For those of you who still don’t fear the boogeyman, I’ve got the perfect movie that shows why fearing the darkness under your bed is necessary – Steven C. Miller’s Under The Bed. Blending the heartfelt bonding of a family horror film with the absolute insanity of a gory creature feature, Miller’s film is one of the most underrated horror flicks of the year so far, and one I’m hoping I can spread the word about as quickly as possible. Not only should you try and catch Miller’s Under The Bed, but you should be on the lookout for anything this guy’s name is attached to. People always discuss rising stars in horror, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Miller’s name belongs towards the top of that list.
Ever since Steven responded via Twitter to one of my very first reviews (Silent Night), I’ve been dying to get an interview with him. Well, you can cross another name off my list, because today I had the pleasure of interviewing Steven mano y mano, and it was an absolute blast. Not only did we discuss his enchantingly creepy film Under The Bed, but we touched upon our love for Red Lobster’s cheddar-infused biscuits, Steven revealed his thoughts on using Twitter as a filmmaker, we talked about the importance of practical effects in horror, and he also gave some updates on a few upcoming projects. I hope you enjoy the conversation!
We Got This Covered: Alright Steven, I have to ask a very serious question first. I follow you on Twitter, and we had a little exchange about a discovery you made while buying groceries. Tell me, how many boxes of the Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit Mix are currently in your house as of now?
Steven C. Miller: Dude, I bought four because I’m a fucking maniac. For some reason, that’s the only reason I even go to Red Lobster half of the time. It was important that I stock up because I’ve got to teach my kid these are the best biscuits around.
We Got This Covered: [Laughing] There you go Red Lobster, a little promo for yourself. Ok, getting to Under The Bed – atmosphere was everything. Was it hard for you to hold the big reveal of your creature until later in the film? Didn’t you want people to see him from the very first second?
Steven C. Miller: Oh yeah. It’s difficult when you have a creature you feel is worthy to show. Obviously it picks the pace up, but at the same time, I felt like if I did hold back, I thought the payoff would be so extreme that the audience might actually enjoy it more. If we were going to hold it, the payoff had to be big. It had to be something grand the first time we saw the monster. It was a double-edged sword, but ultimately we just decided to wait because Under The Bed is really a movie about these brothers, and I wanted to make sure I got that across first.
We Got This Covered: Were there any reservations about killing children on screen? Some younger cast members meet some pretty grisly fates, and I know how much of a family man you are from your Tweets – did you ever think twice about the younger deaths?
Steven C. Miller: Yeah, it’s always the first thought of “Is this too extreme? Is this too much?” I just went with the gut feeling from before that if I was going to reveal this creature, I wanted to do it in a way people would remember. Plus, I felt like these kids were bratty enough at the time that you were sort of rooting for the creature to do it anyway. [Laughs] Obviously there’s a reservation, but I also feel like from a movie standpoint, and from when I grew up watching movies in the 80s, and even cartoons – I remember Tom [from Tom and Jerry] ripping the skin off of Jerry sometimes! There’s stuff like that which was so much harsher back when I was watching compared to what’s on TV now, so I really don’t think it’s much more extreme than anything I watched when I was 14 or 15. The film is really geared towards kids in that range, and I think it’s acceptable.
We Got This Covered: Did the child actors have fun with their death scenes?
Steven C. Miller: Oh man, they had a blast. I think the parents had more fun than the kids did, which was weird, but they had a really great time. They were excited. I think the first time they saw it at a premier screening they just went nuts. They had all their little buddies in there, so you hear all their friends just going crazy, so it was definitely fun for them. At least for being one of their first movies, that’s a great experience.
We Got This Covered: Did any director inspire you on this film? I felt a little bit of Joe Dante in the story myself.
Steven C. Miller: Yeah, I’m a huge fan of Joe Dante. Gremlins, The Gate, even movies like Little Monsters, Goonies, Poltergeist – I loved all those movies where kids took on adult problems and adult themes while being left to their own devices. Adults don’t believe them, and I think those were the kind of movies I gravitated to when I was little. They were always the kind of movies I wanted to make. I definitely pulled big inspirations from that and tried to infuse them into this movie, giving it a little bit of a nostalgic feel.
