Marko Mäkilaakso, director and co-writer of the sci-fi comedy/horror film It Came from the Desert, was kind enough to let us ask him some questions about his movie, his background, and his thoughts about horror and filmmaking.
David Dubrow: Your movie It Came from the Desert is based on a video game from 1989. Did the lukewarm critical response to other films based on video games give you any concern? What makes this movie different from other game-based films?
Marko Mäkilaakso: No, I wasn’t concerned about the critical response to the film or critical response to other video game-based films. I always knew that It Came from the Desert is the kind of film that will split the audience in half. Either you love it or hate it. What makes this different from other video game-based films is maybe that it’s not a direct adaptation of the original game. It plays more like a live-action sequel and this of course gives the filmmaker a lot of freedom.
David: Tell us about the challenges of filming in the desert. How did the actors and crew hold up? How did you hold up?
Marko: Well, first of all it’s very hot! The heat makes things harder for everyone. After a full day of filming in the desert, seeing a pool and ocean (where our accommodations were located) was like Heaven, but beyond that it’s just your normal challenging filmmaking with limited budget and time. The film is very busy with lots of locations, stunts and effects, and you really need to run when filming so you can get everything in time. There’s no money to go overtime, so you better know what you’re doing! For the actors the heat was of course hard, and I felt so bad putting the guys into these black military/bike outfits and making them act under +40 degrees take after take.
Then, on the other hand, all the interiors were shot in cold winter Finland and most of those locations were freezing cold with no heating inside. The entire crew was in heavy winter outfits and our leads ran around in t-shirts, etc. Respect to the actors. They made it look easy, but I know how damn hard it is to keep your spirits up in heat or extreme cold. For me it was crazy fun, both ways. There was only one moment when I didn’t have enough water in the desert and I suddenly felt really dizzy and weird during the filming of a scene. But after an hour with lots of water I was back in action with full speed!
David: You combine CGI, practical effects, and stunts very effectively. Can you tell us a bit more about that process?
Marko: Action comes very easy for me. I love it, everything about it. Reacting to CGI, practical or stunts is just part of the great fun of making these type of films. My only regret is the time and money. Oh boy, what I could have done if there had been millions!
David: There are a number of funny scenes in the film, as well as some lines that are best described as hysterical. Is this your first comedy production? Who wrote the best lines?
Marko: Ha! Nice to hear. This is my second comedy; my first was a more family-friendly kids movie, but it also has a similar Looney Tunes tone in comedy. We wrote a funny script with Hank Woon and Trent Haaga, but lots of the gags and stuff happened also during filming. So much of the comedy has to do with casting the movie right. I think we had the perfect actors. They got the tone and made things better and better. This allowed me to play and improvise in almost every scene and make things which were funny in the script even funnier. My influence for Brian and Lukas characters were Bill and Ted from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure / Bogus Journey. I love that kind of “dude” humor and wanted to make my own “Bill & Ted’s Extreme Monster Adventure” (quote from film critic Torsten Dewi).
David: What’s your filmmaking background? Is It Came from the Desert the kind of movie you thought you’d make when you first started out?
Marko: I actually started out doing very serious stuff, drama short films and then slick music videos, etc, but I’ve always been influenced by the work of Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, John Landis, John Carpenter, Tim Burton, Robert Zemeckis, Peter Jackson, etc. Even though I love epic dramas like Braveheart, Titanic, Forrest Gump, and action films like Lethal Weapon, Predator, and Die Hard, there’s something really honest about 1980s B movies like American Ninja, King Solomon’s Mines, and Masters of the Universe, and older 1950s monsters films. They just have this candid honesty about them and I love that!
It Came from the Desert is inspired by the films I grew up with and love. It’s actually the most perfect film to show who I am as director. That’s why this is my most personal film. The story, characters, action and comedy is pure me! It’s like living your childhood games again when making this kind of a film. It’s not perfect, but it has my heart and that’s the biggest and most honest thing I can give to a film.
David: You’re also the writer and director of War of the Dead, another horror film. Is horror your favorite genre to work in?
Marko: I love horror, but not exclusively. I love films and filmmaking! I watch all kind of films… and… well, I LOVE FILMS! I feel very comfortable with the kind of genre where I mix action, comedy, and little bit of horror. I think this is pure me! But I would love to do a drama or musical someday. Hell! I’m just happy if I can make another film!
David: Where do you see the horror genre going, in regard to filmmaking? Does it have a bright future?
Marko: Yes, I think it has a bright future. The horror genre is like a cockroach. If everything else dies, it will survive! Horror has been popular since the beginning of films and it will never die. There’s some really awesome horror films coming out yearly and the great thing is that it’s economically good. You can make horror films with low budgets and with no stars and they can make a shitload of money! That’s a very hard thing to do with comedy or drama. Horror is such a creative and visual genre, and all you need is a talented filmmaker to give something new and fresh to the audience.
David: Given an unlimited budget, what would be your dream film project?
Marko: That would be a story I wrote a decade ago called ‘Wasteland’. It’s a futuristic western/action, horror/comedy. I developed it for years but unfortunately the project was never made… we’ll never say never.
David: Tell us your top five favorite horror films, in order.
Marko: Uuuh! That’s a tough one. I love so many horror films that if I put them in order I feel like I am not giving enough respect to the others, but okay man… for you, I’ll do this!
- An American Werewolf in London
- The Bride of Frankenstein
David: What are you working on now? What’s next for Marko Mäkilaakso?
Marko: I have several projects in development, but let’s see what gets financed first or if there comes a kick-ass offer from somewhere. I can’t wait to be on location again and shoot another film! Waiting for it is pure hell!