Christa Campbell, Patrick Muldoon, and director Tibor Takacs Talk Spiders, in theaters and on VOD this weekend
Harkening back to the beloved creature features from the 50s and the 60s, Spiders centers on mutant spiders created by pieces of material from a disabled Soviet space station that crash lands on Earth. With New York City threatened to be overrun by the gigantic killer spiders who have invaded the metropolitan subway system, it's a race against time to stop the Queen Spider from uniting with her eggs before a deadly chain of events are triggered from the deadly reunion.
To celebrate the release of the film in theaters and on Premium VOD this Friday, February 8th, we caught up with stars of the movie Christa Campbell and Patrick Muldoon, as well as their director Tibor Takács (The Gate), for a chat about this thrilling sci-fi monster movie.
Christa and Patrick play estranged couple Rachel and Jason in the film, who find themselves mending their broken ways when they must team up to defend New York City against a swarm of mutant arachnids and save their daughter. Here is our conversation with the team behind Spiders, which is being presented in 2D and 3D both in theaters and on VOD.
These spiders look better than any other CGI creation that I've seen in recent memory. Is this a mix of practical and digital, or are these creepy crawlies all digitally rendered?
Patrick Muldoon: It is completely digital. We knew that when we were shooting, we had a really good-looking movie. It's obviously a trick shooting in 3D. We knew the look of the movie was great. You hope that the CGI is on par with the movie, and we couldn't be happier. They did such a great job with the spiders. Obviously, Spiders 3D is no good if the spiders aren't great. And I really think they are.
I was blown away by how good the special effects are in this movie...
Patrick Muldoon: They did a fantastic job. Especially when the big mama spider comes out. It's a serious payoff. We were all holding our breath, hoping the CGI would be great. And they delivered. The monsters look fantastic, I think.
One of the things that sells this movie home is your performance. You play this completely straight. There is no hint that you're trapped in what could be considered a goofy B movie.
Patrick Muldoon: The horror genre lends itself to humor, and in some instances, you can play certain things campy. But you have to look at how Tibor Takács shot it. It is dark. It is norish. They really did a great job of creating New York and the atmosphere. There is a heaviness too it. Aside from the spiders, there is this relationship between my character and Christa Campbell's character. The audience emotionally attaches to the human relationship that is going on in the movie. So, yeah, we decided to play it straight. Basically, the characters are fighting to get their daughter back. That's it. Through this journey, their relationship was not on such good terms in the beginning. Through going on this journey together, the husband and wife discover why they respect each other. Simply, I think why it works is because it's not too much. The human story of it, they are just trying to get the daughter back with New York falling apart all around them. Both characters have one thing to do. Its good to have a laugh if that doesn't get in the way. But at the same time, it is very focused.
Had you worked with the director before?
Patrick Muldoon: Tibor Takács is fantastic. I had worked with him before. Its funny. I have done three spider movies. I did Starship Troopers, I've done Ice Spiders with Tibor, and Spiders 3D. Tibor Takács and I worked together on Ice Spiders, which is very campy. It was on the SYFY channel. It's a camp cult classic. It's a really funny movie that doesn't take itself seriously. This new one has a different tone, that is for sure. But Tibor Takács was great. It helped to watch him go through the process, and see the mood that he was setting. In watching the dailies. The mood he was setting really helped our performances. It kept the lid on everything. Because the movie had a heaviness to it, there was a sense of, "Whoa, there is a potency here that tells me something bad is about to happen." And then it certainly does. (Laughs)
What about Christa? Had you guys worked before together?
Patrick Muldoon: we'd never worked together, but we were friends. You know? We knew each other. This is one of those things were there were no bad apples on the set. Christa Campbell and I would have dinner together every night, and we would talk about how we were going to work out the scenes, for the next day. It was a real joy. We ate together every night, and now we're really good friends. It was fun. When you are doing a lot of action, and you are doing these technical types of movies, you can't get mad. You can't have a problem actor. You need a real team player, and Christa is definitely that. She did a great job with her performance. The only thing I was bummed about was that there was no love scene. You have Christa, who is really hot. And there is no love scene. I was upset about that.
I was upset about that too.
But its PG-13, its for the kids...
Patrick Muldoon: Yeah, sure, but it could have been something. Come on! I get no action in this film!
