Horror fans who like more bit to their content will soon be able to feast on the latest offering from Dark Temple Motion Pictures – Vampire Virus.
Under its working title of After Dark, the film will receive its online premiere at this weekend’s Sohome Horror Film Festival: Pride Edition.
In this LGBT bloodfest, a young woman contracts a deadly virus after an unusual sexual encounter, and soon develops a taste for human blood.
Bloody Flicks caught up with a number of the cast and crew to discuss their roles.
Mark McKirdy (Detective Noonan)
Vampire Virus marks the second time Scottish actor Mark McKirdy has worked with Dark Temple, following his role in the Barge People.
Here’s what he had to say about his character Detective Noonan –
Tell us how you got involved with Vampire Virus?
I’ve worked with Charlie before on ‘The Barge People’ and he called to ask if I would be interested in the project. He had written a character with myself in mind but ultimately the final decision would rest with the production company. Charlie had sent over my showreel and a few clips of ‘The barge People” and thankfully they gave me the green light.
Following The Barge People, did you always wanted to work with Charlie Steeds and the rest of the crew?
Definitely. It was such an incredible experience with brilliant people. It’s a different type of bond on a film set. Charlie intrigued me so much and there was no denying he was a special talent. We’ve become close friends and now there is mutual respect for how each other work. I’d happily be on any of his film sets. I was also fortunate enough to work with Makenna again late last year and looks like we could be again this summer.
Tell us about your first day on set?
I was joining halfway through so relationships are already built. Sometimes it can feel like your first day at school. You’re always nervous that first day. Doesn’t matter how well you know the people or the script. As clichéd as it sounds Derek, who plays Freddie and I hit it off instantly. When you can be relaxed like that with an acting partner it makes life so much easier.
You play a police officer in Vampire Virus, tell us how you prepared for this role?
I will always give my character a back story and it’s where I begin with any script. There’s always lines you may see differently when you have created a history for a character. I watched a lot of old detective movies and stories with a strong elderly brother theme. I wanted Noonan to have that. Police officers can sometimes feel soulless but I wanted to make sure he had a heart. An instinct to protect.
Did you watch any vampire films in preparation?
It’s always a great excuse to rewatch some classic movies when preparing. I’m such a huge fan of ‘The Lost Boys’ so it was great to dust off the DVD box. I think Vampire stories are so fascinating because they can be set in any time or place. There is a basic formula but you can really play about with that. What’s clever about ‘Vampire Virus’ is the direction it takes the classic vampire story. The “virus’ plays its part in that and helps us to maybe look at society itself and how it views people who are different to us. It’s unique in that way and what was exciting about the project.
Is it fair to say Vampire Virus has more of a sexual edge than your average vamp film?
It does, I think you always have the aspect of desire when it comes to vampires. It’s the temptation of that underground world. How you play with that temptation is up to the writer. There’s no holding back here. I described the film to my wife as a ‘sexy neon thriller’. After we watched it she turned to me and said ‘you’re not kidding!’
Can we expect plenty of gore?
It may disappoint the gore fans but its certainly not at the core of the film. It’s a Charlie Steeds movie however so you can expect a lot of blood
Joe Begos’ Bliss treated vampirism as a virus, is this something that is explored more in Vampire Virus?
For sure and I think its what brings the story to a modern world. It plays on the word ‘virus’. Language is very important and the words we use. Our minds can be poisoned with words. As a society who truly are the people who are ‘infected’?
Are you looking forward to a virtual audience seeing the film at the Sohome Horror Festival later this month?
I think it’s great. It could be a while before we can have traditional ‘screenings’ again. This could be the new normal. It’s always exciting when a film your part of gets an audience. It’s also great that it is part of the Pride edition of the festival. I’m looking forward to tuning in to all the films.
What can you tell us about Detective Noonan?
He’s a no-nonsense Detective. He’s taken a risk putting Freddie on his team but is sure with his guidance he has what it takes. A family man at heart but sometimes struggles with his work-life balance although he never brings his work through the front door with him.
