“I Was a Teenage Wereskunk” is a feature film comedy homage to the cheap drive-in monster movies of the 50’s. It’s the story of wholesome teenager Curtis Albright, who’s world is thrown into chaos when he’s sprayed in the face by an enchanted skunk. Now whenever Curtis feels sexually aroused – which is damn near constant for a teenage boy – he turns into a Murderous Wereskunk! We got the opportunity to speak with Neal McLaughlin about how he created the wereskunk, and put this great film together…
-PH: Where did the idea of a wereskunk come from, and for those who haven’t seen the film yet, please tell them a little about the wereskunk?
-Neal: A wereskunk is what you’d expect: same concept as a werewolf but half man half skunk. But it’s not the full moon that brings it out but rather when he’s sexually aroused (which is damn near all the time for a teenage boy). Once I’d decided on having a were-thing as the center of my story I went through every animal I could think of: Werebear, werepossum, weresquirrel, weremole, etc. Everything. And while the idea of a weregoat or a werepenguin still delights me, ultimately a wereskunk felt like it had the most comedic potential. An animal that actually attacks by spraying a pungent mist out of its anus? That’s better than anything I could make up!
-PH: As for the story, it’s great to see a film with a classic setting like the 50’s. Why did you decide to take the wereskunk back to this time period?
-Neal: I love “Leave it to Beaver” and “The Andy Griffith Show” and doo-wop music and Saturday night creature-double-features at the drive-in and all of that late 50s to early 60s Americana. When I came up with the original concept it wasn’t a were-thing at all. It was going to be that cautionary campfire tale we’ve all heard: two teens parked up at “lovers lane” who hear a report on the radio about a madman who’s just escaped from the local mental hospital, etc. We all know the story, but nobody ever made a movie out of it. But ultimately I wasn’t able to make it work. It was playing like a slasher, which felt wrong for the time period. Slashers were late 70s early 80s. The time period I wanted to play around in catered more to monster movies. So I changed the “escaped mental patient” to a monster and suddenly everything clicked into place. But I kept my original opening scene, with the two lovers driving up to “lover’s lane” to neck. Most of that scene is still word for word what I wrote in the original draft years ago.
-PH: What were some of the challenges making the film set in that time period?
-Neal: You can’t even imagine how difficult it is to make each and every frame of each and every scene period appropriate, especially when working with a budget as low as mine was. Try framing an exterior shot in LA without a Prius visible in the background! But I’ll defer the lion’s share of the credit to my utterly brilliant production designer Effy Morris for handling this enormous challenge. Not only did she dress each location with period appropriate furniture and decor, but she always had some clever way to hide modern light fixtures or AC units or what have you. I can’t say enough about what she brought to this movie. When I begin preproduction on my next feature she will be the first person I hire, and if she’s busy with something else I’ll move production back until she’s free.
-PH: Besides the wereskunk being a special character, many of the other characters have their own uniqueness. Talk a little about how you came up with some of these characters you surrounded the wereskunk with.
-Neal: I just took stereotypes and remained as committed to them as possible. Finn is beatnik. But he’s the beatnikiest beatnik you’re ever gonna see. Mrs. Albright is a 50s housewife, and you never see her without an apron. But the fun comes when you suddenly subvert the stereotypes. For example, Mary Beth is a sweet, polite, girl next door. But there’s a moment where she blurts out an expletive that would make a sailor blush. Or Mrs. Albright, as mentioned, is the quintessential June Cleaver. But she turns into a sex-crazy seductress whenever she’s alone with her husband (but even during their kinky sex scene she still wears her apron). Deputy Gary is a blowhard who talks a big game but can’t back it up, however there are a couple moments where he does swoop in and save the day.
My personal favorite character is Officer Maggie. In early drafts of the script she was nothing more than a bland piece of wood to set Deputy Gary up for punchlines. I needed to spice her up somehow. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say she was spiced up to the point where there could be a whole spinoff movie about Officer Maggie and where (and when) she came from.
