We have at long last approached the eve of our annihilation as PG: PSYCHO GOREMAN is about to hit theaters and VOD! I was able to witness and review the interplanetary destruction and family fun at Beyond Fest last year, and it was a blast to see at the drive-in and a highlight of the festival. As well as an honor to be quoted on the film’s poster! Even more fortunately, I was able to talk with the man behind the monster, writer/director/FX artist Steven Kostanski last November and talk in-depth about all things PG!
Jacob Davison: What’s your background? What got you interested in film?
Steven Kostanski: My background I guess would be mostly prosthetic FX. I mean, it really started as a kid when I was making stop motion animations with my dad’s super-8 camera. That got me into film and obviously I was a big movie fan and a big sci-fi/fantasy horror fan growing up so I started making my own little movies. Making stop motion, monsters, and puppets and things and I started making movies with my friends which then escalated to me working in prosthetics in films. I figured that seemed to be the department that seemed to be having the most fun. I remember as a kid watching the behind the scenes of the making of ARMY OF DARKNESS and seeing the guys at KNB FX making skeleton puppets and things. It was an eye-opening experience for me because I realized like, these guys in heavy metal t-shirts with long-hair just goofing off, drinking beer, and making monsters and staying up late.
That seems pretty great. I gravitated toward the creature FX side of things and prosthetics. I started working out of high school pretty much. I took the Dick Smith professional make-up course. Where it’s a correspondence course where the make-up artist Dick Smith sends you a book and you basically use it to create your own make-up FX and he critiques them. Dick Smith obviously did movies like THE GODFATHER and THE EXORCIST and was the grandfather of make-up FX. While I was doing that I was getting my short films and things into festivals. So, my prosthetics career and my move making career progressed at the same time. Now I’m working as a director and as a prosthetics artist in the industry kind of flopping back and forth between the two. That’s how I got to where I am now.
JD: Cool! And speaking of where you are now, let’s talk a little about PSYCHO GOREMAN. What was the inception?
SK: Well, I had just finished LEPRECHAUN RETURNS. Which was a really epic adventure where I had to go down to South Africa to shoot it. It was a pretty massive undertaking for me and kind of outside my comfort zone, working with a new crew on the other side of the planet. I was recovering form that adventure and I had ordered fancy RAWHEAD REX Blu-ray. I was watching it and I was getting bored by it, because let’s face it, it’s not really super engaging. As awesome as the title is. I was just watching that movie and just spinning ideas in my head about this god monster being resurrected and similar to RAWHEAD REX but also what if it was a bit of a MONSTER SQUAD style scenario where you have kids interacting with the monster.
Taking the RAWHEAD REX, or THE KEEP, something about an ancient evil being resurrected but also pairing it with children and a kid’s fantasy movie. What sort of stupid stuff would come out of that. It had aligned with an idea I had a long time ago, or rather an image, of a monster sitting at a drum set. And it all mashed together into this idea that became PG: PSYCHO GOREMAN. I threw a treatment together and showing it to people. I had some financiers shoe re interested in funding a project with me and I sent them the treatment and they loved it. Then I immediately dived into writing the script and not long after we started shooting the movie.
JD: I wanted to ask a bit about how the cast was assembled?
SK: There were a few roles I had specifically planned for my Astron-6 friends. Like Adam Brooks, Matthew Brooks, and Connor Sweeney are all in the movie in various roles. I’d always imagined Adam as the dad, Greg. Beyond that we just cast a really wide net casting call across Canada. Because the one question that came up from the producers was “This treatment and script is great, but it’s only as good as its kids as you cast.” Because if you don’t have kids who can pull off these roles then it doesn’t matter how many FX you throw at the movie, it won’t be good. It really hinges on the performances. We saw a lot of auditions and tapes. We settled on Nita-Josee Hana and Owen Myer as Mimi and Luke. Both of them just were so charming. Even in the raw state of an audition.
They both had so much energy and personality. The big thing for me was not wanting the kids… they needed to feel like kids but also needed to stand up against the creatures they were being paired up with. They needed to hold their own against the crazy, horrific stuff that was happening around them. Especially with Nita, she was so commanding of everyone around her. She really embodies that character. A lot of energy and a really big personality. Both Nita and Owen we could throw into any situation and be like “All right, now this is happening.” There was no- (laughing) I feel even if I was that age I would have been so crippled by shyness and anxiety being in a room with a whole film crew and a guy in a monster suit would have probably freaked me out. But they were not fazed by it at all. It really led to them commanding the movie and bringing it to life with youthful energy to really sell the juxtaposition of sci-fi fantasy horror and kid’s adventure. We really lucked out, especially with our kids.
