Friday, September 29, 2017

Monster maker gives credit to monster cereals for being his maker

By Jack O. Lantern
‘Head’ Writer/Editor

MONSTER ISLAND -- Captain FrankenPirate, also known as Michael Hanna in the human world, is a monster maker/pirate/magician/card reader/fortune teller/ghost detector -- a sort of jack-o’-lantern of all trades, as he says. He’s a Frankenstein monster in his own right, a concoction of many parts . . . and talents, too.

His ship, the Blarney Hanna, pulled into Pirate Harbor late last night, and Jack-o’-Lantern Press got the opportunity to sit down with him at his favorite table in his favorite tavern for some of his favorite rum to talk about his work, how he got into what he’s into, and about how you can check out some of the spooky and kooky stuff he’s doing.

Jack-o’-Lantern Press: How was your voyage?

Captain FrankenPirate (Michael Hanna): Choppy.

JLP: So, we know you make monsters and we know some of the monsters you’ve made, but what kind of monster are you? Were you made in a lab, created from black magic, hatched from an egg or were you just born?

MH: The evolution of my many personalities comes from years of being exposed to glow-in-the dark toys from the 1960s, eating lots of Boo-Berry, Franken Berry and Count Chocula cereals, and being a loyal Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine subscriber.

JLP: How long have you made monsters, and what got you started?

MH: I started making monsters in my lab about 30 years ago . . . because I had all these ideas in my brain and I needed to share them with others like myself -- and there are plenty of other Halloween/Monster/things-that-go-bump-in-the-night enthusiasts like myself. The pirates are my first love. There’s something about that time period I just really enjoy. It just seems to click with me, and creating the characters is never ending while building them.

JLP: Tell us about some of the monsters you make. We know you’ve made skeleton pirates, werewolves and vampires. What else? And what’s your scariest creation?

MH: Yes, I’ve made skeleton pirates, werewolves and vampires . . . I’d probably say my scariest creation was a family of life-sized zombies, though. As I created each one -- there were five of them -- I had no place to put them, so I set them around my kitchen table. It looked like I had a family of five zombies sitting at my table for dinner every night.

JLP: As a captain and creator of your own pirates, does that mean you sail with a crew, or do you sail solo?

MH: I hang with a crew of the most amazing pirate characters that ever sailed the seven seas. They’re a very large group of pirate re-enactors, kind of like the Renaissance Fair folk, but a lot more rowdy and a lot more fun. This group of wonderful colorful pirates can be found all over the country. Believe it or not, there are hundreds and hundreds of pirates all over the world, and not just in the monster world. There are hundreds and hundreds in the human world, too. I sail with them all.

JLP: Have you ever harnessed energy from lightning to create any of your monsters?

MH: No, but I drink a lot of rum, which gives the same of effect.

JLP: What types of monsters, wizards, mad scientists, evil warlords or other haunters buy your work? Do plain old ordinary people buy your work, too?

MH: People and things who think outside the box . . . march to their own drum . . . have fun with creative, crazy, wild ideas . . . You get the idea. People who have a pirate room or bar in their homes buy my creations to decorate or enhance their dwellings. Then there are collectors of unusual things. Ordinary people? What is that?

JLP: Once you release your horrors into the world, do you have separation anxiety? If so, well, lucky you. Do you ever check in on your creations, see what kind of terror they’re up to?

MH: Do I have separation anxiety? What father wouldn’t?! Looking at your children after you’ve created them and then having to part with them, all you can hope for is that they go to a good home and that you raised them properly before they go to represent you elsewhere. Unfortunately, once they leave my lab, I have no way of checking on them since it’s against the monster code. Hopefully, one might pop up in the news or on the Internet doing what they do best . . . scaring people!

JLP: Can you tell us about your lab? I’ll bet it’s filled with body parts, bones, spell books, operating tables, flasks of colored liquid, levers and control panels, Tesla coils and large machinery, death rays, and dusty piles of failed experiments, right?

