Director Steven C. Miller is one of the most prolific filmmakers working in (and out) of the horror genre today. To say the guy’s always working would be quite the understatement, and it’s extremely obvious that his talent and abilities grow with each film. No stranger to being a great guy to us at Icons of Fright (see last year’s interview here as well as Aaron’s review), he’s an all around good guy.
His most recent film (in terms of release) is the fun as hell UNDER THE BED, a movie that on the surface is somewhat of a creature feature, but has some very well written and executed themes in it, dealing with coming to terms with past decisions, fears, and putting your trust in others. Steven was nice enough to chat with us for a bit about the film, along with his goal for the future, and other topics. Read on!
Steven C. Miller: Hey Jerry, how’s it going man?
Good man, yourself?
Good dude, Im just talking to you (laughs).
So, UNDER THE BED has been a long time coming, you actually filmed this before SILENT NIGHT, right?
Yeah, I shot this before SILENT NIGHT, before AGGRESSION SCALE, this is technically my second movie.
How does it feel, given how long ago that you shot it, to finally have it ready for fans of your previous work to be able to watch?
I think it’s great that it’s finally coming out. It’s difficult to me, as a filmmaker to see it come out AFTER those movies, because I feel like you can see the growth if you watch them in order of when they were made, if you watched this movie, then AGGRESSION SCALE, then SILENT NIGHT. I’ve learned what to do and what not to do with those movies. It’s still great to see it finally come out, because I do have a special place in my heart for this one, it feels like the kind of movie I would’ve watched as a kid, which is the biggest reason that we made it. It’s one of those movies that I really do enjoy, and I would have loved to have seen it come out earlier, but you just can’t help those kinds of things.
How did the film come about?
Brad Miska from Bloody Disgusting and Zak Zeman came to me and we met with a writer named Eric Stolze. Eric and all of us came up with this concept of “what would be a fun movie to make with kids?” because I love kids and I love incorporating them into movies. We wanted to do something with that, and with brothers, and logically it came to “well, what about UNDER THE BED and a creature..?” and it really made sense to take that route, to pay homage to all of the movies that I grew up watching, like THE GATE, THE GOONIES, E.T., POLTERGEIST, all of those. We all thought “how could we have it be like those movies, but have a tonal shift in the third act that nobody would expect?”. We basically got together and talked about all of the movies that we grew up watching and it eventually became that.
What really stood out about the film to me, was the combination of a couple of things, the first being how much character development there was between the two brothers, as opposed to typical movies like this. It did remind me of THE GOONIES in the way that while there are a lot of adventurous things going on, it seems more about the characters. The second thing, is that while it’s about a monster and stuff, it seems more metaphorical than that, dealing with facing your fears, and trusting someone who you originally didn’t. Were those elements important for you to address?
100%, especially since I had just come off of making AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION, which was a fast paced, no-character movie (laughs). It was important to me to really step it up and deal with characters, and I had already decided that I wanted to make a movie about like what you said, the characters and not just the monster. Almost like the monster would be a secondary thing, and have it be a very different type of monster, where it would be, again like you said, almost metaphorical, in the sense that the monster is just as big of a part it emotionally. If you took the monster out, it could be about these kids dealing with the fact that their parents are split up, and dealing with the idea that he killed his mother, so if you took the monster out, it’s almost the same kind of movie. That’s what I really gravitated towards and really wanted to do, and it was important to me to find the right actors, because if the brothers didn’t work, then the movie wouldn’t work. I wanted to find actors that would make you connect with them, and would make you want to go on the journey with them.
I really want to do something that’s a straight thriller, like in the TAKEN world. Something that’s not necessarily guided towards the horror genre, and see if I can master that as well, so I don’t end up being the one guy that ends up doing horror films for the rest of my life. I mean, I love them, and I’ll always make them, but I’d love to venture out and see what else I could do. I love movies like BURIED and stuff like that, so it would be fun to try doing a movie like that.
Awesome, I love BURIED. Anyone who follows you on Twitter or Instagram already knows that you’re really into technology and that leads to my next question. These days, with how far technology has come, it’s possible for anyone with a few bucks to buy a Canon and shoot a movie. Having gone to film school and “paid your dues”, so to speak, do you feel like the ease of being able to shoot something is a pro or a con?
I don’t think anybody needs to do things the way that someone else did them. I think now days, like you said, because there are cameras available, I think it’s all about your drive and determination. I love the idea that anybody can go out and make something. I think what it does, is steps up independent filmmakers’ games, because you now have to be ready to do anything and try to go above and beyond what people are making everyday. So yeah, I love that sort of aspect and this sort of “new wave” of kids that just go out and make these movies and for them to be successful. I think that is very interesting and I think that IS paying your dues. I think if you can get your money together or whatever it takes to make your feature, then yeah, that’s definitely paying your dues just as much as going to film school.