With Scream Factory releasing The Vicious Brothers' Extraterrestrial on Blu-ray today, I had a chance to talk with the filmmaking duo of Stuart Ortiz and Colin Minihan about Extraterrestrial’s origins, working with Michael Ironside, Grave Encounters 3, and more.
Thanks for taking the time to chat today. How did you guys come up with the idea for Extraterrestrial?
Stuart Ortiz: It was actually the first script Colin and I ever came up with, which was about eight years ago now. It’s changed a lot since then, though. Colin and I met on the Internet on a filmmaking web forum, a really early one where people put up clips and stuff. This was in the dial-up era, so a one minute-long clip would take all day to upload. We would post short films we made and we liked each other’s work and started chatting and formed this relationship.
I’m from California, but Colin grew up in Canada in a really remote, small town. We at one point met up in real life and hit it off as friends and kept the relationship going and at some point we said, ‘Hey, we should try writing a script and making a movie.’ And Extraterrestrial was the first idea we came up with because of our shared love for science fiction and The X-Files and also feeling that a really cool alien horror movie hadn’t been made in a long time.
In Extraterrestrial, anything goes and no one is safe. How did you keep coming up with unpredictable curveballs to keep viewers unsure of what will happen next?
Colin Minihan: In the two movies that Stuart and I have made, the shit hits the fan and anything can happen, and we wanted to keep that intensity. I love films that set up a character the audience expects will be the hero and then lo and behold, he ends up dying in a horrible way. And from that point you’re not sure where the film will go. We try to always be unpredictable with where our films will go.
Stuart Ortiz: That scene’s pretty polarizing for people. Some people absolutely love it and are totally shocked and some people just absolutely hate us after that [laughs].
Sean Rogerson, who many horror hounds know as Lance Preston from your Grave Encounters films, plays Deputy Mitchell in Extraterrestrial. Did you write that part specifically for him?
Stuart Ortiz: Sean is a very intense actor and I think at some point we started writing that part for him, thinking, ‘This is going to be fucking hilarious with Sean doing it.’
On the first Grave Encounters movie, we saw a lot of the actors [before filming began], but we never actually saw him in-person. There was this race to find who would play that character [Lance Preston] and literally it was down to about a week away and we still didn’t have that character cast. Then we got a tape of him sent to us, and we watched the tape and said, ‘Oh, this guy is perfect, we have to get him.’ We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to get him, but luckily we did. We didn’t really know what to expect since we didn’t meet him until the first full day on set. He gave us his all, though, and even helped us move equipment in between takes. He was just amazing and we want to keep working with him as much as we can.
What was your experience working with Michael Ironside, who is very memorable in this film as the Vietnam veteran, Travis?
Colin Minihan: It was very interesting when we first met Michael. Again, we had no idea what to expect. He drove in from L.A. with his family. We were getting ready to shoot on set with the rest of the cast and we had a window when we were going to meet Michael to talk character, wardrobe, etc. It was awesome because he brought so many ideas to the character. As soon as we met him, he was like a kid in a candy store, talking about the wardrobe and different places he wanted to take the character, different quirks he had thought out. It was awesome to see that he still cared that much. He was very excited and it was fun working with him for the three or four days we had him on set.
Stuart Ortiz: The moment with Michael that sticks out to me wasn’t on set, it was when we were having lunch. I went into the tent where we have all the tables and chairs set up and he was just sitting there eating by himself in the back. So I thought, ‘All right, I’ll sit here and join him.’ And he immediately started regaling me with stories of working on this and that, like working on the original Scanners. It was a real trip-out moment—I’m sitting here across from Michael Ironside and he’s telling me these intimate stories of working on all these movies that I love. It was very surreal.
Did Michael come up with the idea to wear the cartoon duck T-shirt?
Colin Minihan: Initially, Stuart and I had these preconceived notions that he would be wearing some weird NRA shirt, but Michael saw the character as not caring about clothing at all and therefore he wore old, extra large kids’ shirts. We thought it was hilarious and went along with it. It was his idea to have a cartoon shirt with a duck on it. And he had another shirt that had a cartoon dinosaur on it.
Stuart Ortiz: That was a really fun, specific idea that he brought to the table.
Extraterrestrial has found footage elements mixed with a more traditional camera setup. What influenced your decision to include both perspectives?
Colin Minihan: Everybody has a camera on their phone now, and if I stumbled upon a crashed flying saucer, I would probably take my camera out and take photos and videos of it. It just made sense given the setup. And if we were going to show their perspective approaching the ship, we didn’t want it to be an isolated thing, we wanted to sprinkle it in throughout the film.
Your aliens have a very classic look to them. How did you decide on their appearances?
Colin Minihan: It just came down to the simplicity of: if you ask any random person if they think aliens exist, then what do they look like, most people would describe the design that we go with. We obviously could have done some weird, crazy design like alien squid people with tentacles, an Independence Day-style alien, and those kinds are all really cool...
Stuart Ortiz: But what can be the scariest are the classic aliens, mixed with the fact that we made them ten feet tall, which is kind of abnormal for the design. Often I feel like they’re depicted as being four feet tall, cute, cuddly things that I’m not scared of. We knew that we wanted them to be impossibly thin and insanely tall and beyond that they could fall into a more traditional, big-eyes creature.
Colin Minihan: You wouldn’t have been scared if there were three and a half feet tall alien people running around.
Were there any abilities or backstories of your aliens that didn't make it into the film?
Colin Minihan: I don’t think so. We went through the checklist of everything in alien lore. They can hypnotize you like they do with the sheriff. We have the animal mutilation, and that was actually going to be a cow, but unfortunately we could not afford a prosthetic cow, so we had to go with a pig. And of course we have the anal probe, and we kind of allude to the whole crop circle thing as well.
Stuart Ortiz: Who knows what they’re up to…
What can you tell us about Grave Encounters 3?
Stuart Ortiz: We’re developing it right now and we’re motivated to get a script going and then see where it goes from there, but it’s the project that we’re both in on right now. We have a cool origin story for it that takes place in 1948, when the hospital [Collingwood Psychiatric Hospital] was still active.
It’s a found footage film that starts with a crew going in there to do a documentary on mental health, and they realize that Lance Preston [Sean Rogerson’s character] is a patient there and is claiming that he’s from the future and has all this information. It’s a pretty wacky, fun, sort of Army of Darkness time travel opening, and then it gets into the Grave Encounters horror stuff.
Do you guys know if you'll be directing Grave Encounters 3 yet, or if John Poliquin (director of the sequel) will be involved?
Stuart Ortiz: Not sure yet, but we’re definitely open to coming back to it. We’d like to wrap up the franchise in a way that’s really satisfying as a trilogy. It’s yet to be decided, but we’ll certainly be the ones writing it again.
Extraterrestrial is now available from Scream Factory. To learn more, visit: