The web is pretty much going crazy right now with the announcement of Richard Raaphorst’s Army of Frankenstein project. And with good reason – if you’d seen any of the shorts Raaphorst did to promote the now-canceled Worst Case Scenario (you can see them here) are amazing. Raaphorst has a unique visual flair, and a taste for the beauty of the macabre. There’s no doubt that these are some of the best looking zombie images put to film in a while. While it’s a shame that we won’t see Worst Case Scenario anytime soon, we now have Army of Frankenstein to look forward to and, in this writer’s opinion, that idea is even cooler. Nazi Frankensteins? Sign me up! We spoke with Raaphorst this week about WCS, Army of Frankenstein, and even some of his other projects, like his work on Beyond Reanimator and Stuart Gordon’s Dagon! Check out our awesome interview after the jump!
I figure we’ll start out with the project that’s pretty much all the buzz nowadays – Army of Frankenstein. I know we’re a good ways away from seeing it brought to life. Where are you currently at in the process of that one?
We are preparing key elements of the story, the artwork and the production approach along with conducting talks with a small number of interested producers and financers. We are keeping the project under wraps for the time being, trying to keep things low key.
All I can say is that it takes place in 1945 at the end of the war inbetween Polish and German Borderlines. We are exloring the possibilities of using a high, advanced, new and unknown technology to put it on film.
Is the concept art by you, or someone else? It’s absolutely amazing and gives a pretty great idea of the feel of the movie.
Yes it is thanks. As a kid I loved to draw film stills of mostly sci fi or zombies-stuff. The inspiration came from the Empire Strikes Back on one side of the spectrum and Dawn of the Dead on the other side. If you look at the visual style in my work you’ll notice a mixture of both contradicting styles. In my childhood it confused the hell out of my mum when she looked through my sketchbooks.
[laughs]I know this is an off shoot of the canceled Worse Case Scenario project. While I hate to dwell on the past, can you tell us a little bit about what your plans were for that film?
I know what you mean! I hate it too and it still hurts, King Hell! It was a 3 million euro budget film. The story takes place in the present and is centered upon an invasion. It was a unique story, totally different from anything else in its genre. Making something that is familiar to audiences doesn’t inspire me that much. The visual challenge was to make the scenes look beautiful even when the content was horrific. It was all to be drenched in deep black humor. Well what more can I say about it while I’m not allowed to say anything? But….I think the story was too offbeat for financiers to believe in. “What he hell is this? Flying balloon zombies!? That’s art house!!” was one of the comments…
I love the flying balloon zombies bit. But, let’s talk a little bit about some of your previous film work – I see that you were a concept artist for Dagon. How was your experience on that film, and working with Stuart Gordon?
It was a wonderful experience. Stuart is a real inspiration, a humorous and warm man. He reminds me of Santa, not just being big and cuddly but also in the treats that he dishes out, he is great at giving people honest compliments which helps to bring out the very best in them. Having said that he can be hard to please, you really need to convince him of the merits of any conceptual ideas you might have. When I look back, most of the idea’s where too wild for his visual taste, but still I wish I could work for him again. I’ve learned so much more since then, I would have a lot of new ideas to share with him.
You were second unit director on Wit Licht. Can you tell us a little bit about that film?
That was an experience with highs and lows. The producer attached to White Light (Wit Licht) was also one of the producers of WCS. Very soon it became clear that he had doubts about WCS. When the Dutch funding agency decided not to provide 1/3 of the funding for WCS the producer withdrew his support for the project, which you can’t really blame him for. So during the start of White Light all the bad news about the financial viability of WCS happened and it became clear that the project couldn’t be saved. I was hugely frustrated and I still had to hang out for two months with the same producer in the middle of the jungle. But when my work finally started as 2nd unit director, I got into zen mode and forgot the bad vibes. I was lucky to shoot the most amazing stuff with the most gifted camera operator, Peter Belcher, from wide jungle shots, to showdowns of child soldiers slaughtering each other with machetes. We got so taken up with the work that they called us the “2nd unit maniacs,” later to be renamed to the “deleted scenes unit.” Joking!
You have some fantastic concept art on your website…can you tell us a little bit about Hooky, Fungus, and Barbies & Zombies? Are these mostly concepts, or projects that are forthcoming?
Hooky will be an adult animation film based on the infamous book by Mark Read ‘Chopper’ who was a die hard hit man in Australia. We have an option for the rights and are nearly finished a teaser to show to interested investors. The visual style will be inspired by classic Dutch masters such as Rembrand. I want to go as dark as possible in this flick. The challenge (and it’s a hard one) is to make Chopper saying the words, “Now Now Now boys, don’t you think you are going just a bit to far??”
Barbies and Zombies will be a video clip for an up and coming rock band Elle Banditta. Think about a female version of Iggy Pop. Barbies and Zombies is a powerful track and the clip will be partly a spoof on Michael Jackson’s Thriller. But instead of normal zombies there are Barbie zombies, cute walking life size puppets who want to rip you apart.
Fungus is a solo action. When WCS was put on the back burner I couldn’t get rid of my energy so I started the project Fungus. I got the idea after seeing a documentary about fungus which got into the brain of ants and manipulates their behavior. The next day, I was sitting in my car when a group of workmen blocked the road. I imagined that these workman were not fixing the road but destroying it because they were infected by an evil fungus that got into their brains while digging holes in the dirt. Now, every time I see a workman I imagine he is a fungoid who spreads this fungus everywhere. A very talented writer, Chris Mitchel, is writing the script. It is proceeding well; he has just the right kind of twisted mind for the project.
Any idea on when we might see some of these projects?
Well, Barbies and Zombies will be put together end of this months so it will be finished the beginning of May. The Teaser of Hooky can be finished any moment, we are doing finishing touches on that one. Fungus, I hope we will start in pre production this year.
And ‘A New Hope’ ( a 30 min film based-on-a-true story about a die hard Star Wars Collector who is chasing the ultimate holy grail: the-rocket Firing Boba Fett Prototype) and ends up in a real tragedy, we are already shooting.
I notice a good amount of work on your site is “Title Design,” including having done the titles for Beyond Re-Animator. What does into that kind of work? It seems really elaborate. Is this something you seek out, or does someone look for you to do their title design?
No I did seek out this type of work as I have been intrigued by human anatomy for quite a long while. After I drew and studied the human specimen at a medical university I finally could lay this creative egg by using all my anatomy knowledge. So I just locked myself up and went code bleu by making these insane drawings. My creative partners used their creative lab called thorax to put it all together into one smooth animation. It was the combination of strict science with fantasy, a wonderful project to work on.
And, as promised, Richard has supplied us with an EXCLUSIVE piece of concept art you won’t see anywhere else! It’s actually a repurposed piece from Worst Case Scenario, so you can see how the two projects kind of feed into it other! Check it by clicking the preview below!