“WolfCop” is a hilarious new indie horror comedy from writer/director Lowell Dean. The 2014 film debuted to rave reviews, quickly amassing a strong cult following. There’s even a “WolfCop 2” already in the works. “WolfCop” is currently available on DVD and Blu-Ray, as well as various streaming services, plus it’s showing in select cinemas. We had the pleasure of sitting down with Lowell Dean at the recent Wizard World Comic Con in Raleigh.
CupOfMoe: While watching “WolfCop,” several films come to mind, such as “The Evil Dead,” and “Hot Fuzz.” What are some of the influences that spawned “WolfCop?”
Lowell: Honestly, you hit the nail on the head. The way we pitched it was “Teen Wolf” meets “Bad Lieutenant” and that was, I think a broad kind of various specific worlds colliding. But I definitely did watch “Hot Fuzz” before we shot it, I watched “Evil Dead” again, we just really wanted to study movies that were really good at balancing both horror and comedy which is very rare and very hard. I mean, I looked at “Ghotsbusters,” I looked at John Landis movies like “American Werewolf in London,” and I found that as we shot it was a big challenge and I have more respect for those filmmakers now too because it’s very hard to go from, you know, a seriously dramatic moment to the most over the top violence, you know that’s very cartoony almost, and then back again.
CupOfMoe: Horror comedy is one of the most difficult genres, so what are some of the challenges that you faced?
Lowell: I’d say the biggest challenge was just being the gatekeeper for tone, and that’s not a tangible thing, so I had to think “are we on track?” And sometimes it was like we’d do a scene I would say to the actors they were way too funny. You almost get to that point where people are walking and talking a different way because they know you’re going to laugh and you have to create rules that are almost comic book roles in a way. Never be over the top silly unless you are the silly character, everyone else has to be serious no matter how hard it is, and just have faith that the moment was absurd, you know. For example, Johnathan Cherry who played Willie, he had permission to be as silly as he wanted, cuz he’s the crazy guy, right? But Leo [Lou/WolfCop] could never walking around being all crazy, he had to be very even keel, and even Amy Matysio who was Tina, she could be funny as Tina, but there had to be a certain kind of Tina funny. Honestly, to this day it was a big challenge, but when in doubt we’d shoot a scene two different ways. Like we’d do some scenes where I would let them do their silly scene and then I’d say “now do this like you’re in an Oscar winning drama,” and as we would edit it, some of the answers came in the edit. If it wasn’t working we’d just say “I’m sure we did a funny take, let’s use that, because it’s been serious too long.”
CupOfMoe: Many aspire to be actors, but it’s not as prevalent that people aspire to be the one behind the camera, so at what point did you know you wanted to be the one writing and directing?
Lowell: That’s a good question, I don’t know honestly, I mean, I’ve been shooting stuff with my friends since I was like 7 or 8 years old so I think maybe subconsciously I wanted to be a director, like I’d always be shooting things and after a while you just get bossy when you’re not liking what’s happening and you start being the one grabbing the camera and saying, “no, I want this kind of thing.” But for writing, I did a lot of short films and they were all very bad, and I think a lot of the reason was because there was no writer, I’d just be making it up as we went. I think probably in my teen years I realized “why are all these things so bad?” I think because there’s no story, so I stopped and actually planned a few months before I shot trying to come up with a story that at least was good enough to go to camera, because I mean I just always assumed that I would be filming even if I didn’t have an idea, like “let’s just see what happens.”
CupOfMoe: Writing and directing is a lot of involvement, as you talked about, so what are some of the challenges of having all that responsibility?
Lowell: If it sucks or fails, you have no one to blame, genuinely, and honestly I’m so relieved that people are liking “WolfCop,” and I’m shocked at how many people do, especially because of how silly it is. You expect a small section of cult horror fans to like it, but I’m so happy that even non-horror fans are really digging it, because honestly if pretty much every review came out and said it was garbage that would be the of me doing this.
CupOfMoe: A lot of the werewolf lore, the shapeshifters, were an amalgamation of the supernatural elements, so what went into crafting all that backstory?
Lowell: I researched werewolves, I’ve always liked werewolves, but my knowledge was a bit limited, it was just “Teen Wolf,” and “An American Werewolf in London,” so I read a lot about the history of werewolves, and iconography, and how it originated even, I went on Wikipedia, I bought a couple werewolf history books, things like that, and it’s just such a rich history, that I realized most movies just discuss the surface, they don’t ever really explain, it’s just a monster in the shadows and a full moon. In reading about it I found out about a curse in the old Hollywood films, and a lot of the mythology was more around the curse, and I thought that tells way more than anything.
CupOfMoe: And the werewolf transformation scene is incredibly inventive, and one of the coolest werewolf transformation scenes on film, so how did you envision that segment?
Lowell: Well we knew that werewolf films are judged by transformations, so I told myself that before we even had a script Emerse Ziffile, who did the effects, he’s a great guy, he and I sat down and the way it was kind of formed was Emersen being an effects artist, I said, come up with a wishlist of what you’d like to do. And he brought me a page that was like 20 points long, and at an independent budget level we can only do four of these, so we looked at what would be the most dramatic body parts. I knew if we could do a wolf dick, that would be more powerful than five other shots because it would be so shocking, and I’d never seen it, so basically it was born out of what haven’t we seen, and how do we make it painful, and again, we have the second transformation scene in the jail cell where Emersen had the effects list of “this is what I’d like to do,” and we broke down what we could afford to do. I think he brought a list of 10 shots and we did five, like “face rip,” and “claw,” so in a way the audience is smart enough that they can fill in the blanks with their imagination but you have to show enough to get people on board.
CupOfMoe: You mentioned “WolfCop 2,” which is in the works, so what can we expect?
Lowell: It’s going to be better, the first one was a mystery, origin film, and the second is going to be more of an action film, and more messed up. In a weird way, I compare it to the jump between “Evil Dead,” and “Evil Dead 2.” This next one will be more aggressive, more crazy, full of more bizarre moments, and things you can’t un-see, and more character depth. We’ll get a little deeper with Lou and Tina. There’s also going to be a villain who can kick WolfCop’s ass, because in the first movie he didn’t really have that. With the shapeshifters, once the mystery was revealed, he just kind of killed them because they were more smart villains, they weren’t really physical villains. In the next movie WolfCop will face someone who can wipe the floor with him, which I’m really excited about.
CupOfMoe: Making a movie is becoming increasingly feasible with means such as crowdsourcing, so what advice would you give to a budding filmmaker or writer?
Lowell: I would say the hard thing now isn’t getting the camera and shooting it, it’s standing out and making people see it, so I would say make it as good as you possibly can, shoot it right, make sure it has good production value, and if you don’t have the finances for the feature, do a short. Make a really short five minute film, and when you’re ready use that five minute film to convince people to give you the funding to do your film.