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Monday, 6 August 2012

Interview with the Vampire: The Reverend - Interview Feature

This guy's sharper than Blade, and cuts deeper in this new spin on a tried and tested formula. It's out now on DVD and shows what can be done with a genre that is already bursting at the seams.

Over the years we've had countless permutations on the vampire myth, but just when it looked as if the vamps had lost their bite, largely thanks to all that Twlight bollocks, up pops a vamp in, of all places, modern day Wales and kicks arse, big style.

OK before I talk about the film and to the stars, it's cards on the table time. The director, Neil Jones is a friend of mine and I actually appear in the movie, but that doesn't mean I have to gush praise. However I genuinely think this is a good movie and I'm proud to be a part of it. I'm not saying it's the best vampire film ever but it is a fucking good movie with a top knotch cast and made by people who genuinely love their craft. These guys don't go for the safe option and instead try and push the envelope...and believe me, I know that.


Stuart Brennan, the Reverend of the title, was attracted to the project by the story which came from long time collaborator, Neil Jones.

": The story first and foremost, it's a great take on the vampire genre and I find vigilante films very appealing, especially in the current climate. This film has a great mixture of modern issues, vampires and biblical undertones. It's the sort of story that can easily stand the test of time as the time and place are very nondescript, making it feel almost timeless, yet still has a poignant immediate relevance. Working with Neil Jones was the next big draw for the project, we have a very close working relationship and a shorthand between us that makes the work fast, fun and very rewarding. 
The other cast members were really exciting to work with as well. Tamer Hassan's work I knew well and I'm a big fan of The Football Factory, so couldn't wait to work with him. Doug Bradley is a horror legend in his own right, as is Geovanni Lombardo Radice. Shane Richie is such a great positive energy to be around I was excited to work with him again. We also had lots of great new young actors like Marcia Do Vales, Mads Koudal, Emily Booth and Edmund Kingsley. I love Blade Runner - love it. So Rutger Hauer.... man, to work with him was a dream come true."
 Co-star, the Marcia Do Vales was also taken by the story and was eager to work with Neil Jones.

"Neil Jones  is a great director and I was excited at the opportunity to work with him. And then the story… and my role specifically, “The Girl”.  I think it was a very interesting role to play. She is mysterious, dangerous and even compassionate."

 The story sees a new reverend arriving in a new parish in a troubled town. Soon our everyman priest find himself the victim of great evil kicked off  by Satan himself, played by Rutger Hauer in an effective cameo appearance. That's the one oddity about the way this film is being marketed with the movie poster suggesting Hauer is an integral part of the movie when he isn't really, but his appearance does add gravitas to proceedings.  Though it may have been better if money was saved on Hauer's fee and added elsewhere to the budget, still his casting will probably make sense in that it should attract viewers. 

 Our young reverend, now a vampire,  decides to sate his new bloodlust on the scum that terrorize the  neighborhood. Think Death Wish with fangs or a Batman that bites, and you'll have the gist of things. However it really is deeper than that and  the movie is heavily imbued with religious symbolism, the Book of Job being particularly important.  I asked the director, who studied theology, about this.

"The Biblical book of Job really interested me, it’s like no other book in the Bible, it’s really dark. I just thought that would make a great film. I wanted to make it, but obviously I’m not at the level where I can work with huge budgets, so I decided to take the concept and try and work it into a modern day setting with a commercial driving force, hence Vampire film!"


The film riffs on the vampire mythos - I asked both Stuart and Marcia what it is about these creatures that so fascinates movie fans? 

STUART: The vampire is one of the first real superheroes, they're the bad boys of literature. With a dark and terrible streak. It makes them seriously cool. 
I think we all secretly want to be a vampire. Live forever, kill those you hate, let those you like live forever too. It's fantasy at its best.
Vampires allow us to enjoy the dark side of our imagination, as we know they're bad, we know they're wrong and unreal - but they're also sexy and cool. 

MARCIA: Obviously the story of Dracula has continued to appeal to generations of horror fans because it is such a wonderful and tragic story. For me though, Vampires have a sexual appeal whereas no other "monster" does.  
Directly following filming on The Reverend, Marcia was back on set again under the direction of Neil Jones on the horror movie, Deranged. I wondered if she was worried about being seen as a scream queen?
Marcia "Better to be a Queen of something than not to be a Queen of anything… How could being a “Queen” be a bad thing? Jajaja. No, I’m not worried as it suggests the movies will have some success and I would be very happy about that indeed. Horror movies in general are a lot of fun to work on but I do have future projects in the works now that are not horror films. My next big character will be in a Thriller/Action movie and I get to kick a lot of ass! That film shoots between Brazil and Spain. I also just finished a 3 year directing course so I hope to get the chance to direct a movie myself soon."
Stuart's previous movie was the Bafta winning, Risen, and these movies are on the surface far apart, so is it important to for the actor to prove himself versatile?

Stuart "It's something I take quite seriously. I never want to be type cast. I love creating characters. I think there are quite a few similarities between The Reverend and Howard Winstone (Risen), as they're both quite quiet characters, with a hidden power and confidence. The next few roles I have lined up are all very, very different. That's not to say I would turn something down if it was similar to something I had already done, it's always a project by project assessment. 
I'd love to play a vampire again."
My bit
Watching the movie now reminded me somewhat of the classic UK horrors from the likes of Amicus and Hammer, which is refreshing given the spate of unoriginal slasher movies that seem to have dominated the horror genre in recent years. Hammer are back in the swing of things with the studio seeing huge success with, The Woman in Black. I asked Neil if we were seeing a new golden age for the genre.
NEIL: "The Reverend is a little akin to the older horror films I think, as already touched upon it was important to me that we understand the characters’ motivation throughout the film. I wanted to make it as gritty and realistic as possible. Yes it’s a Vampire film, but I wanted it to be realistic in the setting. Obviously we can’t relate to being a Vampire but we can relate to a journey everyone takes. I don’t like the torture porn genre, I never wanted The Reverend to be just about the gore, I suppose as a film-maker I’m striving to tell stories we can all on some level understand what’s at stake (no pun intended) for the characters’ and hopefully that will engage the audience more. It depends what you mean as a resurgence, there is definitely a lot of horror features being made in the UK now, HD camera’s are so accessible these days that more people can attempt to make a film, however I think with that comes a lot of  poorly planned films. Personally I’m all for going out and making a film. People generally class RISEN as my first feature, and in a way it was my first feature I had a budget for. Before that however, I had done two features with no budget with mainly friends helping out. We shot on MiniDV and while the films are not great, they definitely taught me a lot and  helped me improve. Yes a lot gets made these days and with that a lot of films are not great, but it’s the route I took and I totally encourage it."
The Reverend is out on DVD today and with the weight of distribution company, Metrodome behind it, it should do well. Indeed it's got the potential to do great things. This is cutting edge indie cinema from a great director with an excellent cast. Shaun Ritchie for instance, familiar  from Eastenders, is absolutely superb in his role as a pimp and his performance will have fans over the Alfie Moon.
Both Stuart and Marcia understand the horror genre and so I asked them both if they had any fave chilling movies.

MARCIA: Shining, Sixth Sense, The others, Julia´s eyes. 
STUART: Night Watch - that's spectacular. 
Stakeland - very similar in tone and feel to The Reverend. 
The Others, The Shining, Wolf Creek and The Orphanage - all really chilling. 
For me there needs to be a great story. Gore and sex for the sake of it are a turn off for me. If I don't buy into the characters and the story I'm not interested.
I love the horror genre though!

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