There's a lot of action in the movie...
Patrick Muldoon: I got no loving action!
I know you didn't! But it is full of the action some people want to see. Spiders is quite action packed once you get rolling, and the spiders are taking over the city. There's no time for a love scene.
Patrick Muldoon: Yeah!
Now, I want to know...When you say there are no bad apples on set, and you are starring in a movie like this, and you are giving a straight performance...How do you handle a scene where the other actor is hamming it up, or camping it up? What do you do to find that balance on set?
Patrick Muldoon: I'll tell you what. Tibor Takács knew exactly what he wanted. If we went a little larger, or a little bigger, or we weren't in the tone of what he wanted, he would tell us. It is the director's job. You have the scientist. You have the military guy. They all played it really straight. They really held it down. That's the job in these sci-fi movies, you have the scientist who has a vision. And you have the military guy, and those are some tough scenes to act through. All credit goes to them. They had the vision, and the history, of how these spiders came about. They really held it down. Those are the scenes where you sometimes hear the audience go, "Ah, whatever!" But at every screening I've been to, it is kind of silent. They really set it up for us, so the audience gets the history of how these spiders were formed. Sometimes there is a tendency to go campy in those scenes, but both William Hope and Pete Lee-Wilson really held it down, which served the movie well.
This isn't your first spider movie. What keeps drawing you back to this world?
Tibor Takács: (Laughs) Obviously, I must be creeped out by spiders, to make two different movies about the same thing. The movies are very different, but I am creeped out about spiders. I have had encounters. My wife was bitten by a spider and wound up in the hospital...
How bad was the bite?
Tibor Takács: I think it was a California Brown. They said it was lucky that we brought her in, because you never know where it's going to go. She had an allergic reaction to it, and it left a nasty scar below her bellybutton...
No wonder you are waging war on them once again in a movie!
Tibor Takács: (Laughs)
You needed to get your revenge! Now, Ice Spiders, that was more of a campy SYFY movie...
Tibor Takács: Yes, it had more winking than I usually do.
I have to tell you, as I told Patrick, I was blown away by the spiders in this movie. From what I understand, they are all CGI...
Tibor Takács: They are, that's right...
How did you get to this place, where you have some of the best looking CGI monsters in a movie, ever? This looks better than what we saw in The Hobbit...
Tibor Takács: There are certain things that you need to do...The Hobbit...Randall William Cook, who worked on the first three movies, he worked with me early on with The Gate. Its amazing the kinds of things I still carry with me, that I learned from him, when we first did that movie together. Even though we were using ancient techniques, it's the philosophy behind the effects and the gags. It doesn't matter what technique you are using to execute them. It's all about the intent, and the design of the shot and the creatures.
Here, the spiders are all well-lit. That's something you don't see too often in CGI. Usually, the CGI creatures are kept in the shadows, and only come out at night...
Tibor Takács: Its weird. Some of the reviews said we were hiding them. I said, "That's insane!" Some of the reviewers out there...The inconsistency of the projection is what is killing some of these movies, sometimes.
I didn't watch it in 3D. I did watch it on an Epson projector, and it was bright and colorful, and the cinematograph is amazing for what is being called in the press notes a throwback to the B movies of the 50s and 60s.
Tibor Takács: You watched it streaming?
No. I had a DVD screener...
Tibor Takács: Right. I probably made that myself. (Laughs) That's why it looked good. Or you have a superb system. Maybe it's a combination of both. I am really careful. The movie is supposed to be darkish. But the spiders aren't supposed to be dark. Sometimes, when it's projected in a theater, they don't crank up that projector high enough.
You have to factor in the 3D glasses, too. That makes any movie look dark. Which is a problem for 3D movies right now. You dropped the 3D from your title...
Tibor Takács: Yeah. They did that because they were worried about the VOD. A lot of people aren't suave enough to know that they can watch 3D on VOD. It hasn't penetrated the market like they had imagined.
I know you can watch it on VUDU in 3D. I saw the ad for it on there.
Tibor Takács: Yeah, yeah!
You can watch it in your home in 3D...Now, how does it look in 3D? The screener I was sent is in 2D...
Tibor Takács: It looks fantastic. We did some of the best 3D you will ever see. It's a shame. (Laughs) We paid a lot of attention. It is handmade.
