Coming to Netflix on July 23rd is Blood Red Sky, a compelling horror / thriller set on a passenger plane with some incredible performances and practical makeup effects! I recently had the opportunity to speak with director and co-written by Peter Thorwarth, who told me about the origins of this project, working with Peri Baumeister, and bringing the movie's vampire to life:
I wanted to start by learning more about the origins of this project. What sparked this idea for a horror movie set on a passenger flight?
It started when I was sitting on a transatlantic night flight. I was staring out the window and was thinking, "Okay, if I were a vampire, I’d have to organize myself, and take a night flight. When this gets hijacked, and the hijackers turn the plane around and fly backwards towards the rising sun, I have a problem."
Then I started thinking, "Maybe it's not me who has a problem. Maybe it’s the hijackers [that have the problem], because as a vampire, you have special kind of skills." This was the start of the idea, and then, I talked to a close friend of mine, Stefan Holtz. We wrote lots of screenplays together, [including] my first movie up till now.
We sat down and the first draft was very much based on this punchline . [Originally,] it was a little bit like From Dusk till Dawn, which I loved when I was at film school. It was one of my favorite movies, but a little bit later, I came up with an idea and said, "Maybe something is missing in there." Then I had the idea that she is a vampire, and she is traveling together with her little son, and he is not [a vampire] because she got bit back in the day. The reason for doing this trip is maybe she doesn't want to be a vampire.
I'm so pleased with what Peri Baumeister, our leading actress, and the little boy Carl did, because this emotional arc leads us through the story.
It’s interesting that you mentioned From Dusk till Dawn, because I didn't think about that film while I first watched Blood Red Sky, but you certainly do a similarly great job of setting up a compelling scenario, where we're really invested in these characters, outside of the vampire aspect.
It took me quite a long time to get this movie financed. In Germany, I mostly did comedies and everyone asked me, "Why do you want to do a movie like this?" But lots of people told me, "This is not going to work. Either you do a horror movie, or you do a drama."
But I got the feeling that it's about the feeling you set at the beginning of the story and using time in the first act to establish all those characters. I think this makes sense later on, because once you get to know those characters, you can relate to them.
You have a really strong cast, including Peri Baumeister. Can you talk about working with her to bring your lead character to life?
Peri came in very late because she was blocked because of another Netflix show, but they canceled it, so I could cast her and she was just perfect. Even in the audition she did, she was an absolute riot, with so much energy!
I tried to calm her down and said, even when we did the rehearsals, "Peri, we are not shooting right now, so you can spare your energy," but later on, I gave it up because I realized, this is the way she does it. When she did the action [scenes], she threw herself against the wall and she got bruises all over, but that's the way it works.
I think what I realized from the beginning on, she has both the physical strength and she has the touching emotion as well.
What would you say was the biggest challenge filming in this isolated plane cabin space? There is so much action and so many stunts you have to manage within a really small area.
Yeah. I think I realized it when I wrote the screenplay, because all of the action is so detailed, and it was really complicated because of the narrow space we had. It was really, tricky. It was like playing chess.
I'm glad for David Kosse, who was a guy from Netflix, and he knew the project from eight years ago. He read over the recent script I sent it and said, "I remember there were some flashbacks. I want to have them in the movie." I think those flashbacks tell a lot of the backstory, and, even visually, they make the movie look bigger, so it was perfect.
These days, the best movies are able to mix both practical and computer-generated effects, and I was happy to see so much practical FX. Can you talk about how you mixed both the practical world and digital effects to bring your vampire to life?
The special effects makeup was done by Mark Coulier, who also won two Oscars for Harry Potter and Grand Budapest Hotel. It was great working with him and his whole army of makeup artists. It was the best thing ever, when I went to his studio and saw all those busts and special effects. It was perfect!
Later on, we used, only slightly, some digital effects. For instance, to make her eyes bigger, and just widen the distance between the eyes just a little bit. I think it worked perfectly. I hate it when you say, "Okay, this definitely is a CGI creature." So we did everything practical, but we used a little bit of enhancing.
Now that you've really jumped into the horror world with Blood Red Sky, do you have any other horror projects in mind, whether it's for a follow-up to this movie or another type of horror movie?
Definitely! Maybe someone else can direct the follow-up, because once I've done it, I'm always looking for the next challenge. I would like to do more horror movies, but now I have almost finished my next script. This has a little bit my kind of humor, which is stupid and quite tough. It's dark humor, but the story takes place in the medieval times. Hopefully, it doesn't take me another 16 years to get this one financed!
Blood Red Sky is available on Netflix, starting July 23rd! To learn more, visit: http://www.netflix.com/BloodRedSky