David Hewlett (formerly the great and powerful Rodney McKay of Stargate fame) has directed his first ever monster movie — Rage of the Yeti. We caught up with Hewlett and talked furry monsters and glorious cheesy carnage.
Check out what Hewlett thinks is the key to making a good monsterpiece, and an exclusive clip from Rage!
Why does your Yeti have so much rage?
[Laughs] It's about his career I think. Why are they so angry? They're so angry because they've been dragged from China and they found themselves in the Canadian Arctic. And believe me, being a Canadian, no one wants to be in the Canadian Arctic. It's very, very cold.
Why were they being moved?
The kind of fun thing about this, and again we're talking about a Syfy Saturday Movie, so we all know what we're dealing with. I like to call them awfully good "monsterpieces." What I like about this one [is that] there's a little bit of a historical bent to it. Craig Engler, who wrote this with Brooks Peck — they sort of said, look there's this ship that's transporting these Chinese Yeti as a gift for this King. They became shipwrecked, and the animals got out. The crew tried to round them up and the Yetis kill hundreds of well-trained soldiers. There's a nice little scene in the movie where this character explains the history of these creatures. So basically they're not native to Northern Canada. So no one has to worry, the Arctic is safe. But they've sort of been transplanted there and made themselves at home and are much more dangerous because of that.
Does it take place in the here and now?
David Hewlett: Yes. Basically yes, that's the idea. There's this fellow by the name of Mills (played by me) who is a billionaire and he's like a collector. He's a billionaire with way too much money runs who around the world buying old military equipment. He'll buy an old plane or a Chinook helicopter, or a submarine from the Soviets, on a whim. And then learn how to drive them, he enjoys learning how to fly. But he's also a collector and there's this Codex, this very valuable book that he sends a bunch of people out to get and unfortunately, as is always the case with these scifi movies, there's not just a valuable treasure there's also a bunch of horrible monsters at the same time.
What are your Yeti rules, are there ways to beat them, what are their weaknesses, do they have night blindness?
Yes, they are definitely killable. But they are definitely very difficult to kill. Because of this sort of seal-like fat they require to stay warm, the bullets — while they can wound them — get stuck in this blubbery stuff. That was my idea, and now I'm thinking that if I can get fat enough, I may become bullet-proof. Also their fur is just the right color that it makes them very difficult to see in the snow.
When you're creating these monsters, how much input did you have? And did you have a Wampa rule that you didn't want the Yetis to cross (i.e., they can't look too much like a Wampa)?
It's a machine. They make so many of these movies, all the effects are done out of Bulgaria. Unfortunately I didn't get to be a part of all of it, I'm such a nerd I would have loved to be there for more of the antics... I had a few things, I try to avoid furriness. I don't find furry scary. So my hope was that we'd go with a more sleek looking, more seal looking creature. I just find that creepier, the muscled tone. I find that much scarier than fuzzy... I like their teeth. They have very good teeth.
What's the secret to making a good monster movie?
To keep it moving. The death of any creature feature is boredom. If I phase out, if I don't care, I don't think we have the kind of audience that is going to put up with that stuff. And what's good about this script is that it's nonstop. I think that's what's exciting, and one of the things I tried very hard to do throughout the movie. Where things feel like exposition, I tried to take it at a different angle.
There's a little sequence that I call gun porn, which is just basically shots of this giant rifle that plays a big part in the film. But I think the key to a good monster film, or any film, well I shouldn't say that because there are some art films where it's lots of fun to just let stuff move slowly... So maybe it's not the pacing, maybe it's just about keeping the tension. But in these kinds of movies where we can't afford those long, loving shots of things, it's just keeping things moving, keeping the dialog going.
The actors can joke about it all they want, they can laugh about the lines, they can laugh about the situation, god knows we do all the time. But when the camera's rolling, you can't be winking at it. You gotta commit, I think that's the key. The people who are good at this, the people I enjoy watching, are those who just dive straight in. You're never less attractive than you are in a monster film. Because it needs to be real, you can't be worried about how pretty you are while you're screaming, you just have to scream.
Rage of the Yeti will premiere on Saturday November 12th, on Syfy. Check out our exclusive clip right now!