This story covers the span of two years, and one sit down interview.
Into the Dreamscape of Blood and Guts is where many of us horror fans seek our solace. We marvel with our eyes wide and our jaw dropped at the ingenuity of what I feel is the greatest asset of every horror film; Practical effects.
(If you were anything like me growing up, you wondered how it all worked. Visually dissecting every piece of information, heading to the kitchen and seeing how you could make the textures work, shocking your parents when they got home with a bloody display and some screams to aid in the experience. If you were anything like me, you were grounded all the time.)
Practical effects artists rarely get the rock star treatment, but there is one in particular who transcends that rule of thumb. His name is Cleve A. Hall. Known on Syfy as; The MONSTER MAN.
Since the 1980’s he’s worked in the horror genre, how he got into it? Visiting a Disney park in his full body Godzilla suit he built from scratch… later appearing in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. Further proving that if you have the drive, and the motivation, as well as the skill, there is no telling where your dreams and aspirations will take you. Today, he is known for such films as: Ghoulies, Troll, TerrorVision, and of course his television show, Monster Man.
He’s known for his amazing expertise in the practical special effects field, but he’s also known to contribute so much to society that one wonders how the term ‘goth’ could ever be perceived as a negative description. To the contrary, he represents all that is best, in the goth community. Known by some lovingly as; The Goth Mr. Rogers. He heads up Dark Angels-LA, a charity effort that calls upon the fellow goths of the area to lend a hand and make their city a better place. Here in the PNW there is a charity-scare company; SCARE Productions. For over 20 years their mascot GOLIATH has been a beacon of fun, hope, and chills. People young & old, flocked to see the animatronic gargoyle. But Goliath began to wear down over the years, and they thought up until two years ago, he was lost forever. No practical fx artist was willing to take on the task, stating he was ‘beyond repair’ until the day they reached out to Cleve. He came in, looked at Goliath and said; “I will help you. We can do this.” He took the project on pro-bono. SCARE covered the costs for travel & materials, and Cleve traveled all the way from Encino, CA to Seattle, WA, back and forth over the course of two years. This last year at Crypticon 2014, GOLIATH was reborn. The fans gathered around, cameras flashed as Goliaths eyes lit up and smoke jetted from his mouth. The crowd made up of fans, family and friends all watched in awe as Cleve & the SCARE crew began to chant: WE LOVE TO SCARE!
Now let’s rewind from that fantastic moment…. I first met him at the Seattle Crypticon horror convention. It is notably the largest horror convention in the PNW, and literally keeps the blood flowing for the horror community. He was signing autographs, and I was walking with my crew; a camera operator, and my assistant PA. I smiled and he smiled back, I let him know I was filming on behalf of the convention, the end goal being a showcase/documentary, and that I’d like the opportunity to interview him. He obliged, with a gracious nod, and we agreed to do the interview on the final day of Crypticon. Throughout the weekend we ran into one another, a cordial ‘hello’ and us both getting to where we needed to be. The best part of that weekend was walking into the Biohazard party and seeing Cleve slam dancing with everyone in the crowd. The music was rhythmic and he was most certainly into it.
The day came when it was time to pack up, and there I was with my crew standing there waiting for Cleve. He walked toward me, smiled and said: “It’s early.” I immediately had my assistant PA hand him a cup of chilled water, and we had a seat… here is the interview I had dreamed of doing since I was a small child:
M. NessK: “Thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview, I know you’ve had a busy weekend.”
Cleve Hall: “Thanks for having me.”
We exchanged some silly banter about the noise from the takedown happening all around us, before getting down to business.
Candid shot from Crypticon Documentary
M. NessK: “What would you say is your favourite aspect of practical special effects?”
Cleve Hall: “The ‘How did they do that?’ aspect. “
M. NessK: “You mainly work in practical special effects, right?”
Cleve Hall: “Yeah, that’s all I do, it’s all I know how to do.”
M. NessK: “How do you feel about CG replacing practical effects in film today?”
Cleve Hall: “I don’t hate CG. I always say: It’s a good thing as an enhancement, but it should never replace it. You might have to take out wires, but as far as the creature itself having the actors interacting with it, well that’s what really works for me.”
M. NessK: “Out of all of the practical effects projects you’ve done what would you say was your favourite project? I know for me I favour creating exploding heads.”
Cleve Hall: “Yeah, for me… I love Godzilla. It’s a passion, and what got me into all of this. Seeing Godzilla when I was a kid, and playing Godzilla is one, and also doing the Devo video, cuz first of all *laughs* Devo wrote a song about me. So that was very, “Devo wrote a fucking song about me!” And they didn’t tell me at the time either, because they were filming it for my show. And I started hearing the song and I was like: “They’re singing about me, oh my god.”
M. NessK: “I imagine you have a process when creating, how does that translate into the show?”
Cleve Hall: “Here’s what I do, I stare at a piece of foam for about two hours, usually smoking cigarettes, and I build it in my mind. But that doesn’t usually make for good tv, so I have to fake it a little, graphing out the design as if creating, but it’s already finished in my head. “
M. NessK: “We were talking earlier about this, you’ve been in the business for thirty-“
Cleve Hall: “35 years years”
M. NessK: “There’s been a sudden uprise in your notoriety, how does that feel?”
Cleve Hall: “Oh it’s insane! I mean wonderful, I love the fans I think they are incredible. I lose my voice every weekend from saying thank you to all the fans at conventions. It was kind of weird because a lot of the times I worked with companies, 13 years with one company I worked for, you go to their website my name is nowhere on there, but you see 13 years of my life. And even when I got the Emmy nomination for Yo Gabba Gabba, I didn’t find out until later.
M. NessK: “That’s insane.”
“Okay, this is an opportunity like no other.” So I just ran with it and it’s been great.”
Cleve Hall: “That in itself was kinda irritating… when my show came to me I was like: “Okay, this is an opportunity like no other.” So I just ran with it and it’s been great.”
M. NessK: “It’s a great show, and I think you made the best possible choice.”
Cleve Hall: “I’m glad that everybody enjoys it too. Because to me; it’s a show about my family… and I will say this… That’s us. You know? And people say there’s nothing but fake stuff in reality shows, but one thing’s definitely real, and that’s the family interaction.”
“I’m glad that everybody enjoys it too. Because to me; it’s a show about my family… and I will say this… That’s us. You know?”
M. NessK: “You know I don’t really watch reality tv shows…”
Cleve Hall: “Me neither”
M. NessK: “But I have tuned into your show regularly because I love watching you work, and how you & your family interact with one another. You all seem very close.”
Cleve Hall: “Oh yeah, we are. That’s all real.”
I looked at the clock and realized it was time to say goodbye to the Monster Man.
M. NessK: “Thank you so much for time, I know it’s been a long weekend for you.”
Cleve Hall: “Thank you.”
(c) Oz Stevens of Two Crazy Turtles
We stood up, I went to shake his hand and he instead gave me a warm hug that caught me pleasantly off guard. As we watched the enigmatic Cleve A. Hall walk down the hallway. My camera operator said in the background; “Now that… is a wrap…”
(C) Jas Photography
Click here to see a preview of the documentary showcase Cleve A. Hall is featured in: Horrors of the PNW
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SO FUCKING GOOD! LOVE THE MONSTER MAN!!