Crawler trailer

Link to purchasing CRAWLER

I asked two of the New York Dohlerites (avid fans of filmmaker Don Dohler) to write about their impressions after watching the last of Don’s released films – CRAWLER. Below is the responses I got from prolific podcaster and artist Jon Cross. Enjoy – Robert Long.

Smash or Trash: After almost two decades, CRAWLER has finally been released through Alpha Video. What was your initial reaction to this news?

Jon Cross: I was ecstatic – I knew how much hard work Mitch and Robert put into restoring this film and rescuing it for fans and I also couldn’t believe we would get to see a lost Dohler film featuring a lot of his original cast of players (Don Liefert, George Stover etc.) … and little did I know just how much of a role the original cast would actually play in the finished film – just amazing

Nick Consol and Jon Cross

Smash or Trash: You buy your physical copy and put that DVD in the machine and fire it up. What was the thing you did first; watch the movie or watch the bonus materials.

Jon Cross: I waited for Nick Consol (one of the other Dohlerites) to join me and we watched the film first. It was so exciting and also a little tense because you just don’t know what you were about to watch – was it a Dohler/Ripple film as we had seen before? Was it going to be a completely new thing? Would we love it? – I think we both went into it with a lot of hope, a little trepidation but with expectations in a good place. As usual, Don and Joe did not disappoint – quite the opposite!

Up close and personal

Smash or Trash: Let’s talk the movie first. Simple plot – an intelligent snake-like alien – the Crawler – lands in the backwoods of Maryland. It proceeds to start devouring the local population and growing in size with each kill. The military gets involved, as well as some local stargazers. Can they stop this monster before the bodycount goes through the roof? We are back in familiar Dohler territory. Your thoughts on the story?

Jon Cross: Well as much as Don played with these sorts of stories and themes throughout his career, I don’t think of Alien Factor, NightBeast, Galaxy Invader, Alien Factor 2 or Crawler as being the same at all. Dohler used what he knew he could do well and what people wanted to see but with each new film he created new characters that we hadn’t seen before, new plots, new monsters and new fun! They also all have different vibes and styles in a way while remaining true to his backyard, friends and family aesthetic. For Crawler, plot wise, it’s got a lot more of a slasher style feeling than maybe his previous alien invasion films, which I loved and also it was the interplay between the new characters and some of the familiar scenarios with his older classic cast and a few brilliant surprises too.

Midnight vigil for the beast…

Smash or Trash: Three teams of characters. The first being the three stargazers that stumble upon the Crawler landing in their neck of the woods. Darla Albornoz as Shelly, Justin Timpane as Paul, and Daniel Ross as Dipper. What are your thoughts on our stargazers, and the performances by the actors?

Jon Cross: These were great additions to the Dohler/Ripple players. They had fun banter and great chemistry and you wanted to root for them. All the actors did excellent work and anchored the film very nicely.

Black Ops

Smash or Trash: The second group being the government/military men in black. There is Maynard Edwards (Hunt leader), James Keegan (Maxerton), Nikki O’Dell (Phelps), John Patrick Barry (Hunt member 2), Ayo Sorrells (Hunt member 3), and Claire Sherman (Agent Smith). What are your thoughts on our military members, and the performances by the actors?

Jon Cross: As sort of the second antagonists of the movie (After Crawler itself) the characters did their job and serviced the plot well but were mostly there as human adversaries for our plucky star gazers and had a cliche macho B Movie feel to them – which is entirely as it should be. Very Romero-esque I thought. The actors all added a little nuance to their roles and did very well with the parts.

George Stover as the Sheriff

Smash or Trash: The final group are all veterans of Don Dohler’s earlier films. There’s George Stover (The Sheriff), Richard Dyszel (The Mayor), and Don Leifert (Mr. Zachary). What was your reaction to see this trio back in Don’s last released production?

Jon Cross: What was fortuitous about the order in which Don and Joe’s films were released, despite being shot before Dead Hunt, Crawler acts as the perfect swan song for the veteran character actors and heroes to us all, George Stover, Don Leifert and Dick Dyszel. As I said before, I knew they were in the film but had tempered my expectations to assume they just had smaller parts or cameos. That they had such a pivotal and fan pleasing part in the film was just a sheer, applause worthy, delight. Especially Don Leifert, as I believe, this was his final film role…

Behind the scenes

Smash or Trash: Let’s talk about the DVD extras. The behind the scenes making of. Did you enjoy it, and what was it like to see Don, Joe and crew back in action?

Jon Cross: Of course, it was fantastic. I love seeing the way they all worked together. I am glad that Don and Joe were still making movies as we got into the DVD era of extras and commentaries. It means we get a look behind the curtain at the way these indie legends worked. I am thrilled at any and all behind the scenes footage.

The late Don Leifert

Smash or Trash: There is an in-depth interview of the late Don Leifert, as shot by Leanna Chamish. Did you find it a proper send off for this beloved actor?

