I had the pleasure of interviewing Marko Mäkilaakso, the director and co-writer of the upcoming giant bug movie It Came From the Desert.
Co-written by Trent Haaga, the film stars Mark Arnold, Claudia Trujillo, Vanessa Grasse, Harry Smith, and James Alper.
Mäkilaakso also directed the 2011 zombie movie War of the Dead and Deadly Descent: The Abominable Snowman. Currently, he has two other films in development, Viking: Rise of the Warrior and Blowback.
Horror Fuel: “What inspired you to adapt It Came From the Dessert from the 1989 game?”
Mäkilaakso: “I actually wanted to make a motocross-action-comedy set in a desert with big spiders and 80’s vibe. That’s how it all started! The idea was inspired by “Eight legged freaks” and Cinemaware’s classic ”It came from the desert” game. I presented this concept to the producers in Berlin Film Festival few years ago adding that I wanted to call the movie ”It Came From The Desert”, because I loved the game as a kid so much. They liked the idea and so we started developing the project. I wrote the first draft of the script and my producer contacted Cinemaware, the company which made the video game in the late 80’s, asking if we could use the title of their game. To our big surprise, not only we got the rights to use the title, but they wanted us to make an adaptation of the game! I was super excited! This changed everything, well almost everything. We started re-writing the script to accommodate the new idea of game adaptation. The giant spiders became giant ants and we expanded the whole story and characters. Here I was, making a big screen adaptation of the game I loved! How cool was that? One big question was the setting of the movie. 50’s or modern times? We were happy with our original story and decided to stick with that and not to set it in 50’s like the original game and so the movie became a live action sequel to the ICFTD games and set in modern times. It has an independent story with new characters, but we do live in the same universe with the games and the fans will recognize that. It’s a fun action ride with giant ants!
Horror Fuel: “I love creature features and Eight Legged Freaks is one of my Favorites. I look forward to watching your film.”
Horror Fuel: “If you will, please tell us about the film.
Mäkilaakso: “The story follows Brian and Lukas who are off to desert for a kegger party and celebrate Lucas’ victory in a motocross competition. His winning prize includes meeting the biggest action star in the world who the guys all idolize above all…and I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but giant ants attack! Brian and Lukas have to become the heroes they always wanted to be and save the world from this alien invasion! Oh, and there’s lots of action, comedy, romance and giant ants involved. The movie is a blend of PG scary movies of the 80’s as well as horror-sci-fi films of the 50’s. It’s a tribute to Roger Corman drive-in films and Spielberg, Dante and Cannon Films’ style of 80’s adventure, comedy, action flicks.
Horror Fuel: “Why not set the film in the 1950’s?”
Mäkilaakso: “Why didn’t we set the film in the 50’s? If we ever make sequels to this movie.. well, let’s just say that the 50’s setting would be one of them ;)”
Horror Fuel: “Ohhh. I see.”
Horror Fuel: “Where was It Came From the Dessert filmed?”
Mäkilaakso: “We shot the movie in Spain and Finland and our main locations were in Almeria desert, where many Clint Eastwood westerns, “Indiana Jones and the last crusade”, “Game of Thrones”, “Conan the Barbarian” etc were shot. Beautiful locations! So epic! Perfect for our movie in every possible way. We also shot in Finland some of the interior scenes and the contracts was fun because we left this hot desert and went to snowy, cold Finland with minus temperatures.”
Horror Fuel: “Wow, I imagine it is a great experience to be in the same location where so many epic films were made.”
Horror Fuel: “What was the biggest challenge when making the film?
Mäkilaakso: “I can’t pinpoint any one thing, it’s the overall production. You start with the idea and then write it, design it, finance it, cast it, prep it, shoot it, post it and release it. Every aspect of filmmaking is challenging. But my favorite time is when I’m there on location with my cast and crew and shoot it. That’s when you make your movie! And that’s also the best time for me.”
Horror Fuel: “Were the special fx mostly CGI?”
Mäkilaakso: “Yes, mostly CGI but we also build a practical giant ant (not all of it) and it’s in the movie. I originally wanted to use much more of the practical ant, but with tight shooting schedule, it was hard to achieve. I always prefer to us practical effects as much as possible. You just feel that it’s real and that is hard to achieve with CG in low budget movies.”
Horror Fuel: “The trailer looks great.”
Horror Fuel: “Did the cast find it difficult to react to the giant ant in scenes where he wasn’t added in until later?”
Mäkilaakso: “They made it look easy. I’m sure it is difficult to react to something which isn’t there, but they did great! We had lots of action scenes with actors, stunts, and ants and it was wild to watch! So much fun!”
Horror Fuel: “Is there a release date for the film yet?”
Mäkilaakso: “I think the release date in Japan is already set, but I don’t want to share anything which is not my thing to say. The movie is ready in August and then it goes to Festivals and distributors around the world.”
Horror Fuel: “We understand.”
Horror Fuel: “Are you working on anything now?”
Mäkilaakso: “Alongside finishing ICFTD I’m working on several projects, but it’s too early to talk about them.”
Horror Fuel: “We’ll be keeping an eye out for both It Came From the Desert and any other projects you have released.”
Marko Mäkilaakso is clearly a filmmaker who enjoys what he does. That usually translates into a great film. In fact, I expect we will see a lot of great films from him, so get familiar with his name. As soon as the release date is announced for It Came From the Desert we will let you know. You’re not going to want to miss it.
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