MH: Well, from your description, it sounds like big brother is watching, but aside from all the cliché things like the ones you mention, you’ll also find a refrigerator, a stove, the television, my terrible children’s stacks of vampire girls magazines . . . Oops, scratch that last comment.

JLP: What types of body parts for your work are most difficult to find?

MH: I would probably have to say dragon eyes. Hard to come by and the damn dragon always seems to want to keep them.

JLP: So tell us, honestly, have you ever concocted a plan to take over the world? 

MH: No, probably just Pittsburgh.

JLP: We understand you’re also a magician. What kind of magic do you do -- black magic, evil sorcery, voodoo or just the regular kind?

MH: Yes, I am a magician. I’ve performed magic since I was 7 years old. Still can’t seem to get the “sawing the woman in half” trick down to a science yet, though I’ve created lots of twins because of it.

JLP: Were you born with magic? If not, what evil magician taught you what you know now?

MH: No, birth is magic itself, but I was self-taught and learned from books in the library. There were no DVDs or videotapes back when I was learning.

JLP: What’s the evilest spell or act of magic you’ve ever performed? How’d it go and did kids take off screaming?

MH: The evilest spell is probably the one I cast on the woman I married. And do kids run out screaming? Only if I’m wearing shorts when I’m performing.

JLP: You also find ghosts. We’ve had many of our good friends in the ghost realm go missing. Can you find them? How? Can you call on ghosts to just appear? Did you know I’m part ghost? Can you call me? Whoa, here I am.

MH: (Laughs) Yes, I’ve been known to be sensitive enough to find spirits. But then again, I could find Waldo. I don’t use a Ouija board and I don’t do a ghost-to-ghost broadcast. I’m just able to sense the force around all of us, and I know how to tune in better than most people, but not as good as some.

JLP: Can you actually communicate with ghosts? I mean, other than me. Can you play in their world?

MH: Sometimes. I walk with them and talk with them, but when it comes to solid walls, they keep going and I stay where I am.

JLP: How long have you been reading others’ misfortunes? Do you go in for that more light-hearted “fortune” telling stuff, too?

MH: Reading others’ Miss-fortunes, Mr.-fortunes . . . it doesn't matter. It’s all good. But I'm not really a fortuneteller. I’m more of an advisor, so I connect with people and try to give them a good direction as to which way they’re supposed to go with their lives.

JLP: What is your biggest challenge in all that you do? Or is it all that you do that’s the challenge?

MH: I would have to say . . . walking. My feet hurt a lot, otherwise there’s no challenge too big and nothing I can’t create if I put my mind to it.

JLP: What do you do for evil in your spare time?

MH: I still eat Count Chocula.

JLP: Is there a special ghoul in your life? What type of monster is she?

MH: My main squeeze? Yep. And because I’m all-over-the-place crazy, she keeps a lid on my coffin when I get too out of control. I guess you could call her the Bride of FrankenPirate.

JLP: Any skeletons in your closet?

MH: Just the ones that are being made into pirates. Oh, and the ones that I feed the dog when I run out of milk bones.

JLP: What other things would you want monsters, ghosts, magicians, mad scientists, pirates, haunters and even people to know about you and what you do?

MH: We covered most of the stuff that makes up my crazy life. My dead -- I mean my dad -- was a stuntman in movie westerns. My mummy is a stay-at-home type of mum. But to expand a little more, Skullywags is a company I built from the ground up about 20 years ago. I create these pirates, I sew all the clothing on them, and I make all the boots, hats and all the accessories that are on them. As for my magic, I mainly do theme magic like Harry Potter and pirate magic, and I even did a “My Little Pony” show not that long ago. Regarding my tarot card/channeling abilities, I’ve been involved in connecting with the “spirit world” since I was very young. I do readings/channeling for people who are trying to find good direction in their life. I also work with two paranormal groups as their sensitive investigator, doing work in houses that are reputed to have spirit activity.

