Filmmaker Pierce Berolzheimer Talks CRABS! with Monster Fest￼
19 April 2022
Monster Fest 2021 Official Selection CRABS! has just hit DVD & Digital courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment, so we’re flashing back to when Monster’s Jarret Gahan caught up with writer/director Pierce Berolzheimer to discuss his wildly entertaining creature-feature!
One thing that is immediately evident upon watching CRABS, is that it’s clearly crafted by someone that’s that’s got a deep-seated passion for cinema and I wondered what your earliest memories of watching films were when you were growing up?
The movie I was obsessed with as a kid was ET. I was totally completely obsessed with it. I’d watch it every single day. As I got a little older, I remember the time period where I remember really wanting to make movies, that was in the early to mid-nineties with JURASSIC PARK. I mean, to me, that’s like the pinnacle of filmmaking and getting to make worlds that don’t actually exist. They feel like they exist in our world, not in a magic land where it’s all fantasy, but one grounded in reality. There’s just that little bit of I wish I wish I could see that. That to me is like where I want to live, I want to live in the world where it’s very close to where we live, but there’s just like something else, like there’s dinosaurs, where there’s giant spiders or something like that. And I love that level of filmmaking where it’s just outside of the current world. EIGHT LEGGED FREAKS was an enormous inspiration. And then there’s a film called PREHYSTERIA…
The FULL MOON feature directed by Charles Band?
Yes, that one. And I love stuff like that where even a boy finds some little dinosaur pets and I love the practicality of that. So I started making stop motion animations. When I was a kid and I would try to convince my teachers, like I didn’t really like school very much, I would try to convince them to let me make a move instead of writing a paper. Some teachers actually let me do that. SOUTH PARK was huge at the time and I loved it so I would make these little cardboard cutouts and then animate versions of GREAT EXPECTATIONS and THE ODYSSEY.
That’s terrific. Your love of stop motion animation has carried right through from your childhood to this, your first-feature, CRABS, as has seemingly your passion for the creature-feature. You can see the inspiration of films like JURASSIC PARK and even Joe Dante’s PIRANHA behind it? What was the initial inspiration for CRABS for you?
Well, all of those places. I mean the monster movie genre, specifically the wildlife run amok stuff like PIRANHA. I love wildlife, I love animals and taking an audiences that little step out of the ordinary to a scarier place or a funnier place, I really enjoy. With the horseshoe crabs, the real honest answer is that I saw horseshoe crabs growing up, and I always thought that somebody was going to make a horseshoe crab movie and nobody did. And I was surprised that nobody had, I’m like, okay, well, I got to jump on that. Otherwise someone else is going to do it. And they also seem to fit perfectly with those old school monster tropes. There’s something about that ancient creepy look that just fits perfectly for a radioactive animal movie.
It’s like when you stare at a lizard and the realisation sets in that they are descendant of the dinosaur. One thing that sets CRABS apart from many other contemporary genre films is its characters and the depth of those characters and the human drama that they bring to the story itself, it’s very Spielbergian. How did you go about crafting those characters and was there any real life inspirations behind the characters in the film?
First off, thank you. That’s a crazy compliment, I really appreciate that.
Most of the movie is in some way, shape or form based on either my experiences or someone I know’s experiences or a story that a friend has told me that I’ve hung on to. And so I really tried to inject the characters with as much actual stuff that I remember I’ve been through or other people have been through, to make it feel real. And because of that, I think that, you know, it loses the, one of the Cardinal rules of, of writing movies is like, you’ve got to have drama, right. And, and because I was more focused on like the human mystic sort of aspects of the character interactions, I think we lost some of the drama there, but I hope that we gained back, at least some audience sympathy by having it feel a little bit more grounded than, than just arbitrarily having the characters be antagonistic toward each other.
The easiest example is when the boy is dancing with the girl at prom and he puts his hands on her shoulders and she moves him to like her lower back. Yeah. That was the first time I ever danced with a girl. That’s what I did and that’s what she did. And so I was like, okay, I have to put that in there. There’s a lot of the character names based on people I’ve known, like Philip, the main characters in a wheelchair, he is based on my uncle who passed away of muscular dystrophy. I have all of my uncle’s old notebooks and he used to draw giant monster battles. And so I knew that Philip needed to be based on my uncle Phillip. And I knew that where the movie goes is sort of, serendipitously, a homage to him. I tried to inject as much honesty into the movie as I could, even though it’s a giant monster movie.