Chilling Out

Lowell Dean


Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re talking with Lowell Dean, the brainchild behind everyone’s favorite lycanthropic authority figure, WolfCop. The writer and director of the popular horror/comedy mashup recently premiered the latest film in the franchise, “Another WolfCop,” at select theaters and is currently preparing to launch the sequel wide on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital home entertainment in 2018.

We recently sat down with Dean to discuss why he creatively felt the need to howl at the werewolf moon, the importance in finding the right tone, and how he worked on improving upon the original film.


TrunkSpace: When you first set out to make the original “WolfCop,” what was the intention? Were you setting out to produce a film that would be a calling card for your career as a writer/director? Were you looking to create a film that you yourself would sit in the audience of? What was the personal aspect of your creative mission?
Dean: I created “WolfCop” because it was something I wanted to see, that was my only real agenda. It was something I didn’t feel existed in the market at that time and I knew that if audiences wanted to see it half as bad as I did, we had a shot at something good. When I first wrote it, the main werewolf presence in cinema was “Twilight,” and I really wanted to “take back” the wolf-man to the look of a man in a suit, practical effects type of film. I wanted to get away from the CGI animal on all fours look. Basically, I wanted a modern (but more drunk) version of “Teen Wolf” or the Universal “Wolf Man.”

TrunkSpace: Having a film connect with an audience can be a bit like catching lightening in a bottle. You can never tell what will resonate and what will not. With that being said, when you were making the first “WolfCop,” did it have the feeling of a film that would find an audience and ultimately, give birth to a sequel?
Dean: I had no idea. I certainly hoped it would resonate, but I was half expecting it to be ignored or hated outright because of the goofy title. I was worried people would think it was a serious film just done poorly, despite the title. That’s why I love the title and was adamant to use it – it lets audiences know right from the top what to expect and that it is okay to have fun with it.

TrunkSpace: When you’re finished with a film and releasing it to the world, what emotions do you wrestle with? Is it both exciting and terrifying at the same time?
Dean: It is like a breakup, in a way. You just have to let go. Up until that point if a film is done, you are in a battle to make it as good as possible, but once it is done and out in the world you just have to move on and try to find inspiration elsewhere. I was less worried about audience reaction with the sequel because we have a built in fanbase. I knew that fans of “WolfCop” would hopefully like it because we worked very hard to build on the experience of the first one and take things up a notch. That said, you never know for sure!

TrunkSpace: The horror/comedy mashup is a genre that can swing and miss badly when the tone is off even a little. How important was it to you to find (and strike) the balance between the two genres without going too far off in one direction?
Dean: Tone is everything. I think it is the most important part of a director’s job in the horror/comedy genre. It is a big challenge and to be honest, you just have to go with your gut most times and consider yourself the first audience member. I’ve been told often that the horror/comedy genre should be avoided but I can’t help it, I love the genre! When it is done right it is absolute bliss. I say this both as a filmmaker and an audience member.

TrunkSpace: Artists often have a damned-if-they-do/damned-if-they-don’t battle when it comes to following up a success. If you travel too far away from what made the first one so popular, you risk losing the fandom you built. If you remain too close to the original, you risk being called out for not growing and building on the original. As a filmmaker, is that something you thought about when putting together “Another WolfCop,” and if so, how did you tackle that creatively?
Dean: I had two big goals with the sequel. Number one was don’t just retell the first story, which I feel is a trap many sequels get into. I really wanted to do something new. My number 2 goal was to amp up the crazy and take the madness (practical effects, violence, comedy, action) to the next level. I honestly believe that within our parameters of budget and time, the whole team pushed really hard to make something both unique and twisted. It wasn’t easy!

Dean on set.

TrunkSpace: We read that you felt the makeup was “worlds above” the first film and that in terms of effects, the quantity greatly surpasses what you put in the original “WolfCop.” Did that place more pressure on you as a director from a technical standpoint?
Dean: I feel like every team member who carried over from the first film felt a huge desire to do better with the sequel. We saw it as an opportunity to improve upon our work. Emersen Ziffle, the makeup FX artist, was overjoyed he could redo the makeup with all he had learned in the interim. I was overjoyed to have a chance to make a crazier film with more action since, there wasn’t much in the first film. I felt a lot of pressure to make the sequel better, but most of it was self-imposed.

