Barbara Crampton takes on a devilishly fun role in Dead Night, now in select theaters and on VOD courtesy of Dark Sky Films. Also starring Brea Grant and AJ Bowen, the movie follows a family (parents played by Grant and Bowen) that heads to a remote cabin in Oregon and stumbles across a mysterious woman, played by Barbara Crampton, who is passed out in the snow. Unfortunately for the family, this mysterious woman is anything but helpless and the night quickly turns deadly.
I caught up with Barbara Crampton to talk to her about taking on this fun and different role, reteaming with Brea Grant and AJ Bowen, what she looks for when taking on a new genre role, and she also talks about her upcoming roles in Reborn and the Castle Freak remake:
Just getting started, back at the beginning, how did you get approached with this? Obviously, I'm sure you see quite a few scripts. What made you want to say “yes” to this one?
Barbara Crampton: It was funny because I'm not sure if they initially thought of me. It was a number of years ago that I was walking around AFM [American Film Market] in Los Angeles with Jackson Stewart and we were trying to trump up interest for Beyond the Gates. And we happened upon a room that Don Coscarelli was in selling his Phantasm box set. And he's like, "Barbara, Barbara, come here and sit down. Oh, my God, I'm executive producing this script, and maybe you would be right for this. Let me send it to you."
So, he sent me the script, and I didn't know the director, Brad Baruh, but I read it and I couldn’t believe that they were interested in me for it, or had even thought of me, because the role is incredible and so interesting and something that I've really never played before. And that was very intriguing to me, because as I've gotten older, I'm trying to mix it up, and I just don't want to play this femme fatale screaming for her life that I played when I was younger. So, I was very moved by the script and the part.
AJ Bowen was already attached, and they told me they were talking to Brea Grant. They're both my friends, and I’ve worked with them, and I thought, "Wow, this is great. I really hope this happens." They didn't quite have all the financing yet, but it seemed like it was coming together.
So, every week I sent an email to Don and to Brad, stalking them, basically, and saying, "When is the movie happening, and what's going on? I really want to do this. I'm so down for it. What do you need from me? How can I help you?" I didn't give them any room to think about anybody else until they made me a formal offer maybe two months later, and that's how it happened.
This is such a fun role to see you in. It’s very devilish. There’s this uneasiness from the moment you first appear, and things slowly unravel until all hell breaks loose.
Barbara Crampton: What intrigued me about the part was that she's not really a human being. She's part human being, but part supernatural as well, being sort of conjured from some unholy union between a human being and something else. It's never really explained, but I think anybody that watches Lovecraft or knows about Cthulhu can kind of ascertain that it's something like “the other.” And that also intrigued me and gave me a lot of room to be able to play my part in a way that I could just sort of invent and make up and find some interesting things to do that you wouldn't expect.
Where did filming take place? It was a very scenic location.
Barbara Crampton: A lot of it took place in Lake Tahoe, not far away from where I live in San Francisco. So, it was about three hours away, and we have a small condo there, because we're big skiers. I was actually able to go up there and film for a few weeks and stay at my own condo while everybody else stayed at some houses that production rented right on the lake. It was quite beautiful, the location house that we had, and also the homes that the actors and the crew were staying in were all beautiful homes in a lovely setting.
Some of the scenes also took place on a soundstage in Los Angeles, and then also at Brad Baruh's family home where he grew up in Hillsborough, CA. That house was used for the ad campaign that you saw.
As you mentioned, you’re friends with AJ and Brea. What was it like filming these intense and physical scenes with the two of them, especially when things start to get makeup effects heavy?
Barbara Crampton: They're both such generous actors, and both so real in their delivery. I've known AJ going on eight years, since we filmed You’re Next. And Brea, I worked with very closely on Beyond the Gates. So, we have a shorthand and we are really comfortable with one another, and I think everybody was down for everything, and it seemed very easy for us to work together.
There was one particular scene in the beginning of the movie where they rescue me. I'm lying face down in the snow, and Brea gives me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. In the film, I have the line of dialogue where I say, "I woke up in the snow and then next thing I know your tongue was in my mouth." And that's when you first realize, "Oh, my God, this woman is batty."
Later on, after I sort of have them under my spell and my power, I clearly have the advantage. I thought, To put a button on that, I should also stick my tongue in Brea's mouth. And I did that in the film, and then they put the effects on it and made my tongue this long, snarly, otherworldly thing.
To Brea, I said, "Do you mind?" I was kind of nervous to ask her that. I said, "Do you mind if I do that? I feel like I want to show that I have a sense of power over you. And I think that would be a nice callback to one of the first moments that you've seen me. Is that okay?" And she's like, "Oh, God, yes. Let's just go for it!”
So we filmed that, and it didn't make the final cut. A lot of times people will show me the first or second cuts of things and I'll give my two cents if they want it, and Brad did show it to me, and I said, "Brad, you've got to put that back in." I rarely say that to anybody. "Look, that's a really good moment." And he's like, "I don't know. It might be a little much." I said, "Are you kidding? Look at the rest of the movie."
