“Certainly the operation scene was the most significantly improvised,” Marshall says. “The big learning experience for me with this movie was just working with a really solid cast of experienced actors for the first time in this kind of context. I’d spent six years planning this movie in my head, [and] I discovered on day one of working with these guys that all my plans went out the window because of course they’re amazing collaborators and they want to bring something to the table, and that doesn’t necessarily always fit with what you had in mind. So a lot of the scenes that were in my head, kind of static, suddenly became much more lively and interesting, especially within the house.”
In a movie that’s already full of characters who fire off quips and wisecracks in the face of death, there are also unexpected moments of humor that make their way in. But remarkably, none of it feels out of place. “I wanted all the humor to come out of the characters themselves, but also just some of the absurdity of the situation,” Marshall says.
Notably, the moment when Pvt. Cooper is helping to nail the door of the house shut and suddenly a werewolf’s hand bursts through the mail slot, prompting frantic, Looney Tunes-esque hammering at the werewolf’s fingers.
“If you’re hammering a nail and a werewolf pokes its fingers through the door, you’re going to hit them with the hammer,” the director says matter-of-factly. “It seems logical, but it’s also funny. I wanted them to use whatever they had available. They attack them with frying pans, knives, axes, swords, and all sorts of stuff. I just wanted to use everything available.”
Despite that, or perhaps because of it, when characters die, audiences feel the impact. The unfortunate soldiers of this film aren’t mere cannon fodder…or werewolf chow.