Frightfest interview with Barbara Crampton 

Ahead of her eagerly awaited presence at Horror Channel FrightFest 2017, genre icon, actress & producer BARBARA CRAMPTON talks exclusively about her latest film Replace, battling chronic fatigue syndrome and her passion for supporting new talent.

Q: REPLACE raises questions about beauty, body image and growing older, issues that many feel plague the Hollywood movie industry. What is your view on this subject?

The best movies reflect our inner world, our hopes, our good intentions, trials and our demons. Growing old and the fear of death is endemic to all, not just the movie industry. Just when you begin to figure it out your back aches, your skin starts to wrinkle and you gain weight just by LOOKING at your food. Let’s be frank: Aging sucks! But it also gives you a calendar to get things done. If we had an abundance of time we might be sloths putting off everything and accomplishing nothing. To me the best thing you can do is to live in each moment as successfully as possible. That translates to all areas of your life, personal, career and lifestyle choices. 

I am not immune however to feeling the anxiety of it all and I do believe most of us lack a grace about allowing nature and gravity to happen. We are collectively obsessed with youth and beauty that’s a problem.

Q: Co-writer/director Norbert Keil says he got the idea for Replace after going to hospital for a back operation. Was that something you could empathise with – the feelings of mortality raised when in such a medical environment?

It wasn’t a medical environment that did it for me but rather a chronic illness. I developed chronic fatigue syndrome 12 years ago after a parasite I had went undiagnosed for 9 months. I was literally in bed for 2 years. The worst time of my life. I was confronted with the fear of the termination of my long term health. Some people live with CFS and never recover. The medical community is still baffled by the syndrome. For me it was quite possibly that my immune system was acting in overdrive, first to rid itself of the parasite and then not being able to turn itself off when the parasite was eradicated. One doctor saved me. Per his instructions I had to become a model patient and test every part of my being: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. I worked on every system to lubricate every aspect. I actually healed things I didn’t realize needed work. Finally my body calmed down and recovered. At one point though, when I was at my lowest, I thought, “Is this it? I haven’t done enough yet!” After I was better, that’s when I started working harder on everything, including my appreciation for being here.


Q: Doctor Rafaela Crober was a part originally written for a man, so what if anything changed in the script to accommodate your feminine side?  

Not too much. A few pieces of dialogue here and there. Science is not male or female and the quest for longevity, which is really what Dr. Crober is interested in, transcends gender.

Q: You’ve said you wanted to play Doctor Crober as someone in full control, can you elaborate?

Crober is playing with science too, albeit for different reasons than Kira, her patient. She has to be so sure of herself and where she thinks the journey will take mankind to pursue such lofty goals. Saying more would give too much away if you haven’t seen the film.


Q: Richard Stanley was a co-writer on Replace. Were you familiar with his work and reputation and did he attend the shooting?

Of course, his reputation is legendary. Richard is a fascinating visionary, an artist. He got a very raw deal on The Island of Dr. Moreau. Fortunately people in the industry realize this and he has some great opportunities coming up. Long overdue. 

Q: Replace is such a visually stunning movie with a very precise look. How does seeing that magic happening around you colour your performance? 

To be honest I did not visualize the movie as it was (in the finished film) while on set. I had a picture in my mind when I read the script that was very subjective to my character. The visuals blew me away when I saw the final finished film. It makes sense though I think, that the visuals are so beautiful and striking, as the movie is from the mind of protagonist Kira. She’s looking for beauty to support the needs of her soul.


Q: The film has an early David Cronenberg feel, did director Norbert Keil discuss any body horror influences or inspirations with you? 

Cronenberg was a very direct influence. And I think the themes of Richard’s work on The Island of Dr. Moreau.

Q: You have now been a guest at many of the world’s fantasy festivals. And this is your second time at FrightFest. Why are these events so important and what makes FrightFest stand out?

I am so grateful to back in the film community and to be fortunate enough to travel to Fests where audiences support and love genre cinema. We are in a transitional period though I believe and festivals for film are one of the only things keeping us alive, supporting new film makers. Film fests are sometimes your only theatrical release so it is of great importance to have your film shown at one that audiences will hopefully love and a distribution company will hopefully buy. FrightFest has a very saavy audience and a very vocal one. You want people to cheer for you and have journalists write a nice review to get distribution companies to make you an offer! 


