There’s a new bug in town — and though he doesn’t sound nearly as glamorous as the giant ants from Them!, he does get the attention of the local gals. He’s an earwig — a giant earwig — and what he really wants is love.
He features in the theoretical film Earwigs, brainchild of filmmaker Bruce LeGrow. At the moment Earwigs exists only as a trailer, made initially for a faux-trailer contest, but — as is increasingly common practice, it seems — its director, LeGrow, has ambitions to expand the project into a feature-length film. It would, obviously, be a retro Sci-Fi homage film in the vein of The Lost Skeleton of Cabavra (US-2001; dir. Larry Blamire), in this case referencing the giant-bug genre that hit its peak in 1954 with Them! (US-1954; dir. Gordon Douglas) — the Earwigs poster above not accidentally borrowing its central image from the famous poster for that film.
From the trailer itself and the speculative synopsis LeGrow provided, however, the film will give equal attention to assorted “unstable scientist” flicks dating from the Time of The Drive-In Double Feature — “a twisted world where science and love collide”.
Dr Rutherford’s home life is in shambles. His wife is an abusive gossip who spends most of her time complaining about her husband on the phone. Amidst his current studies for the military, the doctor has been working overtime to develop a serum that would alter the human brain. The serum is intended to unleash the brain’s full potential for empathy and compassion. After a few failed attempts of using the serum on his wife, and selling it as a “love potion” to local hoodlums, the doctor stumbles upon the missing ingredient in his own basement laboratory. Earwigs!
Earwigs are the great mothers of the solitary insect world. Earwigs care for their young well after the second molt! Through a series of radical experiments, the doctor manages to extract the “caring gene” from the brain of an earwig. He carefully adds it to his powerful serum.
Inevitably a domestic dispute ends with Dr Rutherford kicked out of his own house. Now residing in the military laboratory, the doctor turns his sights to his sexy lab assistant Diana. He propositions that they each drink his serum and start a new loving life together. Diana declines and flees the scene. In a moment of desperation the doctor takes the serum and is strangely mutated into an earwig.
Dr Rutherford, now more earwig than man, lurks throughout the city. He has a sinister motive to capture women and create his own “perfect” family. After abducting Diana from a car at lover’s lane, the giant earwig creates an evil sanctuary in an abandoned barn on the edge of town. From here he uses his psychic powers to summon and command a vast horde of earwigs.
The earwigs crawl inside their victims, effectively turning them into mindless slaves of the earwig’s evil will. Fear and suspicion reign supreme amidst the plethora of strange occurrences around town. More young women are disappearing, and a manhunt begins for Dr Rutherford. Rumors abound that the recent phenomenon is part of an elaborate Communist attack on freedom. The military suspects Dr Rutherford is involved in this red plot, and begins an investigation. Meanwhile, Private Buck begins his frantic search to find and save his young love, Diana.
The town is in an uproar. It’s becoming impossible to determine who is under the earwig’s command. Greasers and nerds unite after a horrific incident at the sock-hop, and Private Buck finally uncovers the location of the giant earwig’s lair. The earwig threat is growing exponentially. A series of incidents finally prompts the army into action. Heavy artillery moves throughout the countryside. A massive stand-off occurs once the army descends upon the earwig’s lair. Will mankind triumph over the earwig’s lust for power? (source: Bruce LeGrow)
As well as expounding on the location shoots he undertook to film the Earwigs trailer, director Bruce LeGrow (as pictured above) explained to the Backbrain the inspiration behind making Earwigs:
Earwigs was one of those ideas that seemingly came out of nowhere. There was a call to create a fake horror/ sci-fi trailer to screen at the local Silver Wave film festival. I had just moved out of an earwig-infested house, so I already had earwigs on the brain! It felt natural to make a monster movie about earwigs in a 50s sci-fi context. Earwigs seem to be the only bugs that didn’t have their own creature feature in those days. I am a big fan of the ’50s sci-fi film — “Creature from the Black Lagoon”, “Them”, and “Tarantula” in particular.
While we were shooting I had tasked a few talented folks to work on some specific props: the “earwig helmet” for when the doctor becomes the half-man-half-earwig, and the “giant earwig” for the final scene in the farmland lair. The “earwig helmet” (pictured below) is made entirely out of cardboard. It consists of many molded layers of cardboard that are stacked on top of one another to create the contours of an earwig’s face. It is a fun prop to wear around!