I said, "Brad, please, please put that back in. You have to put that back in. I'm begging you." And he said, "Okay." So he put it back in and I think it really works and I got to kiss Brea Grant. What could be better than that?
Yeah, the movie goes surprisingly further than I was expecting in terms of the gore and makeup effects. I thought the young actors also did a great job, considering everything that was asked of them.
Barbara Crampton: The kids that were in the film, we were all staying in Lake Tahoe. I was staying by myself, which actually proved to be kind of good in a way. All the actors were staying in the same house, something like a seven-bedroom mansion on the lake. It was an incredible place. And I would come over and hang out in the living room space, and we would all go through our scenes together.
Between scenes, we were all in the living room together. We played Monopoly and cards and we did puzzles. In between that time, we were running our lines, talking about the scene, how we could make it better, and we were really work-shopping the scene and filming in a very comfortable, beautiful setting. It felt like we were all together in this crazy, weird, supernatural room.
The young kids were incredible. They auditioned a lot of different people for those roles, and they found some fantastic actors. They were all really different and completely believable, and I was blown away by them. I didn't think there was a false note in any of their performances. I just loved them, and they've all become young friends of mine.
You’re in this, and you have Puppet Master [The Littlest Reich] coming up. With so many roles being offered to you, what do you think makes for a good genre movie? What makes a project or script really stand out to the point that you say "Yes, I want to be a part of this"?
Barbara Crampton: That's a very good question, and I think probably different for everyone. I know for me, I have to have some emotional connection that has a foundation in reality. And I have to have a beginning, middle, and end that makes sense. Those are the things that I really look for. I love all the supernatural stuff, all the gore, and all the crazy things that can happen within a movie. But for me, it has to make sense and it has to resonate emotionally. If it doesn't resonate emotionally, I don't care, and I feel like it won't last. So that's what I generally look for.
I don't know how it's going to come together with the director, or the editor, or anything else, and we all hope that we're going to make a great movie—everybody does. There's a certain magic involved towards putting it all together and having it resonate with people in a big way. But if you have the foundation in a good story that has some feeling to it, and you have some great characters that have some emotional appeal, that have some depth, I think that's where you have to start with a horror movie. I don't think you start with the supernatural elements. You start with a really good story.
I just mentioned you have Puppet Master coming up, but aside from that, what other projects can Daily Dead readers see you in soon?
Barbara Crampton: The thing I’m looking forward to the most aside from those two, is a movie I shot last Christmas called Reborn. It's sort of an updated Carrie story with a few other intriguing elements supporting it. The people behind the film were all, again, people that I know from the business for a long time. Julian Richards is the director, and he was our sales agent on Beyond the Gates, and he was a filmmaker before he went into sales. Now, he kind of does both. Michael Paré is in it, and Rae Dawn Chong. I worked with Michael and loved him on Puppet Master [The Littlest Reich]. We became quite good friends on that film, and we'd grown up in the business together. I just adore him, and I had a lot more scenes with him in this movie, and that was really great.
Chaz Bono is in it, Cher's son. And he's delightfully creepy and scary and just very charming at the same time. And a new girl, Kayleigh Gilbert, is amazing. I had a lot of scenes with her, and she plays the sort of Carrie-esque type young woman. She's just mesmerizing and really fantastic. I'm looking forward to that, and I think that'll be ready to be submitted to film festivals relatively soon. And also, I'm working on the Castle Freak reboot that is being done by Cinestate, who produced Brawl in Cell Block 99 and the new Puppet Master.
Tate Steinsiek mentioned that he’s going to be directing that one.
Barbara Crampton: He's just the greatest. The script is being written right now, and we're looking to shoot sometime later this year, beginning of next year. All the elements for that are coming together really well, and it's going to be an updated version of the old [film] and have a fresher start and some different characters, with more of the Freak and his backstory.
Also, our goal is to enhance a lot of the Lovecraft elements in the movie to just bring the Lovecraft universe a little bit more to life and a little bit more in the forefront. I'm really excited to read the final version, but we've all been working with the writer on the story elements and it's looking really good. So I'm very excited about that as well.
Dead Night is now available on VOD and is playing in select theaters across the US. Take a look at the trailer below, along with the list of screening locations:
"James and his wife Casey load up their two teenage kids and head out to a remote cabin in Oregon for a weekend trip. When James heads into the snowy forest in search of firewood, he encounters an enigmatic woman passed out in the snow. Bringing her back to the cabin for help, the family has no way of knowing that the woman's presence is the catalyst for a series of events that will change their lives forever. Mixing original storytelling with timeless supernatural elements, Bradford Baruh's directorial debut features a stellar cast of genre favorites including AJ Bowen and Barbara Crampton and delivers a wild and blood-soaked weekend away."