Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS interview. This time I had a chance to talk to director John Knowles, who is helming CHASTITY BITES--a new vampire film which is just wrapping production as you read this. I found out about this project through AICN COMICS reviewer Lyzard, who is working on the production team of CHASTITY BITES, and jumped at the opportunity to find out more about the film in its nascent stage. Usually, I get to interview folks long after the film has been wrapped, so this is something kind of new and exciting for me. So expect more reports about CHASTITY BITES as Knowles finishes up the film in the coming months. It sounds like a very cool project.
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): I’m glad you took some time out to talk with me today.
JOHN KNOWLES (JK): Hey, not a problem. We have a later call for this afternoon; we are working the nightshift tonight, so I’ve got time this morning.
BUG: Cool. Well, yeah, let’s get right into it. So I’m here with John Knowles. Are you any relation to Harry Knowles here at Ain’t It Cool? (laughs)
JK: Not that I know of. I actually met Harry once in Chicago and asked him, but I don’t know if we have any kin.
BUG: Okay, so tell me a little bit about CHASTITY BITES. What’s the main plot of the film?
JK: Well it’s a horror movie that’s got a lot of social satire and comedy elements to it. Basically it revolves around the legend of Elizabeth Bathory, who was a real life serial killer in the 1600’s. She’s a real person, she killed like over 600 virgins, because she thought that their blood would keep her young and so she would kill them and then bathe in it and she was eventually discovered and walled up inside her castle and left to die. In our story she became immortal and was rescued by a coven of witches and escaped and now finds her way to contemporary America and she’s found the best way to keep her virgin blood supply strong was to work as an abstinence educator in high schools.
BUG: Okay, and so this is kind of a more modern take on a different kind of vampire legend than we usually see. We usually see a Dracula sort of story.
JK: Right, right.
BUG: Is that what kind of attracted you to this story? What brought you to this movie?
JK: You know my wife and I, Lottie, who wrote the script, we are big horror movie nuts and especially of the vampire genre and also kind of the old school vampire movies that were made in the 70’s, especially the Hammer films. There were quite a few that actually featured either Bathory or a Bathory-like character. Ingrid Pitt, who was one of the great old Hammer stars, she plays Bathory in a movie called COUNTESS DRACULA…I always thought those were really fun. They were very erotic…sometimes they are a little kitschy, but there was always the really fun element of the idea of this woman who was bathing in the blood rather than drinking it, which is something you don’t often see. Usually it’s vampires and fangs and they always drank the blood to survive. There were just so many fun parallels to what’s going on in society right now.
We also make fun of “THE REAL HOUSEWIVES of (Insert City Here)”, who are constantly getting plastic surgery and botox or collagen injections and here’s this horrible woman who has her own beauty regimen which is far more sinister than anything that they are doing and in the movie she actually gets two of these mothers hooked on her blood as like the ultimate botox essentially. So there are definitely a lot of fun elements there that really attracted me to the project and yes, the idea that she…she’s a character that you don’t often see anymore, because modern vampires basically all come from Dracula and a lot of people don’t realize that Bathory, because she’s a real person, actually inspired Bram Stoker. She was one of the original inspirations for DRACULA back in the day and I kind of wanted to touch on that legend again.
BUG: Cool. You mentioned how the Hammer films inspired you. What’s the tone of this film? Is it comedic? Is it more of a sensual film? What tone are you going for?
JK: We are going for kind of a dark comedy kind of tone. There are also a lot of high school elements to it in terms of high school comedy and the trials of going through high school and going up against he popular kids. A movie we touched on that we really loved is HEATHERS back in the day, which is kind of the king of dark high school comedies.
JK: So we are going for that kind of thing and it’s not an absurdist comedy with wacky hijinks and things like that, but it’s definitely got some really fun comedy to it. A lot of it comes through in the writing. It’s just really, really fun and it’s very biting in terms of the things we are commenting on in society. The main character, who is the heroine, is played by Allison Scagliotti from WAREHOUSE 13 and she and her friend are like the social outcasts of the school, they don’t fit in and especially her, because she’s smart. She’s incredibly smart. She’s very motivated and you know, she’s a strong feminist, which when you are 17 years old that doesn’t really fit in a lot of times in the high school environment, so she already sticks out and she’s the only one who kind of smells trouble coming when this woman shows up in town and starts killing virgins, especially most of the popular girls. Her interaction with her and her interaction with the popular girls is really fun to watch. On some level if you go from a scene with a great little interaction in the high school…there are some really fun lines and we immediately go into like slitting someone’s throat, but we are trying to play the kill theme not for comedy, but for fun and for gore. I don’t want anyone to die in the movie. I mean in some ways a lot of people who die kind of have it coming, but it’s fun to watch.
BUG: How gory is the film?
JK: It’s getting pretty gory. We are in the final stretch to where we are killing a lot of the virgins at the end of the week here and we have a lot of blood flowing and at one point someone gets their throat slit and they fill up a small basement and things like that. There’s a lot of knife work and fun stuff like that.
BUG: Great. So who’s doing your effects? Is there an effects team that’s working on this?
