Found Footage Critic had an opportunity to discuss Daniele Grieco’s latest and much-anticipated horror sci-fi found footage film, UFO Es Ist Hier (2016). The movie follows five film students shooting a documentary at a local zoo who set out to investigate what they believe to be a nearby meteorite crash. Following an unlikely series of events the students find themselves lost in the forest, and come to the realization that something not of this world is stalking them.
FFC: How did you come up with the come up with the idea for UFO: Es Ist Hier?
Daniele Grieco: I felt there had never been a real, impressive found footage film about aliens. Although Cloverfield (2008) was about an alien and a very, very impressive one at that, it wasn’t a real found footage movie in my eyes. The film was merely a high-budgeted, regular production that pretended to be found footage. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Cloverfield (2008), but I felt, there was room for a movie that merged the feeling of The Blair Witch Project (1999) and, say, War of the Worlds or Alien (1979).
FFC: UFO: Es Ist Hier appears to have influences from Alien (1979). Did you consider Alien when making the film?
Daniele Grieco: Absolutely, Alien (1979) my biggest influence! It scared me to death when I was twelve years old and watched it against my parents will. I think it’s one of the greatest masterpieces in film history.
FFC: What went into developing the creature effects in UFO: Es Ist Hier?
Daniele Grieco: We had a very hard time coming up with effects that looked as real and visceral as those in Ridley Scott’s unsurpassed Alien (1979)—in my opinion, the best sci-fi movie of all times hands down. To get ideas and inspiration, I must have watched the making of videos to Alien (1979) about a hundred times. The most important lesson I learned from this: nothing is a real as the real thing.
When Ridley Scott constructed his alien, chestburster and facehugger, they made daily trips to fish markets and butchers to include all kind of organic materials into their designs. We did exactly the same and it worked well for us.
Here’s one story related to this: I tried to get live eels at a big fish market in Cologne. I remembered that my Italien grandmother used to keep a couple of eels in her bathtub a couple of days before Christmas and slaughter them on Christmas day. I didn’t intend to slaughter them, which is a pretty bloody business, nor to torture them in any way. I wanted to use their movement for some effects regarding the lair. However, I learned that times have changed—nowaydays it’s illegal to sell or purchase live eel in Germany for animals rights reasons. And I think that it’s better this way.
FFC: What are your thoughts on practical effects versus CGI?
Daniele Grieco: I prefer producing effects practically on the set whenever possible! I try to avoid VFX, by that I mean effects generated in post-production, at all cost. VFX never look as real, organic, and impressive as practical effects.
FFC: Does UFO: Es Ist Hier utilize any CGI?
Daniele Grieco: The only exceptions in this movie were the columns of smoke seen once in the beginning and once towards the end. It would have been impractical to set the forest on fire for those short moments and realistic smoke is easy to make in post-production. And of course the UFO itself. Those VFX effects were created by Jessica Hawich who’s only twenty-two years old, but extremely talented.
All of my favorite movies are from the era before CGI. Here are some of the scariest and best examples of everything special effects can achieve: Alien (1979), The Exorcist (1973), and The Shining (1980).