TrunkSpace: When you look back at both films, what are you most proud of?
Dean: If anything, “WolfCop” 1 and 2 are personal validation that there is an audience for my weird ideas. That’s my take away! “WolfCop” was my first film as a writer/director, and prior to that I wasn’t really sure audiences would connect with my sense of humor. I made a lot of short films prior, but people often told me that I was weird… or my films were weird… so I was nervous it would be hard to do something with mass appeal. Turns out there’s a lot of weird people out there!

TrunkSpace: It seems that anything horror related tends to have a longer shelf life than most other films. It also seems like most fans of horror as a genre are more willing to try something new than perhaps a general mass market moviegoer. As someone who has worked within the genre, do you find that to be the case?
Dean: All I know is genre fans, horror fans specifically, are rabid and inclusive. They are a wonderful bunch. At every convention or screening I attend, horror movie fans are some of the sweetest, most passionate people you could hope to meet. It is part of the reason I wanted to get into genre filmmaking in the first place. I mean, tell me the last time you went to a romantic comedy convention!

TrunkSpace: The “WolfCop” franchise has such a specific tone and artistic point of view. Tonally, is this a sandbox that you see yourself continuing to play in as a filmmaker, or do you envision a creative departure in the future?
Dean: I love the sandbox of horror/comedy and the tone we strike in the “WolfCop” films. That said, I don’t want to only make “WolfCop” films. I want to try a bit of everything. That is the joy of being a writer and director, you get to try new things. I want to make dramas, action films, comedies, thrillers… I want to do it all!

TrunkSpace: Speaking of future, what’s next for you? What can fans of your work look for in 2018 and beyond?
Dean: I’m currently in post production on “SuperGrid,” a post apocalypse action film about two brothers on a dangerous cargo run. Hopefully it will be out by next summer. Beyond that, I’m just writing new scripts and looking for new directing jobs!

Another WolfCop” roars onto Blu-ray, DVD, and digital home entertainment in 2018.

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The Featured Presentation

Jesse Moss

Photo by: Kristine Cofsky

Haley Joel Osment isn’t the only person seeing dead people these days. With the new Syfy series “Ghost Wars” set to kick off tomorrow, the entire population of a remote Alaskan town is about to be spooked on a massive scale. With a cast that includes Vincent D’Onofrio and Meat Loaf, as well as a trailer that would make Vincent Price’s iconic voice crack, Major League Baseball isn’t the only fall classic set to wow people this week.

We recently sat down with series star Jesse Moss to discuss the impressive “Ghost Wars” creative team, where the real horror lies, and why people are continuously drawn to the idea of being scared.

TrunkSpace: The “Ghost Wars” concept is great. The producers are powerhouses. The cast is stacked. And there’s a side of Meat Loaf! From a project perspective, this is a dream gig. What were your initial thoughts when you booked the job and what are your expectations going into the upcoming premiere?
Moss: This was one of those times when it took awhile from the initial audition to actually book it. To be honest, I had just assumed they had gone another way, so when my agent told me I had the job I was quite surprised. I was really excited to work with Simon Barry and Dennis Heaton again. Like you said, they are creative powerhouses and the shows they make are always amazing. Then I heard who else was cast in the show and my head exploded. Between the writing, the cast, and the people putting it all together, I think this show is really going to excite a lot of people.

TrunkSpace: A lot of ghost-related series take a more comedic approach tonally, but this looks pretty damn frightening. Would you say the series as a whole is strictly horror, or does it have other genre elements blended in?
Moss: This show will definitely scare you, but it’s more than just a horror. It’s really about the relationships of the people in the town and how they deal with the events that are happening. Some believe that these ghosts are punishment for past sins, so there is a religious point of view, but there is also a science fiction aspect where some believe science can explain the afterlife. There are actually a lot of funny moments in the show as well. With all the darkness it’s important to have those moments of light.

