-15 range. If they watch this movie, I want them to have a good time and also the parents to sort of get into it, and the people of our generation, to have that third act for them.
FANG: The film can appeal to both an older crowd and an adolescent crowd that’s discovering genre and what they like. Do you think with the VOD and limited theatrical of a lot of indie horror these days is reaching them?
MILLER: I hope so. I think there’s more of an audience out there looking at the VOD market then there ever has been before. I think the VOD market is growing and there’s this blurred line between what’s theatrical and what’s VOD, because they’re doing all these great things about premiering it on VOD to get word out and then doing a theatrical release after. I think there’s something to be said about the people that are just wanting to sit at home and watch movies, versus the people that are happy to get out there and see the tent poles. I hope the audience is there and I think it’s definitely growing, and I think it’s a good time for this movie to test that market and see if people are out there and hungry for this type of thing.
FANG: What was the challenge of creating what is “under the bed” on what’s most likely a modest budget?
MILLER: We had a shoestring budget, we shot this movie in fifteen days, and so to create the “under the bed” world, the idea was I built the interior house set—so everything interior house was built on a stage, and we used a lot of money to do that—and the reason to do that was when I got to the “under the bed” world, basically all I did was take all of the sets we had built and turn them inside out and put sheets over them and painted them all up so the “under the bed” world still felt like the house. It was just sort of like the upside down version of the house. Being able to do that was what really allowed us to have fun in the “under the bed” world and make it feel different and a little bit bigger than what it was. That was the idea, and I was looking at NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST and how they did when they went through the bedsheets. We only had a day to shoot that, so definitely a challenge but one of the things I enjoy in my movies is challenging myself on things that most people say are impossible to do on that kind of money and budget.