The Last Lovecraft-An Interview With Stars Kyle Davis and Devin McGinn
On February 15, the indie Lovecraft road trip comedy, The Last Lovecraft: The Relic of Cthulhu hits DVD and VOD courtesy of Dark Sky Films. Following a hapless trio played as they attempt to escape the dark horrors of the Cthulhu mythos, the film stars Kyle Davis, and Devin McGinn (who also wrote the screenplay). Davis plays Jeff, an office drone who learns not only that he's a descendant of H.P. Lovecraft, but that he's the only one who can save the world from the return of the tentacled one. With his best buddy, Charlie, the duo hop in Jeff's beetle and try to make their escape from Cthulhu cultists lead by Starspawn (Ethan Wilde). You can find Todd's favorable review of the film here.
The two actors were kind enough to talk to Twitch about the making of the film, the difficulty in finding the right balance between horror and comedy with the venerated stories of Lovecraft, and what's next for their characters.
Twitch: Devin, what made you tackle the notoriously difficult-to-film mythos of H.P. Lovecraft? And Kyle, what attracted you to the material?
DM: I tackled it obviously because I'm dumb--no, I tackled because I'd been a fan of Lovecraft for a while. Really, the Cthulhu stuff, and At the Mountains of Madness--I really did start out thinking that I wanted to make a low-budget version of At the Mountains of Madness and kind of beat del Toro. Obviously, whatever he's going to make is going to be a thousand times better. So, I thought we could sneak that onto the market and have a fun little serious take on it.
And then I realized it would have been horrible.
I decided that I loved the mythos, so what if we did something more along the lines of Shaun of the Dead--not at that budget level--but kind of mixing the horror and the comedy. And that's kind of how the idea was born. It seemed like a way of doing a fun movie without disappointing everyone. Because as soon as you make something serious and try to tackle something so famous it better be really, really good or else it's going to just crumble under that weight.
KD: Basically, what attracted me to the project was that me and Devin have been good friends for quite a long time. We knew that we had good chemistry together because we'd written a pilot together where we played kind of a buddy comedy-type thing.
So when Devin started writing it, he asked me I wanted to be in it. And I jumped onboard [even though] I already knew it was going to be a tough shoot anyway because of the budget and how many days we had to shoot it. I jumped onboard even though he wrote the best role for Barak Hardley [who plays Paul], who had the funniest part.
But I said I would take it anyway and I play the straight-laced type of guy and Devin's the quirkier character--along with Barak. But I'm glad that we did it together, because if we weren't friends when we did this it would have been a really difficult shot, just because of how stressful and long the days were with not much of a budget and 15 locations or whatever it was in 20-somethin days. I think that if we weren't friends beforehand it would have been a nightmare.
DM: Are you saying you would have killed me? Is that what you're saying?
KD: That's what I'm saying.
DM: Let the man ask his questions and stop talking about butchering me.
Twitch: You talk about the difficult shoot--what did you guys to maintain the rapport on set?
DM: It was, and you have to remember that we were all wearing so many hats. We were trying to be actors, which is what we really are by trade, but you're standing there delivering your line and the last thing you're thinking about is acting. It's like, you're spending your own money, why's this happening, Kyle's trying to do the catering...
DM: ...while I'm trying to make sure the lights are up when we're filming. It was stressful. And I think that the only reason we did keep our rapport is because we were all friends going into this. I had worked with Barak prior on a big campaign--it was almost shot like a television pilot and it was al improv. So I knew that I wanted him in the movie.
We all came together and we'd already kind of built this friendship. The director, Henry [Saine]--we'd worked together prior on the pilot that Kyle and I did. Going in, having these relationships built kind of carried us through what was a difficult shoot.
Twitch: Given that you decided to go the comedy route, how did you decide to approach the horror elements of the script?
DM: I think in some ways, sometimes, it plays against the film. I think we get thrown up on a lot of horror websites. Even when Fangoria did a review they actually gave us a very positive review but they were kind of like, "We don't know how much of a horror movie this is, but it's a great comedy." It was difficult.
And a lot of that is budget. I had been relying on the script and having these horrifying monsters. I'm fairly happy with the way it came out, being a comedy you can get away with a little bit more. I do wish we could have thrown in a little more gore, but the time just didn't allow it. So it's an interesting balance. A lot of people going in [hear Lovecraft and] think they're going to see straight horror, but there's this kind of readjustment they have to do where hopefully they can get onboard and maybe they'll get it.
Twitch: It's kind of an interesting choice using Lovecraft for this type of movie--his work was so deadly serious and you have to find a place for humor in his stories.
DM: Absolutely. And one thing I did want to do was I wanted the comedy to come from the characters' side of the world and not make a joke of the mythos. We did put a shirt on [the villain] Starspawn that was a unicorn wielding a machinegun in a kilt, but again, that was because he murdered a guy on a boat and found it that way.
