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Ottermole Moving Picture Company
That Little Monster
Starring Melissa Baum . Reggie Bannister . Andi Wenning and William Mills with
Forrest J Ackerman Music Score Jerry Danielsen Executive Producer Cristina Casanova
Director of Photography Craig Bassuk Producer Carl Mastromarino Writer/Director Paul Bunnell
Paul Bunnell's horror film That Little Monster stars Melissa Baum as Jamie, a student studying abroad who begins the film interviewing for a nanny position. She gets the job, but soon discovers that strange things are occurring with the child, the family, and their house. She soon begins to fear for her life. The film was shot in a way that pays tribute to the Universal horror films of the '30s. - Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide
(aka Azura Farren)
as Mrs. Willock
Original Storyboard Art by Patrick Romandy-Simmons
March 4, 1994
& Reggie Bannister
& Melissa Baum
by Angus Scrimm
Reprinted from Monsterscene Magazine / Issue No. 10 (Summer 1997)
Any number of films admirably engaged and entertained audiences in the past twelve months, but for me just three induced that euphoria that leaves you days later still caught up in its spell, knowing you've experienced a genuinely creative craftsman's completely realized work of cinema. Those three were the Coen Brothers' "Fargo", Billy Bob Thornton's "Sling Blade", and Paul Bunnell's "That Little Monster".
That Little Monster? Paul Bunnell?
Bunnell is a young Glendale, California-born filmmaker who, after several promised-and-hoped-for commercial projects aborted, boldly plunged ahead and made his own film. Along the way, the enterprising fellow secured the participation of such diverse talents as sci-fi professor emeritus Forrest J Ackerman, "Phantasm" star Reggie Bannister, "Dordi Rock People" artist George E. Green, and comedy legend and national treasure Bob Hope. Bunnell scripted and directed, the equally resourceful Carl Mastromarino produced and edited, and what emerged was an eerily gleaming little emerald of a film called "That Little Monster".
Like the unforgettable horror films of the past, "Monster" draws you into its world from frame one. In a dead-on recreation of Edward Van Sloan's prologue to the 1931 Frankenstein, Forry Ackerman steps before the theatre curtain to forewarn us that the movie is not for the faint of heart. A distant galaxy materializes before our eyes, followed by amorphous images that suggest the parthenogenetic origins of life. The screen blazes white and slowly refigures into two feminine hands in tight close-up which pull away to reveal the face of a quite pretty young girl.
Her name is Jamie. She's a foreign student, awaiting an interview with the parents of an infant boy she hopes to baby-sit. Everyday situation, to be sure.
Ah, but nothing is ordinary here! Bunnell uses every resource of lights, sets, props, camera, sound, music to keep his audience atilt. No movement is ever in balance, nothing is secure. As the girl waits in a kind of edgy suspension, Reggie Bannister makes a startling, abrupt appearance as the family butler, Twelvetrees, He's the genial, smiling, amiable lecherous Reggie we all know and love, but something about him also is disquietingly askew. He drops a hint to the girl; "Watch Your Back."
When the parents make their delayed entrance, Bunnell doesn't at first let us see them. We glimpse their hands, we hear their unalarming voices, but they remain shadowy figures in a darkened room until, Jamie hired, they reappear for their evening out. They're on their way to a masquerade, and Jamie gushes admiringly at their party get-ups. Yet Mr. Willock is merely clad in a hospital intern's white suit, and Mama is in what might charitably be described as streetwalker's attire.
Nothing, however, is what it seems. They both chat with Jamie with that patronizing over-friendliness of folks being extra nice to foreign "help" who, after all, "isn't one of us." Mama is solicitous that Jamie and baby Wolper have a harmonious evening alone. Jauntily snatching up his guitar, Papa Willock sings two choruses of "It's Time To Leave You Now," and the parents depart.
At once, the house and its bizarre appointments begin to close in on Jamie, settling her and creepily unnerving us. She prepares the baby's formula and heads for the nursery. And then Bunnell's film plunges full speed ahead into the weirdness he has till now just tantalizingly suggested -- culminating at length in the final, jarring revelation we now realize Bunnell has cunningly hinted at all through. Have I intrigued you? Precisely why I'm writing this for Monsterscene-- to call your attention to a worthy but thus far underexposed movie. In today's market, of course, Bunnell's film hadn't a prayer of theatrical distribution: It's 56 minutes long. The heroine is neither Michelle Pfeiffer nor Winona Ryder, but a comely, gifted little actress named Melissa Baum. The photography pays homage to the great horror films of the 1930's (and to Bunnell's production costs) by being in black and white -- except for one sublime, poignant and telling image that metamorphoses magically into color near the end of the film.
Oh, yes, Bob Hope does appear -- in three inimitably Hopeful sequences especially filmed for That Little Monster. How do you get a legendary superstar to work in a low budget movie? Lifelong ardent Hope fan Bunnell has for years collected Hope memorabilia, and voluntarily donated several invaluable, one-of-a-kind items to the Hope museum. Bob Hope, in gratitude, made time to film his witty moments in That Little Monster, and appears to be thoroughly enjoying himself.
The astute Dr. Donald Reed and his Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films bestowed their Golden Scroll Award for Outstanding Achievement upon That Little Monster. This honor, Bunnell rightly insists, validates the creative work of all his contributors who, in addition to those mentioned above, include the canny and engaging William Mills and Andi Wenning as the parents Willock, executive producers producers Cristina Casanova and Merrill P. Mack, score composer Jerry Danielsen, director of photography Craig Bassuk, camera operator Steven Lazur, sculptor Patrick Romandy-Simmons, and production designer Frederick Alcantar III.
If you're having a horror film party some Saturday night, surprise your guests by screening That Little Monster after the feature attraction. It's a devilish, strange, disquieting little chiller that will cap your evening with some most delicious shutters. Some of its images may stay on in your mind to become part of your film vocabulary.
|Angus Scrimm is known around the world
as The Tall Man from the Phantasm films.
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