Every October, we stab them with knives, killing their regular appearances and bringing them to new life with sharpened teeth, ghoulish gazes, and impossibly wide, sinister smiles. We make pumpkins into little monsters every year, but what if they came to life on their own... and wanted revenge for the years of jack-o'-lantern carvings, discarded guts, and baked seeds? Darin Beckstead's Proof of Concept for his planned feature film, Evil Nature, expertly explores this unnerving "what if?" with ample amounts of holiday humor and creature-centric horror. We've been provided with the fun and frightening Evil Nature Proof of Concept to share with Daily Dead readers, along with an exclusive Q&A with director Darin Beckstead.

Press Release -- "The brainchild of filmmaker Darin Beckstead has been unleashed! This two-minute Proof of Concept was inexpensively lensed during a single evening in Los Angeles and Executive Produced by Gilbert Adler (Constantine, Tales From The Crypt, Superman Returns). With a skeleton crew and donated performances (the plaid shirt performer is a friend of the producer), the aim was to demonstrate “unique” monster movement via practical effects with digital VFX support for a proposed Halloween movie titled “EVIL NATURE”.

Beckstead had this to say: “Questions I expect from any feature financer would be – What will these creatures look like? And how might they perform? I was fortunate to have some very talented supporters who believed these questions deserved answers.”

Creature design was tackled by FX legend Todd Masters (Underworld: Awakening, Slither, True Blood) with digital effects produced by Tau Films VFX Supervisor Walt Jones (Life of Pi, The Chronicles of Riddick).”

Follow on twitter @DarinBeckstead for EVIL NATURE updates."


Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us, Darin. Your new Proof of Concept for Evil Nature is a festive blend of horror and humor. How did you come up with the idea for this unique creature concept?

Darin Beckstead: As a kid, I’d recruit neighbors and schoolmates for my flicks, but there was an October day when everyone was busy with the real responsibilities of life, and pumpkins were out in full force, on every doorstep. So with no available actors and itching to shoot, I opted to make use with what I had. So the idea “stemmed” from that little conundrum and the creative outcome.

The digital effects and creature design really bring the little pumpkin monster to frightening and fun life. How did you assemble your talented effects team and what went into the creature’s creation?

Darin Beckstead: I have legendary producer Gilbert Adler to thank for some incredible introductions. Mr. Adler is my Obi-Wan, an incredible supporter and true mentor. Having produced pictures like Superman Returns, Constantine, Valkyrie and Tales From the Crypt, Gil has a tremendous reputation as both a human being and a real visionary. So to have him step up and reach out is a filmmaker’s dream.

Together we approached Todd Masters, a practical FX wizard and renowned monster maker who’d won an Emmy for the work he did for Gil on Tales From the Crypt. I’m also a real fan of what Todd did for James Gunn’s Slither, so when Masters and his team (guys like Jason James) got behind the concept, it was a big deal. They believe there are movie lovers like ourselves that would champion this style of fun and perhaps more importantly, they understood my need to answer questions any feature investor might have – “How will these things function and interact in a live-action movie?”

I really planned and shot most everything practically, employing reverse shots as you see with the vine – all of that is practical. I communicated how I wanted to shoot and the breakdown of my shots, how elements would all individually come together to sell a single/fluid action. It was something I’d learned studying James Cameron’s approach to making Aliens. I lensed with the Alexa – except for the rolling pumpkin “point of view”, which I shot with a Cannon 5D and a self-designed rig I pieced together with the help of Home Depot.

Todd and his crew sculpted the pumpkin from scratch, I’d come by their studio to proof as things progressed, discussing size, teeth, and color. There were several variations of the pumpkin, a puppet operated from beneath a green-screen surface, a man operated/gimble rolling pumpkin, one on a bar for “the leap”, a harness/attachable version to cling to my actor. I knew what versions I wanted made, what they’d do, where the action would start, and where it would pick up in the shot that followed – and how it all would connect in the edit. It’s an intricate little piece, this Proof of Concept.

