Has anyone made a giant monster horror film as a period musical before? Off-hand I can’t think of any. Japanese flicks such as Furankenshutain no kaiju-Sanda tai Gaira (1966; dir. Ishiro Honda) — otherwise known as War of the Gargantuas — where a lounge singer gets eaten by the giant Frankenstein monster Gaira right in the middle of singing “The Words get Stuck in my Throat” can hardly be described as “musicals” and nor can the ones where native Infant Islanders and the Fairy Sisters chant the Mothra song. So, the answer to my initial question might be, “No!”
Well, New Zealand director Patrick Gillies is righting this reprehensible wrong in a short film called Huhu Attack!
In Cold War-era rural New Zealand, two social misfits – a mousy spinster and a traveling magician – find love against a backdrop of small-town prejudice and 40ft-high mutant man-eating Huhu grubs!
Click to enlarge (so you can read the details!)
It’s Baz Luhrmann meets Peter Jackson in what the director describes as “an audacious 1950s-style comedy-horror musical extravaganza, featuring a spectacular score performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.”
Song, dance, romance and…
… giant grubs!
Rural New Zealand, 31st October 1957. A Sputnik satellite crashes into the edge of a forest, irradiating the nearby flora and fauna. When the Army is called in to investigate, their soldiers are inexplicably attacked by a 40ft-high mutant Huhu grub. At the nearest township, two-bit traveling magician, Miles, falls for the charms of his mousy volunteer, Ngaire, whilst putting on a Halloween magic show for the locals. Their blossoming romance is interrupted when the giant Huhu grubs invade, decimating the townsfolk. Knocked unconscious, Miles awakes to find Ngaire nursing him back to health in a makeshift infirmary. Citing Miles’ knowledge of pyrotechnics, she pleads her reluctant hero to lead the surviving townsfolk in their fight against the man-eating huhu grubs. However, her faith in him is shattered when local agitator, Derek, arrives with soldiers to accuse Miles of being a Soviet spy, directly responsible for the Huhu grub menace. Armed with supposed proof of his Eastern Bloc origins, the soldiers proceed with their intention to execute Miles. After an impassioned and heart-wrenching plea of innocence, Miles is released and the united community rejoices in its new-found tolerance and enlightenment… but not for long!
Check out the trailer:
Huhu Attack! was shot on the Red One camera. Principle photography took place in Christchurch, New Zealand, over the course of four-and-a-half days in late November 2008.
Rather than using 3D (computer) animation, the producers resorted to the more traditional techniques of puppetry and over-cranked miniatures to achieve the illusion of the giant man-eating Huhu Grubs.
When asked about how the project got made, Gillies commented: “Some interesting facts for you: in its path to the big screen, the project received 21 funding rejections. Approx 80% of those people who read the script, rejected it. Conversely, about 80% of our funding was received from people who hadn’t read the script!” Then he added with due irony: “The moral = when making a monster film, don’t show people the script!”
So how was the Monster created?
I set out to create the film’s giant mutant Huhu grub monsters via 3D animation, but then early on, decided it would take too much time and effort, so opted for the (overcranked) miniature/arm-puppet route. Ultimately, the puppet also fitted with the aesthetic of 50s horror films … In the end, we did use two 3D animation shots, though: a shot of grubs on a log and then our epilogue shot of a giant … [actually, we might save that bit of spoilage for readers to experience for themselves when they see the film – Ed.]
Above: Early 3D conceptual drawings (aborted)
Above: 3D Huhu grub model stage 2
Above: Huhu puppet stage 1
Check out the gallery at the end of this article for more images of the Huhu puppet and early 3D model. The Gallery also includes more screenshots — and there are even more pictures on the film’s Facebook page.
So where can readers see the film?
Festivals at the moment. Only five festival laurels feature on the poster, but we have been selected for eight fests in total: Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival (Panorama), Beverly Hills Shorts Fest (Official Selection), Seattle International Film Festival (Official Selection), Palm Springs ShortFest (Official Selection and Best of Fest 2011: Audience Favourite Comedies), New Zealand International Film Festival (Homegrown: Flights of Fantasy), Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival (Official Selection), Traverse City Shorts Festival (Official Selection) and Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival.
Addendum: Sample Storyboard Sequence:
Source: Patrick Gillies via Avery Guerra; Facebook page. See this article for more Behind the Scenes pictures and images of the location shoot. You can download director Gillies bio and filmography here in PDF form.