Don’t go around chasing monsters, because they might be real.
In Victor Mathieu’s directorial debut, The Monster Project is a very creative and scary film presented in the first-person point of view.
It follows a group of aspiring horror filmmakers, eager to raise their YouTube subscriber count, who post an online casting call for “real life” monsters to interview for their documentary. They find three participants and choose to film them sharing their haunted experiences in a mansion in the woods on the night of a lunar eclipse.
The film stars Toby Hemingway, Justin Bruening, Murielle Zuker, Jamal Quezaire, Yvonne Zima, Steven Flores and Shiori Ideta.
LRM had an exclusive phone interview with Victor Mathieu for The Monster Project. Being a monster lover, he extensively talked about making these creatures come to life and the found footage style of filming in particular with night vision.
The Monster Project is currently available on VOD and Digital HD. All horror fans need to check it out.
Read our conversation transcript below.
LRM: I’ve checked out your film. Full of surprises I have to admit.
Victor Mathieu: I certainly hoped you enjoyed it.
LRM: I did. I did. It was quite an interesting film that I haven’t seen in a while. How about this—tell me on where the original idea came from?
Victor Mathieu: It’s a combination of several things. I’m a huge fan of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps. I’ve read a lot of his books growing up. And also there was R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps: Escape from Horrorland, which was released by DreamWorks Interactive. I was a huge fan of that universe growing up. My love of horror came with watching Evil Dead 2. That’s how I fell in love with horror.
The idea came about when I was struggling to make my first feature film called CarnieVille that I shot a spec trailer for. It proved to be a much too expensive for me to be my directorial debut. I met cool people like my co-producer on the film and he came up with an idea that can be more affordable film to make. We can seek financing for our first feature.
I’ve seen a film called The Hamiltons about a family of vampires by The Butcher Brothers. It’s about a family of vampires that live in a house. It triggered an idea in my head on how cool it would be about a group of filmmakers that go into a house inhabited by vampires and things go south.
With my love of Goosebumps, that’s how it evolved into the idea of interviewing different monsters.
LRM: Was the decision to make it as a found footage style film came pretty easy then?
Victor Mathieu: The idea is to make it from the perspective of the filmmakers. It’s not like I was trying to make a found footage film. I don’t see The Monster Project as a found footage film. I see it as a first person’s perspective point of view film. A lot of the story is told through the main characters like one was wearing a GoPro on his forehead.
I see this film as a combo of found footage and a first-person perspective point of view. I thought it was definitely a different style of storytelling in the approach of making The Monster Project.
LRM: How many cameras were used and what types of cameras? There is a GoPro for sure. Was it with a few DSLRs?
Victor Mathieu: My DP would be the best man to ask that question. We used GoPro for some of the certain scenes. We used infrared light on it and my DP developed a lighting system that will circle around the lens of the GoPro.
As for the other cameras, we had a GH4 camera and the Sony camera that had the best quality to operate under night vision. Those are the cameras we used for the making of the film.
LRM: So who exactly controlled the cameras? It sounded like your DP controlled the cameras, but did the actors controlled it too?
Victor Mathieu: Yes, the actors did operate the cameras quite often. I would say at least half of the film. When the action starts, it’s when Phil [Sebal] and I started taking over in terms of operating the camera. There was a decent amount of scenes from Bryan’s GoPro on his head. Those were doubled by me or by Phil. I also shaved my arms and applied the same tattoos that Toby Hemingway has on his arms in real life. I did some of those scenes for him. We wanted to keep him from [doing certain scenes], because some of the stuff we planned to do is quite out there. [Chuckles] That’s why we did it that way.
Toby Hemingway did a lot of stuff you’ll see on screen. The actors did operate the cameras. It’s kind of mix of both.
LRM: You mentioned that some of the GoPro scenes were done by you. Did you parkour much? [Laughs] How did you prepare for that?
Victor Mathieu: [Laughs] No, I think it’s the adrenaline of making the film and knowing that we were on a tight deadline. It was also knowing that it was our shot in making it in Hollywood in order to make the next one and then the next one.
I just knew I had to go for it. I went for it. The actors joined us on this. Everybody was on board for this film to be very dedicated. It made it all possible.
I remembered coming home—after a scene that happens in the woods—that was all me. [Laughs] It was me just going nuts. My arms and legs were bleeding. It was all worth it. I won’t lie—it was a really fun film to make. We were in our playground making the film. We were preparing it for so long in order to be able to play in. It ended up happening.
LRM: Was filming the night vision scenes pretty difficult? It seems to be difficult and dangerous to me.
Victor Mathieu: Dangerous—not so much. In terms of being difficult? Yes, for sure.
Using night vision for The Monster Project is definitely a challenge. The main difficulty that we experienced is something we did not expect, however, in which the night vision diminished in capturing the special effects. The latex and fake blood did not get captured properly when you’re filming in night vision. They rather disappear. It’s very strange. We actually had to do a quick reshoot to recapture some of those elements that were lost.
