Sam Vollie Osborn graduated from NYU in 2009 and his latest 14-minute movie is Monsters Down the Hall, which includes five actors literally dressed in makeup and prosthetics appearing as scary monsters. However, Osborn insists his movie isn't a horror film. It's actually a drama.
Monsters Down the Hall focuses on a 6-year-old boy who lives in a poor apartment building and is told not to go into a room, essentially another apartment. There's no explicit drug use, but the boy has a single mother who has substance abuse problems and that forbidden room is where it happens. A little scared of what the truth may be, the boy invents these monsters in his mind.
Osborn says it's comparable to the Oscar-winning film Pan's Labrynth (2006). While Guillermo del Toro's masterpiece did employ computer-generated imagery, the majority of the special effects were through makeup, which was one of the Academy Awards it recieved.
Osborn didn't employ any CGI. He instead relied soley on makeup and effects done in camera. Like with Pan's Labrynth or The Elephant Man or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Osborn's movie lived or died based on its makeup being convincing. Fortunately, following this film's screening at the Slamdance Film Festival, Osborn got feedback about production design, makeup and etc., and it was all positive.
But, while del Toro, like the boy in Osborn's film, is one who spends an inordinate amount of time imagining monsters, Osborn himself is not necessarily akin to the Mexican monster-maker. By the way, Del Toro is in the works to create monsters for the movie remakes of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, as well as the adaptation of The Hobbit, a story which includes a dragon, and del Toro is doing all of this to satisfy his child-like spirit and wonder, but all of it purely for entertainment.
Del Toro is definitely a popcorn movie kind of guy. Del Toro imagines monsters for fun. He's one of those little boys whose monsters are mere forms of delight. Dare I say, del Toro's monsters are even like toys to him, but not to Osborn.
Like all of the filmmakers who submitted movies to the Hearts and Minds Film Festival in Dover, Del., Osborn didn't do this film because he was a little boy looking to play with monster toys. Well, maybe he was, but there's a little bit more to it and to him than that.
Osborn said he was in South Africa when a scene in a movie he was watching really affected him. It was a scene of a little child witnessing and dealing with substance abuse by his parents in poor conditions. He found facts from the National Association for Children of Alcoholics that were astounding and Osborn's father used to work in public housing. Osborn saw not just children on screen but also children in real life who had these problems, and wanted to do something about it.
Osborn said that he himself worked for public housing in his hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts, where he went back to produce his movie. He could have continued working for public housing, trying to make a difference that way, but, as a little boy who has always been attracted to the careers of Joel and Ethan Coen, as well as Paul Thomas Anderson and Roman Polanski, Osborn knew he had to fight monsters another way. He had to do it through movies.
What are the monsters that he fights? The monsters are drug addiction, poverty, neglect, and of course the social institutions that don't help but perpetuate these demons, and filmmakers who fight them through their films are the point of the Hearts and Minds Film Festival where Osborn's film will play Saturday, April 10, at the Schwartz Center in Dover.
Go to www.monstersdownthehall.com for more information.