JLP: How can people find you or contact you?

MH: I’m on Facebook as “Skullywags” and as “Tarot Readings by Michael.”

JLP: OK, so, at the end of these interviews, we like to fire off some questions like James Lipton from “Inside the Actor’s Studio” does. So here we go: What’s your favorite shade of blood and guts?

MH: Purple. It’s my favorite color, too.

JLP: What’s your favorite type of victim?

MH: Probably victim of love.

JLP: If you could be any other monster, what would it be?

MH: An agent for the IRS.

JLP: What kind of scream or cry of terror do you love most?

MH: The one from my kids when they find out I ate all the donuts.

JLP: What kind of scream or cry of terror do you love least?

MH: The one from me when I find out my kids ate all the donuts.

JLP: What’s your favorite torture device?

MH: I think it’s a toss-up between the vacuum cleaner and the washing machine.

JLP: If The Elevator that goes down to The Fire Caves exists (and it does), what would you want the Red Devil to say to you when you arrive?

MH: I’ve got these two glasses here. Did you bring the rum?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Vikings bust up Pres. Drac’s law-ordered blood misters, sack their own homes

By Vigdis the Venomous
Staff Vikings Writer

MONSTER ISLAND -- A group of vikings in Viking Village tore out President Count Dracula’s law-ordered and controversial blood misters, which were installed in all outdoor public places yesterday for the purposes of cooling off visitors and replenishing those who require blood sustenance, and then the group dismantled and destroyed the evap cooling and nourishing units, dumped them in the Viking Wastelands and let slave monsters turn what was left of the gear into complete and unrecognizable trash.

The vikings’ actions caused others to join in the demonstration against the President’s pushy ways, leading to hours of senseless violence, looting, sacking and other loads of fun. In fact, there was so much excitement to be had, pirates from the neighboring Pirate Harbor who saw and heard the commotion joined in and helped pull to pieces the entire community.

“I found a trash basket at one of the trading booths on the street, and I snatched it up and threw it right through a castle window,” said Renfield the Raider, one of the vikings participating in the pillaging. “But there’re no such things as glass windows in castles, not in our world, anyway. We just have openings in the walls. So the trashcan I threw through the opening of the wall kinda lacked the smashing effect I was going for. I guess it was the thrill of the moment that had us all going for it.”

Renfield and his fellow vikings, who were in between seafaring adventures, said the dullness of home life had the rough and rugged group itching for something to do. Windows or no windows, Renfield told reporters he had a ball as he and his fellow horned-helmeted heathens flogged and thrashed each other’s homes. It wasn’t until they saw the pirates taking part in the efforts and making away with their goods and their wives that they realized what the hell they were actually doing.

“We were so in the moment like actors in a play, we didn’t even see that we were obliterating our whole world, including our longboats, which is our livelihood,” said Igor the Gorrific. “Then to see these pirates helping us -- well, we couldn’t have that. So we just took our plundering over to Pirate Harbor and ransacked their homes and took their wives.”

The pirates, caught up in the thrill of the destruction, mindlessly followed the vikings into Pirate Harbor and had successfully destroyed nearly 75 percent of the pirate community before they figured out that things had turned on their own.

“Well, ye win some, ye lose some, eh?” said one pirate, Captain Bloodbeard, after having turned several cannons on a beloved pirate tavern in the harbor and fired at will. “I can honestly say this, though: It were a blast while it lasted, it were.”

According to village and harbor leaders, both territories will take about two years to rebuild. Those involved in the devastation apologized for being idiots.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Dr. Nightmare and his nightmares now on display for your terror

By Leonardo da Vampire
Staff Arts, Crafts, Blood & Guts Writer

MONSTER ISLAND -- Nightmarish works from your mind and everyone else’s minds are now on display in the Hole of Nightmares at the peak of Monster Mountain.