You are joining up with Dark Temple Motion Pictures on A Werewolf in England, are you looking to tick off all the classic monsters after already battling fish mutants in the Barge People?
Yeah, I’m working through that list alright. I think the great thing about Charlie’s films is there are no after-effects. So we get to have the creatures on set with us. It makes a huge difference and its a lot more fun. I will say that if you thought I had a rough time with the fish mutants in ‘The barge People’ then you ain’t seen nothing yet. I think ‘A Werewolf in England’ is really going to excite horror fans.
Candice Palladino (Lauren)
American actress Candice Palladino has worked on numerous short film projects and brings stage work experience to her second feature role in Vampire Virus as Lauren.
Tell us about your character Lauren?
Lauren is fabulous and was a lot of fun to play. She’s confident and a bit of a jokester. And, through that joking, she’s also sarcastic and brash. If you just observed her from the outside you might call her a bitch and she’d probably reply with a hearty, “Thanks.” But, at the end of the day, her blunt honesty is from the heart and only comes out with those she cares about deeply.
What was the audition process like for Vampire Virus?
It was actually quite relaxed. I had to submit a 1-2 minute monologue in my American accent, so had a bit of fun one afternoon recording my favourite piece. After that, Charlie offered me the job.
How did you hear about Vampire Virus?
I randomly saw a tweet from Charlie. He was looking for actors with genuine American accents for his upcoming feature, so I messaged him right away. It was definitely a ‘right place at the right time’ moment. Have to thank Twitter’s algorithm for that one, ha!
What are your thoughts on horror films?
I love them, but they used to frighten the living daylights out of me. So much so I’d go to see them before noon on Sundays. I told people it was because it was a cheaper ticket price, but it was really because I’d be able to leave the theatre when the sun was out and have enough time to get the movie out of my head before I had to turn the lights off and go to sleep. Now, after being in quite a few, I think they’re so cool and fascinating (and most of the time still scary). I love analyzing the special effects and wondering how something was done and what’s coming next. And, if it’s a story I can sink my teeth into (like what I did there?), I might even watch them on a Saturday night. I know, I’m growing, ha!
Was it nice having a fellow American on-set in Derek Nelson?
It was, but unfortunately, it wasn’t Derek as we didn’t share any scenes together. But, I have to say I loved meeting and hearing his story at a pre-production meeting. The American that kept me the company was Patrick Flannery who was our sound recordist and it was nice to reminisce. That being said, most of my chat with Natalie Martins (Jennifer), Makenna Guyler (Sarah), and Grace Blackman (Lindsay) was in the American accent, so once filming stopped and they went back to their native accents, I’d have to remind myself what country I was living in.
Who did you enjoy working with most?
I feel like that’s having to pick your favorite child, ha. I couldn’t possibly! But, if I HAD to pick… The dog (I apologize I forget their name). I mean, you’d pick a dog every time, right?
How did Vampire Virus test your acting skills?
This was my first time working with Charlie and it’s always wonderful to learn someone else’s process. He’s so calm and ninja-like…stealthily walking around set and setting up the shots. Some directors can be very vocal about what they want, but I quickly learned I needed to trust myself and the scene and when he wanted to see something different, he would tell me. Sometimes that ‘trust’ isn’t always there, so it was a wonderful reminder that I am enough, and I got the job for a reason.
Vampire Virus is pitched as more of a sexual vampire film, what is the atmosphere like on-set for more intimate scenes?
Everyone was super chill and respectful. Charlie didn’t have many people on set, so by keeping it small and intimate, there’s already a level of trust there.
What do you think of looking at vampirism as a virus?
It’s actually really interesting, and I think, especially given what’s happening at the moment, it adds an extra layer to the film.
Are you looking forward to the screening at Sohome Horror Festival?
YES! Just need to get my popcorn ready. And, because I’m sure you’re wondering… I drizzle it with melted butter. But, I’ve learned to make tea properly, so I think I earn some points with that one.