You guys shot the whole thing in 3D, right?
Tibor Takács: Of course, yeah, yeah...
That has to be a little frustrating for filmmakers who make these 3D movies, they are shot in 3D, and they aren't getting into too many 3D theaters...
Tibor Takács: Yeah, I know. It was an experiment. For the company and myself. I convinced them to do it in 3D. I said, "You know, all of this stuff to make a great looking 3D movie is available off the shelf. There are people that are around, who can do the work." We had a fantastic stereographer Phil Brown, who is not all that well know. But he is an artist.
How did you go about putting your cast together? I know you've worked with both Christa and Patrick before. Was this a natural selection, to go to people you were comfortable making this type of movie with?
Tibor Takács: We'd been looking for a project to do together for a long time. But, also, I took in people who would cooperate on this tight budget. We had a quick schedule, so I needed people who understood what we were trying to do, and not have people who would oversell it or undersell it. I needed people who would get the tone of what I was trying to do. So often, the tone is difficult in trying to pay homage to the older movies without being campy. You know?
Yes, that is what struck me about the performances. These guys are playing it straight all the way through, which makes for a more believable movie. I can invest in it more when the actors aren't hamming it up in this outlandish scenario.
Tibor Takács: I really believe in that. The B movie is the B movie, that is what everyone is in. That is the context. But if people act like they are in a B movie? I don't know that I like that. It seems unsatisfying at the end of the day.
Nowadays, you see some people making movies that are intentionally bad and campy. Its fake bad, which I don't like...
Tibor Takács: Yeah, I don't care for that. That is kind of silly. Unless its like an absolute, outright spoof...Spoofs work. But bad movies on purpose don't work.
Its been almost a decade since 8 Legged Freaks was in theaters. I love that movie. I'd call it a classic. Did you look at that movie in deciding what to do here? Were you aware of what they accomplished within that film? Cause Spiders is completely different...
I saw that movie at a test screening. And in the original cut of that film, they have this giant spider that comes out at the end. For whatever reason, they cut that out of the movie, and I loved that part. You have that, though. You don't cut it out! This is like it's spiritual sequel. If you love 8 Legged Freaks, this is the movie you've been waiting for...
Tibor Takács: (Laughs) I didn't know it had a different ending. I'll have to start mentioning that to people. Here, you get spiders that come out of the ground, and they are huge. It's interesting that they cut stuff out of that movie. You have to have the guts to put it out there, because it's so absurd. Its like, "How do you take an absurd premise and have people buy into it for two hours? That's really the task at hand. How dare you do that? It takes bravery, and guts, to do that sort of thing.
What I like about this movie is, as you said, its being made at a low budget. And you're within this contained area for most of the movie. But it looks like New York City. You never call any of the digital shots into question. How did you get so much from so little?
Tibor Takács: Yeah. A lot of planning, you know? That is really what it comes down to. That, and experience. It boils down to having years of low budget filmmaking, this is where it pays off. You know some tricks that might make things feel different, even though you are in the same place. You dole out the different features of the place. As you move along, you don't leave anything to chance. The backgrounds are never by chance. They are timed so that you are constantly rotating the backgrounds, and constantly making them look different. Never overusing one particular area. Trying not to, anyway.
Where was the movie shot?
Tibor Takács: We went to Greenwich Village and shot it! No, no, no...We are in Bulgaria. This is a backlot.
It looks like Greenwich Village, though.
Tibor Takács: We are doing CGI in the backgrounds, yeah. When you see off the set, that is all CG.
But that goes back to the beginning of our conversation, and how good these spiders look. Who are you using for your CGI? And why don't a lot of really big budget movies look this good?
Tibor Takács: I don't know. Its all about perseverance and technique. Like those things I talked about earlier. Its all about your approach and philosophy when it comes to special effects. When to use them, how to use them, the mise en scene, how you set them up. Technically, just looking at the thing, maybe it does compare to some of the bigger budget movies...But we really sold it to you with the story, and the shots before it. When it comes to it, when the shot appears, the casualness of it...This is another thing I think you are picking up on, you are sort of hinting at it...I try to make things, even if they are CGI involved...I try to make it look like its off the cuff. When you have CGI involved in a shot, and you are maybe a new filmmaker, you might tend to make the composition too formal. Too designed. Or contrived, you could say...You are effective in the frame. It will feel contrived. I like to make it feel like, "Oh, we were just there, and we filmed it." We didn't get the camera into exactly the right position.