TrunkSpace: In watching the trailer, the show gives off an us (the living) versus them (the dead) type of vibe, but is it more complicated than that? Do the people eventually turn on each other?
Moss: There is definitely an us versus them theme in the show, but the politics in the town were already divisive before the dead show up. As things become more intense, that divide only grows.

TrunkSpace: Where does your character Deputy Norm Waters fall into things, and without giving too much away, is it safe to say he’s in for a couple of rough days on the job?
Moss: He has a couple of rough days on the job to say the least. Particularly because it’s a job he doesn’t even want. At the start of the show, Norm is not especially heroic or courageous. Being a cop is just a job to him, and it being such a small town, a job he thought would be easy. When events force him into a position of responsibility, Norm has to overcome his fears and learn things about himself he never knew.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, did taking on Deputy Norm allow you to go to places that you have yet to visit on-screen with other characters? What was it about him that drew you to the character?
Moss: Without giving away any spoilers, I definitely go places I’ve never been or ever expected to go. Things get pretty crazy. I think the best part about playing Norm Waters was the arc of who he was to who he becomes. It’s a pretty epic journey with a lot of highs and lows.

TrunkSpace: In recent years you have done a number of Hallmark films, which tonally couldn’t be any further from “Ghost Wars.” As an actor do you purposely set out to create an environment for yourself where genre and character diversity is at the core of what you’re doing and the choices you’re making?
Moss: It’s always nice to have diversity in your career. I think one would get bored playing the same character over and over again. I wouldn’t say, however, that I purposely go after it. I go where the work takes me.

TrunkSpace: “Ghost Wars” has the feeling of a show that could very easily amass an impressive fandom, something that Syfy shows are known to do. From the perspective of someone who knows the project better than most, are the ingredients there to build a fan base that will make it the next, let’s say, “Supernatural,” a series you actually appeared in a few seasons ago?
Moss: I think the show is solid from top to bottom. From the script to the cast to the way it looks, I don’t feel like there’s a weak link. People are gonna love it. One can only hope that the show reaches a “Supernatural” level of fandom, and this show has as good a shot as any.

TrunkSpace: We’re suckers for some “Supernatural” here, a show that is brilliant in the fact that if you know it, you love it, and if you don’t, you’re not even sure if it is still on the air. In a lot of ways, it feels like a secret club. As someone who has appeared on the show, did it give off that vibe to you as well… in that now that you’re a part of the universe, you’re a part of the fandom?
Moss: “Supernatural” fans are some of the best fans in the world. They really love the show and know everything about it. When you are a part of the show, you feel like you’re a part of a family. They really welcome you with open arms.

TrunkSpace: In doing research for this interview, our fingers literally locked up scrolling through your extremely impressive film and television credits. It is packed with projects. As you look back over your career, what roles stand out to you in terms of those that not only meant the most to your career, but at the same time, to you personally?
Moss: The TV series “Whistler” was a big one for me because it was my first real lead on a series. I learned a lot on that show and I think I really grew as an actor. I not only learned what to do, I learned what not to do. “Dear Mr. Gacy” also stands out as a role that really allowed me to stretch as an actor. It challenged me and pushed me to places I didn’t know I could go.

Moss in Tucker and Dale vs Evil

TrunkSpace: We’re about to hit our stride for our month-long Trunktober event, which is basically our celebration of all things horror. Outside of “Ghost Wars,” you have also appeared in a number of memorable genre films, including “Final Destination 3,” and of course, “Tucker and Dale vs Evil.” As “It” has proven, people continue to love horror. In your opinion, what is that keeps people going to the movies looking to be scared?
Moss: I think people are fascinated with death. Watching a horror movie allows you to experience aspects of death from the comfort of your own home. Getting your adrenaline pumping and experiencing that thrill while knowing that you’re safe is very appealing to people. It’s the same reason people ride roller coasters. Although that didn’t work out so well in “Final Destination 3.”

Ghost Wars” premieres Thursday on Syfy.

Featured image by: Kristine Cofsky

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