If you’ve been waking up in a cold sweat, from dreams of a killer puppet chasing you and there is pink fuzz on your lip… you might want to talk to your doctor about that – or find your explanation through the film, PUPPET KILLER. Hell, even if you haven’t had the dreams, there is still hope after watching this soon to be epic popcorn shaking, gut jumping, scream meter shattering horror film! To put it best, this film has all the ingredients of a classic 80’s horror – hugging its favourite adorable puppet as it chops and spins inside your home blender… and it’s somehow laughing until you press stop. When you pour it into your cup, it suddenly vanishes and it’s now behind you… and one of the knives is missing from the wooden knife block on the counter. Maybe I should start keeping my dreams to myself.
‘Ten years after the disappearance of his step mom, Jamie and his friends head to his family cabin in the woods to celebrate the Christmas break. They soon realize the demons from Jamie’s past have been waiting for his return as they are forced to fight a psychotic killer obsessed with horror movie icons.’
Puppets can still be scary as hell because they never tell you how they’re feeling. Fortunately, there are puppet whisperers out there and one such whisperer/horror filmmaker and animatronic – practical effects puppeteering enthusiast, Lisa Ovies was in the house! PUPPET KILLER is her original story but she had pro screenwriter Kevin Mosley at the wheel with the script and he wasn’t taking any prisoners. In addition to a great script, you need incredibly talented actors to bring it to life, a great crew, a director that can immerse herself in the horror genre to push it over the wall and a stellar music composition.
Christmas came early when Lisa Ovies went to camera on PUPPET KILLER as writer and director. She brought along a powerhouse of Award-winning actors to create her horrific vision, including Aleks Paunovic (War for the Planet of The Apes, Van Helsing, Snowpiercer), Richard Harmon (The 100, Bates Motel), Lee Majdoub (Sonic the Hedgehog, The 100, Supernatural), Lisa Durupt (Murder She Baked, Less Than Kind), Jett Klyne (Wanda Vision, The Boy) and Gigi Saul Guerrero (Culture Shock, El Gigante). The killer score comes from Composer Stephen Gallagher (The Hobbit Trilogy, Lovely Bones, District 9). Stephen was drawn to the project because he also shares Lisa’s passion for classic horror films. Puppet maker Jack Fox is the creative talent behind the puppet Simon. With a house full of stellar talent attached, it’s awe inspiring that this film has garnered an impressive 73 nominations, 30 awards and is labelled as a film that is “destined for cult status”.
Puppet Killer’s Executive Producers are Evan Tylor, Caterina Scrivano, Lisa Ovies, and Jack Fox. It’s also produced by Lisa Ovies, Aleah Anseth, Michelle Muldoon, Eric Carbery, and Aleks Paunovic and has started appearing in theatres on September 21st, 2021.
There’s a new killer puppet master in town, a real Jim Hanson of horror and she’s just scratching the fluff at the surface! We found out about her nasty cruel intentions surfacing in her next films, but if I talk about it – it’s the Iron Maiden for me, along with my favourite puppet. Roll the tape!
HNMAG “Congratulations on Puppet Killer. I love the way you built the suspense, as well as your use of the camera. Outstanding job on the film. I know that this film has won many awards already from around the world. Has it finished with the festival run?”
LISA “Yes, it is. Because of Covid, we only had 4 months on the festival circuit but it was a pretty amazing 4 months. We got 79 nominations and awards. Without Covid, we probably would’ve gotten further but my gratitude for getting anything is incredible.”
HNMAG “I had heard a great quote, that says this is a film that is “destined for cult status”. Is that the first time you’ve had a compliment like that on one of your films?”
LISA “It’s amazing. I think in an interview, someone had said I was the next female Quentin Tarantino and I nearly cried because that’s insane. It’s been an amazing experience – I’m a huge horror fan and I’ve been into films my entire life. To get the kind of feedback we’re getting is pretty humbling but also very exciting.”
HNMAG “You wrote this story and collaborated with screenwriter Kevin Mosley. How developed was the story before Kevin got a hold of it?”
LISA “I had it as a pitch and Kevin and I had worked on a film before at different capacities. I was the casting director and one of the actors in a film that he wrote, called Suspension. We happened to be in Phoenix at the Comic Con screening our film and I happened to be pitching the script to an actor and Kevin overheard it. He didn’t want the script. He wanted to take what he had heard me explain and run with it. What he built was amazing and it was shocking how seamless it worked. Working with Kevin is one of the easiest things that’s ever happened to me.”
HNMAG “You’ve assembled an Award-winning cast, including Aleks Paunovic, Richard Harmon, Lee Majdoub, Lisa Durupt, Jett Klyne and Gigi Saul Guerrero. How long did it take to build this outstanding cast?”
LISA “This film was made in 2015-2016 and it’s been a long hard Canadian journey to get it out there. I had directed a short film called I Wanna Date You with our lead Lisa Durupt and Aleks Paunovic was in it as well. I fell in love with both of them and their comedic timing. All of the cast from the film, with the exception of Richard Harmon, were in the film. Richard was best friends with Lee and Lee was one of the first people I approached about the project. He’s also the voice of Simon, in addition to playing one of the leads. They’re all a bunch of great actors that support each other and work in Vancouver that we dropped into this ridiculous film. I would say that 80 percent of the cast were locked in right away and we filled the rest of the pieces in a couple months before filming.”
HNMAG “Did directing a film with a puppet pose some challenges?”
LISA “So many, so many. I’m a big fan of practical effects, so part of the challenge was capturing that all on camera along with giving it that late ‘80’s early ‘90’s feel. It created some challenges but also made it easier in post. We got very lucky – we had Mauri Bernstein, one of the puppeteers from Team America come in to do some puppet consulting… and it changed the entire film. Having someone explain to us, how to bring it to life, how to shoot it was invaluable – but it was hard (laughing), and the puppet still had an attitude (laughing).”