-PH: You put together a great cast to play these characters, as everyone fit their role so well. How did this cast come together?
-Neal: Having lived in LA for about a decade I had no shortage of actors in my circle. For a lot of the roles I just thought about the who I knew that might fit that particular character. Scott Monahan felt like a perfect Curtis. Shey Zanotti felt like a perfect Mary Beth. Amy Heidt as Officer Maggie. Etc. I didn’t even have them read first, I just had complete confidence in them. Others were referred to me by other actors. Melanie Minichino had worked with Charlie Farrell before and thought he’d be a great Sheriff Albright. I had him read and boy was she right! For other roles I held auditions to find the right actors. The only role I actually wrote for a specific actor was the character Harold for Clayton Rohner. I added that scene just to get Clayton into the movie, and I’m glad I did because it might be the best scene in the film.
-PH: One of the characters that stands out is Deputy Gary played by Melanie Minichino, who also plays the wereskunk’s mother. How did she end up playing both characters, and was it your original idea to have Deputy Gary be played by a woman?
-Neal: Melanie made an AMAZING webseries called “The Maurizio Show” in which she plays an old Italian man (google it, you won’t be disappointed). It never occurred to me to cast a woman to play Gary, but as soon as I saw Mel do Maurizio I knew there was no other choice. After casting her as Gary I watched a character reel of hers in which she played several different characters of different genders and ethnicities (included as a special feature on the “Wereskunk” DVD). I saw how versatile she was and wanted to cast her in more roles. Deputy Gary and Mrs. Albright never appear on screen together so it worked out nicely.
-PH: What was it like being both director and writer for the film? Is it something you would do again, or would you prefer to do just one of those jobs?
-Neal: I can’t imagine directing something I didn’t I write. Why would I want to? It’s somebody else’s. Just seems weird to me. But obviously that’s the way it works in most cases. I know plenty of writers with no desire to direct and plenty of directors who can barely string a sentence together. But writing and directing feel like two sides of the same coin for me. I always felt more drawn to the folks who did both: Kevin Smith, John Hughes, Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Craven, etc.). However, all that being said if somebody came along and wanted to pay me millions of dollars to direct somebody’s script I’d do it without blinking (which is probably how bad movies are born…).
-PH: Where can horror fans find the film today, and is there anything special coming up for it in the future?
-Neal: Right now it’s available exclusively on Amazon. Rent, download, DVD, and free streaming on Prime. It’ll be expanding to other platforms early in 2017. In the meantime you can follow us on social media for updates. @wereskunk1 and @neal_mclaugh on twitter. @teenagewereskunk on instagram. There’s a facebook page. Really, if you just google us you’ll find us pretty easily. There’s not a lot of different results for a search of “teenage wereskunk.”
-PH: It’s early, but any plans for a sequel?
-Neal: Haha. Nope. I’m not against sequels, especially horror sequels. Friday the 13th part 4 might be my Citizen Kane. But I doubt there will be a Wereskunk sequel. Maybe a spinoff. I wouldn’t mind playing around in this era again and even including some of the characters. Sheriff Albright and Deputy Gary reunited to fight a martian invasion!
-PH: What’s next for you? Any new projects coming up?
-Neal: I just finished writing my second novel and I’m hoping to have that available early in 2017. As for movies, I’ve got a couple in the pipeline. Melanie Minichino is such a force of nature, so I wrote a small indie comedy as a vehicle just for her. I’ve been referring to it as a female Napoleon Dynamite. I’ve also got another horror homage just about ready to go. It’s an 80s summer camp slasher. Same kind of vibe as Wereskunk but instead of a 50s monster movies it’s giving love to Friday the 13th, etc. The problem is I’m so excited about both of them I keep jumping back and forth and can’t decide which one to do next!
We would like to thank Neal for taking the time to answer our questions. Hopefully this gave you some good insight on this awesome film, and its unique characters. Below are all the important links for the film, along with our promotion and review of it.