Q: You’re more prolific in the genre than ever. You had four movies showing at FrightFest in 2015 and you have another four in post-production. You are clearly enjoying it more this time around? 

I’m having a ball really while enjoying the work in a way I never did before. I’m much more relaxed about my place in the business and I enjoy helping others realize the same dreams I had at a young age. I am invested in each project I work on even if I’m not involved in a producer capacity. I want to help others create the best film they possibly can.

Q: You’ve chosen to be a mentor for FrightFest & MPI Media’s NEW BLOOD Initiative. Is supporting new genre writers an important mission for you?

I am passionate about having the best script possible to begin the journey to creating a film. I do think that too many times the script isn’t as good as it could be and “people” forgive themselves too soon about that and forge ahead with submitting a script or filming without being completely ready. The script is your foundation, spend lots of time on it. I love writers. They have the capacity for insight and understanding of human nature, of people’s vulnerabilities, strengths and desires. When I read a great script with characters I care about, I fall in love with the writer a little bit.

I feel I can help a lot with the development process of a screenplay. Character is story and story is character. The journey that an actor will take in the story is something I am very familiar with and have worked on a lot. The script is the very first thing you begin with, so let’s get that right first. Then we can discuss the importance of making a great first impression with your freshman effort if you want to direct it as well. It used to be that you made a film and people in charge would see “promise” in you and you’d be able to move on to your next movie. That’s becoming harder and harder for a lot of reasons. Make the best damn first film you can.

My friend, esteemed journalist and film critic, Steve Prokopy said to me recently, “20% of all movies are truly great or really awful. The rest exist in a grey zone of average, above average or below average.”  What kind of movie do you want people to say you’ve made? Impressions are important on a first date and a first movie.


Q: You’re increasingly becoming involved in films as a producer. Do you feel this is a natural progression in your career?

At this point in my life and career it depends on the project. If I really love something I’ll want to work on it. For me a story needs a strong narrative with an emotional core. That’s what my sensibilities are attracted to. I really love acting and I do enjoy helping others realize their dream.

Q: Finally, what’s next?

I have two projects that I’m actively working on to produce. One, I may have an acting part in as well. There are also a few movies which I shot in the last two years or so as an actor only and they are still in various stages of post-production. Hopefully I’ll be seeing you next year on the fest circuit with one of those!

 

REPLACE receives its UK Premiere on Sunday 27 Aug, 3.30pm at The Prince Charles Cinema, Leicester Square, as part of Horror Channel FrightFest 2017. Barbara is also a mentor for the FrightFest / MPI Media UK script writing talent search NEW BLOOD.

 

 

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Interview with Barbara Crampton – Frightfest 2015

  
 

On the eve of Film4 FrightFest 2015, Barbara Crampton talks about part of the ‘horror club’, scary scripts, still doing the laundry and why Abner Pastoll is one to watch.Q: Welcome to FrightFest Barbara. What was your initial reaction when told you were this year’s special Icon guest?

 A: First of all, I want to say thank you for having me. The importance of these film festivals for young directors to get their work seen and recognized is of the upmost importance in today’s film market. The competition to be included in one of the major genre film festivals is extremely high. When I was a young actress there were a handful of festivals where people could showcase their work. Today, there are many genre festivals across the globe that introduce the hungry audiences to their deepest fears, anxieties and monsters in the bedroom. That being said, to be invited to one of the best genre festivals around today, to be remembered for my past horror movies and to share some of my recent work, to support the new young film makers that I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with is very meaningful to me. I have worked in this genre for a long-time but only recently have come to realize how important these movies have been to me and continue to be for so many people. Finally, I feel like I am part of a club I didn’t realize I have been in for a long-time. To be this year’s special guest is an honour and one for which I am truly grateful.

 Q: You have four films at FrightFest. You seem busier than ever. What is the secret to your career longevity?

 A: My longevity is a complete surprise to me. About 15 years ago when I moved up to San Francisco with my husband I thought I was done. I got married, I had two kids back to back; that was something I felt was really missing from my life. So the years with my growing family were very precious and important to me. I completely lost myself in being a mom, happily so. When I got the call to appear in YOU’RE NEXT, I thought it would be a brief diversion from family life. Little did I know how much fun I was going to have playing with all of these burgeoning, creative film makers and that I would easily be lured back a few more times. Currently, I am able to balance my home life and work life. I do have a few other acting jobs coming up and I am producing one movie and have another in development. My family has been incredibly supportive and I, in turn, keep coming back to do their laundry, shop for their back to school supplies and organize their after school activities. I am even planning a get-a-way vacation with my husband! I think for me the longevity is about doing all of these things that I really love, leaving space for all that comes up in life.

