I first ran into Chicago filmmaker Matt Brookens in Georgia last October during the Fright-Fest film festival. Good guy, although a little strange and he smells kinda funny, but a good guy just the same. He had come to the festival to screen his short film, Skunk Ape!? about a “man-ape” that slaughters members of a punk band for disturbing his tranquil home in the Florida Everglades with their shitty music. The music is pretty bad; you’d fly into a murderous rampage, too.
I later found out that Matt was only half of the creative force behind Skunk Ape!? He had made the film with his brother Greg, a team that has produced several other shorts, including Of Bass and Men, a film about a college student who takes to drinking bleach with the local hillbillies and ultimately cultivates an unhealthy fascination with Big Mouth Billy Bass the singing fish.
Having seen their films several times now (they play great during parties and beach blanket bingos), I’ve come to realize the Brookens Brothers as naturally talented and comical filmmakers.
I recently set up an interview with the Brothers. This is what happened.
A lot of brothers hate each other. How did you guys wind up working together?
Matt: Oh we hate each other, but we find that hate to be productive on the set. It’s like when you slap an actor for not conveying anger effectively, and then say, “Use it!” We use our mutual disgust to blast our movies into cinematic awesomeness.
When did you start making films?
Matt: When we were in elementary school, our parents would rent us a VHS camcorder on the weekends to keep us out of trouble. That’s when we really got into the drug abuse and murder motifs.
Besides your own, what is your favorite ape-man movie?
Greg: First off, let me clarify: Skunk Ape is not an ape-man but a man-ape. It’s an ape that happens to be manish, not a man who happens to be apeish. If you go into this movie expecting to see an ape-man you’ll be sorely disappointed. But if you’re like me and want to see a movie with a man dressed as an ape that happens to have more man-like tendencies than a normal ape would, then this ape is the man for you!
“Harry and the Hendersons” is a good ape man movie, while “Planet of the Apes” is a good man-ape movie. Boggy Creek has some good man-ape moments, and A Beautiful Mind sure taught us all a valuable lesson about schizophrenia.
Where did you get the Skunk Ape suit from?
Greg: Through shear industriousness we took a wad of cash to a costume shop. We exchanged this currency for the cheapest gorilla suit and the second cheapest foam rubber mask we could find. Since Skunk Ape is the principal character and realism was a key part in his performance we went with the $8 mask instead of the $6 one.
Who wore it in the film?
Greg: This guy named Seabass (real name Matt Clark) was cast as the Skunk Ape. He was there for the toughest parts of the shoot (filming on a very windy bridge in downtown Chicago in November), but due to his work schedule and our “weather-dependent” scheduling he couldn’t always make it to the set. I had to fill in on a number of occasions (the car chase) and Matt got to ape-out for the final climactic whacking-off sequence.
Matt: Dude! I told you not to tell people that!
Does it smell like a hot dumpster?
Greg: More like an invigorating blend of a*s and Tuna Helper.
Get the rest of the interview in part two of INTRODUCING THE SUPER BROOKENS BROTHERS>>>