JD: On the creature FX, how did you handle that?
SK: The creature FX was done at Master’s FX Toronto. How it played out was I had a minuscule amount of money to throw at them and then I had to beg for a lot of favors from all my FX friends in Toronto. A lot of talented people chipped in on the movie. Willing to help because they knew it was a passion project and a bit of an ambitious thing. In no world could we actually pull off on the budget that we had. Everybody at the shop at Master’s and all the FX artists involved really pitched in everything they could and their time because it is an insane amount of work. All the creature FX in the movie is beyond anything I have done in a movie up to that point. It really came down to me begging, borrowing, and stealing anything I could to make it happen!
There were a lot of late nights of me just toiling away by myself but also lots of people donating their time after hours just to get things done. Because there is so much fun and crazy stuff in the movie I think everyone wanted something fun to work on so they were generous with their time to help out. Even our producer, Jesse, the financier he actually became an FX artist on this show. He came to the shop and started as my assistant than a full on- building stuff on his own. It was really a case of all hands-on deck to pull this off because there was so much shit to build and of course never enough time to do it. We had to get really creative with how we pulled stuff off. Repurposing, reusing, and fabricating stuff. It was a very ambitious project in terms of its scope. But all the people involved put in everything they had and pulled it off and did an amazing job.
JD: Great! Seems “Fun” was the keyword.
SK: Yeah! There was just so much bonkers stuff in the movie. You work in prosthetics and you kind of go into a lull over doing the same few things over and over again. Like, “Here’s another autopsy body for a hospital show.” Or “Here’s some tattoo transfers.” It can get a little repetitive, so when you get a big creature heavy show. Like “Here’s a guy who’s a walking garbage can full of body parts and here’s a witch lady with a J-Horror meets DARK CRYSTAL look”
There’s weird things for everyone to sink their teeth into and put their own personality into it. I think that led to a lot of interesting variety in all the creature work. Because everyone was able to take a little ownership over what they were doing. Because as far as the design process goes, I’m usually pretty vague about what I want. I like to develop the look as I’m building things and utilizing a lot of found objects and repurposing things and so you find your design through what you have at your disposal. It led to a lot of creative decisions in the moments that led to the more interesting stuff in the movie.
JD: I wanted to ask any specific influences, kind of style of the monsters and creatures?
SK: I’d been watching a lot of old KAMEN RIDER episodes and movies. That kind of Japanese style I’m all about where it’s not really about realism. I’m a huge GODZILLA movie fan and it’s all about the artistry of that. It has nothing to do with being a hundred percent convincing, it just needs to be about looking cool and fun and interesting. So, I think that was the overall vibe of the movie. Nothing was approached as having to look a hundred percent real. It was approached as having to look a hundred percent fun. Going into it knowing that helped inform a lot of the designs. That definitely stems from my love of those kinds of Japanese monster movies and KAMEN RIDER type shows, Super Sentai.
JD: I was going to say, it sort of reminded me of ZEIRAM and Keita Amemiya’s work.
SK: Oh! I was just watching ZEIRAM. I’m also a fan of MECHANICAL VIOLATOR HAKAIDER.
SK: That’s a good one. You can definitely see part of that influence in The Templars, the villains of PG. I was inspired by the villains in HAKAIDER. Even just the overall approach of having your heroes be the darker looking, more menacing characters and the villains are angelic, technically should be more heroic with their color palette and design. Turning those tropes upside down and having your villains are heroes and your heroes are villains. I definitely was inspired by HAKAIDER for.
JD: Funny enough I rewatched that last night in preparation.
SK: It’s a great movie! I wish PG had a motorcycle. Maybe if there’s future adventures of him maybe I can give him a motorcycle. Because… I love so many weird choices in HAKAIDER that make it so interesting and give it so much personality. I feel like there’s nothing quite like that out there right now. I’m always searching for more stuff in that style that has all that creative energy thrown at the screen. I feel like I’m always going back to stuff from the 90’s or earlier. I felt like the world needs more stuff like that now and part of my motivation for making PG. We need something that’s just a total blowout of mounters and robots and insanity.
JD: I’m a big fan of that kind of cyberpunk era, too. How did you come up with those kills and fates worse than death? Because that was inventive!