Dr. Nightmare, who began many years ago as the dull and studious Dr. Night, figured out how to rip people’s nightmares from their thoughts and bring them into being. Upon the overpopulation of the monster world in the early days of monsterhood as a result of this creation of life, causing a housing crisis for nearly every district in the land, Transyl-vein-ia officials banished the doc and his creations to the giant hole in the mountain, and have had him and his monsters trapped in there ever since.

“Holy smokes, that hole’s a mess,” said former Transyl-vein-ia President Phantom of the Opera, who was a city councilmonster at the time of the banishing. “The doctor is constantly accessing nightmares from your sleep and mine, and he’s been bringing them to life in that hole with no room to spare. You see, when we designed the hole, we lined it with monster proofing that can’t be cracked. And guess what? There’s no bathroom and no seepage in that hole, which is a whole other mess.”

Those interested (and armed with the proper full-face respirator mask to combat the stench) can take the Scare-ial Tramway, the longest and most dangerous aerial tramway in any world, to the top of Monster Mountain and walk up to the rim of the Hole of Nightmares to look down through the monster-proof glass at all the horrors inside. You might even see Dr. Nightmare himself.

“B.Y.O.N.,” said the skeleton that operates the Scare-ial Tramway at the foot of Monster Mountain. “That means ‘Bring Your Own Nightmares.’ Because if Dr. Nightmare gets a hold of your thoughts, he’ll bring them to life, and some creatures’ nightmares are truly, truly awful. It’s awesome!”

According to curators of the exhibit, secret codes, emergency release levers behind glass and evil spells are easily accessible in and around the mountain, and just waiting for some evil mind with evil plans to release the nightmares in an evil plot to take over the world. It should make for a really bad, really predictable monster movie, but without all the stop-motion effects.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Monster Island looks into creating scary mazes for Halloween

MONSTER ISLAND -- Giant monsters from Giants Jungle are looking to create scary mazes for Halloween, and have been reviewing successful theme park models for inspiration.

“We looked at some of the scariest amusement parks in the human world, like Knott’s Scary Farm, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights and Six Flags Fright Fest, and we decided we just couldn’t do what they do,” said a giant scorpion who wishes to remain anonymous, even though he was speaking to us while sitting on top of 200 families having picnics at the picnic grounds in the jungle, who were all screaming his name in pain. “We saw that monsters in their mazes were not allowed to touch, eat or even clobber guests. We find that when guests’ lives are at stake, we tend to have more fun.”

So the giant monsters in Giants Jungle will skip the scary mazes and go straight for putting guests’ lives in danger. Those interested in not lasting long should book tickets for Monster Island now. No need to pack your bags. You won’t need anything.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Monster Island to raise Molding Gate Bridge toll in face of not enough mold

By Werewolf Blitzer
Staff Pol-“IT”-ical Writer

MONSTER ISLAND -- If signed by President Count Dracula, and it’ll be signed by President Count Dracula, Monster Island officials will charge its citizens a higher toll (and the headline didn't say it, but they're gonna add a new bridge tax, too) on the Molding Gate Bridge coming from Shadow City toward Monster Island.

The only problem is that, while the bridge goes toward Monster Island, it does only that because it never actually makes it all the way to the island. The bridge, which bridges nothing, drops off somewhere in the Blood Sea in the middle of a fog bank(which never lifts), and those who have taken the bridge don't seem to know where it ends (because they've never returned to tell).

“Nevertheless,” said Molding Gate Bridge Commissioner Mel Dew, “the bridge isn’t molding at the rate we want it to mold. So we need more money, and that money isn’t necessarily for the purposes of accelerating the rate of the molding process. But all that money will certainly make us feel better.”

When asked why Monster Island citizens should pay a bridge tax on a bridge that doesn’t even touch their district, and a toll, which they’d be forced to pay whether they use the bridge or not, Dew said monsters of Monster Island have every right to be upset and to protest the tax and toll.