Would you like to work with Charlie Steeds and the Dark Temple crew again?
Another resounding YES! I’m so in awe of what Charlie has accomplished and created in his career so it would be a dream to be invited back for more (yup, my fingers are totally crossed).
Natalie Martins (Jennifer)
Natalie Martins is becoming something of a veteran member of the Dark Temple crew, having already starred in The Barge People plus the upcoming feature A Werewolf in England. Here she shares all the details about her character Jennifer –
Tell us how you got involved in Vampire Virus?
I worked with the director, Charlie Steeds, back in 2017 on The Barge People so it was a pleasant surprise to hear he wanted to put my name in the mix for Vampire Virus (previously titled After Dark). We’re really good friends so when it comes to casting it’s all relatively informal between us nowadays which is lovely. Charlie gave me a heads up to let me know he’d be casting soon and mentioned he’d be putting me forward to Ace Entertainment for the female lead. Although Charlie has a big influence in the casting on most of his films, Ace Entertainment also needed to give the final seal of approval on the main cast for this one. The ability to do an American accent was going to be the deciding factor really so I received my sides, brushed up on my US accent, sent a self-tape over for review and was fortunate enough to be confirmed for the role of Jennifer later that day! A very pain-free casting process all-in-all which was a breath of fresh air.
After The Barge People did you plan to work with Dark Temple Motion Pictures again?
I 100% feel like a fully-fledged member of the Dark Temple family now but I don’t think any actor can really “plan” to work with a company again as ultimately that decision is out of the actor’s hands. I certainly hoped to get the opportunity to work with Dark Temple (Charlie Steeds) again. I’m sure I always will. I adore Charlie. He’s not only a very talented writer and filmmaker but a very awesome friend too! He manages to create an environment both on and offset that is so easygoing and fun, made all the better by the fact he consistently fills his team with hardworking people that come to the set with a positive attitude. When casting, Charlie doesn’t only look for great actors he looks for great people too and on gruelling long, cold and hungry days it really does make a difference having people around that are able to keep spirits up, make you laugh and instinctively help each other out on set when it’s needed. It’s so easy to love working with the pools of talent Charlie brings together! You’ll probably spot a lot of recurring faces in his films which just goes to show how Charlie enjoys taking his actors along with him on his filmmaking adventures and we obviously all love the experience as we keep coming back for more!
How did you combine the role of acting and also being a photographer for the crew?
Surprisingly easily really. There’s a hell of a lot of downtime on a film set, especially for actors, so there’s always plenty of opportunities for me to reach for my camera to capture some stills and behind the scenes content. I love photography as much as I love acting so being able to incorporate both those aspects into the filming experience is such a blessing for me! Charlie appreciates the value of stills too so he’s more than happy for me to click away when I’m not needed in front of the camera, especially when there’s a bunch of really cool stuff going on – which I’m sure you can imagine, on a Charlie Steeds set, is very often! You can spot one of my favourite stills on the Vampire Virus poster. This shot of the super talented Jessica Alonso was taken during a rehearsal.
What can you tell us about the character of Jennifer?
Jennifer is a hard-working young woman who spends more time behind her desk than with her friends and this is something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by those who are closest to her. Jennifer embarks on a journey of self-discovery once they all call her out for prioritising work over her love life and she agrees to trade a quiet night in for a wild night out. After a boozy night dancing in a neon-lit club, Jennifer has an unusual sexual encounter which despite satisfying some of her inner sexual fantasies gives her a thirst for blood and a need for answers…
Do you think Vampire Virus has more of a psycho-sexual vibe than Charlie’s previous work?
This is not the first time Charlie has worked with sexual themes and I’m sure it won’t be the last. The Barge People and An English Haunting, for example, don’t lend themselves to sexual themes whereas A House Of Violent Desire and Vampire Virus does. Charlie loves horror – in literally all forms! And Vampire Virus was another opportunity for him to explore horror from a different angle. The film explores sexuality and is certainly sexy (from the visuals to the soundtrack) and pays homage to other great vampire films in that way.
