Something Else is great for any moviegoer, but it’s hard to argue that horror fans won’t be especially pleased. It’s a classic monster movie told on the back of a long-term couple’s flailing relationship. The story is split between two time periods. First, we get to see Hank and Abby happy as a new couple, just moving into a house together. Then, we see the present state of their relationship: Abby has abruptly left Hank alone. As if that’s not enough, something very strange and terrifying has been lurking outside their house. Hank spends his nights waiting by the door, hoping that Abby will come back, and hoping that whatever the other thing is will go away. For more on the film, check out my review of Something Else here.
As Tribeca Film Festival 2019 was in full swing, I got the chance to sit down with some of the folks behind Something Else. They were Christian Stella, who directed the film, Jeremy Gardner, who also directed and played Hank, and Brea Grant, who played Abby. It was great talking to these talented and creative folks, not just because of how much they shine in this horror movie, but because it gave me a sense of just how deeply they love the genre. Read on to see what I mean.
Grant DeArmitt for Nightmare on Film Street: Let’s start at the beginning: What are the origins of this movie?
Jeremy Gardner: I had an image of a couch in front of a door. And then I started thinking about long-term relationships, and also asking myself: why is the couch in front of the door? The two ideas of something outside attacking and what it’s like to be in a long-term relationship started to coalesce.
NOFS: I read that producer David Lawson came to you with some money after the idea was already formed. Did that change the script at all?
Gardner: No, the script was written years ago. When David and Rustic Films came on board, the one thing we changed was that it was originally set in New England. I was living in Connecticut at the time. But I’m from Florida, and so I suggested we switch it to over there. Everyone got really excited, and that change really informed those look and feel of it.
Christian Stella: But the producers didn’t change anything. They wanted us to make our movie through and through. They were totally on board with anything we wanted.
NOFS: Brea, how did you get involved in the film? What was your first reaction to seeing the script?
Brea Grant: I had seen (Stella & Garnder’s) The Battery and I was a fan, and Dave Lawson the producer reached out to me and asked if I wanted to do this script. I was like yeah I want to do it, and he said, “Cool, you have to audition.” which I was not happy about. So I auditioned, and decided to really dig my heels in. I auditioned not only with the scene they sent me but auditioned with one of my character’s monologues, even though they didn’t ask me to. Because I was like fuck you, if you’re going to ask more of me, I’m going to give it to them. (laughs)
I was so drawn to the script itself because I felt it was such a simple, interesting story that we can all relate to. And I was drawn to the character, I felt that there was so much there. she was such a fully-formed female character, which sometimes can be hard to find in the genre movies. Not always, but I have had trouble with it in the past. To have such a rad character that I could do something really vulnerable with, that was such a great thing to get to do.
NOFS: I was going to ask, how this film was different because I know you are no stranger to horror.
Grant: Yeah, The script had a lot of heart to it. I think the horror world is changing what we think of as horror and genre movies. Now people are writing such interesting and cool stories that also have genre elements in them. For example, this is a romantic movie to me, this is The Notebook. It’s a romance… and there’s also a monster. That makes it a genre movie, but it also has so much more to say than some other monster movies. Not that I don’t love a good monster movie, I do.
“..the horror world is changing what we think of as horror and genre movies.”
NOFS: Jeremy how did you relate to your character? Did you write it for yourself?
Gardner: I did write it for myself. I didn’t think they were going to let me play the role when it originally got made. So I originally wrote (supporting character) Wade for myself. And Wade has all the funny lines. I actually got to play the lead, so I had to give that up.
But yeah, I was in a long-term relationship and I had a lot of those thoughts. So I’ve been on both sides of this film. I’ve been in Hank’s position, and I’ve also been in Abby’s position where you feel like you are giving up something of yourself to be somewhere. it definitely comes from a real place. I don’t know how to write not from a real place. Every once in awhile I tell myself, I’m going to write a really formulaic action movie. but then I’m like, should it be about absent fathers? I can’t help myself.
NOFS: You mentioned Wade, played by Henry Zebrowski. A lot of our readership is into Last Podcast on the Left. so can you tell us a little bit about what working with Henry is like?
Gardner: On set and anywhere, Henry Zebrowski Is always the best person in the room. I was just a giant fan of his to the point where my girlfriend was getting jealous. I’d say, you never believe what Henry said on his show today.