“But we’re going to charge them anyway,” he said. “One way or another, we’re getting the money we need to feel better about ourselves.”

Friday, September 22, 2017

Monster Moviemaker says he wishes he were a giant ape . . . and more

By Jack O. Lantern
‘Head’ Writer/Editor

SHADOW CITY -- Jack-o’-Lantern Press recently sat down with monster movie maker Jack Perez (creative by day, gremlin by night) during a recent film festival celebrating his work at Shadow City Studios on the Studio Strip to discuss his monster movies, his life and working with The Curse from Syfy Channel’s “Blast Vegas” (2013), who he said was a major prima donna.

Perez, who directed such monster movies as MTV’s “Monster Island” (2004), The Asylum’s “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus” (2009) and the John Landis-produced “Some Guy Who Kills People” (2011), started his career with what monsters call “fuzzier, crime and noir pics” like “America’s Deadliest Home Video” (1993), “The Big Empty” (1997), “La Cucaracha” (1998) and “Wild Things 2” (2004).

The filmmaker’s enthusiasm for cinema is contagious, and his body of work (along with the bodies he puts in the ground during the making of his movies) can only be described as follows: REALLY cool. Perez has made a living taking small budgets and creating mega results, garnering awards (“La Cucaracha” won Best Narrative Feature at the 1998 Austin Film Festival) and high online honors (the “Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus” trailer, upon its release, was a mega viral hit, according to, scoring over a million hits on and a million more on YouTube).

We picked Perez’s brain. And he let us keep the pieces we got.

Jack-o’-Lantern Press: So, Jack -- love the name, by the way -- tell us a little about yourself and the type of movies you make.

Jack Perez: I typically work in the giant-monster genre, though I’ve had dealings with demonic children and the occasional more-serious “human-monster.” But generally, big-ass atomic mutations are my bag. I got into it as a kid, inhaling movies on Saturday afternoon TV. Second: I saw “King Kong” (1933) and “Them!” (1954) and “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” (1953) and “The Amazing Colossal Man” (1957) and all the original “Godzilla” pics. Didn’t matter how silly or low budget, or complex and real -- I loved ‘em all. It was a world I wanted to be in! Soon after, I grabbed my dad’s super-8 camera and drafted my sister into making my own mini-monster epics, which usually required throwing my sis’ into rubber masks and capes, and pouring blood all over her.

JLP: Where did you get your training? And how’d you get into “the business”?

Perez: Went to NYU Film School. But there was a special underground division of the film department that operated out of the boiler room in the bowels of 721 Broadway. They kept us chained to the radiators most of the day, fed us cold gruel, and made us watch early Polanski, Romero and Jodorowsky on a loop. It toughened us up for the real world. The “keeper” down there carried a whip (but used it sparingly). He tugged on my chains one day, knelt down and whispered in my ear, “If you don’t have anything to say as a filmmaker, better to find that out now. You’ll be happier later.” Sent chills down my spine. Fortunately, I busted out (some of my fellow students are still chained down there -- skeletons by now, of course), and I made my way to Horrorwood, which is aptly named, because never will you find (as Ben Kenobi once said) a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Still, I managed to survive. Made a low-budget feature, the thriller “America’s Deadliest Home Video” with Danny Bonaduce (now considered one of the first found-footage movies), and got “in” directing behind-the-scenes documentaries for the studios. Funny enough, my first gig was covering the Universal horror pic, “Dr. Giggles” (1992), about a psychotic surgeon (still have some scars from that one). Several jobs later, I was eventually hired to direct the pilot of “Xena: Warrior Princess” (1995-2001).

JLP: What’s your personal favorite film of yours (to make and the final result)?

Perez: I have two: “The Big Empty,” which has more psychological horror than anything else, and “Some Guy Who Kills People,” which has both pathos and decapitated heads ricocheting off car hoods. Both were joys to make because of the creative freedom and the cast and crews.