With the creature and its demise being done practically, there was still the other half of things – a need for solid VFX work that could enhance what we had, executing green-screen composites, handling rig removal, and creating weapon effects – that’s where VFX giant John Hughes stepped up. He graciously brought in members of his Tau Films team, including VFX Supervisor Walt Jones (or as I call him, “Dr. Jones”). Walt would send me versions of work that were always technically flawless – which only left room for creative discussion. Things such as the size of a shotgun blast, for instance. My direction would generally come from examples of other great movies, so Walt would have frame grabs from Terminator 2 flood his inbox, photoshopped with arrows, diagrams, and chicken scratch reading, “Make it more like this!”

I handled the sound FX and editing myself and had Denny Schneidemesser compose the score. We spent some time on the music – I really wanted a clever mix of frightening and fun while also supporting the visual beats – many Skype sessions. Needless to say, Denny nailed it!

Evil Nature seems influenced by Gremlins and Tremors. Did elements of these memorable monster movies help inspire your creation of this Proof of Concept?

Darin Beckstead: Absolutely. Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and Ron Underwood showed audiences that monster movies could be incredibly fun. They’re guys who know how to ride a very specific line between adventure and horror. They also cared equally for both the human characters and the character of their creatures. I’m a filmmaker who’s been greatly influenced and schooled by both those films and their directors.

Almost as memorable as the man-eating pumpkin in your Proof of Concept is Christian Busath’s performance. Can you talk about getting him involved and whether or not we could expect to see his character return in an Evil Nature movie?

Darin Beckstead: Christian’s wild talents came to me by way of YouTube. I reached out after seeing some of his other projects and felt he had what I wanted for this POC. We instantly hit it off and he graciously agreed to help. The other gun-toting gentleman, Kenny Johnson, is a close friend of the producer, Johnny Goodwill - and together they helped with expenses. I owe both gents a great deal of thanks. And though their [Christian and Kenny's] characters were created only to demonstrate the POC, I’d happily find something for them in any feature version.

You shot this Proof of Concept in one night. What was your experience getting that filmed in one evening and finally seeing your idea start to come alive?

Darin Beckstead: Couldn’t have gone smoother. Everything was very well-planned. I was careful to keep our objective clear and not make this overkill for its purpose. I’d conceived a concept that was all about containment – in terms of scope and blocking. I’d drafted something I knew I could get given the time and money restraints. I’d also storyboarded everything with Bryan Deloach illustrating my shots to paper. A total pro – find him at: www.bdeloach.com


The title, Evil Nature, hints at many organic things that could come to malevolent life. What can you tell us about the kinds of creatures humans could face on that stormy Halloween night? Will this be a pumpkins-only uprising (trick-or-treaters beware!), or will they have some company?

Darin Beckstead: The title pertains to the monster nature becomes and the nature of man. As a human race, we’ve been sticking it to nature for some time now – and with this story you’re going to see nature bite back. On a comical side, consider what we’ve been doing to pumpkins for years – carving them into jack-o'-lanterns, baking them as pies, even cooking their “unborn” seeds. Now it’s their turn!

Can you give us a little tease of what might have caused a pumpkin (and perhaps thousands of pumpkins) to become a hungry little critter with teeth?

Darin Beckstead: Fertilizer laced with grizzly bear DNA has some rough results. Genetic modification comes with a steep price.

Should an Evil Nature feature film come to fruition, can we expect to see the same talented effects team tackling the look of the creatures?

Darin Beckstead: If I have it my way.

Evil Nature is set on Halloween and looks to be a welcome addition to the holiday horror sub-genre. What new takes on October 31st would you like to put onscreen for horror hounds to enjoy?

Darin Beckstead: The life-long tradition of people carving pumpkins – this will be a Halloween that flips that cart.

What’s your ideal timeline for seeing Evil Nature on the big screen? When would you like to start filming and getting the pumpkin rolling on this project?

Darin Beckstead: Today ☺


Photo credits:

01 - Gilbert Adler & Darin Beckstead
03 - Christian Busath, 1st AC Christopher Coronado, DOP Olivia Kuan
04 - Darin Beckstead & Kenny Johnson
05 - Cinematographer Olivia Kuan
06 - Jason James & MastersFX Team
11 - Sculptor Michael O’Brien of MastersFX

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.