In the early ‘90s CD-based games were just starting to emerge en masse. I was one of the first kids in the little town of Lutz who had a Tubrografx and it’s pricey CD add-on. The selection of titles was rather limited, but there was one title that stood out due to it’s 1950’s big bug horror theme and full motion video cut scenes. That title was the now cult classic ‘It Came from the Desert.’
Fast forward nearly three decades and it turns out I’m not the only one with fond memories of Cinemaware’s masterpiece. Filmmaker Marko Mäkilaakso has crafted a feature film all paying homage not just to the aforementioned game, but the giant insect genre that once dominated the horror films of the bygone nuclear scare era.
Marko Mäkilaakso spared us a little time to answer some questions about ‘It Came from the Desert.’
What was your inspiration for getting into filmmaking?
Marko Mäkilaakso: Pure love for movies! But to be more exact, Raiders of the Lost Ark. After seeing the it at the age of 8 or 9 I was so amazed! It blew me away. I asked my dad who made these kind movies and he explained that a film director made them and that Raiders was made by Steven Spielberg. I guess that was my first love.. Spielberg I mean. Ha! From that moment on I wanted to become a film director and started making my own shorts and stop-motion animations etc. Before falling in love in cinema I was drawing my own coming books and dreamed about making Disney comics when I grew up, but movies won that battle.
How did the idea of transforming the cult classic game ‘It Came from the Desert’ into a film come about?
Marko Mäkilaakso: It all started years ago at the Berlin Film Festival. I was sitting in the Hotel lobby with producers Tero Kaukomaa & Teemu Virta and I suggested them to make a motocross action film with giant spiders called It Came From The Desert. Eight Legged Freaks had something to do with that concept.. hehehe. I loved the ICFTD game as a teenager and used to play it with my friends and wanted use the title, never assuming that the game company Cinemaware would ever agree to licence us to use of the title or adapt the actual games. But to our big surprise Cinemaware was more than happy to collaborate with us and we got the rights to use the title and also adapt the games. By then I had written the script already (with giant spiders) and wanted to use my storyline, so our movie ultimately became a live-action sequel to the legendary games.
Where was ‘It Came from the Desert’ filmed?
Marko Mäkilaakso: We shot the movie in Almeria, Spain and Turku, Finland. Two total opposites of each other. Hot desert of Spain and cold snowy Finland. But we managed to match the locations nicely, so you don’t really feel or see when the actors are actually freezing their asses off! The desert scenes were shot in the same locations as Indiana Jones and the last crusade, Conan the Barbarian and many Clint Eastwood / Sergio Leone westerns. It was totally awesome! I loved every moment, it was like being in a candy store as a kid.
What were some of the challenges of filming a giant insect film?
Marko Mäkilaakso: Our movie was done in low budget and fast schedule and that of course brings its own share of challenges, but otherwise the shoot was very smooth and lots of fun! We had many complex action scenes with practical effects, CG elements, stunts etc and these sort of things takes their own time to set up and shoot. Of course the desert heat was making days harder, but for me it was all just damn fun! I really loved shooting this movie. Every single day was full of wonderful challenges and surprises. I had a luxury and pleasure of having a talented cast & crew to share this adventure with.
The film has quite a number of grand stunts and creature effects, can you tell us some about the crew who helped all this come to life?
Marko Mäkilaakso: We had a wonderful motocross stunt team called StuntFreaks from Finland and they made my wildest dreams come true. They had no fear and were willing to go to the distance. Doing stunts in limited time to prep and shoot can be very risky, but we made it as safe as possible. This is very important to me. No movie is worth of injury or death. With the bike stunts we also had local stunt guys from Spain. They came from the Game of Thrones shoot to us and were so relaxed and cool. They did great job as well. From the creature effect side we had a practical ant build by Finnish company Sankariliiga, and that was combined with our CGI team from Finnish company Roger! They made it all work and I am so happy how everything turned out. We really didn’t have much money or time to do the props, sets or effects, but these guys put their everything in and gave me so much more than the schedule and budget allowed. This also goes to the camera department etc. They all worked so hard and I am forever grateful for that.
How has the reception been for your film?
Marko Mäkilaakso: It has been overwhelmingly positive! I’ve never experienced anything like this before. Every Festival I’ve been screening the movie the audience has really reacted to the fun energy of the movie and the characters. I’ve been spoiled already by the audience and critical reception. I hope the movie also does well when it’s released.
Where can people see the ‘It Came from the Desert’?
Marko Mäkilaakso: It’s out now in Italy and next is the Japanese release in 13th of January. After that I think comes Germany, UK, US etc. So this year the movie will hit some big and small screens! Each of the distributor have their own release schedule, so I expect that we’ll see it coming out thru out 2018.
What is your next project?
Marko Mäkilaakso: I have many in development, but it’s too early to discuss about them in detail. Financing is the tricky parts of independent cinema and sometimes it can take years before everything is in place to shoot the movie.
Do you have any words of wisdom for other indie filmmakers?
Marko Mäkilaakso: Never give up! Never surrender! This is a tough business to get in and tough business to survive in. If you really love this and want to do nothing more, then you will take all the beating which will come and get back up again and again. It’s like fighting 12 rounds with Mike Tyson and win! I love making movies, there’s nothing better!