JLP: Now, you started your career with crime movies (“America’s Deadliest Home Video” and “Wild Things 2”), noir pics (“The Big Empty” and “La Cucaracha”) and sword-and-sandal TV series (“Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and “Xena: Warrior Princess”). Did those projects prepare you in any way to work with a mega shark and a giant octopus? If so, how so?

Perez: Only in ways to work fast. And on “Mega Shark,” that was accelerated to criminal levels -- had to shoot it in 12 days! In terms of content, my study of giant monsters from the time I was 9 was the best prep. Though the shark was moody, and getting him to take direction was like pulling teeth. Giant Octopus was cooperative enough, but aloof. Debbie Gibson couldn’t have been nicer.

JLP: It seems like you have a natural gift with monsters. All of them in your films seem to be locked into character, especially that big-ass, mutated flesh-eating pirate . . . with a shark that lunges out of his eye in Cinefix’s 2014 web series “Fear Force Five” (by the way, he really ate Miss Evelyn’s fourth-grade field trip, right?). Is it in the rehearsal? Do you use “the method”? Do you play theater games with them before the shoot? If so, what kinds of games did you play with the ancient curse in “Blast Vegas”? I’ve always wanted to work with an ancient curse. How was it?

Perez: Every actor is different. Directing Lucy Davis or Barry Bostwick is different from directing a mutated ant or an enlarged zombie pirate with a shark living in his brain. They’ve often had different training. Zombie Pirate started at the Actor’s Studio, then inexplicably dropped the method and became more technique-based. Barry sometimes required a black-magic potion be brewed at catering and served to him by a witch at least two centuries old. One time, our producer could only get hold of a 70-year-old warlock and Barry flipped, wouldn’t come out of his trailer all day. And yes, Zombie Pirate did consume the entire fourth-grade class, but we of course had to do that in one take. Regarding The Curse in “Blast Vegas!” -- what a prima donna that guy was! Spent half the day in the make-up chair getting his hair “just so,” and the turkey’s invisible for the whole picture!

JLP: What was it like working with aliens from another planet in 2016’s “Drone Wars”? Were they as demanding as it would seem? Did they find in you what they needed, or were they always asking to be taken to your leader? They sound really difficult? I bet they demanded their own Star Waggons and the “star treatment,” right? Special meals? No looking in their eye lines? As a director, how do you deal with that on set?

Perez: I was dreading the drones ‘cause I’d heard stories. My friend, John Schultz, had a lot of difficulties on “Aliens in the Attic” (2009) -- special meal demands, tantrums -- that sort of thing. As it turned out, my drones on “Drone Wars” were very pleasant. Kept to themselves, played a lot of chess between takes. They invited me over to their apartment after the first week and we spent a quiet evening cooking pasta and watching “War of the Worlds and “Invaders from Mars” (the originals, of course).

JLP: Who was your favorite monster to work with on “Monster Island”? Giant insects? The sea monster? And why?

Perez: Oh, I have so many, but if I had to choose, I’d say Giant Praying Mantis. He was just so appreciative at being hired. Wrote me a lovely letter after we wrapped, thanking me for being such an attentive director, catering to his insecurities, which I really didn’t even notice. Just the sweetest guy.

JLP: What can you tell us about working in the Bermuda Triangle for that film?

Perez: Oh, well, that was pickle. Just getting the insurance to shoot there. The premium was insane -- a third of the budget!

JLP: The people in your films seem very realistic and excellent villains for the monsters, and you’ve had some really cool, frightening people in your films, like Carmen Electra, Adam West, Karen Black, Eric Roberts, Frankie Muniz, Barry Bostwick, Kevin Corrigan, Danny Bonaduce, Melora Walters, Joe Dante and John Landis, to name only a few. How involved are you in the people FX? How do you go about creating them and manipulating them in your movies? Or do they have lives of their own?

