“Hammer horror meets Dark Crystal” movie needs your help

Hellboy’s Mike Mignola and horror icon Barbara Steele team up for The Mill At Calder’s End

With just over 2 days left to go on crowd-funding Mecca Kickstarter, this is your last chance to get involved with ambitious original short film The Mill At Calder’s End.

A creepy gothic puppet film inspired by classic Hammer horror and HP Lovecraft, The Mill At Calder’s End is a product of the fevered imagination of Kevin McTurk, whose special effects work includes everything from Jurassic Park and Batman Returns, to Hellboy and Spider-Man 2, and most recently, Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters and Snow White And The Huntsman.

To this end, McTurk has enlisted a formidable roster of talent, including the voices of gothic horror veteran Barbara Steele (Black Sunday, Village Of The Damned) and Jason Flemyng (X Men: First Class, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button), concept art from Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and artist Guy Davis (Hellboy, The Marquis), and a team of FX and puppeteers who’ve honed their craft on the likes of Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, Pan’s Labyrinth, Bram Stoker’s Dracula and more.

SciFiNow spoke exclusively to director Kevin McTurk to find out more about The Mill At Calder’s End

Why is puppetry and gothic horror such a perfect fit?

I think there is a handcrafted, old world look to puppetry (probably dating back to the original Punch and Judy shows) that instantly transports you to another place and time. Gothic horror seems like a perfect match because as a filmmaker, I can establish this era with costume and set design on a modest budget. I also think this is a haunted quality to the characters themselves… maybe it is the sculpted expressions of the puppets that give a sense of dread and fear to their performances.

Your influences are very much on your sleeve on this one, what films have had the biggest impact on The Mill At Calder’s End?

In terms of horror film influences, I would have to say that my film is most heavily influenced by Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, Roger Corman’s Tomb Of Ligeia, The Bride Of Frankenstein, and the Hammer classic Horror Of Dracula, among others. I have also been heavily inspired by the Brother Quay Street Of Crocodiles and the puppet films of Jim Henson, including The Dark Crystal, his Storyteller televsion series, and the obscure brilliant film Dreamchild.

Guy Davies t-shirt design for The Mill At Calder's End
Guy Davis’ T-shirt design for The Mill At Calder’s End

How did you get Barbara Steele involved?

I managed to get in touch with Barabra Steele through a horror convention contact, and she was delighted and intrigued by the project. I am honored to work with her, as she has appeared in two highly influential films for this project, Mario Bava’s Black Sunday and Roger Corman’s The Pit And The Pendulum.

You’ve worked with some pretty amazing people on some pretty amazing films, what did you take away from that and onto The Mill At Calder’s End?

I am extremely fortunate to have had a wonderful career in effects and to have worked on some of the most iconic effects films over the years. From all of my work experiences, I think that I have developed a more fearless approach to making puppet films. With The Mill At Calder’s End, my intention is to attempt more and more intricate puppet movement and embrace the art of puppetry and practical effects in film.

Having worked on Hellboy 2, were you already quite close to Mike Mignola? How has his work impacted on the look of the movie?

I first must say Mike’s work is brilliant and I am thrilled to know him as a friend. On both Hellboy films, I was working at Spectral Motion in the creature suit seaming and finishing department and remember Mike stopping by for a tour but we never met. It was at Comic-Con in San Diego years later that I introduced myself and described my ghost story puppet project, which at that point, was going to be a live stage performance. Mike has always championed the project from the first moment I described it to him. With both my first puppet film, The Narrative Of Victor Karloch and The Mill At Calder’s End, Mike has contributed his artwork to be used as T-shirt concept designs and also a few prop designs.

The sculpt of main character and narrator Nicholas Grimshaw
The sculpt of main character and narrator Nicholas Grimshaw

There’s an impressive array of puppeteers involved, all with experience of similarly themed projects – how important was it to have collaborators who understood instantly what you were going for?

It is extremely important to have a team of highly focused, talented puppeteers on this project. Many of the artists on this project have all worked together in effects shops over the years and we have puppeteered together on giant blockbuster films.

From these years of working together, we are able to work quickly and communicate to each other in a short hand manner on set.

Once the Kickstarter ends, what’s your first move?

We will be completing puppet and set construction in the next few months and begin shooting in July. The initial shoot will most likely be some of the miniature shots, as those sets will be finished sooner that some of the puppets.

The goal is shoot through the summer and begin post production in the fall/early winter.

How and when will SciFiNow readers be able to see The Mill At Calder’s End?

With the best intentions, the goal is to have The Mill At Calder’s End completed in early Spring of next year. It will be then sent off to film festivals and then made available to the Kickstarter members who ordered the download, DVD, or Blu-Ray.

Back The Mill At Calder’s End right this second on Kickstarter!