Premiere: Markus Meedt Reveals How He Adapted a Beloved Card Game for His Comedy Horror Short ‘Werewolf’

We all enjoy sitting around with a few friends and playing a card game until someone gets a little over-competitive and starts to take the fun out of it. Director Markus Meedt takes this concept and amplifies it, posing the question “What happens if things get a little too hairy and people start to bite?”. Cue, horror comedy Werewolf. Meedt’s film is a heightened take on a group of friends playing the popular card game where, surprise surprise, things get out of hand. It’s a hilarious romp and Twelve Cabins is delighted to premiere it for our audience today. TC spoke with Meedt below, who walks us through Werewolf’s serendipitous creation.

Was the idea for Werewolf born out of playing the game? 

Werewolf was indeed born from Werewolf. David, who plays Ellis, wrote the script after a particularly heated round of the game with his friends. I guess everyone has to cope with their traumas somehow. Dave dealt with the trauma of game night by writing a horror comedy. I feel like my personal equivalent to this would be monopoly the movie, but it is harder to bring in a murderous twist, other than the infinite destruction of modern capitalism… However, with Werewolf we just wanted to create some lighthearted fun. 

How did you take the game and adapt it to a short film? What did you want to draw out and what did you want to keep?

The challenge was to explain enough about the game that people who have never played Werewolf (or Mafia) would get the concept without it getting too convoluted. And the audience that is aware of the game doesn’t have to sit through someone else explain the rules for several minutes. 

When I flew to Germany with my partner over Christmas, the wonderful Editor Carly Brown sent me through the first assembly. I showed the film to my partner, who had never played the game, and she looked a little bit puzzled. I had the brief fear that our target audience might have diminished to people who do puzzles on Wednesdays and game night on the first Saturday of each month. Not what we were aiming for. By the time we flew back to London the second cut came in with some minor tweaks. At this point my partner was introduced to the game at the family Christmas party with about 50 people. Now that she had her own trauma to draw from she really enjoyed the film. I am still not entirely sure if we managed to walk the fine line of exposition successfully. But I think Dave did a great job at packing it all into the script in a fun way. 

For sure, the whole script has this really fun and quick energy to it. How did you find working with David on developing it? 

To be honest, there was only ever two drafts of the script. When Dave came to me with the original draft, I found myself laughing out loud and I just gave some notes on the ending of the film and suggested to switch around some lines between characters to stay consistent. I have worked with Dave in various capacities many times before, and I know his energy and performance style quite well at this point. So, I was quite aware what his intensions were with the script and tone. We met up with our friend and Gaffer Alex Gibbons and Producer Nick Coupe, whose skeleton is made out of only funny bones. Our goal was to come up with ideas that would visually capture the hight octane witch hunt, where people just sit around a table and don’t move much for hours. As a big horror fan, I wanted to build on the paranoia elements with wide lenses, invading the personal space of our cast. Alex had the great idea of allowing the lighting to change with the mood in the room. We wanted our room to transform from a symmetric, orderly and brightly exposed living room, to a hectic, flickering, dutch angled mess. So really, it was mainly conversations about mood and performance, rather than active script changes. And our Cinematographer Tom Lee managed to capture this with an absolute skeleton crew in a small apartment. 

The whole cast are fantastic and Kenneth is absolutely hilarious. How much did Will bring to the role and how much direction did you give him and the rest of the cast?

Dave actually wrote the script with Will in mind. They had met and worked together for Shitfaced Shakespeare previously. When Will actually agreed to be in it, Dave got very excited and tried to explain to me the essence of Will Seaward. But no words can truly describe that man’s energy and rich vocabulary. I didn’t get to meet Will before the shoot and only had a five minute prep phone call and a couple of emails with him before the shoot day. 

On the shoot, he arrived a little later than the rest of the cast as he was coming back from a wedding up north. By the time he stepped on set, I was not entirely sure what to expect. I just wanted to see what would happen organically. As I quietly whispered “action”, Will jumped from the chair and exploded with an energy I hadn’t anticipated. I have to admit, this performance was not what I had originally imagined. But it was so unique and weird and, I think, incredibly funny. So, I just tried to make sure he was able to keep up the same energy throughout the night. It was a bit like Christmas where you beg your parents all year to get you a dog. And come Christmas Day, you get a cat. And then you realise just how cool cats can be. Yes, I said it. Cats are the absolute bomb! The rest of the cast also knew each other from previously and most of them see each other on regular basis. This really helped with the group dynamic in the room. We always wanted to create moments for the cast to go off script and just play off each other. 

Could you walk us through the practical effects used for the werewolf?

We had very little budget for the film and most of it was spend on the prosthetics you see for a total of eight seconds. But it was absolutely worth it. Our Make up Artists Rebecca Wheeler and Emma Malone spend about four hours putting a number of prosthetics, real yak hair and fake teeth on Alice. There are cheek bone extensions to deform the facial structure and allow the eyes to feel more sunk in. The yak hair was used for the facial growth and as slight hair extensions. We went for a very campy Hammer Horror look and feel to maintain the lighthearted and genre satirical tone of the film. The real challenge was that poor Alice had the sniffles that day, and we needed to find a way for her to blow her nose with massive fingernail extensions and yak hair glued onto her upper lip. 

Have the creators of Werewolf seen it? What do they make of it?

They have not. We are nervously bouncing between the fear that they hate it and nail us down with a deformation case or the excitement that they love it and each sold game comes with a QR code straight to the film as a tutorial. Once we get over our easily starstruck nature, we will definitely approach them though. 

And last but not least, are you working on anything new? 

There is a fair bit brewing, and oddly enough a lot of it is horror. We have a zombie comedy sitcom pitch for a show called Z-Hab that had some interest from big production studios. I am developing a horror anthology series, in which we re-invent classic fables, lores and urban legends into the monsters we fear in the 21st century. We are also just finishing VFX on a supernatural comedy short called Paranormal Investigators which we will hopefully release online later this year. And I am in prep for another little comedy short with David and James Murfitt which is a fun, modern spin on Frankenstein’s monster.

Werewolf is part of our spotlight on the 2020 edition of FrightFest. You can find the rest of our festival coverage here.

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