HNMAG “Where was this film shot?”
LISA “I was so lucky to have Vancouver’s cream of the crop, so just a moment of gratitude for that! So many of them are on the top TV shows being filmed in Vancouver, so we had a very small window into their shooting schedule. This cast gave up their Christmas to come 1 ½-2 hours outside of the city to a little town called Deroche, BC.”
HNMAG “Shooting it over the holiday window must’ve involved some careful planning. How long did it take you to shoot it?”
LISA “I wanna say 17 shoot days. We had 15 or 16 main and 1 pick up day. It was in January of 2016 and believe it or not, we had another pick-up day in June or July of 2019. Everyone was aware of our time crunch but most of it was about the puppet, the positioning, the camera, the puppeteer. The actors, the practical effects team, everyone did an amazing job. Ryan Nicholson and his wife Megan, everyone was just fantastic! We did some camera tests with Maureen and the puppet in advance of shooting… but it was run and gun almost the entire time.”
HNMAG “You must be quite familiar with the phrase, ‘go big or go home’?”
LISA “Absolutely! I think it was Steve Jobs that said, ‘if someone asks you something, say yes and figure it out later’. I think that’s a lot of what I’ve been doing.”
HNMAG “How was this story inspired?”
LISA “I was a casting director on a horror film at the time, called Suspension and was immersed in that horror world, day in and day out. I was also producing a film called Bed Bugs and Love Story with puppets; it was a musical. I was constantly producing other peoples’ projects and it became my film school, in a way. I remember one day feeling that it was time to make what I want. Because of the things I was being influenced by, I thought – what if it’s a puppet, but instead of a cheery musical, the puppet killed everyone? Because I’m so obsessed with ‘80’s horror, I was thinking… what if the killer was also obsessed with ‘80’s horror and every time he killed someone, he killed a homage to a horror icon?’ From there, it just took on its own life.”
HNMAG “This film opens in theatres on Sept 21. Is that across Canada and the US?”
LISA “My mind is really blown right now because we seem to be everywhere in the US right now. I’m hearing about watch parties happening in Alaska, it’s in New York, it’s in Chicago, it’s in Hawaii and at a lot of different locations at the Regal Theatre starting Sept. 21st. For a small Canadian Indie horror, it’s been pretty mind-blowing to be honest. Hopefully we do well at that capacity and it will lead to a theatrical release in Canada. That would be amazing!”
HNMAG “As a horror fan do you believe in the paranormal and if so, do you have a good ghost story to share?”
LISA “I think I do… I don’t ‘not’ believe in it. I’m not sure if it’s a good ghost story but when my stepfather passed, there was no question to me or my mom that he kept visiting us in our house, but it wasn’t creepy. I very much believe, when we pass on – we stick around, but it’s not something I’ve overly delved into… until I became obsessed with all of the Conjuring films and everything that universe brings with it. I’m a little more interested in it now.”
HNMAG “I know that you’re also involved in other film projects. Are they also horror based?”
LISA “Yes! Not really able to talk too much about it right now, it’s definitely in its early stages but it’s a horror animatronic – practical effects puppeteering project, which is my passion. I’ve been very lucky to have had conversations with ADI (Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc), an Academy award winning – phenomenal practical effects house in the US. We’ve been in talks and they’ve got a couple of films for me. My management team has set up some pretty cool stuff that I hope to be able to talk about soon.”
HNMAG “The musical score was created by Stephen Gallagher, most notably known for ‘The Hobbit’ Trilogy, ‘Lovely Bones’ and ‘District 9’. I read that Stephen was drawn to the project because of his love for classic horror films. That’s extraordinary, how did he get wind of the project?”
LISA “I give full credit to Natalie Bolt, who plays Penelope Blossom on Riverdale. She’s a good friend of mine; we were both in LA together during our years of struggle to finish Puppet Killer. I was in LA about to meet with some composers, when she said she knew Stephen. They’re both from New Zealand, so she told me about him. I told her we didn’t have the money, that maybe she didn’t understand. We sent him a really rough cut of the film… which was terrifying. He called me within two hours of sending it to him and said, ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’ I was like – WHAT?! I’m so honoured that he’s in my life! He just did the musical score on another film I just directed, called Witches Midnight. I don’t know how we got him, but he makes the film so much better, he’s just so talented. He has a theme song for Simon and a theme song for our lead. They slowly find themselves throughout the movie until they’re both incorporated in the final score. It’s epic and I’m so honoured!”
HNMAG “Who would you consider a positive influence in your life and who inspires your career?”
LISA “A positive influence in my life would be my mom. I was raised by a badass single mom that never ever stopped going after the world. It didn’t matter that we had little money, I never felt like any opportunity ‘wasn’t possible’. 100 percent props to my mother for that! As far as career influences, I’ve had to reflect on it as a strong feminist and it happened to be all men. At that time, I don’t believe I was aware of many women in film. It was the Tarantino’s, the Robert Rodriguez – people that went out there and were willing to put it all on the line; Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. The filmmakers that didn’t take no for an answer. Also, any Mexican filmmakers, such as Robert Rodriguez – he really gets me. Someone who’s so ethnically proud they can put that culture into their film – that’s always been inspiring to me.”
Lisa also told me that in addition to her filmmaking, she has a small acting school in Canada and is working to get an all-female filmmaking school off the ground.
“I want to increase the number of female filmmakers and their opportunities. I know we can only do that by educating people and by bringing them along. It’s my hope that the enthusiasm and support that we’re creating, spreads throughout the Vancouver film community and beyond.”
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