That's what you nail in this movie. But on top of that, a lot of CGI looks like a cartoon. This looks like real spiders. I thought maybe you guys had created or advanced the technology enough that the CGI-ness of it is not there.
Tibor Takács: It's the idea behind the shot, not the technological aspect of it, that is making you excited. It's more about this idea of making things look informal or off the cuff. Or casual, I would say. Instead of perfectly composing the picture. You default to that. You know? When you are doing CG. I tried to make things look a little more grabbed. Especially the handheld part. That is a big factor, too. A lot of our stuff is handheld.
Its like the end of The Gate when the rocket goes into that demon's eyeball. That's the same idea.
Tibor Takács: Yeah, yeah.
I just watched that the other day, and that movie holds up so well.
Tibor Takács: I would love for them to put out an HD version of that.
Why haven't they?
Tibor Takács: They are holding off. They thought there was going to be some sort of remake. I think Lionsgate has the original, now. I think they were waiting for that.
I thought they shot that movie. Am I wrong?
Tibor Takács: I am completely in the dark at this point. I was involved with it, in the early stages. We had a difference of opinion, and then we went our separate ways.
Last I heard, it was all shot...
Tibor Takács: Maybe it is. They claim it is. But my God, it must be some sort of kafuffle...Something happened...}
Are you familiar with the director of the movie?
Tibor Takács: I know who it is, but I don't know him.
He was talking about it a bunch, there for a while. And then he just stopped talking about it...
Tibor Takács: Right. Did he shoot it? Whenever I see an interview, it's always that he is 'going to be shooting it'. But maybe he did shoot it, and it was a disaster. I don't know. Don't hold me on this! (Laughs)
Who cares, though, right? The original is still so good, and it stands the test of time. I don't need a new one...
Tibor Takács: Yeah. I didn't necessarily want them to do a remake.
What draws you into a movie like Spiders? Do you have a love of spiders, or a fear of spiders?
Christa Campbell: I definitely have a fear of spiders. Don't we want to embrace our fears?
Sometimes. I guess in terms of spiders, it depends on where you live. I could turn my shoe up and get bit, so no, I don't want to embrace that.
Christa Campbell: Obviously, when I read the script, and people were asking me to be involved, I said, "yes, yes, yes." But then I am thinking, "Oh, shit. Are there going to be spiders on set? I'm going to freak out." Then once I realized they were CGI, I was really happy about that!
There weren't any real spiders on the set, were there?
Christa Campbell: No! Thank god. I didn't know what they were going to do. I saw the script and it said, Spiders. I thought, "Shit, I better suck it up." But then I realized, and was very happy, that this was going to be all CGI.
With something like the old William Shatner spider movie, they did use real spiders...
Christa Campbell: That's too scary.
Tell me a little bit about working with Patrick. You guys were friends before all of this...
Christa Campbell: No, we weren't friends. We have a mutual friend. And I think we were introduced once at a dinner. But I didn't know Patrick Muldoon before this. He was a really sweet guy. He was really fun to work with. He cracks jokes all day on set. That makes it interesting. He keeps everyone smiling.
See, he told me you guys were friends. And that you were looking for something to work on. I talked to him earlier in the day...
Christa Campbell: Well, I don't know what he is smoking. (Laughs) It was one time. He walked by, and I was all, "How nice to meet you." But we weren't friends. No. Not unless its something I've been smoking. Maybe I don't remember.
Maybe he was trying to embellish to make the story sound better?
Christa Campbell: Right, "Yeah, yeah, friends! We've known each other for years!" No...
He said you guys had been looking for something to work on together for quite some time. That's not true?
Christa Campbell: What a liar!
Come on, its kind of funny...
Christa Campbell: Maybe I shouldn't be saying this....Okay, yeah. We'd been looking for a project for a while, to work together (laughs).
That's too funny. Now, in terms of the spiders in the movie...They look so good...Did you have any idea how this movie was going to look when you were shooting it? Or was it kind of a surprise when it was all said and done, and you saw it for the first time?