Can we expect plenty of gore in the film?
Vampire Virus is not gore-free by any stretch but it’s not quite comparable to the sheer carnage of a film like The Barge People where Charlie had free reign to go all out! I know there were some limitations in place when it came to gore this time around so this was something Charlie had to workaround. However, don’t you worry, there’s still plenty of elements in this film that will prick up your ears and grab your attention!
What was the most difficult day of shooting for you?
Juggling multiple locations on a tight schedule with a large cast can make for a tough shoot but in all honesty, the most difficult day was probably my first day. I swear it’s always the first day for me, no matter how hard I prepare for a shoot beforehand! I tend to find myself stuck in my head for so much of it that I spend the day being very self-aware and quite self-critical and I very rarely complete day one believing I absolutely smashed it! It’s difficult mentally because you’re trying to establish yourself within a new team dynamic and environment, whilst also presenting your interpretation of your character to the director and fellow cast hoping that you’re not so massively off the mark that you have to rethink your approach entirely. I think actors have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on themselves but I suppose it all boils down to the fact that we care. It’s like going for an audition, you feel so prepared in the build-up but the moment you walk through the door your nerves kick in, your mouth goes dry and so much you had planned gets lost in the ether. Having said all that I actually spent the majority of day one in laughing fits with Petter Lofsgaard who plays the role of Jack in the film so even the most difficult days on set can be the most fun.
Which has been the bloodier experience for you, Vampire Virus or A Werewolf in England?
For me personally Vampire Virus was the bloodier experience, which I suppose was inevitable really – it’s a film about vampires. But don’t let my answer here fool you into thinking this is a reflection on which film is bloodier!
What can you tell us about the TV series White Sky?
White Sky is a Sci-Fi Thriller TV series to be directed by Adam Wilson. The series follows a trio of friends stranded in a forest trying to survive the unexpected invasion of aliens. It’s currently in the final scriptwriting phase so it’s still relatively early days. Having said that the production has been greenlit so if all goes to plan we’ll be able to begin shooting in September on a COVID regulated set – which will certainly be a new experience for all involved. I’ll be playing the lead role of Hailey where I’ll be joined by the ridiculously talented Makenna Guyler (who also worked on The Barge People and Vampire Virus with me). We’ll be playing sisters in the series which is something we’ve been wanting to do for years! We have the best time working together so I genuinely can’t wait! Her talent knows no bounds as she is also producing the series too. Watch this space!
Derek Nelson (Freddie)
For UK-based American actor Derek Nelson, Vampire Virus was his first time working with Dark Temple but he is now firmly part of their stable after landing a role in the upcoming feature A Werewolf in England.
We chatted to Derek about his role as Freddie, a cop with more going on than initially meets the eye and shaving your nipples in the name of art.
Tell us how you got involved with Vampire Virus?
I first caught onto Charlie’s work when I saw a trailer for The Barge People on joblo.com and I was blown away. I reached out saying how much I liked his work and would love to work with him one day. We ended up having lunch shortly after to meet and talk about projects and I was so impressed by the work he was doing. We kept in contact over the next year and a half and he invited me to the screenings of The Barge People and Winterskin. In 2019 he contacted me asking to read for the role of Freddie in Vampire Virus and I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I’d been wanting to work with this dude for years and this was my shot. Luckily I got hired for the job and now Charlie can’t get rid of me! Bet he regrets casting me now!
How was this different than your previous horror films?
The biggest difference from other films was also the most exciting for me and that is that Vampire Virus was my first film working with Charlie. Because we had met over a year prior I was already so comfortable working on his set and it meant he could get the best performance out of me.
What sort of vampire films did you use as a reference for Vampire Virus?
For me, I would always think of The Lost Boys and Near Dark. When we were on set shooting the club scenes Charlie played the sax solo from Lost Boys when we were dancing and I couldn’t stop thinking of that film from that point on!