 Q: SUN CHOKE is getting a lot of positive reaction and you are brilliant in the film. What made you choose to play that role?

 A: When I first read the script it really scared me, the role I mean. The film is very dark and explores some very fearsome inclinations in one’s psyche. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go there or even if I could. But it is so different than any other character I have ever played that I didn’t want the fear of playing the role get in the way. So with a lot of trepidation, I said yes and was treated to an amazing, collaborative experience with one of the best actresses I have ever worked with and some of the best material that’s been offered to me. I am glad it’s getting so much positive response. I think the writer/director Ben Cresciman is extremely talented and the production team I worked with was top notch. I am glad my fear didn’t get in the way of being scary.

 Q: WE ARE STILL HERE has been very popular on the festival circuit. Is that because director Ted Geoghegan is a horror buff and knows all the fanboy tricks?

 A: Potentially there’s a small amount of truth to that but is too simplistic a statement to make. My friend Ted has a rich knowledge of the genre, that is true, but he also has a deep heart and soul that can connect to varying characters and their motivations. The story he created works on many levels. It has a grounded foundation in two people’s grief and loss, and many supernatural scares. It has a connection to history, first of the genre and to something endemic to the story. Not to mention the fact that Ted was aided by two of the most important people that made WE ARE STILL HERE a festival favourite, Karim Hussain, our stylish and formidable Director of Photography and our Producer, Travis Stevens whose guidance, smarts and kindness improved every aspect of the film.

  
Q: ROAD GAMES is Abner Pastoll’s feature debut as a director? You seem to like supporting first time directors?

 A: I have worked with one of the best horror directors of the 1980s but I think it’s important to support the young filmmakers of today. They have interesting stories to tell that reflect their state of mind and current popular culture. When Abner reached out to me personally to ask me to play a part in his movie, I read the script and was completely floored by it. It was one of the most well crafted screenplays I ever read and had a unique sense of humour. I think Abner is one to watch in the coming years.

 Q: You only have a small cameo in TALES OF HALLOWEEN. You are in Axelle Carolyn’s episode at a party scene with directors Stuart Gordon and Mick Garris and actress Lisa Marie. Fun to do?

 A: Yes! We had a great evening all together, it is a party scene so we acted like we were at a party. I know these people quite well and we had a great time between set-ups, getting caught up and reminiscing. Two people in the scene that I didn’t know very well were Lin Shaye and Alex Essoe. I was excited to work with both of them as I am a fan of both actresses. I had just seen Alex in STARRY EYES and she impressed me with her work as a starving actress who will do anything to get what she wants. Also, I really wanted to support my friend, Axelle Carolyn. She’s the one who came up with the original premise for TALES OF HALLOWEEN. She put it all together. She’s a woman, she’s fierce and I wanted to help her see her vision realized, no matter how small a part I ultimately had to play. The movie itself has been getting a great response and I am so happy and proud of her.

  
 Q: What keeps drawing you back to the Horror Genre and how do you feel being crowned a ‘Scream Queen’?

 A: Horror movies are like a thrill ride, they’re fun and exciting and you don’t know exactly how your body is going to feel after dipping off the high precipice of some downward spiraled roller coaster of scares. At first I was surprised to find myself in this genre. Then I felt warmed and welcomed by the creatives making these spectacles and also the audiences who appreciate them. It is now a genre that I proudly call my home. I find myself watching more horror movies on my off time than any other genre. In an odd way, I actually feel relaxed after watching one. Your body tenses up and is on high alert and at the end when everything is safe you can finally relax because the hero/heroine has won. Another thing horror movies does for you is prepares you for tragic things to occur, including the loss of a loved one or even your own death. If you can go through the experience of watching a horror movie subjectively than objectively it could soften the potential blow of horrific things to come, you’ve been prepared. People always ask me this question about how I feel being crowned a ‘Scream Queen,’ I don’t know if I have ever come up with the ultimate answer. But the fact that people keep asking me to be involved is completely gratifying and satisfying. You can call me Barbara, Miss Crampton or Miss Queen, just keep calling me…

 Q: You grew up on the Carnival circuit. Can you describe what that was like?