SK: Actually, it came pretty easy to me. Because I approached it as a comedy beat. It’s the old bait and switch where you say one thing but do something else. As I was writing it kind of going with PG’s code of honor, I thought it’d be funny if anything related to this code of honor when it’s actually executed is the most unimaginably horrible thing. Like treating it as though it’s commonplace what he’s doing. It just came naturally to suggest one thing then do the most nightmarish thing as the actual pay-off. I don’t want to say too much so I don’t spoil any parts of the movie, because they’re good pay-offs in the moment.
JD: Definitely! Kind of similar themes come up from your earlier work. Like with MANBORG. “It’s not about the killing, it’s about family.” Would you say that despite being so dark that there is an optimism or heart to it?
SK: Of course! I think it’s very important for all movies to have heart. I don’t particularly subscribe to the totally nihilistic attitude. I think especially now that kind of cynicism in media is a very cheap and easy out. But to show you actually care about people is almost like being vulnerable or not cool I guess? It’s not cool to have heart and love your family or love the people around you, so I want to have that in my movies. A strong sense of caring for one another despite circumstances. I think that comes through with the family in the movie. Ultimately, we have to care and support each other despite our flaws. For a movie like this to work it needs to have heart.
That was a big part of the writing process for PG, don’t get too cynical, don’t get too mean spirited because I feel that there is enough of that out there as is. To have optimism in this movie feels almost taboo right now which is why I wanted to do it. To be positive even though it’s a very dark movie where a lot of horrible stuff happens but it’s done with such a light way. None of it is shocking in a legitimately brutal kind of way, but it’s all so absurd that the violence and the death is not meant to punish you in anyway. It’s supposed to come off as more comedic than anything else. I do feel that the movie is ultimately about the importance of family and caring for one another and that’s a thing I like to put in all my movies.
JD: And I love it! Wanted to ask back on Practical FX about how many gallons of blood and assorted fluids were used?
SK: I don’t even know! I’d have to ask our physical effects supervisor Mike Hamilton about that. Because there is one moment where there is a lot of blood. A certain character gets hosed down pretty substantially. Many, many gallons! I can’t give you a hard number, but there is a lot…
JD: How do you feel about PSYCHO GOREMAN playing at The Drive-In specifically as a format?
SK: (Laughter) I mean, I haven’t watched it at a drive-in yet. Well, you tell me. You saw it at the drive-in, how did it go?
JD: I thought it was great!
SK: People seemed into it?
JD: Oh, yeah! You can’t really applaud, so people just honk their horns whenever they want to show their excitement and it got a lot of honking.
SK: Okay, that’s good. Then I’ll say I like the drive-in format! In this current climate, I just want people to be safe so if drive-ins the way to see this movie on the big screen then that’s the way it should be. It does feel like a drive-in movie to me in terms of a fun event movie which was definitely my intention with the film. I wanted to make something community based. You want to enjoy the laughs with the people around you. Seeing it in a crowd, if that means seeing it in a crowded parking lot with other people then that’s how it’s got to be. I’m glad it’s playing at drive-ins, I think it’s fun. And hopefully I get to watch it at a drive-in at some point!
JD: Also made a great double-feature with Adam Egypt Mortimer’s ARCHENEMY at Beyond Fest.
SK: How was that?
JD: I really enjoyed it, I thought it was a lot of fun. And it was interesting because it was a subversive superhero movie with a subversive supervillain movie.
SK: That’s fun! Yeah, I want to check that out. I am really bummed I couldn’t go to Beyond Fest. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it and I heard it has good crowds. Their drive-in set-up sounds like a blast. Hopefully, next time. Hopefully if the world calms down, I can go see some stuff there next time.
JD: On that note, are you working on anything now? Do you have anything you are planning on working on next?
SK: Right now, I am three weeks into directing the first block of DAY OF THE DEAD the TV show. So, that’s where I’m at right now. It’s why I’m so tired at the moment because it’s been a pretty long week of zombies and mayhem. This is what my 2020 has been, mostly working on that show. I assume it’ll air in 2021 on the Syfy Channel sometime. It’s super fun, and I am super excited for people to see it. I’m not allowed to say anything about it, but I will say I am having a blast making it. It’s a unique and fun take on the idea. I think it’s going to be a good time.
JD: Anything else you’d like to say before we conclude?
SK: If PG’s playing near you, go see it but be safe.
PG: Psycho Goreman will be available in theaters and VOD starting January 22nd 2021.