Our monitors were down ninety percent of the time while filming. We were on a short small budget and couldn’t afford the best monitors. [Laughs] We were making the films with inexistent monitors. We were shooting blindly half the time. We didn’t notice that until halfway shooting the actual scenes. We had to go back in and correct that on a reshoot.
LRM: Were there a lot of practical and makeup effects or did you rely on a lot of CGI to fill the rest?
Victor Mathieu: We heavily relied on practical effects. We wanted to make sure we stuck to the original style of filmmaking of monster movies. We wanted to go back to that way of portraying monsters. We did use some CGI, especially on our demon. For us, it was inevitable.
For the skinwalker and the vampire, we strictly remained practical as much as possible. This film is for me, Phil and Jim [Beinke] love for special effects. It’s for his profession and Phil and I had the love for monster movies. We wanted to tackle it that way. We were really proud of the way the monsters turned out.
LRM: Talk to me about the house. The house is like another character by itself. It was like it was taunting and slowly killing off everybody.
Victor Mathieu: I’m glad you mentioned that! I was telling that exactly to my actors while filming. The house is a character in this film. It is the location. There’s a reason why in the storyline that house is being used for everything that is happening without giving anything away.
Originally, this was not the location I had in mind. The original script was based off another location that was equally as big—about a mile away from that house. A new owner took over it and the price jumped through the roof—times ten. We had to find a new location. I found this one [house] and we were able to afford it.
I think the house really comes to life, especially when the characters enter the basement. I think it really shines. We were really happy to work things out. The basement scene was rewritten entirely, because crawlspace scene did not exist in the original house. We glad we found that in the new house, because it made the movie different and creepy in the end. [Laughs]
LRM: Was this house based in Los Angeles?
Victor Mathieu: Yes, it’s in the West Adams Historical District. It’s a historic house. We were very lucky to be able to shoot there. It wasn’t easy to get the permits to shoot there, but Film LA helped us out to get those permits. We were in and out of that house quite fast. We were there for just ten days.
That house was quite a maze. It has a lot of rooms. The architecture was quite interesting. It was quite a trip to film in there. It also felt claustrophobic depending on where you’re at.
LRM: It felt claustrophobic to me. [Laughs] Out of curiosity, how long was your shooting production? I know you mentioned it was ten days at the location, but I’m guessing this is a 15-day shooting project?
Victor Mathieu: That is exactly right. We had fifteen days to shoot the entire film, which was the main challenge on making the movie. We had to try to accomplish everything in fifteen days. It was very difficult. We were moving fast all the time. But, we made it happen. And the challenge was also working on very heavy stunts on a daily basis as well with the practical effects. It was complicated in that respect.
LRM: As for the story itself, how did you come to the decision to include a vampire, werewolf and a possessed spirit? They are from three very different lore.
Victor Mathieu: Growing up, I was very terrified with The Ring and The Grudge. Those two movies traumatized me as a kid. [Laughs] I met Shiori Ideta on a play that I worked on for a while called Delusion, a live interactive play in Los Angeles. When I met her, she was so scary and I knew I wanted to work with her one day. She inspired me to write her character into the film.
As for the vampire, it just made sense to include it in the film. I always wanted to come up with my own take on the vampire lore. We modified it a little bit. As for the skinwalker, I’m a huge fan of the werewolf. I’ve always have been. I really look forward into making a werewolf movie one day. I want a real true werewolf movie. This movie is my first attempt or shot to making a werewolf in a feature. This is such a cool creature to make and look at.
LRM: That’s pretty awesome. For the vampire, were those real tattoos or were they fake?
Victor Mathieu: Those were also part of the special effects design team and maintained on a regular daily basis. They were a lot of work. I think they took four to five hours to apply initially and then numerous hours just to maintain. Plus, they had to do prosthetics on her forehead. The vampire was quite a lot of work for the special effects design team. They did a phenomenal job.
LRM: Let me start wrapping things up with you. Can you talk about any future projects that you may have?
Victor Mathieu: There are so many that I’m looking at or thinking about. There’s a script I’ve finished that I’m trying to develop. If The Monster Project takes off, which picked up a lot of steam on IMDB as a most popular trailer, then I’m very opened to making a sequel to The Monster Project. I would also consider making a standalone movie about Smiling Man. I’m eyeing all that upon the success of the film.
If not, I’m really interested in making a movie about La Llorona. That’s something I would die to make happen. It’s a legend that I find fascinating. I’ve always been interested into diving into that world and that culture.
There are a lot of projects. And Carnieville! That’s the film I’ve tried to make originally. I still hope to make one day. We’ll see. There’s a lot of projects on the horizon.
LRM: This is a great conversation, Victor. One more quick answer for a quick question. Since it seems like you’re such a monster lover, which monster is your favorite creature?
Victor Mathieu: In The Monster Project? Or in general?
LRM: In general. Out of all the lore.
Victor Mathieu: I would have to say the werewolf. I really want to make a werewolf movie one day. I hope to make that dream into reality really soon.
LRM: After The Monster Project, I’m sure everyone is going to take notice. Thank you very much, Victor. I appreciate this conversation.
Victor Mathieu: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
The Monster Project is available on VOD and Digital HD today.
Source: Exclusive to LRM