There’s a whole lot to love about “Channel Zero: The Dream Door,“ the latest season of Syfy’s horror anthology series that introduces a new horror icon in the form of Pretzel Jack. And right up there at the top of the list of things to love about the season is that it features an appearance from a Lykoi cat, the very first time one (to my knowledge) has appeared on screen.
Lykoi cats are more commonly referred to as “werewolf cats” because of their werewolf-like appearance, and without spoiling anything about “The Dream Door,” there’s one point during the season wherein a werewolf cat is magically conjured up by one of the characters. For director E.L. Katz, making that magic trick happen was certainly no easy task.
There’s a great piece over on Vulture titled The Hardest Effect I Ever Pulled Off, which features insights from tons of different directors and effects artists as they detail what went into pulling off, well, the hardest effects they’ve ever brought to screen. Katz was interviewed as part of the piece, and he detailed the nightmare of directing a werewolf cat.
Katz explained to the site…
“This was the most challenging scene out of the six episodes of Channel Zero: The Dream Door, because we didn’t have a lot of time and we didn’t schedule lots of time for the simple act of having a cat step out of a tiny door in a wall. That’s literally all this cat had to do. The characters are standing in front of a door that we installed in front of a bathroom, there’s a cat handler inside, and they’re supposed to give a speech, lean down, open a door, and this cat is supposed to come out of the door. It just has to emerge and be in front of the camera long enough for the camera to register it to some degree. It took us four hours to get anything.”
“A little backstory: it’s a Lykoi cat, which is a super rare cat and they look sort of like werewolves. The whole point of it is, it’s a play on words — the guy is saying, “Show me a werewolf,” and the other one says, “I’ll do a cat;” he says, “Okay,” and this werewolf cat is supposed to emerge. The thing about these fucking cats is, they’re feral, so there was a chance that they could attack people if they jumped out of the door. Also, it’s a very distinctive wolf-like Universal monsters sort of look, so it would go to shit if the cat got too nervous because it would lose all of its hair, so the gag would be lost. So, when it was being transported by airplane, we were really nervous that it might get stressed out during the flight and go completely bald and then it wouldn’t make sense when it came out because you wouldn’t know what the fuck it was; or when it’s on set it could get freaked out and start shedding its fur. Either way, that didn’t happen, it arrived on time, we put it in, like, a hotel or something, it’s got VIP treatment, we’re all set up, we’re basically waiting for the scene. We have the cat handler back there, door opens, cat doesn’t come out. We’re like, ‘Okay, fuck, do it again.'”
“Each time, we have the actors delivering all of the lines because we want to do it in a wide shot, so over and over again, trying to keep the energy up, the actor delivers this monologue, does this whole thing, leans down, opens the door, no cat comes out. We’re trying multiple different things, the cat’s owner is on the other side of the door trying to coax it out, putting treats in eye-line of where the cat’s going to be, but it’s just in the darkness. You can’t see it, it’s not moving. We then get one trainer on one side of the room, one trainer on the other, they’re both making weird sounds, they’re both talking. Finally, the cat zips out of the room, super fucking fast, and runs under the bed, and that’s not really a scene, because you can’t see what the hell it is. We start trying it again, the cat runs out of the room, it’s getting lost, we have to find the cat. Meanwhile, this is a TV shoot, so we have no fucking time, and we’re just like, “Oh my god, we’re not gonna do this scene!” I mean, we can’t CGI this cat, it’s gonna look fake as shit, especially because it has this, like, star moment where you’re focusing on it. You don’t want to build up this thing and a VFX werewolf cat comes out, that’s also going to be like, ‘What the fuck is this thing?'”
“So, basically, at the end of the night, we’re running out of time, we’ve created this series of clicks and comforting sounds and all these things, trying to create this safe environment for this cat to be drawn out, and we wait, and this is going to be like the last take we’re going to do. The guy leans down, opens the door, and it’s just the cat’s ass jutting out of the darkness. It just stays that way for a while, and then it turns around and slowly walks out, and that’s what we went with. Luckily, we were able to later VFX in a way that wasn’t too obvious, we just split-screened it so it didn’t look like the cat went ass first out the door. It had its emergence. But out of everything I’ve ever done, this was one of the most frustrating things, because there was absolutely nothing we could do. There’s nothing you can fucking do. It’s a fucking cat.”
Read the full article on Vulture and check out the “Dream Door” werewolf cat scene below!