-Interviewed by Michael Juvinall – Horror Patch
I recently had the incredible pleasure of speaking with a true icon and luminary of the horror genre – Barbara Crampton. She has achieved prominence in her early career in a string of classic films like Re-Animator (1985), Chopping Mall (1986), From Beyond (1986), Castle Freak (1995) and others. More modern audiences will know her from more recent films such as You’re Next (2011), The Lords Of Salem (2012), We Are Still Here (2015), Tales Of Halloween (2015), Beyond The Gates (2016), Death House (2017) and several others.
We talked about her new film, Reborn. In this film, she stars as a struggling horror actress trying to make it in Hollywood. Sixteen years earlier she gave birth to a stillborn baby who was abducted by a morgue attendant and accidentally brought back to life by electricity. On her 16th birthday, she escapes captivity and sets out to find her birth mother (Crampton), leaving a trail of bodies in her path. The film has a Frankenstein and Carrie vibe to it.
We also spoke about some of her other films, what it’s like working in Hollywood today, and what it’s like to be a horror star. So keep reading on and see why Barbara is so engaging to talk to and a true legend of the horror community.
Reborn is out now and stars Barbara Crampton, Michael Pare’, Kayleigh Gilbert, Chaz Bono, Monte Markham, and Rae Dawn Chong.
Horror Patch: We’re here to begin by talking about your latest film, Reborn. The film has elements of Frankenstein and Carrie mashed together in a modern setting. In the movie, you play the mother of a young woman who was stillborn and brought back to life by electricity who also has the ability to manipulate objects with electricity. What was it about the story for Reborn that brought you on board the film?
Barbara Crampton: I felt very close to the material as the movie is also about a B-movie horror actress who is sort of down on her luck looking for her next big break. So it sort of sounds like me a little bit, (laughing).
HP: Yeah. You play a character that is not so unlike yourself. Did Michael Mahin the writer, did he write this role with you in mind or was it just a coincidence?
BC: No, it was just a coincidence. But when Julian Richards, the director, was prepping this film, he actually had me in mind for this role. For whatever reason, they hired another actress and she wasn’t able to do the role at the last minute so they called me to replace her. So I got the call on a Friday to see if I would read the script and come to work on Monday. I had two days to prepare for this role. I know Julian Richards because he had been a sales agent for a movie I did called Beyond The Gates and we had worked together and were just familiar with one another. He called me and said I need help, our lead actress is not able to do the role. We need a replacement, would you be available to start work? I said let me read the script, it was 11:00 on a Friday. I read the script and I said, yeah, I think I can do this role. Sure, I’ll be glad to help you out. I drove down there a couple days later and started working. It’s one of the only movies I’ve done where I felt like I was a little unprepared, I mean I was basically, I just had time to read the script once and come up with a basic concept in my mind about how to play the role.
Fortunately, I know Julian. We were working at Brian Yuzna’s house for a lot of my scenes. Brian’s my old friend and producer. Brian Sowell, who worked on Beyond The Gates and Michael Pare’ was in the movie and a lot of the people and the crew on set I knew. So I flew by the seat of my pants for basically every scene. It’s a little bit like those waitress dreams you have where you’re a waiter in a restaurant and you have 20 tables that you can’t remember what everybody ordered and you have to get the food out in 20 minutes, (laughing). But, I think it all worked out.
HP: I’m glad you actually took the role. I thought it was a good role for you. You actually answered one of the questions I had for you. During the credits, I saw a few Yuzna names and I was going to ask if they were any relation to your old friend Brian Yuzna?
BC: Oh, I don’t remember that. What were their names? Maybe it was a thank you to them for working in their house. But really Brian was the only Yuzna who worked on the movie.
HP: Oh really. Ok. You were the only one who had scenes with the great Monte Markham. How was he to appear with?
BC: Yeah, I worked with him on We Are Still Here a number of years ago. He’s an extraordinary actor with an amazing amount of credits. He’s been in movies and television. He was in one of my favorite shows, The Golden Girls. He’s been in Baywatch, he’s one of those guys you grew up watching in the ’70s. He guest-starred on every TV show that was on the air. I was really familiar with him and was excited to work with him again. It was nice because he played my therapist and because I know him and I’ve seen him several times, I have a very nice relationship with him and I felt so comfortable with him working in that setting as my therapist. He had two scenes in the movie and I thought he knocked it out of the park and did an amazing job. He was so warm and caring. It’s so easy to work off of somebody who is that good.
HP: I was just going to ask you if he was intimidating at all, but if you really knew him I guess he wouldn’t be.
BC: No, no. He’s like so loveable, so kind and nice and such a professional, he’s amazing.
HP: That’s nice. You also got to work with Michael Pare’ again, whom you worked with in Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich. How is Michael to film with?
