Drew Daywalt is an established force in horror cinema. His company, Daywalt Fear Factory has created some of the most terrifying and disturbing short films on the Internet. Drew has also directed several episodes of MTVs Death Valley.
His latest project, Leprechauns Revenge, premieres on SyFy March 17th at 9/8 Central.
Drew talks with us about his experience making Leprechauns Revenge, working on Death Valley, and the impact YouTube has had on contemporary filmmakers.
Shock Till You Drop: Tell us about Leprechauns Revenge and what we can expect.
Drew Daywalt: Leprechaun’s Revenge is a wonderfully quirky and entertaining monster romp in the spirit of Tremors or Creepshow or Evil Dead. Courtney Halverson does a fantastic job of carrying the film as a young woman who accidentally releases an evil leprechaun who then goes on a vengeful killing spree in her small New England town. We got Billy Zane (who’s awesome in this, btw) to play as her father, the hapless town sheriff who’s absolutely baffled by the murder scenes left in the homicidal leprechaun’s wake. William (Rolling Thunder) Devane plays Courtney’s drunken grandfather, and the only person in town who seems to know what’s really going on, since he’s the only one who believes in fairies and goblins from the old country. It’s an absurd horror film really, and we had a good laugh making such an odd film. What really carries it is the mythology behind the creature and how the main characters have to solve the mystery to kill the thing. It’s straight out of my early days as a kid playing D&D where there’s a quest and you have to get X, Y and Z and then use it to kill the monster. Unlike a lot of bad TV monster movies, there’s a lot of humor here, albeit subtly so, and we’re in on the joke with the audience — and that allowed us to make a film that didn’t insult their intelligence.
Shock: Leprechauns Revenge appears to have opted for a more serious approach, differentiating itself from some of the campier titles we’ve seen from SyFy. Was it written that way, or was that your influence as the director?
Daywalt: It’s interesting you say that. I’m happy that you say that, actually. SyFy wanted something different on this one, and I think that’s why they asked me on board. We all wanted to have a different kind of SyFy film – something with a more theatrical feel, something really smart, and yet something self conscious. And, I really wanted to craft something really big and really special for SyFy. They were awesome to invite me on board and I really wanted to deliver. We have amazing creature design by Jeff Farley, an awesome cast with Billy Zane, William Devane and Courtney Halverson, and I aimed for this to be a rollicking fun time. It’s not so much scary as it is monster-tastic. I wanted to unapologetically create a great creature feature, but I wanted to do it on my terms. So what we have is a serious looking theatrical style to the film, with a quirky, fun tone. We were aiming for quirky and offbeat on this one, as opposed to outright camp. A little more sophisticated in that we wanted an early Del Toro look (Cronos) and an odd Coen brothers tone. In the end we think we got it right, but we’ll let you decide.
Shock: How did you get involved with Leprechauns Revenge?
Daywalt: I was developing another, darker – straight horror – project with After Dark, when this creature feature came up and I was approved by the network as director before even knowing about Leprechaun’s Revenge. SyFy and After Dark saw the work I did on my short films, my web series Camera Obscura (you can see it on YouTube), as well as the directing I did on MTV’S horror comedy series Death Valley and invited me aboard. I think they knew they had an unusual project on hand that needed to be scary at times, funny at others, and they liked what they’d seen from my previous work. I seem to have that rare DNA strand that allows me to do horror and comedy and that particular balancing act comes pretty naturally to me, for better or worse.
Shock: What was your experience like working on MTV’s Death Valley?
Daywalt: Death Valley was a phenomenal experience from start to finish. The producers- Spider One and Julie and Austin Reading were amazing to work with and they really trusted me with their baby for quite a few episodes there. The cast was incredibly funny, and all I had to do was plug in the horror and the scares and there was instant absurdity. It really is one of my fondest filmmaking experiences. Cops and monsters is a great combo and it was a lot of fun to bring to life.
Shock: Tell us about Daywalt Fear Factory.
Daywalt: Daywalt Fear Factory is basically a collective of myself and some very talented professionals who are also my best friends. We’ve worked on dozens of short films together and now as I make the move to features and TV series, they’re coming with me. I like to work with the same team not only because they’re very talented, but because loyalty is key to me as a human being. I love my team and much of the joy of working comes from working with them.
Shock: What impact do you think the advent of You Tube has had on up and coming horror film makers?
Daywalt: I think a lot of filmmakers who came up before the age of YouTube and digital filmmaking need to be very wary. There’s an entire generation of do it yourself filmmakers coming through the internet behind them who don’t need cranes, steadicams, dollies and big explosions to tell a story. And they’re doing everything themselves, – camera, sound, lighting, writing, editing… and it’s giving them a serious sense of scope and perspective on what is important and what is not important in the filmmaking process. Online filmmaking is creating a generation of lean, smart filmmakers who depend on story, because, at the budgets they’re working in, it’s all they have.
Many thanks to Drew for the interview. Here’s a trailer from Leprechaun’s Revenge!