We Got This Covered: I really appreciate your use of practical effects not only in Under The Bed, but going back to Silent Night and all your other films as well. What do you think of the overuse of CGI we’re seeing in the genre now, cheapening some special effects work now?
Steven C. Miller: It’s curious. Well, it’s funny because I think the overuse of it is to the advantage of practical effects guys. For a movie like this, kids have been stuffed with CGI for the past ten years, and then seeing something like this on screen, it’s almost like us seeing practical effects for the first time. These kids are getting to see effects for the first time, and I think that’s pretty interesting. As much as CGI has hurt a lot of things, I think it’s starting to turn around and help the people who love practical, so they can show these kids something they’ve never seen before. CGI is great, and it can be used the right way to enhance things, but in my movies we haven’t even enhanced anything. We’ve only used practical – it’s just something I love to do. We have a great team of guys, like Vincent J. Guastini, who created the creature, and it’s done really well for me so I continue to do it.Next
We Got This Covered: With all the extra effort going into these practical effects, do you ever just sit there thinking “Man, it’d be so much easier to use CGI?”
Steven C. Miller: [Laughs] Yeah, 100%. When you’re shooting a movie like this, there’s not a lot of money and you’re shooting in like 15 days. You think all the time, “Well I can skip this and get better shots on other things, and do more shooting if I just lend this to CGI.” Practical effects work is half the day. You’re pulling off a monster and he’s ripping things off – it’s not just doing it and moving on. It’s definitely time consuming, you’ve got to shoot it right, and so it’s a lot of timing. But I like the challenge when it comes to these sorts of things, so I just say “If they could do it making Evil Dead, I’m sure I can try to do it now.” It’s just the mentality that I have.
We Got This Covered: Under The Bed is definitely a hard-R movie, but I’m wondering – with the childhood mystery going on, was there ever a discussion to keep this movie PG-13 and make it more “kid friendly?”
Steven C. Miller: At one point we did talk about keeping it in the PG-13 world, obviously taking out the language and heads being ripped off. We talked about it, but ultimately it just became “Well, if we’re going to go for something, we might as well just go balls out and do it the right way.” The tone would still have to change, you’d still have to see the monster, you still would have had to have the monster attacking, but I think you would have lost the impact. The payoff after that long wait wouldn’t have been as enjoyable had it been just stuck to the formula. There are so many movies out there already that just stick to that formula, so we just wanted to try something different with kids, and see how far we could take that.
We Got This Covered: So you worked with two young stars in Jonny Weston and Gattlin Griffith, and I was just wondering what filming with these young talents was like?
Steven C. Miller: They were amazing. Jonny and Gattlin both clicked right away. Every time they were on set, people were literally just standing and watching because they were so, so good together. Like I said, you’re moving so quick, so it was like three or four takes and you had to keep going, but these kids would just nail it and keep moving like pros. Old souls, for real. They would just go to their trailer, come back, do the work, go back – there was never that playing around and not taking it seriously. They were very serious, they loved it, and they were just really great on set. In fact, Gattlin’s dad was our stunt coordinator, so all those stunts with Gattlin getting dragged were all him because his dad was doing the stunts. It was really cool how everyone came together and made the movie really great.
We Got This Covered: While sooting Under The Bed, were you ever transported back to your childhood where you might have been afraid of monsters living under your very own bed? Do you have any good boogeyman stories?
Steven C. Miller: Definitely! I grew up with three brothers and we were all really close in age. The boogeyman, things under the bed or in the closet, these were regular outings for us at night. What we had to do to make sure he didn’t get us involved several tactics. One was building a tent out sheets and pillows, or a fort out of bunk beds of some kind, and that obviously acted as an impenetrable fortress. Yeah, we had all of this stuff, and that sort of helped me shoot this movie and infuse those moments of what I grew up enjoying and how I interacted with my family and my brothers. It’s something I really tried to take into this movie.
We Got This Covered: If we can move away from Under The Bed now, let’s talk about your short Granny. I absolutely loved this elderly killer (READERS: GO WATCH THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T) and I’ve been dying to know – will we ever see Granny be turned into a feature film?