BC: Michael is another long-time actor. We both grew up in the business together. It’s funny that I never met him until I worked on Puppet Master. But I was very aware of him. He was in one of my favorite 80’s movies – Streets of Fire. He was a teen idol when I was growing up in the business. He’s a very good looking guy but he’s also a very serious actor. He approaches every role with a lot of spunk and a lot of care. I was so happy to work with him on this film because I didn’t have a lot of time to do prep work on the movie which I really like to do. I need at least a few weeks usually on a film to really research different parts of it and look into whatever I need to to try and play any part effectively. I didn’t have the luxury.
Michael and I talked about our scenes together and the movie in general and what it was about. He’s come up in the world of movies and has had highs and lows in his career as well. So we were able to talk about that a little bit and what that does to you as a person. I feel like working with him was sort of a buffer for me and a great help in attacking the scenes with as much insight and intelligence as I could given the short time period I had to prepare.
HP: Yeah, you two seemed to work well together.
HP: In your film house, I also remember noticing some movie posters of your films on the wall in Reborn. Were those set decorations that were added or were those Brian Yuzna’s personal posters?
BC: They were Brian Yuzna’s own posters so that was very fitting for me to be in that setting. I think the poster he had up there was From Beyond. It was pretty prominent in one of the acting class segments. Yeah, it’s kind of meta but that’s how it worked out.
HP: Yeah that makes sense now that I know it was Brian Yuzna’s house that you filmed in.
BC: Oh, you didn’t know that before?
HP: No, no I didn’t.
BC: Yeah, my house was Brian’s house.
HP: I’ve also been covering another film of yours that’s getting a release next month, Replace. What can you say about that film?
BC: Yes. I did that movie almost four years ago. It sold to pretty much all the territories around the world that it could sell to and it did sell to the United States as well, a distributor picked it up. But then they had financial trouble and they went out of business. There was some litigation involved and the film had to be released out of their contract with that company before it could be resold. So that’s why America is only getting it four years later.
I will tell you I play a doctor. Did you see the movie?
HP: Not yet but I have a screener for the movie.
BC: I play a doctor in the film and this film deals with aging and three different people’s points of view. One is the lead actress Rebecca Forsyth and how she feels about herself aging and getting old and then there’s my character who’s a doctor who is trying to help her. I have my own reasons scientifically for helping her deal with her own cosmetic issues about getting older. Then there is a love interest that Lucie Aron plays for Rebecca Forsyth’s character. She doesn’t care about aging or what you look like. It’s really the inside person that matters most to her. The film looks at the aging process from three different female points of view, which I think is interesting to note that my character of Dr. Crober was originally written for a man. Four years ago when we did the movie they decided it might be interesting to have three females in the movie at the forefront. I think that’s happening more now, just in the last year that people are becoming more aware. But four years ago when they were first talking about doing this, it wasn’t really at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Looking at the film today, I think it was a very good choice they made to have three women coming from three different viewpoints on the same issue about aging. I was really happy also to work on the film but Richard Stanely had his hand in. He has his new movie coming up, The Color Out of Space. This was a film that he had a hand in writing with Norbert Keil, our director. It was thrilling to work for him as well.
HP: Did you get a chance to meet him at all?
BC: I did. I met him at the Fantasia Film Festival where it played a couple of years ago. He and I had emails back and forth together because we were very aware of each other’s work and we finally met at Fantasia and had a fantastic time.
HP: That would have been awesome. I suppose what happened with your movie Replace. It’s not uncommon for a film to get made and sometimes get caught in limbo for whatever reasons and they may not even get released at all or like this film, get released four years later. When that happens do you write a film off or are you surprised years later when it actually does come out and then you have to remember what went on when you have to do interviews?
BC: Yeah, it happens. You don’t know what’s going to happen with a movie when you’re making it. Sometimes things will really resonate with people and sometimes they won’t. Often a film you really think is great doesn’t get picked up by a distributor or gets picked up late or it comes out late or doesn’t get picked up at all. All these things can happen and you just have to keep them juggling in your mind so you remember what you did.
I had the same experience on You’re Next. We did that movie in 2011 and it took almost two years for Lionsgate to put the movie out. I know it was released about two years after we made it. At that time, Lionsgate acquired Summit Entertainment. Instead of 30 titles to put out, they had 60. They had to put a bunch of movies on the shelf because they didn’t have the manpower and the financial power to put everything out at the same time, so we had to wait. That movie I knew was a good movie because I saw the response at the Toronto Film Festival and it went on to screen at Fantastic Fest. That was kind of heartbreaking initially, especially for me. For everybody really, but for me personally to not have worked for six or eight years and have a movie that good be made and get the kind of response and notices that we did for it and then have to wait for two years. It was painful. It was painful for me and painful really for the filmmakers for Adam and Simon, Keith Calder and Jessica, the producers. It was difficult for all of us. I think what pushed it over the edge was Colin Geddes was the director of Midnight Madness at the time. He was upset the movie hadn’t got put out. I think it was the third Midnight Madness since the movie had played there, he put it as his banner behind the Midnight Madness website and talked about how great the movie was and why wasn’t it getting a release. Soon more and more people were talking about it and Lionsgate put it on the front burner.
