Holiday horror is having a moment. Thanksgiving, It’s a Wonderful Knife, and The Sacrifice Game are recent examples. A Creature Was Stirring especially stands out because of its practical effects, its scene-stealing monster, a very fraught mother/daughter relationship, and questions pertaining to faith and doubt. Its wintery blue tones are also a perfect aesthetic for the Christmas season and the long months of cold that follow.
We chatted about all things holiday horror with A Creature Was Stirring’s director, Damien LeVeck, along with cast member Connor Paolo, who plays Kory, the brother of Scout Taylor-Compton’s character Liz.
This interview was edited slightly for clarity.
1428 Elm: Can you talk about what drew you to the script for A Creature Was Stirring?
Damien LeVeck: I accept open submission for screenplays on my website, SkubalonEntertainment.com. This was one of them. I read it on an airplane with my wife and producer, Natalie. I turned to her and said that it’s one of the best horror screenplays that I’ve read. It had a twist that I didn’t see coming. It had really rich, developed characters. It had subtext. It dealt with really heavy issues, philosophical issues, religious issues, and had an amazing monster. I thought that it checked all the boxes for me and had to go for it.
Connor Paolo: I really liked the script. It’s quite unique. [Writer] Shannon [Wells] has a very particular style. I’ve read some of his other work. He has a dialect that has a throughline with a lot his work. I really dig it. It’s not often that you find such a specific bent on character interactions. I’m aways drawn to things I haven’t seen or read before. I read the script as an audience member before I really read it as an actor. I just really enjoyed the read. Anytime that happens, I’m all in.
1428 Elm: Were there any holiday horror movies that you turned to as inspiration while filming A Creature Was Stirring?
Damien LeVeck: Not really. The script was originally not set for Christmas, but we heard through the grapevine that certain buyers were looking for Christmas horror. It seemed to me that this would be easy to adapt to the Christmas season. The one movie that I suppose you could say sort of influenced me in terms of its use of practical effects is Krampus. It’s really just so much fun. The director, Michael Doherty, is a huge practical effects lover, so we share that in common.
Connor Paolo: If you quiz me on it or break it down, I’d find more Christmas horror films than what comes to mind right now. The one that always pops up is Gremlins. That’s the easiest one that I can remember. From a character perspective, the setting of the film is sort of irrelevant. The fact that it’s Christmas doesn’t really matter to Kory, certainly not in the way it does to Liz. Kory’s also not aware it’s a horror film. [Laughs]. Neither of those things really went into at least character prep because they’re not elements of his journey.
1428 Elm: I want to talk about the Liz and Kory characters for a minute. Both have a religious fervor to them, Liz especially, which gives the film a bit of black humor and added depth. Connor, can you talk to me about playing Kory, working with Scout Taylor-Compton, and your character’s struggles with faith and doubt?
Connor Paolo: Working with Scout could not be easier or more fun. She’s a lovely person and so talented. That was very simple. As far as the characters and their experience, I’m not a religious person at all. What was relatable for me, about Kory, is that unlike his sister, belief does not come easily for him. He’s not comforted by scripture in the way she is. He wants to be, but he isn’t. As someone who isn’t religious and doesn’t have that kind of faith, while I’m secure in my beliefs, there is sometimes almost a jealousy or a yearning for the comfort that that type of religiosity can bring, the feeling that there is a plan, someone is taking care of me. I could really relate to the sort of struggle of loving someone so close to you for whom that’s not a struggle and wanting desperately to be comforted in the same way she is, but just not truly believing in it. I think Kory was raised in it, but he hasn’t had the sort of revelations that she’s had.
Damien LeVeck: I think one thing that’s cool about it is that I relate to both Liz and Kory in different ways, personally. I’m pretty devout in my faith, but I find Christians who act like Liz to be really annoying. I probably have more disagreements with them than agreements. I also relate to Kory too because of my spiritual journey. I also have a fair and healthy amount of doubt as well. Like what Connor said, Kory doesn’t have the kind of comfort that Liz does. I can relate very personally to that.
1428 Elm: One of my favorite scenes in A Creature Was Stirring is a transformation sequence that occurs at about the halfway mark. The effects especially look really cool. Damien, can you talk about shooting that scene?
Damien LeVeck: Thanks! Whenever you’re filming a practical effects sequence like that, every shot has to be planned pretty meticulously so you don’t have to reset too much and you get all the covers you need. I shot a proof-of-concept video for this movie before filming the feature. That scene was part of that. We had a couple of different builds. We took a cast of Annalise’s face. We sculpted that into the build, as her body began to decay. It was really a lot of fun to get all our puppeteers in there and this big tank of blood and everything that you pump through it as it’s moved during a take. It was really just fun for me. I get super giddy when I’m looking at this stuff and looking at it at the monitor.
1428 Elm: Connor, what was your favorite scene to shoot?
Connor Paolo: I really loved the dinner table scene. I love the way the scene is written. That’s the one scene where we’ll all together. Kory is a bit more passive in that scene. He’s not chiming in as much, so I just get to watch my friends. I was blown away by their skill. I just got to watch them perform. It’s always fun to be the character who takes this the least seriously. Honestly, I had fun filming basically everything. There were a couple of times where I was just cold or covered in sticky things. Beyond that, I always had a blast. Every scene was a lot of fun for me.
Damien LeVeck: One of my favorite scenes with Connor is in the garage. I just loved filming that scene. There’s just so many little moments that stuck out for me. It was a good time.
Connor Paolo: Most of my stuff was with Scout, but there were moments I got to goof around with Damien. I really enjoyed that, working with a director I respect. The garage was absolutely fun, trying to hide from the monster and dive in and out of the car. [Laughs].
1428 Elm: If each of you were stranded in a house, during a lethal blizzard, with a menacing creature, would you be able to survive? Why or Why not?
Damien LeVeck: Do I have any guns?
Connor Paolo: Yeah, what do we have?
1428 Elm: Let’s say no guns! Let’s say that the supplies are limited.
Connor Paolo: If we’re together and can lay on those calf kicks, maybe. What are dealing with? If it’s a Xenomorph, forget it.
Damien LeVeck: If it’s the monster in my movie, I think we can take it.
Connor Paolo: Yeah, it’s not super fast. I even outran it with a limp. As long as I can keep moving. You gotta back yourself, right? You gotta say yes! We’ll try.
1428 Elm: Anything else you wish to add?
Damien LeVeck: I would just love to let everyone know it will be in select theaters on December 8 and on VOD December 12. We’d love for everyone to go on Apple right now and preorder it.
Connor Paolo: For perspective audience members, just try to go in blind. The film really does take you on a pretty fun ride. The less you know about it, I think the better. Just try to avoid spoilers. If it looks at all interesting, give it a shot.
1428 Elm: Thank you both for talking to us!
A Creature Was Stirring will play in select theaters on December 8 before hitting VOD on December 12.