Steven C. Miller: Yeah, 100%. I’ve given them several drafts of a script, and it’s one of those things where they’re just trying to decide whether they want it to be more funny or more serious, or more whatever. It’s going through its phase of back and forth right now, but the plan is to make a feature. I think that character is so interesting and great – I think that’s a movie that if you saw Granny on a poster, you’d see it automatically. It’s just one of those things. There’s definitely plans for it.
We Got This Covered: Is your version of Granny funnier, or more straight horror?
Steven C. Miller: I like the the idea of it being in the vein of Motel Hell, which is not necessarily trying to be funny, but the character and the situations are so outlandish – it’s fun. I see it like that, and I see it being in a very horrific world, but having a sense of fun to it. That’s what I enjoy about Motel Hell and movies like that. It can be in that vibe.Previous Next
We Got This Covered: So you already went the remake route with Silent Night, but if you were given the chance to remake any horror film, what would your dream directorial remake be?
Steven C. Miller: I’d probably do Gremlins, to be honest. That’s just because I feel like in anybody else’s hands, they’d just have CGI gremlins running around, but I’d keep it grounded with the whole practical thing, getting back to the puppet aspect – that stuff was so great! If I had any choice, that would be my first. That would be fun, man.
We Got This Covered: So I keep mentioning Twitter because you’re very active on the social media tool and you are always interacting with your fans, so do you think using Twitter is something more filmmakers should do? How do you take advantage of it?
Steven C. Miller: Filmmakers should be doing it every day. It helps build your fanbase, it helps you see what people like and don’t like – I can search any one of my movies and find people that don’t like it or like it, and I can see why. It’s a great tool for a filmmaker to learn what’s working and what’s not working, along with universally what’s working and not. It helps in the growing process of learning your craft, and how you build that into your next film. You hope people who didn’t like something about your last movie, well, you’re trying to get them to start liking something in your next one. I think it’s a huge tool, and filmmakers especially should be all over it. Some filmmakers actually are really great at it, like Adam Green, and those guys are fantastic at getting their fanbase to support them. That’s a big thing for us indie filmmakers, because without that kind of stuff, the movies themselves don’t get the word of mouth they need – nowadays especially. To have people clicking and watching right away is important.
We Got This Covered: I’m really glad you mentioned that because you’re one of the only filmmakers who Re-Tweets negative reviews along with the positive ones, and I love that. So you view them as learning experiences?
Steven C. Miller: I make movies for people to see. I don’t make movies for a select group of people who like them. I make a movie for everyone to see, and that’s who I want watching my movies. There are always going to be people who don’t like them, and I respect those people’s opinions – as long as it’s not a two word sentence like “Steven sucks” or something. If it’s a legitimate review about how it didn’t work for someone – I get it. I don’t like some movies myself, but I completely respect what they do. I think even though the negative reviews are helping people make decisions, some people can read someone else’s negative and say “But I like that!” It’s just one of those things.
We Got This Covered: I like that perspective a lot. So let’s talk about what’s coming next for you since Granny is too far away for now – what’s your next film?
Steven C. Miller: Next is a thriller that’s going to be a very big departure for me because it’s not horror. It’s a thriller in the vein of Taken and Buried, that kind of a mix. It’s about kids in a limo, the limo goes off of a cliff into the ocean, so it takes place underwater in a limo and they’re trying to get out. It’s a very cool, high-concept kind of movie with some Quentin Tarantino type flashback stuff going on. It’s just a really fun concept I get to dive into.
We Got This Covered: I also heard you’re working on some crazy, over-the-top action film. Is that true?
Steven C. Miller: Yeah, I’m working on something like that, but nothing I can say exactly what it is yet. But yeah, it’ll be a completely over-the-top, crazy-cool action, martial arts type thing. It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do to see if I could even do it. [Laughs] It’s in the works, we’re just trying to figure out how it fits in.
I’d like to thank Steven C. Miller for granting us this interview, and be sure to check out Under The Bed, which is available now! Oh yeah, can we also start a petition to make sure Steven directs the Gremlins remake that’s currently (supposedly) being planned? Please?Previous