Back on July 19, the Chico Movie Examiner published a negative review of Steven C. Miller’s new horror film, “Under the Bed,” when the film was released to limited theaters. Later that day, Miller responded to the review via Twitter, saying: “Thanks for the honest feedback, David.”
Well, on July 30, the Chico Movie Examiner was able to conduct an over-the-phone interview with Miller about “Under the Bed,” which was released to DVD and Blu-ray that same day.
In “Under the Bed,” Neal (Jonny Weston) returns home after a two-year exile that was the result of him trying to save his family from a monster under his bed. Upon his return, Neal discovers that his little brother, Paulie (Gattlin Griffith) is being haunted by the same creature. Neither their father, Terry (Peter Holden), nor their stepmother, Angela (Musetta Vander), believes the boys’ story. As the adults try to resort to living a normal life again, the brothers band together to stop the evil creature before it’s too late.
Check out the interview with Miller below, in which he discusses the film, his inspirations for it, and how he uses Twitter to get in touch with people who like or dislike his films.
David Wangberg: I wanted to first say that I did not expect a response on Twitter from you in regards to my review of your film.
Steven C. Miller: [laughs] Yeah, I’m pretty active on there, trying to tell people that I appreciate it. And if they like it or not, to be honest, I just like that people are watching it, and it’s always a good thing.
DW: So, no matter who reviews it, and no matter how they reviewed it, you contact them anyway and say, “Hey, thanks for the great review!” or “Hey, thanks for the honest feedback!”?
SCM: Yeah, I think, 95 percent of the time. The only time that I don’t is if they’re personally attacking just me. I’m cool with people that don’t like the movie, as long as it’s reasons they don’t like the movie. But if it’s like, “Oh, Steven this” or “Steven that,” that’s different. Then I know there’s some weird, like, grudge against me. But real critics that don’t like my movies, or anything like that, they have great reasons why not, and I always seem to find a way to learn from the things that people don’t like, and I think that’s part of the movie-making process. I make movies for everyone, not just for people who are only going to like it. But, you know, there’s going to be people that don’t, and it’s great to learn from what they think and try to grow to the next one and see if I can get them on the next one.
DW: OK, yeah, and one of the things you mentioned about the personal attacks – I don’t know the director, personally, so I have nothing against them, so what’s the point?
SCM: Yeah, exactly.
DW: So about “Under the Bed,” did this come from you having childhood dreams of bogeymen or monsters hiding under the bed?
SCM: Yeah, a lot of it did come from me and childhood experiences, because I had three brothers who were super close to me, and we grew up doing sort of the similar things – trying to figure out if we should shut the closet door or not, or leave the closet light on or not; dealing with what could be under the bed; and building forts and some things out of covers and blankets to make some sort of fortress. So, you know, we had really vivid imaginations when I was growing up, and so, I guess it all came from that because, I remember, with those imaginations, came us watching movies like “The Goonies” and “The Gate” and “Gremlins” – stuff like that. And I was always fascinated by that kind of stuff, so it was a movie that I felt isn’t being made nowadays, and I wanted to try and go back to that sort of thing.
DW: Yeah, and one of the things I noticed is, we don’t really see the monster until the movie’s almost over. What made you want to go that route, instead of introducing it early on into the film?
SCM: Well, two reasons. One, initially, obviously, because of the budget constraint and how low the budget was. We had, like, 12 days to shoot this movie, and a very small budget. So, it was a matter of how much could I show and how much did I want to show. Because, once you show it, it feels like, every time after that, it’s gotta get better. Budget-wise, we just didn’t have the means to do that. But then after we got past that, it just felt like it was more interesting to tell a brother story and to be about these brothers’ adventure and whether it was in their heads or not. So, that was the route we decided to take also, just because I wanted to try something different than the past couple of films I’ve done, which have been, pretty much, in-your-face with everything as far as a horror goes. I thought it would be a fun route to take the idea that it was a slow burn and trying to really connect with these brothers and really being like a brother-adventure movie and getting doused with horror in the third act.
DW: Yeah, that was one of the things I noticed, and I also noticed that you used a lot of practical effects for the monster and the blood, rather than CGI. What was your choice of going that route, rather than just making it a majority of CGI?
SCM: Well, I love practical and I also feel like there’s something about something you can see and touch and deal while you’re on set, having to translate on screen, and I think it’s just one of those things that I enjoy doing. I love the practical element, and I also think kids nowadays are just so forced fed CGI and [have been] for the past, like, 10 years. So, I think, you know those kids watching horror movies now that have practical, maybe it’s sort of like how we were watching practical for the first time and seeing it on screen for the first time; it’s just a different feel. I think that’s sort of an interesting look at how practical effects can be used now.
