Howling at an Occult Moon: An Interview with Lowell Dean, Director of WolfCop

WolfCop has been garnering buzz as a terrific underground horror comedy, and rightly so. It’s a film I watched simply because it was on Netflix and looked ridiculous—and boy, did it deliver, and then some. Fans of werewolf cinema, horror comedies (that aren’t smug imitations of greater works), practical special effects, and over-the-top action and humor will love the film.

Lowell Dean, director of WolfCop, answered a few questions about the film’s production, influences, and the future of lycanthropic law enforcement.

Going into WolfCop, I knew very little about the film. One thing I noticed right away was that the big effects were practical, and what CGI there was was used to accent, not replace, the film’s various special effects. What led you to make that commitment, and how did you manage to pull it off with a limited budget?

LD: I was committed to practical effects on WolfCop since before we even had a script. One of my best friends, Emersen Ziffle, is a practical effects artist so we were brainstorming ideas as I was writing and it just felt like a good fit – especially for a project so heavily inspired by 1980s cinema. Pulling it off was always a challenge, we just had to really plan what effects shots we wanted, and always have a backup plan in case things didn’t go smoothly on the first take – as with those types of effects you often only had one or two takes to get it right!

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The humor in the film alternates between over the top, gross-out, and subtle. I found myself laughing more at the asides of characters, small looks of disapproval, or just when Lou took a swig from the bottle. What was the balance between the jokes and humor called for in the script, and improvisation between you and the actors?

LD: It was a mix of conversations and improvisation. It really depended on the character. For Lou (Leo Fafard) he was more of a straight man so he was often more serious – at least until he is unleashed emotionally and becomes a werewolf! Willie Higgins (Jonathan Cherry) and Officer Tina (Amy Matysio) were characters better suited to improv – and both came with a lot of ideas.

My goal was to ease the audience into the weirdness of WolfCop, so the first half is kind of almost a “real world” cheesy small town cop drama. We tried to be quite subtle in our humour (though often quite “punny”). Only when WolfCop appears do things get truly ridiculous. When he’s on screen, we really went for the over the top, gross-out insanity.

WolfCop, like many contemporary horror comedies, has its fair share of callbacks to other genre films. Some films rely on almost nothing else. But, with one notable exception, the callbacks in your film aren’t highlighted. What made you decide to go all out to reference the greatest film of all time, Ghostbusters?

LD: Ghostbusters was a huge influence on me as a filmmaker and on the tone of this film. Just the high concept nature of that film inspired walking the line of reality and super weird things happening, and yes if you look closely in WolfCop I even duplicate a couple shots directly (like when the WolfCruiser pulls out from the auto body shop – a homage to the first appearance of the Ecto-1). And so on. Huge influence!

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The narrative of WolfCop is surprisingly complex, if you think about it. Without giving too much away, it involves local politics, crime, occult symbolism and belief among the ruling class, and controlled opposition. There’s also a lot of conspiracy theory-laden dialogue, references, and plot points, in everything from Illuminati theories of power, to the sudden (and seemingly out of nowhere) inclusion of reptilians. Question one: are you a true believer, and, question two: when did you “wake up”?

LD: Haha! Great question. I’m not a true believer – but I’m not a NON-believer, either. I think anything in possible, and I love making movies that follow suit and explore really weird ideas.

High concept plots set in the real world are my favorite.. The original draft of the script wasn’t so heavy with politics and the Illuminati, it was more focused on Satanic elements and the occult – but as the themes and the story grew in future drafts, it just made sense to find a villain that would have powerful metaphorical ramifications and work with small town politics – and who better to create a lycan than another shape shifter, a reptilian? It just felt right.

Tell us about WolfCop II. What themes will you explore in that film? Will we see the same commitment to practical effects? Will it also be a love letter to vigilante and horror films of years past, or are you taking it in another direction?

LD: WolfCop II will be crazier than the first. If the first one was a mystery, this one is an “on the run action film”. I don’t want to say too much more, yet. Once again we will focus on practical effects, action, comedy, horror, and learning more about our main characters – the ones who survived the film film, that is!

What else are you working on? Where can our readers find out more about your work?

LD: In addition to WolfCop, I’m developing a few other genre projects – some comedy, some straighthorror. You can find more about me and my upcoming projects on Twitter: @lolofilm.

Thanks for the interview!

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