Were you surprised audiences would get a chance to see the film so soon at Sohome Horror Festival?
I thought it was so cool that people got to see it before its official DVD release. I know Charlie loves hosting a screening for his films before they come out so I wasn’t too surprised.
What can you tell us about Freddie?
Freddie is the rookie cop in the group. He’s got some proving to do to his coworkers, but at the same time he is hiding things from them until he figures out if he can trust them. He’s a good cop and is on the fast track to a promising career until things start to hit a little too close to home. Freddie gets put in a difficult situation when his personal life and his professional life come to a head and he has to make a choice about how he wants to live his life.
Did you reference any particular police roles after getting this role?
One of my good friends is a police officer and I’ve always admired the way he approaches the job and the respect he has for it. A lot of my inspiration for Freddie came from him.
How gory is Vampire Virus on a scale of 1 – 10?
Well because of the nature of its release we had to hold back on some of the gore, but that’s not to say we didn’t use any! We just had to hide it a bit better than in some of Charlie’s other films! I’d say out of 10 I think it’d be fair to give it a 6. What we lacked in gore though we made up for in a romance. It’s one hell of a sexy vampire flick!
Vampire films in the majority have some sexual undertones going back to the 70s classics, is it fair to say Vampire Virus is more a psychosexual horror film?
I think that’s totally fair to say about the film and right on the money. Sexuality plays a very important role in the film narratively and wouldn’t work without it. The film is sexy as hell but also uses sexuality to send a more important message. I mean I even shaved my nips for this film so you know it’s sexy as hell…
What was it like for you portraying a gay character?
This is what drew me to the role of Freddie when I first read the script. He is torn with being true to himself and the person he loves or with the job that he loves. It’s a conflict that many people have had to face in their lives and doesn’t get represented often in horror films. I mean what’s more important to you, being with the one you love or your career? So to get the opportunity to play a character like that was one I couldn’t pass up. I also had an amazing partner in this film, Peter Lofsgard. He’s the kind of guy who always has your back and is fun to be around on set. If you’re around Petter you can’t help but be erect!
How long was the shoot for Vampire Virus?
The shoot for Vampire Virus was around 20 days. We shot in over half a dozen locations in and around Reading.
One of your latest roles is on Apocalypse Highway and looks like a very different role for you, what can you tell us about this film?
Apocalypse Highway is a film by Ciaron Davis. I had the pleasure of working with him on the Andrew Jones film The Manson Family Massacre and then again on D-Day Assassins. We really hit it off and did a lot of improv together on those two films. Ciaron is not only an actor but a writer/ director/ producer in his own right and he asked me to come on board with some of his upcoming projects. He is one of the most passionate artists I’ve worked with and we plan on shooting Apocalypse Highway and Vengeance at Yellow Creek back to back at either the end of this year or beginning of next year.
What was the transition like for you between Vampire Virus and A Werewolf in England?
The transition between Vampire Virus and A Werewolf in England was an interesting one. I was having lunch with Charlie towards the end of Vampire Virus and he told me he wanted to do a werewolf film next. One of my goals has been to play a werewolf so I asked him if I could be in it. Low and behold he said yes! It was quite a challenging role at first to get the movements we wanted for the wolves but once we had nailed the look it was one of the most fun shoots I’ve ever done. The list of despicable things I did as a werewolf to the actors in that film is remarkable. I also took on a more crew centric role for the film as well which really gave me an even greater appreciation for how much time, effort, and passion goes into creating a film. The whole film was practical so everything you see Charlie and I did for real!
Sam Ashurst (Co-writer of Vampire Virus)
Sam Ashurst is fast-becoming one of the most well-known names in the independent horror scene. As well as being co-host of the Arrow Video Podcast, he has also directed, produced, worked on special effects for numerous films plus co-writing Vampire Virus alongside director Charlie Steeds.
Tell us how you got involved with co-writing Vampire Virus?