The giant earwig went though a few mutations to end up as “hilariously scary” as it did. There was a team of people working on the head, which is ultimately a broken BBQ with copper tubing as antennas. The BBQ was covered in paper-maché and painted black. The completed head was then mounted on a 2×4, which was in turn attached to a chicken-wire frame covered in garbage bags! Andrew Long hid behind the mighty beast to operate the arms and give the evil earwig some creepy movement.
This project could not have been made without the generous help and equipment from the New Brunswick Film Co-op. Luckily I was able to get my hands on some 16mm film, and within a week of the initial idea, shooting began. Shooting on 16mm film with an aaton camera added to the ’50s aesthetic, and provided some great experience.
Wardrobe, hair and make-up were major undertakings. Under the supervision of 1950s experts Jenn Chaisson and Jody Dickinson, I had rented a plethora of period-specific wardrobe from Theater New Brunswick. This combined with the help from talented hair and make-up artists Christine LeBlanc, and Terri Richards (who I always called at the last minute!… Sorry!), made the ’50s came alive!
In the first day of shooting we completed all of the mad scientist lab scenes. These were shot in an operational entomology lab with the help of lighting wizard Chris Giles. For the lover’s lane scene I was lucky enough to wrangle a ’54 Ford. A beautiful setting for an earwig abduction! The tank scenes were shot at a local tank monument, and many of the final scenes in the trailer were shot at a local farm. The farm house mysteriously burned down in the middle of production. It was a shame to lose such a wonderful location to vandals.
Once Earwigs was in the can, I shipped it off and focused on the sound edit. I was fortunate to be able to work with Lex Gigeroff (of LEXX fame), who was a great help in the pre-production stage, and who delivered an energized performance as the narrator for Earwigs. At the helm of the sound edit was my good friend Gregg O’Donnell. We really wanted the audio to feel like a true 1950s movie. The challenge was that the movie had to be a modern take on this style, and everything needed to be decipherable. With a budget of zero dollars, and no analog equipment, the atmosphere was created using digital effects such as generated turntable noise.
The score was written and produced within two weeks, and production for the ’50s style do-wop song “My Baby Left Me for an Earwig”, took a full week on top of that. Gregg wrote, mixed, and produced the music for “My Baby Left Me for an Earwig”, with no live instruments other than vocals. I wrote the lyrics and sang lead vocals, while Gregg supplied the backing harmonies. This was a fun piece to make, and hopefully it will bring some attention to this film!
Click here to listen to The Hot Rod Daddy Oh’s singing the theme song “My Baby Left Me For an Earwig”.
Is there more? Or will there be?
Unfortunately I had to cut some scenes to make a streamlined two-minute trailer. These scenes include some earwig psychic power, a government counsel meeting, another mad scientist scene, and a night at the theater. Logistically the theater scene was the most difficult to pull off. A great number of great women spent a lot of time to prepare for the screen. In the end the scene turned out great, but had to be cut for time purposes. These deleted scenes are still intact in the extended cut of Earwigs that is currently in its festival run. For now only the 2 minute version is posted online.
Earwigs is still in its festival run, having already screened at the International Horror and Sci-fi festival in Phoenix, and at the Famous Monsters festival in Beverly Hills. On April 1st Earwigs was named one of the top five trailers in the “Hobo With a Shotgun” fake trailer contest. Earwigs was also screened at the 2011 Phoenix Comicon on May 27th. The trailer is currently in the International Movie Trailer Festival and needs votes! (You can find the trailer and vote for it @ http://www.internationalmovietrailerfestival.com/imtf/index.php/trailer-2011/ )
I would love to make Earwigs into a feature-length film. I am currently brainstorming ideas and writing a treatment. The trailer leaves things fairly wide open for a feature. This is good, but it creates a challenge on how to tell the story. I want Earwigs to be fun within its genre, rather than being campy and poking fun at it. I could write a script that could be made with a shoe-string budget, but I am currently going for the grand approach!
More images from Earwigs are available in the Gallery.
Source: Bruce LeGrow via Avery Guerra; Facebook page.