JK: We have an effects team and it’s not like an established effects company, but we’ve got a great group of people that work in that department on this film. Emma Burton, who is our head makeup gal is in charge of all of that and she’s doing a great job and it’s just fun. It’s the first time I’ve worked with any of that stuff and we are doing it old school. It’s taping tubes to the bottom of knives and filling the edge with a little blood before you cut, so you get a magic cut across the neck and things like that, you know, hiding big tubes of blood up the back of someone’s shirt and pumping it out through their neck and things like that. It’s a lot of fun.
BUG: Cool. So with there being so many vampire films out right now, what are you trying to do to distinguish yourselves from the rest of the herd?
JK: First and foremost we are really not huge fans at all of the whole TWILIGHT thing, so we are staying really far away from that. Vampire stuff should not be broody emasculated twinkling beings. I mean they are dangerous, they’re sexy, and that’s definitely what Elizabeth Bathory is, and we are adding a certain level of eroticism I think back to the whole vampire myth. In fact, we don’t have any fangs…she doesn’t drink the stuff, she just needs it to stay young and I think that’s something we haven’t seen in a while. We’re not doing the typical “It’s the end of the world” thing were they are like all pale Eurotrash vampires or anything like that. She can also travel during the day, she sensitive to light, but she’s not afraid of it. She’s basically able to blend and go incognito wherever she goes and she’s very crafty and very smart about covering her tracks wherever she goes and can just kind of disappear and then sort of stop into any town. So I think it’s a really fun spin. We aren’t necessarily calling it a vampire movie, because of who she is and the way she uses the blood, but it definitely has all of the elements to it and we have a great callback to kind of a Hammer-like scene which takes place in the 1600’s where we actually see her in action back in the day killing virgins. We already shot it and it looks amazing.
BUG: I hear that Stuart Gordon is making an appearance in your film?
JK: Yes, he is. He has a small cameo.
BUG: That’s very cool. Is that a secret?
JK: No, we’ve published photos of him. He plays one of the teachers at the high school. It’s kind of one of those teachers Allison looks to and one of the people she goes to for help initially and you know we shot that scene a couple of weeks ago, it was fantastic.
BUG: Did he pass on any horror wisdom to you guys making the film?
JK: Yeah, a little bit. We had a nice talk and it was a tough time to talk to him on the day, but Stuart’s a great guy and he’s incredibly generous and incredibly nice. We talked shop for a little while and one of the things I asked him, (laughs) “Does it get any easier? I mean I’ve got all of this blood and gore and makeup effects, but man it takes forever” and he’s like “Yeah, I know.”
JK: He’s like “I had the same problem on RE-ANIMATOR. The stuff takes a long time, but you want to put the effort into it to make it look good.” So yeah, he was very generous with his time and with his background and I hope to stay in touch with him. In the course of making the scene it turns out we live only like a few blocks from each other.
BUG: Oh wow.
JK: So yeah, we hope to see him again soon.
BUG: Very cool. So is this your first time directing a film or have you made previous films?
JK: This is my first time directing a feature. I’ve had a few short films before this and music videos and things like that, but this is my first on a feature.
BUG: So what would you say your style is based after? Who are your idols and inspirations?
JK: Oh, jeez. I definitely have my idols, I don’t know if I’m doing them justice with my style and my technique here, but it ranges with everyone from James Cameron and David Fincher to going back to guys like Sidney Lumet or David Lean back in the day. Obviously I’m not making LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, but I hope to someday (laughs), but I definitely pull a lot of influence from those guys and we were actually looking at a lot of Wes Craven’s work just to see what he’s done. We are actually friends with the two filmmakers who made the SCREAM documentary about the whole series and that started about a year ago and we went back and we watched all of his movies. You asked me about tone and that’s also a similar tone that I think we are trying to achieve with that, that level of horror and satire at the same time. You should see my DVD collection some time, because there’s like a thousand movies on a shelf and I love them all.
BUG: Very cool. When do you think you’ll be wrapping and when do you think the film will be making it to theaters or festivals?
JK: We are wrapping next Friday as our last shoot day and you know, right up until Christmas Eve, and that will be a long kind of six day week since we will film all of the final fight scenes and the final killing scenes. Once that is done we are going to start editing in January and we hope to have picture lock by March and then the whole thing wrapped up at the beginning of next summer and hopefully get that on the festival circuit and start shopping it for buyers. So we are really excited about it and we have every confidence it’s going to do really well.
BUG: Great, well best of luck to you. It sounds like a really fascinating film. I can’t wait to check it out. I appreciate you taking the time out to talk today.
JK: Thanks. Fantastic. Absolutely, man. Thanks for calling. I’ve been a big fan for years and when they said “Ain’t It Cool” I was so stoked that you guys were going to call. That’s been my dream, like “I hope Ain’t It Cool covers this movie.” You know what I mean?
BUG: (laughs) Sure, well yeah it sounds like a great project. I’ll talk to you soon.
JK: Alright, take it easy.
BUG: CHASTITY BITES wraps production this week and will be hitting the festival circuit. Find out more about CHASTITY BITES on its production blog here and look for more info about this promising project as it develops here on AICN HORROR.
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Mark is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and has just released FAMOUS MONSTERS first ever comic book miniseries LUNA (co-written by Martin Fisher with art by Tim Rees) You can pre-order it here! Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!
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