Horror has earned a bit of a bad rap with women over the years, often making them weak and vulnerable, and of course, naked. Hey, we get it guys; you like boobs. It’s not a crime. But when a movie has a kickass female lead — and doesn’t use gratuitous flesh to sell itself — it’s a pretty cool thing and a refreshing change. Plus, if you add in super tight spaces and a spider-like, ravenous alien in those tight spaces, you’re bound to get the attention of a claustrophobic or arachnophobic horror fan.
But god help you if you have both, because “Crawl or Die” — billed correctly as the most claustrophobic movie ever made — will reduce you to a fetal position. Star and producer Nicole Alonso sat down for an exclusive interview to talk about the film, directed by Oklahoma Ward.
The Queen of Scream: I watched the “Crawl or Die” even though I’m so claustrophobic. But I had kind of missed that whole part in the plot about the spider-like alien thing, because that’s my other fear, spiders. So yeah, that was an extra special treat for me.
Nicole Alonso: Oh, that’s great! You’re going to see in the next one, we have a whole scene with tarantulas so you’re going to love that.
TQOS: Oh God, that’s it, I’m fast-forwarding through that part. I kept thinking I wanted to fast forward through this, but it was like no, no don’t fast forward, be professional.
NA: Hey, I understand.
TQOS: You weren’t just the lead actress in this movie, but you were also a producer and you did the song for it. So how did you get involved with this project?
NA: Well, I actually met the director, Oklahoma Ward, when I auditioned for his first film and I got a small role in that. And then after that we actually became roommates for a while and so we were working together. And then after about a year we ended up dating, and then he and I kind of launched into this project together, “Crawl or Die.” He began writing it, and then we lived in L.A. at the time and we ended up moving out to Tulsa, Oklahoma to build the set and film the movie, and we just kind of worked on the whole thing together. So that’s kind of how I have all these roles in it and got involved in doing all of that other stuff for the movie too.
TQOS: So you guys do live in Oklahoma now?
NA: Yeah, we live in Oklahoma. We were living in L.A. and we kind of got back and were like, you know it’s just too expensive to do what we need to do. We needed a huge set in order to be able to build all of the tunnels, and in L.A. it’s just ridiculously expensive. The land out here is super cheap and he grew up here so he has family here and he knows people here. So we came out, built the studio and piece of property, and just filmed it all here.
TQOS: Well that’s the great thing about all of the great technology and the high definition cameras available now. It’s so expensive to live in L.A., but having access to all this great stuff makes it easier for people to live in other to do films independently do where they don’t have to be working 60 hours a week just to support themselves. They can actually be artists.
NA: Right, yeah. That’s kind of what our deciding factor was. Because we were basically like, we’re living in L.A. and basically working just to pay our rent, and it was ridiculous. We weren’t creating. So we decided it was just better for us to get out of there and now we’ve made a movie, so I’d say it was worth it.
TQOS: And it’s a great result at what looks like a really reasonable budget. Because even though the set is big, it is probably a pretty low budget because you simply built tunnels, although you do have the special effects of the creature. But even with that, I was thinking it’s probably not really a huge budget because you did keep your set so simple.
NA: We were definitely low budget and you’re right, most of the money pretty much went to the creature and then post production. But for the most part we were really low budget. I can’t say actually how much, but you know.
TQOS: And the creature is animatronic, right?
NA: Yeah, it was a guy who designed a suit that he wore, and he had a head that he would put on and stuff like that. It was basically controlled by three or four people who controled the arms. So it wasn’t electronic or anything like that, it was basically more like a puppet.
TQOS: It looked really good, and you could tell that it wasn’t CGI, thank goodness. Well, thank goodness for most people. For some of us it’s like, oh thank you for that extra dose of scary reality.
NA: I wanted us to do CGI, but with the budget they were telling us for that, we were like no. Unless you can have “Planet of the Apes” quality CGI, it’s just going to look cheesy and bad. So we went with a real monster instead.
TQOS: Well when Oklahoma said to you “Hey, I’ve got this great idea for a movie. It’s about this woman that’s in these really tight spaces and they just keep getting smaller and smaller and smaller,” did you have any reservations? I mean do you have any kind of claustrophobia?
NA: I actually don’t. And when he told me the idea I really liked the idea and thought it was unique and so great. And I was like, “Yeah, I’m not claustrophobic, so I’ll be fine.” But you don’t realize once you’re in those tunnels, it’s a whole different ballgame because the tunnels were real. We built them, but they were real 50-foot tunnels. There was no cutout, no opening in the tunnels or anything, so once you’re in, the only way to get out is to crawl forwards or backwards. It did become scary at times because in the smaller tunnels I couldn’t move my arms or legs so I just had to kind of worm through and it was intense. But I think it was totally worth it for the final product.
TQOS: Well, that obviously would help your performance. And also the fact that you did have something real and tangible to work with, the creature that was hunting you down.
