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An Interview with Jason Horton, Director of Monsters in the Woods

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2015

Films directed by Jason Horton on (re)Search my Trash


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Your movie Monsters in the Woods - in a few words, what is it about?


The title says it all.


With Monsters in the Woods being a monster movie - is that a genre at all dear to you, and some of your genre favourites?


I do love me some monster movies. Alien/Aliens (I think the influence there is pretty obvious). Frankenstein (both 1931 and 1994 versions). I also think Monsters in the Woods has a pretty solid Bride of Frankenstein thing going one. Critters. Gremlins. Friday the 13th (not exactly a monster flick), to name a few.


With the events of Monsters in the Woods taking place on a low budget horror movie set, is any of the movie based on personal experiences?


Monsters in the Woods is my most personal movie so far. It was born out of the frustration I was feeling trying to sell my previous movie Trap. Trap was a fairly realistic drama/thriller and one sales rep suggested that I cut monster scenes into it to increase sales potential. It was so ridiculous that I wrote Monsters in the Woods in response.

*** post note, I sold Trap right after Monsters in the Woods, and to a better distributor.


The Tom/Ariel relationship was also based on a break-up I was going through with a co-worker.


Other sources of inspiration when writing Monsters in the Woods?


The original structure of the movie was very Tarantino influenced. I'm also a big Joss Whedon fan. The way he manages tone is amazing.


What can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?


As far as working with the actors, I'm a big believer in letting them find their characters, hiring the right folk and giving them enough takes, or rehearsal to find the truth of that particular moment. Of course on such a low budget there's not always time to allow them to get there on their own. You also have to hire people that can handle the shooting conditions. No trailers. No huge crafty spread.


My original plan for the shooting style was to shoot the first 15 minutes (or first act) handheld-found footage style from the perspective of the BTS crew. Then, during the massacre (start of act 2) it would switch to calmer, stable, dolly, steady cam, jib etc... then in the third act it would go a little more frenetic.

Unfortunately, due to some major on-set complications at the beginning, I had to throw all of that out and just shoot from the hip.


Do talk about Monsters in the Woods' brand of humour for a bit!


I've always had an off-beat dry sense of humor. It works its way into everything I do. I also really like awkward humor, which doesn't always translate well on low budget stuff. People often mistake an intentional awkward moment for incompetence. Finding that line is always a challenge. 


The titular monsters - how were they conceived?


I wanted classic 50's style creatures. Creature from the Black Lagoon mixed with Alien. They were originally designed by Robert M. Bravo (producer) and were eventually executed by Tom Devlin's 1313 FX. Of course they were on an extremely fixed budget, but pulled it off well.


What can you tell us about your key cast, and why exactly these people?


Casting is the most important part of any production. Casting for a super-low budget movie is even more complicated. First off, you can't really afford to hire too many seasoned pros. Glenn Plummer and Lee Perkins were the only two actors in the movie with extensive resumes at the time. I'd worked with Annemarie Pazmino and Ashton Blanchard before and knew they could handle the demands. They're two of my all-time favorite actors.

But there were some others that were "suggested" by producers, and wanting to get the movie done, I caved.


With Monsters in the Woods being and outdoors movie - what can you tell us about your locations, and what were the challenges filming there?


We shot most of the woods stuff in Big Bear. It was a huge mistake. It was a three hour drive from LA and the lodging expenses killed us. In retrospect, I would have shot it much closer to LA and kept the money on the screen. I ended up doing some pick ups in a state park in Malibu and it actually looked better than the Big Bear stuff.


Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


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It was pretty fun set. It was tough though. Shooting in Big Bear, we had to hike 15 minutes everyday to get to the set. I actually lost about 10 pounds on that shoot and I'm already a pretty small guy.

We had a few problems in the first day or two, but we removed (fired) the problem and things were pretty fun after that.


A few words about audience and critical reception of your movie?


I love feedback, good or bad. Of course you always want people to like your stuff and it's great to bask in positive response. But I also just like to know that people are watching it. That it's out there.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


So many. I'm putting together a slate of features for my most recent distributor.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?




Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


I signed a not particularly good distribution deal with a company that's not even trying to get my movie out there. It's frustrating because I've since sold 10 other movies and every distributor and sales agent I've dealt with all tell me they would've sold the shit out of Monsters in the Woods.

The film's current distributor: ... if you want to see our movie, drop these guys an email or post on their Facebook. Let them know there's a demand. Maybe they'll get off their butts.

Or hell, pirate it. I'm not making any money on it anyway. I'd like to see it out there more.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!


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Michael Haberfelner


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