Sunday, July 8, 2018

Invasion of the Rocket Monsters - a sci-fi film in development

Essay by Sherman Hirsh. (Sherman, a screenwriter and director, has written several fascinating essays for Plan9Crunch, including his accounts of being involved with the making of films, including Surgikill, Lords of Magick, Scream Zombie Scream, and more. We're pleased to publish this latest essay.)


came across an interesting word:TERATOPHOBIA. It literally means “Fear of Monsters”. 

No, I did not make that word up, but I did coin a derivative word: TERATOPHOBIAPHILIA, which I propose to mean “the condition of liking to be scared by monsters”. Most people have it to some extent, some to a pathological degree. Those are the fans who hit every monster convention. Hey, at least we have monster conventions.

I've been thinking a lot about monsters lately, like how monsters used to be a large part of popular culture, and how the films from that bygone era are still popular. In recent years, most monsters were zombies, with an occasional macro-monster like Godzilla and his ilk.

Where were the mutants, lab failures, atomic giants and bugs, killer brains and trees and other plants and goo, rabid robots, ravenous germs and the rest? Oh, sure, we had Alien and Predator, and a couple Mummies, but did they spark a whole era of monster media like they did in the 50's. OK, not yet. Plus, all that rancor against stop motion ( which is enjoying something of a comeback ) and the MAN-IN-THE-SUIT menaces versus CGI has put the whole pantheon of monsters in the old creepers home. Even the zombies are on hiatus.

I grew up on a steady diet of monsters. Between FAMOUS MONSTERS, the only magazine on the newsstand that told how movies were made, and SHOCK THEATER making Friday nights a horror/Sci-Fi film fest, monsters were old friends, making us delight in fright to the tune of a wailing theremin. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, OUTER LIMITS added more fuel to the pyre. New monsters added to the weirdness universe made my teen years almost tolerable. I wanted a piece of the action. I wanted to make movies. I did.

As a filmmaker, I have the means and skills to put my imaginings on a screen somewhere. I have made 3 features, one, LOVE SLAVES OF THE SHE-MUMMY, a homage to Late Night Horror Hosts, SCREAM, ZOMBIE, SCREAM, a zombie farce, and most recently, OVERLORDS OF MAGICK, a wizard fantasy follow-up to a film I wrote for someone else 30+ years ago. 

However, for a long time, I have wanted to indulge my love of Science Fiction. I wanted to shoot on a space ship, and have my protagonists battle good old fashioned monsters. I did all kinds of other genre projects, but sci fi had to wait. Hence, my latest project, INVASION OF THE ROCKET MONSTERS. I don't want to give away too much, not that the title doesn't spell out what you could expect to experience.

Basically, my zombie hunters from SCREAM, ZOMBIE, SCREAM are called out of retirement to apply their skills to exterminating a gaggle of alien monsters on their own massive spaceship. Since no one has seen SZS, this won't mean much to most people, but what if you could see SZS before INVASION is released? You can. I have re-edited SZS into six episodes which will be up on YouTube to be followed by INVASION soon after. Eventually.

There is a reality show on SyFy called FACE OFF. Teams of pro and emerging make up artists compete for cash and prizes by creating full body costumes and original faces based on assigned themes. I have been watching the show, looking for ideas to steal for my monsters. Except that, so far, I haven't seen anything worth stealing. These artists are very talented, but their creations are keyed to the themes of the assignment, and not to the requirements of a story, so the designs are more works of static art than movie monsters. 

Does this worry me? I'm in Los Angeles, the Film Capital of the World. I will find someone to build my six full body monsters. And if they insist on being paid, I will make the damn monsters myself.

Less is more. INVASION OF THE ROCKET MONSTERS will not be a feature. It will be between 30 and 60 minutes. Face it, the concept won't support a feature without a lot of unwelcome filler. A nice tight featurette has several advantages. One is money; shoot less, spend less. One of the reasons I avoided Sci Fi is that it calls for special props, costumes and sets. OVERLORDS OF MAGICK was a Sword & Sorcery fantasy with a Medieval look.

Props and costumes and set d├ęcor for the Middle Ages are easy to get from multiple sources. For some reason, uncopyrighted science fiction objects that aren't derived from movies and TV shows aren't mass produced, and if I want a convincing ambiance, a lot of my visual assets will have to be fabricated. One more challenge. So what? Shooting could be 7-10 days, instead of as many weeks. Less footage, less post-production. Less pressure means more time to prepare and rehearse. AND there might be enough money left over for another project.

I'm saving up. The longer I wait, the more money I'll have saved up for the project. I calculated that if I plan for a start date sometime in October, the finances will be a minor concern. That's plenty of time to prepare all the details. INVASION OF THE ROCKET MONSTERS could be out for Christmas, a welcome antidote for all those girly Disney princess flicks that will be clogging up the cinemas.

There's a lot to do. I have to perfect the script, set up the studio and prepare the sets, commission half a dozen monsters that don't look like badly made Muppets. Oh, and learn to play the theremin.

Plan 9 Crunch has been a great source of support relative to several of my projects, and any news about INVASION OF THE ROCKET MONSTERS will originate here. If you like monsters, I got 'em! There's a lot to do. I have to perfect the script, set up the studio and prepare the sets, and commission half a dozen monsters that don't look like badly made Muppets. Oh, and learn to play the theremin.

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