I’ve been close friends with director Charlie Steeds for several years now, and we’ve been meeting up and talking about collaborating on something for a while. We used to have a routine where we’d meet at the Soho Theatre Bar, talk about our various film adventures, and then go to Fopp afterwards to buy Blu-rays together.
Vampire Virus came up at exactly the right time for both of us, Charlie was looking for a new project, and I was in early pre-production on A Little More Flesh, waiting for a couple of things to come together.
And, as you’re a horror site, it might interest you to know we were both coincidentally wearing Stephen King t-shirts when we decided to do this one as a team!
How did you find the collaboration with Charlie Steeds?
A dream. Charlie isn’t just a creative genius, he’s very pragmatic, which can feel like a surprisingly rare combination in the film industry.
Charlie knows exactly what he and his crew can achieve, and he knows how to push his own limits, which is something he was very keen to do on this.
When Charlie shot Vampire Virus, it was the most ambitious film he’d made at that point – largest cast, number of locations, set-pieces… It was a lot. I was proud to be a part of that step forward, because I truly believe he’s going to evolve into one of the most important British directors of the modern era.
Honestly, if people only knew what the budget for this film was, and what he’s achieved on it, they would be stunned. It’s one of the challenges for independent films like this, because they’re often directly compared to films with infinitely bigger budgets, and crews, especially when people watch stuff in festival environments, or when people stumble across stuff on VOD…
…But Charlie was essentially a one-man band on this, he directed, shot, and edited it, and he’s created a truly entertaining erotic action thriller that stands alongside its influences.
In terms of the script, was it a case of you and Charlie refining the story of Jerome Reygner and Sebastien Semon?
Jerome and Sebastien had their outline, which had the story, the structure, and included some key elements they wanted us to hit, which was the starting point for the whole project. Then I wrote an outline, which is what I felt I could write based on their ideas. Charlie moved stuff around and added stuff, and sent me a couple of modern movies as reference points, and we got that final outline approved, before moving onto the drafting process.
I wrote a load of different drafts, which kept evolving and evolving, before Charlie did his director’s draft, based on what he knew he could achieve, and what he felt he could push beyond that. The whole thing was very ambitious from the start.
If this was the case, how did the story change?
The story is still very much Jerome and Sebastien’s, we kept their big moments, but we were building on top of that. We were expanding their structure, as opposed to fundamentally changing it. We were having fun in the world they’d given us, if that makes sense.
I guess one of the key elements we wanted to make sure was absolutely clear, was that we wanted to get Jennifer to a place of strength, as opposed to weakness, while sticking to the final moments in the original outline.
Was Vampire Virus always an LGBT vampire story?
In the original outline, our lead character Jennifer had a male gay best friend, and she had a lesbian encounter with a vampire. Now, the lesbian encounter was clearly intended to be sexy, and it is very sexy in the film, but one idea we really liked was ‘What if the gay best friend had a sex life, too?’ Because you see this trope a lot in films and TV, the gay pal who’s there to be a shoulder to cry on, but is strangely celibate.
That’s something I really wanted to play with, and Charlie did too. So, it is an LGBTQ vampire story in that it has gay characters, but it’s not a didactic movie, its main purpose is to be a fun, vibrant and sexy film that entertains all audiences, including those who can sometimes be neglected.
What was the main challenge of the project for you?
This is the first non-meta movie I’ve been involved with. I like to play around with the audience in my films, and subvert expectations a little bit, structurally, with influences from literature. Whereas this was very much a film that goes from A to B to C – it needed to deliver that satisfying cinematic story structure we all know and love.
So it was more about subverting expectations within the tropes we were playing with, as opposed to using the film itself as a tool to deliver something new, which is what I’m more comfortable doing.
Also, I wanted this to feel like a Jess Franco film, or a Jean Rollin movie, so delivering that high-level of camp in a modern project like Vampire Virus, is always a risk. If the audience dials into that vibe, they’re going to absolutely love it, because it’s just so much fun on that level.
Did you spend much time on-set?
