The Monster Hunters takes place in 1971 and follows Roy Steel, ex big game hunter, ladies man and scotch aficionado, and Lorimer Chesterfield, London University’s professor of Occult Studies as they track down and eliminate vampires, werewolves and bog monsters on behalf of enigmatic millionaire Sir Maxwell House. We spoke to Lorimer and Roy’s alter egos Peter Davis and Matthew Woodcock
Spooky Isles: So first tell me – how did you both get into making scary haunted fun things like The Monster Hunters?
Matthew Woodcock: Well, we first met about 10 years ago at the London Dungeon. We were both actors there, so it constantly involved being funny, spooky and scary all at the same time! We realised that we had very similar senses of humour, and worked well together, so we decided to do our own thing in our spare time as well.
Spooky Isles: What is that thing you do in your spare time as well?
Matthew: It’s kind of evolved over time – we did a few comedy shows in pub venues around London and at The Wam Bam club when it was at the Old Raymond Revue bar – it’s a kind of cabaret night with comedians and burlesque and stuff like that. Our material was always verging more to the surreal I suppose, with werewoves and heads in jars and things, so it kind of took off like that.
Spooky Isles: You mentioned it is based on Hammer Horror and gothic cinema – how do you bring that into your productions?
Peter Davis: Well, Matthew thinks he lives in the 1970s, so is completely immersed in films and TV from that era. He mentioned this idea of doing a 1970s set Hammer spoof, and it sounded like great fun so I jumped at the chance. Although I’m more of an 80s slasher fan, so I had to do a lot of research!
Matthew: A lot of the shows we’d done before – even things like Sherlock Holmes plays for Wireless Theatre Company (they do free audio downloads of comedy and drama) had featured the sort of characters you might get in early 70s tv or films, so it seems like we’ve always been heading this way. I’m a big fan of Hammer stuff, as well as the old ITC spy shows from the 60s and 70s and it’s a great source of material to mine.
Spooky Isles: You’re here to talk about your online series. Tell us more about that
Matthew: Well, The Monster Hunters started as a live theatre show we did last year as part of the first London Horror Festival – it was essentially all the things that we found funny and the genres we loved rolled into one show – so I took my knowledge of 70s film and tv, Peter brought in his love of horror generally and we came out with this show and a bunch of characters that we loved, and the audience seemed to enjoy as well. We both came away wanting to do some more and audio seemed to be the best way of giving the characters more life. I’ll just pass you over to Peter….
Peter: Thanks, Matthew. I have been working as a freelance editor off and on for a few years now, and I’ve made a few radio plays and love working in that medium. Also, I already was producing a podcast of my own (the Hellraiser Podcast) so I also knew a little about podcasting. It made sense to create a series of 30 minute episodes, and release them free as podcasts to get the largest audience we could. Of course, the idea is that the BBC will hear it and snap us up! The plan is eventually have The Monster Hunters as a 6 part TV series!! …cont…
Matthew: Of course it’ll be a long time until we can afford a golden jacuzzi, so we’re happy putting out these at the moment!
Spooky Isles: What is a typical episode like?
Matthew: You get a thirty minute adventure which, we hope, is funny and also exciting- we want to make sure there is a good ratio of thrills and comedy. We also keen on making sure that the characters develop along the way, so we’ll tease little things through the series – like the death of Lorrimer’s wife – that pay off further along the line. But it’s not a heavy arc, you can dip into the series wherever you like.
Peter: We try to come up with what we think could be the plot of an actual horror film, then we pepper it with gags. We try to fill each episode with jokes and humorous situations, as well as references to other horror films (as well as James Bond and Doctor Who references!
Spooky Isles: Tell us about your characters – they’re fascinating!
Matthew: I play Roy Steel, the typical 1970s hero – he thinks he’s cool, suave and a ladies man, but he has a major chip on his shoulder about events in his past.
Peter: And I play Lorrimer Chesterfield, the geeky boffin who is incredibly knowledgable about the occult, myths and legends. And he’s haunted by the death of his wife, which you find out all about in Episode 3. Hint – she was murdered by an Ancient Egyptian mummy.
Spooky Isles: What is about 70s horror that you think attracts people?
Matthew: I think there’s the retro factor, isn’t there – the things people saw as a kid that really stay with them – I know growing up, expecially in my teens there would be these great hammer films like Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb and Twins of Evil that would pop on BBC 1 late at night and so I know I have a great nostalgic thrill out of them. But it’s more than that. They’re well produced and well made films – I’m talking primarily about the biggies here, your Hammers and your Amicus films, I’ve seen some stuff recently made by smaller companies and they’re on the wrong side of ropey! People enjoy them. They might not be the scariest films in the world by modern standards, but they look nice, they’re generally well written and they have strong casts – I don’t think people would still be watching them now if they didn’t stand up on some level.
Spooky Isles: So the series is weekly until August – when you will be doing your new show at the London Horror Festival – what’s that going to be like this year?
Peter: We’re putting the radio show out on the 1st of each month – so yes, the last one will be August the 1st. Then before the London Horror festival we’re actually doing the live show on the 4th and 5th August as part of the Camden Fringe. That will be the show we performed last October. But then this October we shall be unveiling a NEW Monster Hunters show as part of this years London Horror Festival. We don’t have exact dates for that yet (or an exact plot!!) but it could well incorporate some of the things we’ve been doing in the podcasts.
Spooky Isles: You seem to have lots going on and it appears to be great scary fun – where can people see and hear all this?
Matthew: Well, poeple can come and see us on the 4th and 5th August at 9pm at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden where we’re performing last year’s show, The Monster Hunters as part of the Camden Fringe. We’ll be putting more information on our website very soon.
You can find out more about The Monster Hunters and download their podcasts from their website here.