Exclusive: A big foot Down Under—director talks “THROWBACK”Movies/TV,News Camilla Jackson
Sasquatchploitation and Australian horror can be wonderful things, so when writer/director Travis Bain combined the two in his second feature, THROWBACK, it had us eager to know more.
THROWBACK, out on UK DVD and Blu-ray February 9 with releases in other parts of the world to follow, follows Jack (Shawn Brack) and Kent (Anthony Ring), two down-on-their-luck pest exterminators who venture deep into the North Queensland jungles seeking the lost gold of a legendary outlaw from the 1800s. Unfortunately, they inadvertently make a different discovery: a Yowie (Bigfoot’s Australian cousin), who plunges them into a battle for survival. Throw into the mix a feisty park ranger (Melanie Serafin) and a slightly unhinged ex-cop (genre vet Vernon Wells) on the hunt for a serial killer, and you have what Bain describes as “part creature feature, part neo-Western and part Saturday-matinee adventure film.”
TRAVIS BAIN: Two key independent films from the ’70s inspired THROWBACK. THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK was done in a faux-documentary style, almost like a prototype of today’s found-footage films, while CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE was more of a straight narrative about two guys researching the Bigfoot legend and getting in over their heads. I watched them both in the early ’80s, and they terrified me. Years later, I tried to analyze why they terrified me, and I realized it was because in both films, you hardly ever see the monster. It’s always suggested with creepy sound effects and fleeting glimpses.
The other big influence on THROWBACK was PREDATOR. The cinematography by Australia’s Don McAlpine really plunges you right into the heart of the jungle. It’s real and humid and claustrophobic. From PREDATOR, I co-opted the idea of people being hunted by something intelligent, rather than simply stalked and disemboweled by a mindless killing machine. The Yowie in THROWBACK plays games with its prey. Everything I’ve read about Yowies—and giant mythical hominids in general—indicates that they actually do that.
FANG: Is there a particular reason you settled on a Yowie as your monster of choice?
BAIN: I chose a Yowie partly because of nostalgia, and partly because of the minuscule budget. I wanted to pay tribute to those cool Bigfoot films of the ’70s, but if I’d had more money, I would’ve made a Ray Harryhausen-style stop-motion dinosaur film instead. In the end, it came down to the fact that it was cheaper to put a guy in a furry costume than commission expensive articulated dinosaur models. A lot less time-consuming, too. The Yowie seemed like a fitting choice because, at the time we started production, no one had ever made a Yowie movie before, which I found surprising. There are a couple of others around now, but we were the first out of the gate.
FANG: Can you tell us a little about your casting choices?
BAIN: THROWBACK was made like a community-theater project, i.e. everybody pitching in and volunteering their time with no immediate expectation of financial reward, so fittingly, I mainly cast community-theater actors. Our long shooting schedule dictated that we cast locals anyway. So the cast is mostly made up of newcomers, apart from one special guest star. From the outset, I knew I wanted an internationally known name actor in the role of McNab to add a bit of extra cachet to the movie. I drew up a short list of actors I wanted for the part, and thankfully, Vernon Wells [pictured above] saw our 2012 teaser trailer, liked it and put up his hand to play McNab. I’m really glad he did.
FANG: The trailer (seen below) looks like you’ve made good use of practical FX. Was it important to you to take this old-school approach?
BAIN: I belong to a generation who grew up with old-school effects: stop-motion, bluescreen, rear projection, etc., so I do have a strong preference for practical effects over CGI. I don’t dislike CGI per se, I just think it’s overused at times when it doesn’t need to be. Audiences have become very savvy about CGI in the 20-odd years since JURASSIC PARK. Our eyes and brains can now easily tell when an effect looks fake. Practical effects don’t always look 100 percent real either, but I think viewers appreciate the intent behind them.
I plan to use practical effects as much as I can in my next feature. I really dug how they used full-scale puppets in AUTOMATA, so we’re looking at going down that road for our creatures. It’s good for the actors, too, because they’ve got something on set to react to, not just a tennis ball on a stick.
FANG: The poster art is beautiful. Can you tell us a bit about it?
BAIN: It was done by an extremely talented Brazilian artist named Juarez Ricci. His spaghetti-Western posters are just breathtaking. I commissioned him to do the THROWBACK poster, and he started sending me all these wonderful pieces of rough concept art. It was really hard to choose a favorite!
For further details on THROWBACK and its upcoming screenings/distribution, hit up its Facebook page.