Jon Cross: Like I say, any and all behind the scenes stuff is fantastic but the fact Leanna, who is always wonderful, had the foresight to shoot this interview with Don Leifert, well that’s just very special. The interview was funny and moving and, yes, I’d say, an excellent send off for the actor – along with his content in Blood, Boobs & Beast.

Don Dohler

Smash or Trash: How did you react to Don Dohler’s cameo?

Jon Cross: With whoops and applause!

Smash or Trash: Due it an allergic reaction to latex rubber, the Crawler makeup couldn’t be used. Traditionally Don’s movie’s have full blown monster suits, but those couldn’t be used in this case. Visual Effects Artist Mitch Klein stepped in to do the creature in 3D animation, a rather daunting task. Klein didn’t have a bank of computers, nor multiple staff to help him out. How did Mitch do? Did you like the creature?

Special Visual Effects Supervisor Mitch Klein

Jon Cross: So I want to say, as fans of all of Don and Joe’s films, initially the idea of a CGI creature, versus a person in a suit, was something I had to get my head around but I went in to the film prepared and knowing that’s what it was going to be and I couldn’t be happier to maybe put some of the more traditional fans’ minds at ease because Mitch has done incredible work. It both sticks with the enjoyable B Movie aesthetic while also elevating it. The way Mitch was able to get real tension and scares out of the creature and blend it expertly with the shot footage was tremendous. His work deserves to be seen and deserves hefty praise, not just for a job well done but the hours and hours given freely and for the passion of bringing Crawler to the screen. I, for one, thank him very, very much.

Smash or Trash: Let’s talk behind the camera. How do you feel the directing on Joe Ripple’s part was? How about the camera work and editing on Don’s part?

Jon Cross: I feel that by the time Crawler came along – Joe and Don were a well oiled machine. Don being able to focus solely on cinematography allows him to show everyone just what he can do. To really photograph his story with patience, style and talent, I love his camera work on Crawler. It was exceptional and a joy. Similarly, you see where Joe’s work with the actors really pays off. The performances, across the board, were some of the best in a Timewarp film especially. Something that definitely carried on into Dead Hunt.

Smash or Trash: This was the first of two film scores that composer Justin Timpane did for Timewarp Films. What did you think of the music? Did it fit the movie like a glove? Thoughts?

Jon Cross: Following in the footsteps of such luminaries of indie film scores as Ken Walker, Daniel Linck, Robert J. Walsh and, of course, Norman Noplock is no easy feat. The music in Don’s films is always such a part of it, indelibly linked in the brain with the images themselves. I am happy to report that Justin Timpane’s work on the score continues that tradition perfectly. I loved his work. It fits the movie very well.

Smash or Trash: Did Robert Long do anything worth while on the film, besides eat all the craft services?

Jon Cross: Robert Long is the beating heart and the carnival barker behind the continuing fandom for Don and Joe’s films. His tireless dedication to not only getting Crawler released but maintaining Don’s legacy cannot be underestimated. I wouldn’t be able to be answering these questions or have ever seen Crawler, without Robert. I know it can be a thankless task sometimes and I know people don’t see the hours of blood, sweat, tears and frustration that can go into getting films like Crawler out there but Robert is dedicated, passionate and personable in his pursuit to get the best treatment for these films. Thank you.

The creature pounces!

Smash or Trash: Is there anything that sticks out to you as “this could have been done better”? Anything you didn’t like that could have been improved?

Jon Cross: I am not just saying this but there really isn’t. Anyone can come to a low budget, friends and family production and nitpick it to death for not being the latest Mission Impossible film or whatever but that’s just ridiculous. It’s not that these films are above criticism, there are certainly things in some of Don and Joe’s films where editing could be tighter, performances could be better with a couple more takes and, in the case of Vampire Sisters, maybe an extra rewrite or two but I love them all and the gumption it takes to continually mount indie productions like this, get every single one of them distribution and to have a fan base, that’s pretty remarkable – as anyone who has ever tried it knows. But with Crawler, honestly, I finished the film and had just the most overwhelming positivity, nostalgia, fun and excitement coursing through me. I was beaming for hours afterwards. You can hear it in my voice on my podcast coverage of the film – this was such a joyous experience. I wouldn’t change a thing.

The Hunt Team

Smash or Trash:Do you have any final thoughts about CRAWLER? Anything you’d like to say to fellow Don Dohler fans?

Jon Cross: I need and want all of Don and Joe’s fans to go out and buy Crawler. To watch it with the same childlike enthusiasm that they enjoy Alien Factor or NightBeast. There’s a faction that watches these films ironically and others who think that the early films are where it begins and ends and judge the Timewarp films entirely too harshly. I am here to say that if you are either of this kind of fan, I think you need to take a long hard look at yourself, buy Crawler, leave your preconceived notions at the door and enjoy the hell out of what this cast & crew do best – thrill, scare and entertain. Robert, Mitch and the cast put years of their life into getting us all one more Dohler film and we owe it to them to support it and promote it wherever possible. The world needs that, now more than ever.

Smash or Trash:Jon, we thank you for your time.