So we tried to incorporate the elements of the mythos and draw the comedy from these idiots, what they were dealing with, and if they had any idea of what they were dealing with [in the case of] Barak's character, how to put a plan together. Hopefully with the Deep Ones we still have a serious element where these are things you definitely don't want to mess with.
Twitch: Kyle, as the straight man in the film, what was the hook you found for the character that made him work or made him interesting for you?
KD: It all kind of comes back to how many hats we were wearing when we were doing this thing. Obviously, I tried to do the best job I could, but when you're dealing with 100 different things it's kind of hard to put the character to it. I think that Devin wrote the character because he knows me so well already that I didn't have to try too hard to do the straight-laced character.
It started out with the whole nonchalant, not wanting to be doing this stuff [attitude], and as I built up [the character] I started to feel like "Oh shit, this is really starting to happen now." And I was taking charge and stuff like that.
I was telling another person that if we had more money and more time I could have done a better acting job, but that's all, you know, in hindsight. But I think it turned out good and hopefully other people think the same thing.
DM: Well, I think that any independent movie is going to deal with that, where everyone's wearing so many hats. Kyle and I were just talking about this because I just finished a movie [Unicorn City] with some of the guys that did Napoleon Dynamite--it's myself and John Gries. I was only an actor on that film and you know, it's a very different thing watching that performance and then watching Lovecraft where I was thinking a hundred things, or I would have done this or I would have done that.
But overall, I think you gotta let that go. I think it probably plays well enough to people who aren't in your brain. But yeah, Kyle, I hear what you're saying where you always wish you could go back and not be so involved with everything.
But what I do like about the characters, and what Kyle was saying, is that we do start out on opposite ends where in the beginning my character is really trying to push them forward and Jeff--Kyle's character--is like, "You're out of your mind!" Then, by the end, I'm grabbing him and saying that we can just forget about all of this, [because] I really don't want to die. But he's stepping up and saying that maybe he wants do something besides sitting in a cubicle all day. So I like that dichotomy of how they start out in opposite positions and kind of switch places by the end of the film.
KD: Bingo. That's it.
Twitch: Have you thought about where to go next with these characters?
DM: A lot of people have asked us about coming out with a comic and we are meeting with a few people. It's something that I'd love to do. I don't know how involved or uninvolved I'd be, but I'd love to see something like that. It seems like in the last few years there's been a lot of print work of Lovecraft appreciation in graphic novels and things like that. So, I would love to see a comic book come out.
I would still like to do second film--I mean, my gosh, if I didn't have to use my own money and we had a little bit of a bigger budget. I mean, I have an outline for two more films [and] I would love to see where these characters go, especially Jeff's character. Really, I have a lot in mind, even beyond what I touched in this film. It would be fun.
Twitch: There's a lot of affection for and poking at nerd culture in the film--and this is going back to your earlier concern about the movie being a difficult pitch--how would you pitch this to that very same culture?
DM: It's made by someone who really loves Lovecraft, and gets it, and anyone who's a fan will know that. There are things laced through the screenplay that only a fan would know--little lines here and there, little things from other stories. So anyone who watches it can say, comedy or not, this definitely stays true and recognizes multiple works from Lovecraft.
And I think you just have to sit back and have fun and enjoy it. As soon as you let go of what you assume it has to be and just say, "You know what, I'm just going to take a ride with these guys. I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt."
It's a buddy movie, it's a comedy, and it's a road trip--the Lovecraft elements, if you're a fan, are kind of icing on the cake.
KD: I think it's one of those movies people can totally rent and then it becomes a cult classic-type thing where you're sitting at home with your buddies and it turns into a drinking game.
DM: If you get our movie On Demand or buy it on DVD, it's definitely enjoyable with a six-pack of beer. I stand by that.
Twitch: That's going to be the box quote.
DM: [laughs You may have to buy a six-pack with it.
"You must be drunk to watch this movie."
I wish that every reviewer that watched our movie had been drunk.
KD: Oh yeah. That'd be awesome.
Twitch: What do you have coming up next?
DM: I'm working on--I'm on a little bit of a non-disclosure agreement--it's going to be shooting in May and it's actually not a comedy at all. It's a straight horror-thriller, and it's kind of in the lines of the "found footage" genre. It's got something of a Cloverfield feeling and obviously not on that scale but it's a much larger budget than [The Last Lovecraft]
KD: And hopefully, Devin's going to give me a part in there so I'll be working on that. And obviously, if the movie does well on DVD and someone wants to give us funding to make the sequel then we'll be working on that.
I do a lot of TV stuff, I'm on a show called Men of Certain Age with Ray Romano and Scott Bakula. And I just did an episode of Bones which is actually on TV tonight [the 2/10 episode]. Then there's another show called Friends With Benefits that I've been working on--so, yeah, we'll see what happens.
DM: Yeah, as actors, for us right now it's a busy time right with pilot season and everything.