Perez: Well, for those who know me, I always prefer practical people effects over CGI, which I feel lacks dimension and tangibility. So I hire a guy over at UCLA to grow ‘em in a jar. He uses the Professor Pretorius method (you know, from “Bride of Frankenstein”), which is pretty common practice now. Though a healthy dose of radiation is necessary at the final stage to speed up the growth process.

JLP: What’s the difference between making a “family film” like “666: The Child” (2006), about adoption, and making a feel-good, coming-of-age picture like “Some Guy Who Kills People,” about a guy who wants to be a monster? What were the different approaches you took to make these films?

Perez: It’s really a matter of research during pre-production. I spent a good deal of time with devil worshippers on “666” (they have a big beach house over in Malibu), going on raids, participating in sacrificial rituals -- great fun. On “Some Guy,” I hung around with an active serial killer (I won’t name names) just to get the smell of his world. I’d heard Michael Mann rode with homicide detectives in preparation for “Heat” (1995), and this was basically the same process. With this particular maniac (he favored sledgehammers), we spent an inordinate amount of time in hardware stores.

JLP: What makes a particular low budget B-movie really fun and really great, and a particular over-budgeted summer blockbuster a sucky piece of crap? What are the differences between the two?

Perez: In general, low budget pics are more personal and less messed-with by producers or studio executives. On a small movie, there’s a greater chance that that writer or director’s vision and personality, no matter how idiosyncratic, will make it to the screen. The big budget world is always striving for mass-consumption tastes, and handles creativity via committee -- a sure recipe for disaster, or just plain audience boredom.

JLP: I’m sure all of your cast and crew were frightened during the making of your movies, but have you ever had any accidents on set where no one got scared at all? Or are you unable to talk about it? We understand that some monsters might report you for lack of set terrorizing. In other words, how do you set the mood on set?

Perez: It’s true that the director is responsible for setting the mood on the set, but I rarely ask for terror. I find it comes about naturally. Though there have been occasions where I find either monsters or actors playing patty-cake or watching “My Little Pony” between takes, which I put a stop to immediately.

JLP: What do you look for in a good monster movie you want to make? Are there monster movies you love that you hold your projects up to before you make them? What are some of those movies you love? Who are some of your favorite monster stars?

Perez: Heart, wit, atmosphere and most importantly, character. Otherwise it’s just mayhem, and that gets old pretty fast. “King Kong,” “Frankenstein” (1931), “Shaun of the Dead” (2004), “An American Werewolf in London” (1981) are the kinds of inspirations (and there are dozens and dozens of ‘em) that possess these qualities.

JLP: How do you create a look with your films using story, camera, performance, production design, costume design, make-up, special and effects, music, editing, etc.? How do you find a style?

Perez: It depends. All aspects are important to creating proper and effective atmosphere. I usually create a “look book” of inspiring images (from related films or fine art) that guides the cinematographer, production designer, make-up FX team and everyone else on the overall design. Then I hunker down and do specific storyboards for all the key sequences. But what inspires all this imagery is usually the script itself. It’s a feeling -- a world -- that’s baked into the text. It speaks to you. Then, it’s the director’s job to translate those feelings into images. It’s one of the coolest things about the job.

JLP: What’s your dream monster movie project?

Perez: Not sure. I’ve been very lucky to have done my valentine to stop-motion animated monsters and Ray Harryhausen (“Monster Island”), as well as my giant rubber-suit tribute (a la 1954’s “Godzilla” and Toho Studios) with “Fear Force Five.” I’m not sure. Looking for something new and exciting. Maybe something with flying brains.

JLP: How do you get ideas?

Perez: I actually don’t have that many. Never been one of those guys with filing cabinets full of un-produced stories. Jealous of those guys! Ideas for me seem to come when they come. And the best ones connect with your deepest loves and what’s relevant in your own life at the time. I once read that Sam Peckinpah (one of my favorite directors and sort’ve a monster in his own right) made films to find out, or work out the stuff that was bothering him. That appeals to me.

