By Beth McConnell – I recently sat down with Ken Cosentino, the director of the new parody movie Attack of the Killer Shrews (based on the 1959 cult-classic). An insane low budget movie celebrating everything great about creature-features.
Why was ‘Killer Shrews’ (1959) your choice for a remake?
Ken – The original is a perfect mixture of a multitude of bad elements that come together to form a very entertaining cult classic! I’ve always loved puppetry, and the original shrews is known for having bad puppets and dogs wearing costumes. It’s in the public domain, so that clinched it for us.
Did you find the smaller budget more of a challenge when making the movie?
Ken – Having a small budget is always a challenge. Our budget is considered ‘shoe-string’ since nowadays the Hollywood studios have stolen the term ‘micro-budget’ from us little indie guys. Actually, in their world this would be a ‘no budget’ film but we did have a budget… sort of. The difficulty with not having a lot of money to play with was offset by the willingness of the cast and crew to work for deferred payment and basically do whatever it takes. I think that’s where the magic of innovation is found, and I think it actually helps get the point across that this is an ultra cheap and fun monster romp.
‘Attack of the the Killer Shrews’ is self-aware, was this always the plan?
Ken – Yes and no. We went from a goofy idea to a goofy script, and then when we actually got on set, the gloves came off. Our principal actors were all very funny guys and gals, and as director I gave them a lot of breathing room to bring in some improv. Some of that improv really effected the self-awareness of the film; after the first time Bill Kennedy, who plays Sheriff Martin Blake, looked at the camera and said ‘Killer Shrews!’ we loved it so much that we just kept doing it.
What kind of special effects are used in the movie and do they add to the comedy elements?
Ken – We built some really awful shrew puppets as a tribute to the original film. The titular puppets definitely add to the comedy, especially because the cast played it as if the shrews were incredibly terrifying (when really they are like C-rate demented Muppets). Most of the kills were done by not showing the actually mauling but instead cutting to a close-up where the actors were drenched in the face with spray blood. We have the capability to make very professional looking practical special effects, but the fact that went from conception to production in just two weeks, coupled with the idea of paying homage to the awful puppetry of the original, we decided to take a big risk and make the monsters cheesy on purpose. There is also a dog wearing a bathroom rug, pretending to be a killer shrew!
If you could remake another creature feature in the future what would it be and why?
Ken – We have plans to take the surviving characters from our Shrewniverse and pit them up against The Blob next year. I love The Blob, it’s scared me ever since I was a kid! We want to gear more towards the 1988 version, mainly because it’s a special effects masterpiece. In the same respect that we made Attack of the Killer Shrews! a movie with really bad puppets, we would be flipping the script and creating some incredible practical special effects for our sequel. On one hand, it’s a very personal way of keeping the tradition of practical special effects alive; on the other hand, we’d be showing our viewers that everything we’ve done was done on purpose.
You obviously have a passion for the sub genre, where did your love for monster movies come from?
Ken – My three main inspirations are Stan Winston, Jim Henson and Walt Disney. My goal at a very young age was to work for Stan Winston, who sadly passed away in 2008. I was heartbroken. My mother’s birthday is Halloween and growing up in our house, Halloween was celebrated in a big way. We would build monsters for display on our front porch. I’ve always loved monsters, starting with the Universal Classic Monsters and then onto John Carpenter’s “The Thing” and Aliens. When a really awesome practical suit is created and brought to life through the art and magic of cinema, it’s the stuff of nightmares! I’ve been making my own monster since I was a little kid, and my professional background starts as an SFX artist. I remember seeing “Monster Squad” on HBO when I was really young and being obsessed with it, it’s my all time favorite film. I guess it has to do with something very primal inside of me, something dark and mysterious that I want to see brought to life on the big screen.
Pick up your copy of the hilarious Killer Shrews – here