DW: Toward the end of the movie, where they’re in that fantasy world where Paulie is captured, was part of that CGI – like the ash and everything falling?
SCM: The ashes were all shot on set. All of that stuff is actually shot. It was on shot of a green screen, and we just layered it over with movie. It wasn’t digitally created – that was important for me. Although, it was, when we’re physically shooting them (the boys) there, and the ashes weren’t there, then, obviously, I went to the side and burned a bunch of s***. And then I filmed the ashes flying through, blasting green screen and all this kind of stuff and different colors, so that, when we got into post, it was “What would layer on top of that?” and then some rotoscope to make sure it went behind and everything. I guess that was the closest thing we got to CGI.
DW: So, aside from your nightmares, in terms of filmmaking, did you draw your inspiration from [Steven] Spielberg’s work and [Joe] Dante’s work?
SCM: Yeah, definitely. I grew up with those guys. Literally, it felt like every Friday I was renting a movie from those guys or going to see a movie from those guys. At least, the biggest movies in my head that I can remember watching were from Spielberg and Dante and even Sam Raimi. They were always putting kids in these adult situations with these adult themes and I just – I love that. And I think that’s just something that I was really trying to do in this film and try to have some fun with it as well, so it was definitely inspiration.
DW: One of the things I noticed about Neal, the character, is that he grew up haunted by this creature under the bed. But, now, he comes back and he’s haunted by that still, but he’s also haunted by his mother’s passing for which people think he’s responsible. Was that your intention to show that he’s haunted more than his brother is by the creature?
SCM: Yeah, for sure. I think it was just trying to give him a little bit more experience, and it was also a metaphor. I mean, the creature is a big metaphor throughout the movie also for families and what can break up families and what can have problems with families – stuff like that. It’s the idea that you have to come together as a family to defeat this monster. Plus, there’s all this sort of, you know, little hints here and there in the movie that, I think, give it this little extra touch that we try to do. Again, on a small budget, you try to do everything you can to make it feel a little bit more deep than just the average, I guess, run-of-the-muck monster movie. We definitely tried to do something like that.
DW: Well, I think – with it being low-budgeted – it actually helped the film by capturing that more realistic effect in terms of the violence and the bloodshed that happens in the entire movie.
SCM: [laughs] Yeah, for sure, I think you’re right. I think it has a real kind-of vibe going on; you, sort of, felt like you were there. It’s not necessarily intentional – it’s just what we had to do, as far as what we had to deal with, and what we could accomplish in the time we had. Sometimes, I kind of felt things out as I watched it, you know what I mean? If you had a bigger budget, it might have felt different and not as close to home.
DW: Yeah, I watched it again last night, and I kind of noticed that when people were getting dismembered, and it was just like, “This is really realistic-looking,” as opposed to not making it realistic-looking with a computer or with anything else.
SCM: Yeah, I think that was our goal, too. We wanted to, and I knew I was going to alienate a lot of audience members by really switching the tone so violently and so fast. I think, for me, it was, you know, I’ve seen these movies and the slow-burn movies and they continue to do it through the whole movie, and it’s fine and good. I felt like, “Why not do something different?” And, just, we’re going to change the tone, and if the monster was going to come out, we were going to do it in the most shockingly crazy way possible. It just seemed like taking a kid’s head off was the right way to go, but I don’t know. It’s just one of those decisions that you, sort of, live with. [laughs]
DW: [laughs] Yeah, for sure. And the last question I have, I know our time’s almost up, but the last question I have is: What’s your next project?
SCM: The next thing I’m working on is a thriller sort of in the vein of “Buried.” It’s not so contained as “Buried,” but it’s got that, sort of, contained feeling. We see these people in a limo, limo goes off the cliff and into the ocean, and the whole movie’s underwater with them trying to get out. So it’s very, kind of, thriller-esque. Again, [I’m] going away from horror, because I like to try new things, so we’ll see what happens.
DW: So, is it going to be like one person or multiple people in this film?
SCM: Multiple people, which is, I think, will help feel not as claustrophobic. You do get out of the limo quite a bit, even though we’re underwater, I think it’s still a lot of fun.
DW: Well, that’s all the questions I have, unless you wanted to add something about “Under the Bed” or any of your other projects.
SCM: No, man, I’m good. I’m glad you got a chance to watch it and watched it a second time, and this was fun.
DW: Yeah, definitely. And I’ll definitely check out some of your earlier works, too, because I am a little interested in seeing what else you got.
SCM: I think you would enjoy “Aggression Scale” or “Silent Night.” “Aggression Scale” is one of my favorites, so I think it’s definitely something you should check out.
This concludes the interview, but the Chico Movie Examiner would like to thank Steven for taking his time to speak about “Under the Bed.” Click here to see a list of his other films, and if you would like to follow him on Twitter, click here.