Movies & TV / Columns

Director Jordan Rubin On The Importance Of Practical Effects In Critters: A New Binge And The Thought Process Behind That Twist

March 21, 2019 | Posted by Joseph Lee
Critters: A New Binge Shudder

Before Critters: A New Binge hits Shudder, 411mania had the chance to talk with director Jordan Rubin. Rubin is not only the director of the new series but the writer along with Al and Jon Kaplan. You might have heard of his other big horror film, the 2014 horror-comedy Zombeavers, which is exactly what it sounds like. His credits also include Crank Yankers, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn and The Man Show, among others. He has a new film called The Drone that will arrive some time this year, but before that, he spoke with us about A New Binge and what it was like to work on a franchise with such a ravenous fanbase.

If you haven’t seen our review of A New Binge, you can do so by clicking here. Also keep in mind this interview will have some spoilers for Critters: A New Binge. You’ve been warned!

I managed to watch all of A New Binge yesterday and I felt that the sillier it got, especially towards the end, the funnier it was.

Yeah, it started to let loose. We were trying to establish all the characters and the world and have fun.

So how was it that you got involved with this?

I got a call from one of the people that work at Warner Bros., Peter Girardi who thought I’d be interested because I’d done Zombeavers and I’d worked with him years ago when I was a writer on the show Crank Yankers on Comedy Central, which was a crank call comedy show with puppets. And he just thought because I’d done Zombeavers and he wondered if I had a take. So my writing partners and I – Jon & Al Kaplan – we wrote a little outline and sent it over and they loved it. And so we just went from there with the script and developed it and got greenlit.

Was there any pressure in getting involved with an already established franchise?

I don’t think there was pressure. I think now there might be, if not pressure, it’ll be interesting to see what the – because we have this big fanbase – it’ll be interesting to see if people respond well. When you’re dealing with a franchise that’s pre-existing […] We definitely, obviously put a new spin on it, having more comedy and having this unique twist and modernizing a little bit. While doing it, I was very excited to delve into it, trying to be respectful of the original franchise I like so much.

The last one came out in 1992, so I’m sure fans will be happy there’s any new Critters content at all.

Yeah, there’s a big couple of Facebook groups that I was seeing that are just clamoring for more Critters stuff and they’ve been waiting for a long time. They’ve been making fan art and doing their own model builds forever. Yeah, I’m excited to be able to help with our little bit, provide some content for them.

One of the things I noticed while watching, and this is something I was a big fan of, was the use of puppets. Because a lot of franchises these days, particularly with monsters, they’ll go with digital effects. Was sticking with puppets something you wanted to do when you signed on?

Yeah, I mean, the original franchise leaned so hard into that and I’m a fan of practical effects in movies like Critters, Gremlins, John Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s fun. I was excited to jump in and work with practical effects. I’m not always a fan of CG. There’s some stuff that’s good. Definitely at the budget that we were at, the CG would not have been nearly as good, and it’s just not as fun shooting for the actors. It gives a timeless feel to it when you actually shoot with practical puppets versus using something digital that very quickly ages when CG changes over the years.

I’m a big fan of doing as much as I can in-camera and shooting with real puppets. If we have to use clean-up on certain things like remove rods or green screen puppeteers then we do that. Obviously except for the spaceships in the space scene, those are all generated, but we tried to do everything we could practical. When we’re inside the ships, we see real, built spaceships. Just having stars out the window, but all the puppets and ships and guns and all that type of stuff…I love doing practical.

I remember seeing the set photos from mid-2018 that showed the Critter puppets and the ball of Critters and getting very excited for it.

Oh yeah, that thing is, I think in storage somewhere. That thing is completely massive. It was very exciting to work with that ball. We had to have a camera on a drone because that thing was…god I don’t know, 12 feet tall or something.

One person that I didn’t see in A New Binge was Don Keith Opper, who played Charlie in the other four movies. Was there any attempt to get him involved?

There was a little cameo thing that I tried make it work. It just didn’t end up happening. I don’t know if it was a budget thing or schedule or because we were shooting up in Vancouver but I remember distinctly trying to make it work somehow. I don’t even know if an offer was made to him or if someone reached out. I thought it would have been great to do a little cameo just because he’d been in all of the franchise so far. But it didn’t end up happening which was too bad.

So…the twist in episode six, with the Krite-human hybrid, where did that come from?

It was just a fun idea that we came up with when we were writing. We wanted to elevate it and take it to another level. You know, obviously we’re doing a lot more comedy. We thought it would be a funny reveal and escalation. We had these talking Critters that talked a lot more with subtitles than in past movies with full dialogue and full discussion themes. We used some kind of set piece and reason, some reason they were coming back not to just save one of their own, but to save this hybrid because they know they’re so stupid if they can just bring something that is part-human, part-them, they could take over the universe. So it was just an idea that my writing partners Jon & Al Kaplan and I that we thought would be funny to escalate.

That was definitely the moment where I got on board with the story.

Oh, nice. It was amazing that like, Joey Morgan, who played Chris, he was able to…he wore these color contacts, those red contacts and he had to have those teeth in. The amount of hours he had to have that stuff put in, I’m surprised because sometimes you hear these horror stories…no pun intended…of actors wearing those. Doing the full contact lenses, not just the little red ones. It’s over even the whites of his eyes, covering everything. He’d never done that before and he was like, “I’ll do it! I’ll do it!” He did a great job and he had them in a lot. It was funny to see him at lunch or if we were doing a quick break in between set-ups and there wasn’t enough time to take it out, he’d be outside having a cigarette or having something to eat or drinking something, just hanging by the side of the set with those teeth and eyes.

It was a very interesting idea, and then as I was like, “How would that even work with a woman and a Critter?” In the next episode you showed it.

I’m very into show, don’t tell. You have to see how that happened.

Last question, so I’ll go with a silly one. If the Krites landed in an area that was infected by the Zombeavers..who would win?

I would say the Krites because the Krites are much more…they feel more technologically advanced and a touch smarter. The Zombeavers are not sentient. They’re just beavers who are possessed by toxic waste which made their brain into mush and just flesh-eating zombies. I think you’ve got the tactical advantage if you are actually sentient and you can think and use weapons.

Critters: A New Binge will be available on Shudder on March 21.