Q&A with Aaron Pagniano & Zack Ogle, Filmmakers behind WE GOT A MONKEY’S PAW

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Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
Zack- I think I have to go with the Babadook. He’s theatrical, a snappy dresser, loves making things for other people, and at the end of the day he just needs some love and care like everyone else.
Aaron- Sometimes I definitely relate to Ash from the Evil Dead franchise. The world is a crazy, soul-eating place with a lot of unknowable truths and I’m just trying my best to seem like I get what’s going on and am on top of things.

You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
Zack- I don’t know about “bad ideas”, but I love coming up with ridiculous movie concepts as a joke. Like a movie where Santa is bitten by a werewolf on Christmas Eve or a movie where a kid wishes for it to be his birthday every day and with a new wish each day he becomes an all powerful demigod. I think the important thing is knowing which ideas should just stay an inside joke and which actually have legs. Also the first movie is called Santa Claws.
Aaron- (laughing) I’m not convinced that any plot is a truly bad idea. It’s what you do with a premise that makes it bad. I think you’ve got to let yourself run with the bad ideas mentally for a while in order to exorcise them. So maybe my worst idea was to never show anyone this short film publically. I’m glad Zack talked me out of that.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
Zack- Through our over a year and a half festival run I would say so. We’ve connected with many absolutely incredible filmmakers by traveling with Monkey’s Paw and we all keep in touch. For a bunch of gore-loving weirdos we’re actually very sweet.
Aaron- I agree with that. It’s weird because I’ve always had strong horror sensibilities but only within the past few years have I really embraced the idea of being a part of the larger horror community. I always felt like I wasn’t horror-y enough to be part of it but it can really be an empowering space for people who just love exploring the darkness from which others flee.

When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
Zack- Usually for me a concept starts around one solid idea I can’t get out of my head. Maybe that’s a scene, line, character, prop, or bit of lore that I’m fixated on at the time. I get a lot of my inspiration from literature, old stories, weird parts of history people don’t always talk about. Aaron and I have very similar sensibilities, so we have ton of fun sending each other weird articles, building worlds from there.
Aaron- People inspire me every day. Both in great and terrible ways. Most of my ideas originate from either something tragic about humanity, something beautiful, or something that is simultaneously both. Otherwise, they say write what you know, and so I defer to Zack on his experiences as an ageless being with unknown origins.

What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
Zack- Honestly I think “Monkey’s Paw Zack” and real Zack (me) would get on for the most part and keep making jokes about who the evil one really is. At a certain point I’d have to side with Jakki though that a lot of this stuff is way too dangerous to play around with.
Aaron- I would 100% be trying to control the situation by getting everyone to chill out and work on some sort of flowchart of how best to get out of the situation.

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
Zack- Wow what a good question! Gotta bring back my boy Babadook of course, then Pinhead, Hannibal Lecter, Dracula, and Tiffany (from Bride of Chucky). We’re cultured, we’re sassy, and we know how to party.
Aaron- I would like to introduce one Gremlin, one Alien, one Thing (the Carpenter Variety), one Vampire, and the Necronomicon into a city and see which entity takes over the earth first.

Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Zack- Freddy/Lovecraft/Practical/Pre Apocalypse
Aaron- Wait till you read my new YA book, Freddy Lovecraft: Practical Apocalypse.

How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
Zack- Aaron did an incredible job making the monkey’s paw out of some fake fur, a Halloween prop, and some acrylic nails. It’s honestly the star of the show. Our good friend Jessica Shobe painted the screaming haunted painting based on a very real haunted painting. Most everything else in our film was either found in the back of thrift stores or borrowed from one of our many eccentric friends’ attics.

What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
Zack- Group paranoia scares me (also flying for some reason as I get older). Not sure if that specifically inspires me. When writing genre it’s usually something that gives me a macabre sense of curiosity or something unexpected that makes me laugh that gets the gears turning. I like setting up a weird premise, giving it a turn, and following that all the way to the end.
Aaron- The terror of the truly unknown, lurking just below the surface of what we think we do know. I’m not afraid of supernatural monsters; I’m afraid of the fact that we can’t truly know if there are or aren’t monsters. And the monsters we become in our conviction one way or the other.

And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
Zack- The Thing!
Aaron- Well, Zack took The Thing, so I’ll say Videodrome