Stella: It made editing the movie a nightmare too. Yeah, he’s so funny that you want to leave everything in. He was like, “you can’t cut that line, it’s too funny.” I was like, do you realize there are seven jokes in a row in the shot right now?
Gardner: But anyway, I was just a giant fan of his. And I was watching this show on Shudder, The Core. Mickey Keating is the host, and I’ve worked with Mickey before. they were doing this episode about zombies and Henry was the guest. And I was like holy shit I know Mickey, and Mickey is sitting next to Henry. So I reached out to Mickey who put me in touch with Henry, and so I told Dave you have to make this happen. Or I’ll kill everyone in the room.
NOFS: Could you give us a little window into filming? What was the timeline of the scenes you shot?
Stella: We shot over four weeks, with the “present day” scenes first. We shot all the flashback romance stuff last, so [Grant and Gardner] could build a relationship throughout the shoot. So that when they’re actually happy in the movie, they actually have a relationship from shooting.
Gardner: Unfortunately for the flashbacks I had to shave and look like a walking thumb.
Grant: He’s a handsome thumb. don’t let him tell you otherwise.
Stella: It was really weird to end the shooting I’m such a relaxed, romantic scenes. And they’re almost all silent too.
Grant: Except for the one, when I had an orgasm scene on set. It was good that one came at the end, because I had built up a rapport with the for 20 year olds on camera. So I could tease them, because they seemed very uncomfortable watching me have an orgasm on camera.
NOFS: There was a really cool monster in this movie. Can you tell me a little bit about the monsters design? Who is behind all of it?
Gardner: It was designed by the guys at Masters FX, Todd Masters Studio. One of my favorite movies of all time is Demon Knight. and the fact that I got Todd Masters on the phone talking to me about how much he loves my script, I was geeking out. Beyond belief. At one point he goes, “I think I still got a couple of those demon hands lying around here somewhere.” I was like, “oh my God give me a demon hand please.” We never did give me a demon hand but maybe later.
I started sending him pictures of animals like baboons. I’ve got this thing about mandrills, these short, powerful, terrifying primates. Like why do they exist? And then I sent him pictures of birds, with all these plumages. Then they started adding in elements of Florida, like the palms and the ferns so that it might be out in that thicket, that Grove or swamp. Blending into it. It was awesome to see how they were slowly making it informed by the environment.
“Horror fans are smart. They have a really long memory and a real sense of history when it comes to horror and genre stuff. If you’re a horror fan, you’ve seen it all.”
NOFS: Why do you think that movies with the genre elements are sticking right now? Like Shape of Water?
Grant: Horror fans are smart. They have a really long memory and a real sense of history when it comes to horror and genre stuff. If you’re a horror fan, you’ve seen it all. You know every Friday the 13th. You’ve seen all these movies so you have this language that we all speak. What’s happening now is that we’re getting a new wave of people who already speak that language. Who know those tropes. So we’re building off of those tropes and trying to make new things. No one’s trying to remake Friday the 13th.
Well, maybe some people are. But they wouldn’t make it in the same way.
Stella: Yeah, we love to make a straightforward monster movie, but that’s been done a thousand times. So you have to make something different.
Gardner: We’re also seeing right now is the 70s and 80s generation of horror, people who grew up and were weaned on those great horror movies, are now able to grab a camera and tell a story. It’s a much more accessible medium than it was before and you have a much larger group of filmmakers who grew up in that world. They are naturally going to start telling stories in their own way that are personal to them. But they like horror, so they are adding these elements to it that are changing them in a way that’s fun to watch. I feel like you’re going to keep getting nerds who grew up on horror to keep telling their stories in their own way, and that’s how you’re getting all this weird different and amazing stuff.
For more about this movie, check out my review of Something Else. I loved this movie for both its heart and its horror, and it was awesome to talk to these filmmakers about what went into it.
But hey, I’m not the only NOFS writer interview the most creative minds in horror today. For example, Jessica Rose recently spoke with Nacho Vigalondo of Pooka, and Rachel Prin sat down to talk with Maurizio Guarini, a composer behind films like Suspiria and Swan of the Dead. Once you check them out, let us know who you’d like us to interview over on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter pages. And for all your horror movie interviews, reviews, and news, keep lurking at Nightmare on Film Street.