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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on October 19th, 2011, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 12, Issue 33 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 12, Issue 33

Creating a monster

Filmed mostly on the Central Coast, Primitive premieres at the Palm


How do you create a monster? Where does the scare come from?

When Allan Hancock College film alum and former Arroyo Grande resident Benjamin Cooper developed the monster for his latest film Primitive, he grappled with finding the best way to manifest that one thing that frightens everyone.

Director Benjamin Cooper wanted to create a monster that would awaken a primal fear in audiences.

“I was trying to figure out what should this thing look like. What is scary?” he said. “I thought it’s this species-wide memory we have of being chased in the woods by a monster with teeth. I wanted to trigger something in the audience with this primitive memory we all have.”

He’ll find out if he hit the mark when his finished product premieres at the Palm. Cooper, who currently lives in Burbank, filmed much of the movie around Santa Maria and the Five Cities area, so it made sense to premiere the film here as well.

The horror tale follows Martin Blaine, a Hollywood effects artist who makes monsters for a living. The story takes a frightening twist when Blaine must confront his own inner demon made flesh before it destroys everyone he comes in contact with. Reggie Bannister of the popular Phantasm horror franchise plays Dr. William Stein, the hypnotist whose unorthodox therapy inadvertently conjures Blaine’s Id.

Cooper spent nearly five years making the film using the largest budget he’s had yet. During the process, he worked with other locals like Nipomo’s Tom Devlin of 1313fx and SyFy’s Faceoff, who created the creature effects. Devlin has also lent his talent to shows like Buffy and X-Files, where he contributed to Emmy Award-winning effects.

Primitive also features the acting talent of San Luis Obispo’s Rachel Riley, who co-stars as Deputy Emily Monaker. Riley was most recently seen in 8213: Gacy House and on Syfy’s Megashark vs. Crocosaurus.

Local boy:
Benjamin Cooper used a mix of Hollywood cast and crew and locals, emphasizing that the Central Coast has a lot of talented people who make movies.

Cooper also used locations and crew he cares about, bringing in many of the same people he’s worked with since his days as a film student at Hancock. Since his project was on a tight budget, Cooper’s parents fed and housed the cast and crew on occasion.

“Everyone thinks Hollywood is glamorous, but it’s not,” he said. “It’s dirty, and it’s all held together with spit and tape.”

Cooper said part of the reason the movie took so long to make was that it contains a number of special digital effects. He’s quick to point out that the effects don’t apply to the horror stuff “because horror fans don’t like the CGI,” but were used in scenes that would prove to otherwise be too costly—like a truck going over a cliff.

Cooper made Primitive in the style of movie he likes to see. In that respect, he said he prefers monster movies over slasher movies because of the character and storyline development. He calls his film an “old-fashioned monster movie” in that it’s a return to good storytelling.

“But there’s a lot of scares, suspense, shocks, a mixture,” he said. “I don’t see why you have to choose between scares.”

Cooper said he prefers to get his scares in a more complicated way and gets his inspiration from movies that are clever. He said he’s always preferred movies like Nightmare on Elm Street to Friday the 13th, because he said even the bad Nightmare on Elm Street movies—and he admitted that there were indeed bad ones—were still clever.

Scaring up fans
Primitive premieres on Thursday, Oct. 20, at 9:15 p.m. and continues through Oct. 24 with a 7 p.m. showing on Sunday. Most of the cast and crew will attend the premiere, and Cooper will host a Q&A following each show. There will also be raffles and photo-ops with the monster.

“A lot of filmmakers that are making horror films go for ‘how gory can it be, how many taboos can we break?’ But they aren’t going to do anything that wasn’t already done in the ’70s,” he said. “So I like to make mine clever with characters people care about.”

To that end, Cooper emphasized that the storyline has to stand out as well. It’s story and scares, and he believes Primitive is the whole package.

“Whether it’s sci-fi or horror, it’s gotta have brains,” he said.

Arts Editor Shelly Cone thought only zombies liked brains. She can be reached at

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