NA: Yeah, and it’s interesting because we originally filmed it without a creature. You just basically heard the creature and you never really got to see it. And through test audiences and our sales agency, the test audiences loved it but the one thing they all said was we’d like to see the creature at the end. And the sales agency kind of said the same thing, so they gave us a little budget to do the creature but we only had about three weeks to put the creature in the whole movie. So it’s kind of crazy. And we’re looking forward to the sequel, because I know we’ll have a lot more time to spend on the creature and make it more elaborate and kind of explain more about it and all that kind of stuff. But yeah, it was interesting working with the creature, because like I said it was a puppet, and there was four guys working the arms and all, so you had to work together to get the shot.
TQOS: You did mention the sequel, and actually it’s a trilogy. It’s going to be a trilogy correct?
TQOS: So I already know now that tarantulas are going to figure prominently somewhere in the next installment — oh boy, can’t wait for that arachnaphobe that I am — but what other things can we expect? Can you give us maybe some little teasers? You don’t want to give too much away obviously, but in the next two installments what kind of things can we look for?
NA: Right. Well obviously I can’t give too much away, and actually the director is very good about, not telling me a whole lot; he keeps things secret. It’s under wraps. But I do know some things. I know that a lot of stuff from this first film will get explained in the second film. Like Earth 2 and why she’s the last woman who can become pregnant, and a little more about the virus, and it ‘s definitely going to be more, there will be more information about Tank, and definitely some crazy new claustrophobic scenes that again I can’t give too much away but, all new situations that she’ll get to get in. So it’ll be really fun and a lot of stuff I know the fans are wanting explained will be explained.
TQOS: That’ll be nice to kind of get the backstory, but for the life of me I can’t imagine how you could possibly push it farther than that last crawling sequence. Because I was like “Oh hell no; just let that spider thing get me already. And obviously I hate spiders, so that’s how claustrophobic you got there at the end. don’t think my cat could have fit through that space, great fat beast that he is. But it’s great to see a strong female lead, and the fact that it’s not something that exploits women. Because we all know, that is a part of horror and always will be, but it was really nice to see a strong female. lead who didn’t have to get naked at all. Was that something that was really important to you in the role?
NA: Oh definitely. I know it was important to myself and the director. He was very influenced by films like “Alien” and he was like I don’t want you to be [nude]. Of course, the distributors and all were like “we need nudity,” but he was like absolutely not, that’s not what this is about. And I think for us it was most important to show that yes, Tank is strong, yes she’s determined and she keeps fighting, but she’s not Rambo. She’s not a guy. She has emotion, she’s afraid, she has weak moments, but I think the point is that she never gives up and she just will fight through everything to keep going. And I think that’s what makes her so badass, is that she’s mentally strong. She doesn’t quit. And I think it was important for us to show that, that she wasn’t Rambo. She’s not going to take down everybody, but she’s a strong person.
TQOS: And there was actually a really vulnerable scene, as you were getting down where there with just the two of you left, and at that point, the other person was almost the stronger of the two of you, but then you kind of bounced back. But there was that vulnerable moment.
NA: Yeah. I do think it was a good balance for her, because I think anyone in that situation would of course be terrified and I think it was cool to play her that way. To show that, I don’t think she ever would have given up, but I definitely think she has moments of questioning if she could keep going. And it was fun to sort of show the both sides of that.
TQOS: There’s also going to be a comic book coming out, so it was that something that was part of the idea from the beginning? Or was it something that’s kind of come along afterwards?
NA: We always wanted to have a comic book, and I know with the deals we made with our distributor we made sure to keep the rights to do things like that, but it wasn’t intended to be so soon. But when it came out in Japan we had such a huge response in Japan from the fans, and actually they were sending in artwork for us, like fan art, drawing pictures of Tank. This one artist in particular sent us this amazing fan art, and we were like “Oh my God, we’d love it to do a comic book with you.” And he was stunned that we asked him, and he really was in to doing it, so we headed down the path with a translator to work all the details out, and he’s now creating our comic book. And I’ve got to say, it really looks awesome. I can’t wait to put it out there. It’s coming out really cool.
TQOS: Are you going to keep the iconic hair? Or are we going to see changes in color? Because that is so perfect for the whole comic book and for the movie.
NA: Oh, yeah. In the comic book definitely, it’s the mohawk all the way, the same hair, so yeah. It’ll be the same color. The comic book is actually mostly black and white, so it’s all going to be the same color. Tank is definitely the mohawk, that’s her thing.
TQOS: Have you filmed the sequel, the second part of the trilogy yet?
NA: We haven’t filmed it yet. I know Oklahoma has it written and he knows the story and all that. We’re finishing up the promotion of this film which will probably be for another four to five months, and then we’re going to start looking at pre-production for the next movie. So probably six months down the road we’ll be starting pre-production and get to film it. So it’s exciting.
TQOS: Well then maybe it’ll be ready for next Halloween?
NA: Maybe — I hope so. Of course we’re going to try to get it done as quick as possible but we’ll see. Hopefully. Until then, you can check out Alonso in “Crawl or Die” on iTunes or Amazon, and also the indie film “Screen,” which you can rent or buy on Vimeo currently.