JLP: What’s it like working with low budgets? Do you feel you make too many compromises, or do low budgets force you to be more creative, coming to better ideas you may not have found had you had the budget you desired? Any examples?

Perez: Having not enough days, not enough time to finesse, and the general feeling of being rushed is definitely the low-budget curse. Never fun. But yes, the old maxim of “necessity being the mother of invention” totally holds true in this world. And I’m usually proud and sometimes even tickled by the nutty solutions I come up with based on the obstacles and limitations I’m dealing with. Throwing dollars at a problem, which is the big budget way, generally doesn’t result in anything genuinely inspired.

JLP: Do you take your work home with you? I mean -- do you have Mega Shark over for dinner? Do you rehearse with 666 demons in your house? If so, how do your wife and neighbors feel about that?

Perez: I used to. In the beginning, it was very hard to separate my work life from my personal world. And truthfully, you haven’t lived till you’ve witnessed Mega Shark, Karen Black and the child of the devil jumping around in a pool playing Marco Polo. But as I get older, my wife and I have become more insular. We’re homebodies. Though Zombie Pirate occasionally turns up unannounced, requesting tea and cake, and that always throws us. But whadya gonna do? You have to be civil.

JLP: Do you have any general rules with monster moviemaking? Is there such a thing as too evil?

Perez: I think so. Evil is a touchy thing. Like seasoning. Too little and you don’t even recognize it. Too much and it ruins the stew. I find one has to be very delicate and patient with evil. Or you wind up possessed. And then nothin’ ever gets done.

JLP: You teach directing at the Academy of Art in San Francisco in the human world. What is your biggest focus when you set out to instruct a class? Any tips for those struggling to break into the business? How do you get past the whole “struggle” part?

Perez: I try to inspire, to be the kind of teacher I always wanted to have. And I try to help students understand that the choices one makes as a filmmaker should be based on principles and philosophies rather than random expression or simply upon rules of “coverage.” I try to teach how to personally express oneself on film. Otherwise what’s the point?

JLP: Have you ever harnessed energy from lightning to create any of your work?

Perez I’d rather not discuss that.

JLP: Have you ever tried to take over the world?

Perez: Next question.

JLP: What do you do for evil in your spare time?

Perez: Whine to my wife.

JLP: Any skeletons in your closet?

Perez: Are you kidding? There aren’t enough closets.

JLP: So how can people find out more about you? How can they reach you?

Perez: Facebook me if you want to reach me. Oh, and check out my animated show, “Trailer Hitch,” with Allan Havey (from AMC’s “Mad Men”). Playlist can be found on the Cinefix YouTube channel right HERE. 

JLP: What’s next for you?

Perez: Maybe a feature version of “Fear Force Five.” More big monsters. Maybe “Shotgun Wedding,” a female-driven crime thriller I wrote. Or maybe something completely unexpected!

JLP: OK, so I’m gonna fire off some questions like James Lipton from “Inside the Actors Studio.” Here we go: What’s your favorite shade of blood and guts?

Perez: Bright orange-red. Prefer the Hammer Film Productions/more cartoony quality. Plus, it reads better on film.

JLP: What’s your favorite type of victim?

Perez: Someone who deserves it.

JLP: If you could be any other monster, what would it be?

Perez: King Kong. But I don’t wanna get bit by a T-Rex or shot off the Empire State Building.

JLP: What kind of scream or cry of terror do you love most?

Perez: The piercing kind. See “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” -- the original. But not too many times -- can do damage.

JLP: What kind of scream or cry of terror do you love least?

Perez: Sucky, insincere kind. See opening of “Blow Out” (1981). Why does Travolta get caught up in all that nasty business in the first place?!

JLP: What’s your favorite torture device?

Perez: The Rack.

JLP: If The Elevator that goes down to The Fire Caves exists (and it does), what would you want the Red Devil to say to you when you arrive?

Perez: Think you’re on the wrong floor.