England, 1936. A storm rages in the night. Tucked safely in a cottage nestled deep within the fog of the Moors, the White family eagerly await the arrival of an old friend just returned from serving with the British Army in India. Sgt. Major Morris. By the flickering shadows of the fireplace, Morris entertains them with the tales of his adventures and of the mystical talisman discovered deep in the dark jungle; The Monkey's Paw. It was cursed by a sinister Fakir to grant its owner three wishes. The family, intrigued by this, take possession of the paw and the wishes they ask bring terror and tragedy upon their lives.
This film is a faithful adaptation of the short story written by W.W. Jacobs, published in 1902. It was made by Ricky Lewis, Jr. because, "The story scared the hell out of me when I was a kid and my morbid curiousity wanted to see it!" There have been many adaptations over the years, but this one explores a more backstory of how and why the paw was brought to England by Sgt. Major Morris. "This is glossed over in the original story, and I thought it would be fun to hint at a little more of the Morris character and to raise those questions as to why this man would bring this cursed talisman to his friends -- clearly getting rid of it! I don't fully explain the reason as I think it's something an audience can create in their minds, though I do have reasons for what he did. Maybe to be explored in a continuation of the story in the near future."
The look of the film is a different approach from others as well. "A lot of versions I've seen tend to modernize the story. An old ghost story needs to have that nostalgic feeling of the past where odd things were sure to happen. My initial approach was to make it like a live- action Disney cartoon. Strong character faces and storybook design. To have that style the classics such as Snow White had back when they weren't afraid to let a little darkness into the tale. The finished film has that, with a little more Gothic touch."
It was shot in 5 days during the spring of 2007 with a day of pickups in November. Post-production took another 3 years due to limited time to work on it. "We shot the film with the Panavised Sony F-900 like those used on the Star Wars prequels. The format was new for most of us so mistakes made added to the time to finish it. Now everyone is using HD and the tools and knowledge have gotten a lot better." The actual edit went very quick. "We didn't shoot a lot of unnecessary footage. I storyboarded quite a bit and had a detailed shot list. I tried to be pretty specific about what was needed since the shooting days were quite a scramble to complete everything. That doesn't mean we didn't stray from the plan ever. During the final day of production, I turned to Justin, our 1st Ac camera , and asked how much was left on the current HDCAM tape. 16 minutes he tells me. We quickly discovered that it was the last tape as well. 16 minutes left with half a day's work to complete was very scary. It was Sunday so there weren't any places open to buy more HDCAM. It's not something you can pick up at a Bestbuy. One guy was willing to open his shop for us but it was going to cost quite a bit. The answer was to just treat the situation as if we were shooting on film. Low budget indies can relate to this. How can I get the scenes I need with the amount of 'film' I have? I sat down with the script and hammered out a new shot list and cutting any fat. I turned shots with multiple pieces of coverage into a oner involving a dolly move, and things like that. Turned out to be a blessing because it forced us to be more creative and we got better material out of it. And enough can't be said about the crew to help me through it. Their creativity, passion, patience, and experience made all the difference." "I was incredibly lucky to have the great crew I did. Most of them I had worked with before and they are all excellent filmmakers in their own right so that's a big plus. And the un-tiring tenacity of my talented cinematographer, Oliver Ponce, to help me get what we needed also should be mentioned."
"The cast was a true gift. Great faces. Great people. Awesome talent. I can't wait to work with them again someday. Josh and I have known each other a long time and even attended the same high school in Virginia. This is the second film he's performed in for me. Rosie and I have been friends for a long time as well and with her beautiful face and wonderful quirkiness, I was dying to put her in one of my films. I'm glad she said yes. Robert was a casting call discovery. A warm and excellent gentleman. Originally he read for the part of Mr. White, but as I watched him, I just knew his presence could bring Sgt. Major Morris alive for me. Thankfully he was game to take it on. Matt was a referral by a friend. He's so funny and charming that he was perfect. I didn't care he was the same age as the actor's playing his parents. A good actor is a good actor and he can make you believe he's their son. Will, our Fakir, is a prop master by trade, but with his beautiful face, I coaxed him into playing the part. Now I have to write a part for him in every movie I make. It's a face the camera loves. Ignacio and I worked on a TV show together and he's a tremendous performer. He makes you believe in the moment and is able to be very subtle which I love. He's another I want to script a part for every movie I make now. All the actors were so easy to work with and spot on with their characters. They required very little from me and brought lots of nice moments I hadn't even thought of. The good ones do that."
"Post-production was tough. There was lots of color-grading, visual effects shots, the sound, and even an orchestral score to compose. I didn't set out to make a visual effects film, but to get the right setting, atmosphere; it required it. Composing the score took me about 3 months. I have a small background in music, having played the flute and piano thanks to the persistance of my mother. Thank you Mom. I wrote the score out first, then would perform each instrument through a midi keyboard utilizing actual samples of that instrument. So if I wanted to play an F note, then by hitting the F key on the board it would link to say a violin playing an F. The trick was to play the keyboard as if I was actually performing on the real instrument so that it would sound more realistic. The whole process was so enjoyable and rewarding. One of my favorites parts to this production. I love music so much and always say that had I been born before the dawn of the photographic medium I would have been a classical composer."
"Making 'The Monkey's Paw' has been a long, long process, but I'm very happy that I made it through and now people will see what I had imagined when I first heard the story as a kid and was scared out of my little pants!"
Thank you to all the cast and crew and to the audiences out there that I hope will enjoy watching this film. Thank you.
Ricky Lewis, Jr.