In the new creature feature Animal two sets of folks — including characters played by Keke Palmer (90210), Jeremy Sumpter (Friday Night Lights), Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy) and rapper-actress Eve — are hunted by a forest-dwelling beastie with a lot of teeth in its head and very few vegetarian recipes on its mind.
Directed by Brett Simmons (The Monkey’s Paw), the film is now screening in select cinemas and is also available on digital download prior to being screened at a later date on Chiller. Below, Animal producer and cowriter Thommy Hutson talks about the film — and why working on Scooby-Doo is the perfect preparation for making horror movies.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Before Animal you were best known for writing and producing documentaries about horror films, including the A Nightmare on Elm Street retrospective, Never Sleep Again. How did you segue into actually making horror films?
THOMMY HUTSON: I don’t know if it was necessarily a segue, it was kind of an off-shoot of what I was already doing. My writing partner Catherine Trillo and I essentially wrote Animal a few years ago. We really wanted to do something that was a throwback to the ‘80s creature feature. Catherine and I were writing while I was doing the documentaries. Horror is obviously a genre that I really like so it was like, if we write something, let’s write something that we can have a lot of fun doing in a genre that I enjoy watching.
How was the creature described in your script? And how much input did you have in its ultimate design?
It definitely evolved. Originally, on the page, it was more nebulous. There was a lot of leeway. We had an amazing designer in Gary Tunnicliffe and a lot of the creature came from Gary’s imagination. He is fantastic at digging into “What is the creature? What does it do? Why does it do it? Why does it want to it? And how can it do that?”
Tell us about the shoot.
We shot in Connecticut. It really was the woods. It wasn’t like, “Hey, this is a small patch of trees, we can cheat it.” It was really beautiful area and that location worked so well for this movie. You have this serenity and beauty in the beginning, in the daylight, and the minute the sun goes down the wilderness takes on that unknown factor. Anything can happen. When the sun goes down—who knows?
I recently interviewed the director of the original Leprechaun film who used to work on Scooby-Doo and James Gunn wrote the Scooby-Doo movies before directing Slither and I believe you have also written for Scooby-Doo. Is writing for the Scooby gang the best preparation for becoming a horror filmmaker?
When you really look at it, Scooby-Doo and those little adventures are kind of mini-horror movies for small kids. The reality is, they’re going into a haunted house, they’re dealing with ghosts, they’re dealing with monsters, they’re dealing with creatures. Obviously it all ends up okay in the end. But Scooby-Doo is creepy, and it’s scary, and it’s fun, and it’s that rollercoaster ride of horror. And you are correct, Catherine and I did work on two Scooby-Doo animated movies. I remember when we were pitching our first one they liked the fact that we had written a horror script and they read that and they enjoyed the fact that we had fun with the characters but still keep everything scary and creepy and interesting with a little bit of action.
What are you doing next?
Without delving too deep, Catherine and I are working on something with Clive Barker and his company Seraphim Films, which is really exciting. Individually, I have the hardcover coffee table book on the original A Nightmare on Elm Street coming out in November. We had a successful Kickstarter campaign for that so I want to thanks every single person and fan who supported the project. It’s really shaping up to be a beautiful, beautiful book and I think the people who supported it are really going to love it.
Do you have any thoughts about a possible Animal 2?
I absolutely have thoughts about Animal 2. But I can’t share them. [Laughs]
You can check out the trailer for Animal below.