I actually spent a day on set, to film my cameo! I play a bartender in the movie, and I even have a line of dialogue, using my best American accent. My line has fallen into mine and Charlie’s lexicon, we quote it to each other frequently. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out what that line is, though!
What can you tell us about the sets for Vampire Virus?
I think the thing that sticks in my mind the most is the gorgeous lighting. Location was a key element for Charlie, finding places that looked so perfect that a large amount of production work wasn’t necessary, as he was pushing himself in so many other areas. So he’d find those perfect places, and light them beautifully. That said, I wasn’t on set a great deal – so that’s not necessarily my area of expertise on this one!
What is your history with vampire films, what are some of your favorites and did these choices influence your script for Vampire Virus?
I love vampire movies, stuff like Near Dark, The Lost Boys, and especially From Dusk Till Dawn. I was working as a cinema usher when From Dusk Till Dawn came out, so I think I’ve seen it on the big screen seventy or eighty times, I can quote every line. It’s a masterpiece. Our working title was actually After Dark, which is a reference to a song in that movie.
Charlie loves Tarantino as much as I do, we saw Once Upon A Time In Hollywood together, we agree that Django Unchained is Tarantino’s best movie, and From Dusk Till Dawn is a real shared favourite.
But in terms of my direct influences on Vampire Virus, it’s the European erotic cinema of directors like Jess Franco and Jean Rollin that had the biggest impact on how I approached this, so films like Fascination – which is also a key influence on my film, A Little More Flesh – and Vampyros Lesbos are good titles to dig into for Vampire Virus fans.
There’s a real European influence on the film in general – what Charlie did with it reminds me of Bava – both Mario and Lamberto!
Is there a breakout star of Vampire Virus?
Well, our lead Natalie Martins is a miracle worker, she’s fantastic. Jéssica Alonso is also an exciting talent, and if you compare her work on Charlie’s film An English Haunting to what she does here, she’s a real chameleon.
But I’d also say to keep an eye on some of the supporting cast, I think Makenna Guyler is a true, true star, and I hope to work with her one day myself. Her work in The Barge People blows me away whenever I watch it. It’s very hard to pick one person, Charlie’s got a great eye for talent.
Which character was the most fun to write about?
It’s got to be Jéssica Alonso’s character, who was named Tahis in the original treatment, but was transformed into Izabella. Izabella is the ID made flesh, she’s this confident and sexy vampire who’s pure charisma… I have to say, I have a soft spot for all of the characters, but in terms of pure fun, it’s her.
Describe Vampire Virus in three words?
Vampire Virus rules.
What are your thoughts on vampirism as a metaphor for a virus, something achieved in Joe Begos’ Bliss recently?
The virus element, believe it or not, wasn’t at the forefront of my mind when I was writing this, I was more interested in ideas of fighting repression, the power of tapping into your true self, of sexual freedom and the fluidity of youth.
But the connection to viral infection has been there since the inception of the genre. Some people believe that vampires were actually inspired by the rabies virus, because not only does it make you aggressive, it makes you sensitive to light, it gives you a fear of water, and it makes you hyper-sexual…
The connection with Joe Begos’ Bliss is interesting, obviously, Charlie and I made the movie before we saw Bliss, we actually saw it together at FrightFest, but there is a slight connection there, certainly in some of the lighting, but Begos’ film is very American, whereas ours has that European sensibility. They’re rooted in different things. I did show Begos pictures from the set of Vampire Virus, or After Dark as it was known then, and he seemed into the look of our film.
There are not many gay vampire films, why do you think this is?
I think there’s homoeroticism in a lot of your favourite vampire movies. Whether that’s Dracula’s Daughter, The Vampire Lovers, Interview With The Vampire, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Hunger, or The Lost Boys, or on TV with stuff like Buffy and True Blood. We’re just bringing that subtext to the foreground a little more, because we want our movie to be a home for everyone. I really hope this film gets the fanbase it deserves.