Christa Campbell: We had to work against a tennis ball, but I knew it was important for the company that the spiders look amazing, because if it was hokey, then the movie wouldn't work. The most important thing for the filmmakers was that these spiders look really good.
Did you get to see the movie in 3D yet?
Christa Campbell: Yes I did! The 3D is great. We had one of the best 3D effects companies, out of London, working on the movie. It's really cool. It's so great.
Both you and Patrick give pretty straight performances here. You are never camping it up, which I think helps ground the movie in reality. We can be invested in the material...
Christa Campbell: It was always a serious movie. You want to actually put yourself in this situation. This is awful, my family is falling apart. You want to keep that as real as possible. There was a scene where we are joking. He would improv a lot of that. I am not a jokey hokey person. I am very straightforward. I keep everything serious. My character? I was originally going to play her to be tougher and stronger. But they went towards this, "Well, you can't be stronger than Patrick. You have to let him rescue you, in a sense." A lot of the scenes are like that. It was cool. That was interesting. It was really, really fun. I think it's better if you play it straight and scary, and not campy.
I think its better for the audience. I can invest in it more when I see that the actors are invested in the material.
Christa Campbell: We hope that it's good. We all tried to make it as great as possible. With the production value, I think it came out very well. If it's a B movie, hopefully, we're not going to act as though we're trapped in a B movie. I don't even know how you would do that. Hopefully, we are good enough actors that you don't look at it and think that it's a B movie. But you never know.
Well, sometimes in a Drive-In sci-fi thriller type of movie, you can tell that the actor just doesn't want to be there. You guys all seem to be having a great time.
Christa Campbell: Yeah, that's bad actors.
Patrick was really disappointed that there wasn't a love scene between you and him in the film. How do you feel about that?
Christa Campbell: Oh, my god!
He seemed quite disappointed in this fact...
Christa Campbell: (Laughs) Look, there is a love scene in a movie if it's meant to be there. If it is done creatively and it services the story. There isn't supposed to be a love scene in this movie. And I am fine with it!
Where would you even fit it in? Would you take a moment out of being chased relentlessly by spiders and say, "Hey, let's go hop in the elevator for a few minutes and get it on!"
Christa Campbell: Yeah, it wouldn't fit in. If it's in the movie, and it works, then you add it...But to have a love scene here? That's just kind of silly!
How did you take to some of the action scenes? There are plenty of those...
Christa Campbell: I love doing this stuff. I love doing the fight stuff. I love doing all of my own stunts. Anything. Even if they are telling me, "No, no, no! You can't do that!" I'll do it. Like crashing my car through the gate, climbing up the building, kicking in a window...I love doing all of that stuff. Doing all my own stunts is the fun part of the movie. Sometimes its start and go, do this, don't do that, and you don't get to finish a whole scene. So, the thrill, especially in a movie like this, that is the fun part. That's what I love.
How much fun did you have working with your director Tibor?
Christa Campbell: Well, I have worked with Tibor Takács before. We've made about four movies together. We have a shorthand when we work together. Which is really cool. We are always on the same page. We made Mansquito, we made Lies and Illusions. We made a few films together, so we know each other fairly well. There are no surprises when we work together. He knows how to shoot me. He knows I am fearless. Anything he asks me to do, I'll do. We made a movie in Vancouver and it was snowing. He was like, "Okay, are you going to jump in the lake. The divers are going to pull you under as if you are drowning. If you are in the water for more than five minutes, your feet might fall off." He tells me this, because he knows I'm fearless. Anything I am asked to do, I will usually do. He likes to push his actors, which is cool. So, he is like, "Okay, you are going to get in the car here, you aren't going to spin out, and your are going to crash through the gate. Then fishtail out.." I'm like, "Okay, I got it!"
It sounds like he pulled together a cast that he has worked with before, making for a more easy going set.
I've never seen Mansquito, but I hear the title all the time. That has to be one of the greatest movie titles ever...
Christa Campbell: I don't know, apparently a lot of people like it. It's about a man that turns into a Mansquito. That was a lot of fun.
Do you think you will all reunite for Spiders 2?
Christa Campbell: Oh, I don't know. I guess we'll all have to wait and see how this movie does. I haven't heard anything. It depends on whether people like the film and request it. It would be cool. You never know!