 A: Fun, exciting, weird. We were always in a new town every week so I would make friends with the ride boys, the fried bread dough sellers and the bearded lady. I could ride any ride I wanted on the lot for free, play any game, see any show and I had hundreds of stuffed animals in my room at home. The carnival world was full of questionable and interesting characters mostly living on the fringe of life. A lot of people working in that industry felt like they didn’t belong; being on the road and constantly moving oddly gave them a sense of peace. There was a unity and camaraderie that we all experienced coming from different backgrounds. It enabled me to completely put myself in other’s shoes and be non-judgemental which is one of the greatest gifts my family has ever given me. I hope it continues to afford me the momentum of treating all others with respect and kindness no matter who they are, where they come from, what bodies they choose to inhabit or whom they want to love.

  
 Q: You have a stage background. How important an influence has this been and continues to be?

 A: I am very happy that I had a full education for my acting background. Scene study, character analysis, stage combat, movment, voice lessons. All these things help inform every role I have ever played. To have a classic background and education in acting is something I think is missing in the young actors of today. Everyone seems to just act as who they are naturally. Where is the character development? I think sometimes the British actors are a little more advanced in that area than we are. Working on the stage really prepares you to engage your whole physical being in the process of creating a character.

 Q: We all remember you from RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND of course but how do you reflect on what those two films did for you?

 A: A loose quote, but as Herbert West once said, “They gave me life!” I don’t think I would be where I am today without having had the glorious opportunity of working on two beloved films by Stuart Gordon. Those films, especially RE-ANIMATOR launched my career as an actress. I am forever grateful to both Stuart Gordon for giving me the role of Megan Halsey and for the other girl who had it first and turned it down.

 Q: How do you think the Horror genre has changed/evolved over the years since you started out?

 A: That’s a big question! Do you have an hour? In short, as far as I can tell, there are some major things that have evolved. It’s easier than ever to make a movie, anyone can do it, perhaps not well, but anyone can. We have digital instead of film so it’s a faster process. It’s more collaborative than it’s ever been and everyone seems to understand each other’s jobs. There are many more platforms on which to show your work and also one thing has never changed: no one is ever completely satisfied, the artist or the audience. We are smarter and more difficult to please than ever.

 Q: What has been your favourite role so far?

 A: My favourite role so far is the one I am doing right now.

 Q: And the favourite role you’d love to play?

 A: I probably won’t know that until after I have finished it because it’s in the doing of things and the immediacy of performing that I think we get our deepest personal rewards.

JM

From Beyond (1986)

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Dr. Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) and Dr. Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs) are researching the effect that a resonator has on the pineal gland. They believe that stimulating the gland lets people see a reality beyond our own that is otherwise invisible to the naked eye. Crawford activates the resonator and begins to see strange creatures floating around him. When he is bitten by one of these creatures, he tells Dr. Pretorius to turn the machine off. Dr. Pretorius refuses, telling Crawford that it’s giving him a feeling like no other.

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Crawford flees the laboratory and is stopped by the police. When the police find Dr. Pretorius dead, they charge Crawford with his murder. Crawford is committed to a mental asylum where he is then interviewed by Dr. Katherine McMichaels (Barbara Crampton). Crawford tells Dr. McMichaels about what happened in the laboratory. Together with a detective Bubba Brownlee (Ken Foree), the three go back to the laboratory to find out what really happened to Dr. Pretorius.

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Directed by Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator), and based on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, this is one crazy film. It is packed to the rafters of gory and gloopy practical effects. The script and acting are a tad wobbly at times, but it adds to the overall charm and ‘B-Movie’ feel to the film. Jeffrey Combs is always good value for money. He always delivers a solid performance, no matter what the overall film is like. Ted Sorel plays the part of the perverse Dr. Pretorius brilliantly. His transformation into the hideous monster is great, and he delivers his lines with relish. I like Barbara Crampton, but she feels wasted here. She is mostly just a damsel in distress, but she reacts in some strange ways throughout the movie, even getting dressed up in bondage gear during one strange scene.

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I have never read the short story that the film is based on, so how faithful it is I couldn’t really say. But as it’s Stuart Gordon and he directed another Lovecraft tale in ‘Re-Animator’ , you know it’s a pretty safe bet for some gratuitous violence and an overall tongue in cheek tone. I really enjoy this movie, however it’s not for the squeamish, so if guts and gore aren’t your bag then steer clear. For the rest of you gorehounds, dig in and enjoy.

4/5

JM

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