Monster movie already a hit

Teaser for Jay Dahl's There Are Monsters climbs to the top of the YouTube pile -- sneak-peaking the horror feature he shot for $300,000

HALIFAX — Launched on YouTube on Halloween night, Nova Scotia filmmaker Jay Dahl’s teaser for a feature horror film earned 640,000 hits in 72 hours.

The viral hit has been viewed close to 100,000 more times since then and is the most viewed film and animation clip on YouTube in Canada so far this month.

The teaser for There Are Monsters is actually a $15,000 short film. Dahl is in the midst of cutting the $300,000 feature version of the same name.

Dahl credits the sudden success of the 10-minute teaser to YouTube having placed it in its Screening Room, a filmmakers’ forum on the site, and to its title.

‘It was cool,’ says Dahl, director of the award-winning short Backjumping and the documentary Web Warriors for the CBC. ‘It’s tough to get stuff going on YouTube. If you fart into the camera it’s a hit… but there are rooms in L.A. with 25 people trying to figure out how to go viral.’

The teaser shows a couple preparing for a dinner party when they individually notice odd behavior in a little girl and a convenience store employee. A good scare and a of couple of creepy moments lead to the realization that ‘it’s happening’ — that people are being murdered by strange human-like creatures.

‘I always thought it would be a great idea to do a feature for the YouTube generation,’ says Dahl, whose shingle is Black Dog Films. ‘We’re such a media-savvy world. It would be really fantastic to have the world ending by monsters who looked like us and the whole thing would be recorded.’

The difference between Dahl’s teaser and the feature is that the longer-form There Are Monsters, shot in the summer, is told from the POV of a group of documentary filmmakers, a la The Blair Witch Project, ‘out in the city as things get strange.’

‘The effects in the scenes are the same, but some of the characters are different,’ says Dahl.

For the teaser, Dahl and consulting producer Bill Niven (Just Buried, Marion Bridge) were funded by Bravo!FACT and Nova Scotia Tourism, Culture and Heritage. For the feature, where Dahl and Niven are producing partners in Northeast Films, they are being funded by Telefilm Canada and Film Nova Scotia.

‘We’ve gotten a lot of e-mails from people interested in the project,’ says Dahl, who adds that the feature feels to him like an extended short, since the budget was so modest and he made it by ‘the grace of the community’ and the same small crew he’s always used on the many short films he’s helmed.

Still, thanks to the success of the teaser, he’s aiming for There Are Monsters to have a Halloween 2009 release, and will be looking to getting it into festivals. ‘I’d love to get it into Midnight Madness,’ at the Toronto International Film Festival, he says.