How to Suck Less at … Being a Monster!

The “How to Suck Less” series wasn’t a series until we realized that to suck a little less we should make it one and so we have. Chess, crafting masks and skateboarding are just a few of the activities we’ve covered so far. Here is master monster Mark Steger on how to be a better monster.

I was born in Los Angeles, but my pops was in the service, so we lived briefly in New Jersey and Memphis before settling in what is now Silicon Valley (Milpitas, if you really want to know). My father was stationed at Moffett Field — Google recently bought the zeppelin hangar where he used to work. Then I lived in east San Jose when it was still the lowrider capital of the world. Then I moved to San Francisco, in ’84, and stayed for 10 years before moving back to LA.

Take one of your victims’ body parts as a trophy.

When I started doing shows in LA as part of Osseus Labyrint, people would approach [co-founder] Hannah Sim and me to perform at events and in movies and music videos. That’s how we ended up with Tool at the first Coachella festival and then toured with them a year later.

Eventually I got invited to meet with [Stranger Things creators] the Duffer Brothers and Carmen Cuba, the casting director. Someone recommended me, I don’t know who. I wasn’t the only one they met with, but I was the one who convinced them. There were actually a few other people waiting to meet with them who I had hired when I worked as a movement director on movies. I remember seeing them all and thinking, “This one’s mine.”

I’ve never thought of myself as a dancer. I’ve been a runner most of my life, including a little track and cross-country in high school, but I also have ideas that involve doing strange, extreme things with my body.  

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Reinterpreting spiders and men.

I feel like I’ve found continuity between my childhood and my adult life as a director, actor and being a choreographer on Stranger Things and American Horror Story and the films Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Velvet Buzzsaw, World War Z, The Pact and I Am Legend and others. I enjoy making other people do weird shit with their bodies as much as I do scaring the bejesus out of audiences.

I’ve won a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Rockefeller Foundation Grant, a California Arts Council Fellowship and a Durfee Artist Award. So you want advice on how to be a monster for Halloween? Here we go.

How to Suck Less at Being a Monster: A Primer

  1. Act like you’ve done this before. You’re a monster, your behavior should be second nature. Whether you eviscerate casually or with flamboyance, it should read as habit or instinct. Unless, that is, you’ve transformed from a human into a monster for the first time. In which case you might be a bit surprised by your actions.
  2. Take joy in making small children cry. This is essential. If your heart’s not in it they’ll know.
  3. Use nature as inspiration. Evolution has come up with some pretty messed-up stuff over billions of years and it’s all public domain. Like the ontogeny of the lancet liver fluke. It’s a flatworm that jumps between different animal species to complete its life cycle. The parasite lays eggs in sheep feces, snails eat them and poop out the larvae in slimy balls, which are eaten by ants. Then the worm takes over the ant’s brain and whispers to it to seek death. The zombie ant climbs a blade of grass and holds on to the blade with its mandibles until it’s eaten by another mammal. And the cycle repeats. Great, great stuff. See also: ichneumon wasps’ reproduction routine.
  4. Less is more. Stillness, stalking and lurking communicate power and menace and establish tension. Build a presence and leave something to the imagination so your audience/victim can conjure their worst nightmares. 
  5. More is more. Relentless, balls-out, monster fuckoffery is often the order of the day. See: John Carpenter’s The Thing.
  6. Leave a calling card. Take one of your victims’ body parts as a trophy. Or leave behind a little something special — ooze or ejaculate in your victims’ freshly exposed viscera works nicely. 
  7. #WWAHD (What Would a Human Do?). Nothing is scarier.

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