You are a bit of jack of all trades when it comes to filmmaking, so what do you enjoy most?
Well, the full version of that expression is ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ and I like to think of myself as the master of all that I survey, but to answer your lovely question, I’d say I enjoy directing the most, with writing a close second.
There’s nothing like bringing your complete vision to audiences and, as much as I love and support Vampire Virus, it’s Charlie’s vision. It’s a great vision, and I wouldn’t have worked with him if we didn’t share a specific taste, but it’s Charlie’s movie to be proud of.
What can you tell us about your next project?
I’m actually moving away from film for a little while, but I’m still going to be writing. I’m working on a novel, an insanely violent horror western, which Charlie’s actually going to write an introduction for.
Directing might be my favourite thing when it comes to filmmaking, but writing novels is like directing a movie with an unlimited budget and the greatest cast in the world, so I’m hugely enjoying the process.
And, in very exciting news, I’ve also just been made Director of Development at Hex Arcana Publishing, which is Hex’s international publishing house.
So if there’s anyone out there who’s sitting on a wild horror book, I’d love to read it. Get in touch with me on twitter @samashurst and let’s talk about your novel.
James Secker (Music Supervisor)
To help mould the sound of Vampire Virus, Dark Temple Motion Pictures turned to independent filmmaker James Secker (The Summoner). With many contacts in the retro synthwave scene, James was the perfect person to create an epic soundtrack for this thriller.
Here’s what James had to say about working on Vampire Virus –
How did you get involved with Vampire Virus?
The director, Charlie, was after an epic synthwave soundtrack so he contacted me about coming onboard as music supervisor to bring his soundtrack to life. I’ve wanted to work with him for awhile, so it was a great opportunity.
Your background is with the synthwave music scene, was this always the desire for the soundtrack for Vampire Virus?
Yeah, he knew I have contacts within the scene and wanted to utilise that. The project sounded exciting and I was keen to get involved.
How does the music reflect what is going on in the film?
The music has got to be the right mood for the scene, it’s all about balance. It’s a Goldilocks and the Three Bears situation, where it’s got to be just right. It was a fun and satisfying task putting that together. I’m very happy with the outcome.
What can you tell us about the artists involved in the soundtrack?
I wanted to bring in some heavy hitters from the synthwave scene, some I have worked with before and others I’ve wanted to collaborate with: Maxthor, Vampire Step-Dad, Billy Mays Band, Betamaxx, Street Cleaner, Jordan F, Magic Dance. SelloRekT / LA Dreams also provided a track, then decided to do an original single for the movie too which will be released on June 27th. It’s an eclectic mix of artists but one I feel works so well with the tone of the movie. I think people are going to really dig it.
Tell us about collaborating with Charlie Steeds on the film?
Charlie is a great filmmaker. He’s hardworking, quick to respond and really knows his cinema. He’s also very open to ideas. He’s a great person to work with. The soundtrack compliments his outstanding neon-soaked cinematography perfectly.
Were you on-set at any point during filming?
I was brought in at the post-production stage but would of loved to have been there. It looked like a blast to film.
How does this compare to directing and writing films?
A hell of alot less stress involved working on someone else’s film. You still want to do the best you can do but you don’t have to worry about the other hundred things going on aswell (casting, filming, editing, vfx, etc). I’ll be getting back into that world soon but I’m happy to take a back seat every once in awhile.
What is the next project on your slate?
Currently developing my debut feature, a violent futuristic action-thriller, very excited about that, I will talk more about that at a later date. I’ll also be working on two projects: Erick Solis’ Night Run and Benjamin Combes’ Commando Ninja 2: Invasion America.
Would you be interested in working on more soundtracks?
For sure. I love music and the power it has in film. The best films for me are the ones with incredible and memorable soundtracks. When you hear a track and it transports you to that world, there’s no feeling like it.
Catch Vampire Virus directed by Charlie Steeds at the Sohome Horror Film Festival: Pride Edition on Saturday 27th June 2020 at 6:30pm.