HP: Do you get asked by fans more about your earlier films or more for your newer movies?
BC: It’s a little mix of both I think. I do a few conventions a year and five or six years ago I would go out on the convention circuit and people would mostly be talking to me about my older films. The last couple of years on the circuit, I feel like a lot of people are coming to know and have seen some of my newer films and I’m actually surprised by that. I get a lot of people asking me to sign DVD’s and pictures/Blu-rays for Beyond The Gates and We Are Still Here and especially You’re Next. That’s exciting. I think sometimes it takes a few years after the movie comes out for a lot of the horror fans to get around to seeing them because there’s so much product out there but eventually they do. Really, like Re-Animator, it got great reviews when it came out but it really didn’t become a cult classic hit until almost ten years later, twenty years later, now thirty, it’s very popular. It’s grown in popularity over the years. I feel like some of the movies that I’ve done recently will stand the test of time and horror fans will come to know them and they will be part of the Barbara Crampton filmography that people will know. I’m excited that people know the new films as well. Also because I’m getting some of the best roles of my career in the latter part of my career. I’ve loved the movies that I did in my early years but I feel like a lot of the movies that i”m getting now are very intense and multi-layered and somewhat more interesting to me as an actor than some of my earlier roles.
HP: Yeah, I would agree with you on that. It kind of segue ways into my next question. I follow you on Instagram and other social platforms. You’re such a wonderful ambassador for the horror genre. Do you ever regret any of your horror films or for being known as a horror star?
BC: Oh no, I love my horror films, I love my roots. I will admit that horror has grown on me over time. I didn’t set out to become known as a horror actress but I love the genre and I feel like the horror genre gives a lot of females some really wonderful and memorable roles to play. Since I’ve come back with You’re Next, I feel like I understand the depths of this community and how far it reaches and the fans enthusiasm for it. I don’t think there’s another genre that has as many dedicated and really smart cinephiles as we have and people that are really loyal to the genre. I feel like I’m part of a club that I didn’t know I belong to. Over time, I’ve really fallen in love with the genre and kind of re-dedicated my career in the latter part of my career to working in the genre. I feel proud to be part of the horror community.
HP: That’s awesome. If there was any project in the world that you could work on what would it be?
BC: Oh, there’s one that I’m working on right now that’s in development that I’ve been trying to get off the ground for a better part of three years and we’re almost there, not quite. It’s a vampire film and I always wanted to play a vampire. This is the movie that I think about – dream about – have multiple phone calls about. I’ve had multiple drafts of the script and I’ve talked to a lot of people about this film. I’m really very hopeful this next year we’re going to be able to make it and I would play a vampire.
HP: That sounds great! I would love to see that. What do you have coming up that you’d like to talk about?
BC: Well, I have two things that I just worked on. The re-imagining of Castle Freak. We shot that in Albania for Fangoria. Because I was involved with the first film, they asked me if I wanted to be a part of this imagining and I jumped on board without hesitation. I was able to work with Fangoria and also Tate Steinsiek and Kathy Charles, she’s the writer. I feel like we came up with an amazing story that has a lot of emotional resonance, much like the first one with some really great horror elements and an expanded Lovecraft universe. We have a great cast and we were able to work in a really cool location at a castle in Albania. I’m looking forward to seeing the first cut of the movie in about two weeks and I’m really excited about that. I was on set for the entirety of the production, sitting next to the monitor for 12 hours a day. It was an awesome experience. I’ve never had that deep of an experience as a producer on a film. It’s been amazing and rewarding so far and I’m anxious for people to see that next year.
I was also just in Norway shooting a movie called The Colour Of Madness. It’s sort of a cult movie in the vein of The Wicker Man. That also has a lot of Lovecraft elements in the story and has some very cool twists in that film. I’m looking forward to people seeing that. I’m an actress in that movie and I had a lot of fun on set with everyone.
HP: Great! I loved the original Castle Freak which you’re in and I know you’re a producer on this movie. I’m excited to see how this new version turns out. I’ve been reading a lot about it and look forward to seeing it.
BC: Yeah, I think it’s going to be great.
HP: I just want to say again, thank you so much for talking with me. I’ve loved your work and I’m a big fan of yours. You star in Reborn, which is out now. I want to say good luck with everything you have coming up. I try to watch what you do. Just keep doing what you’re doing. You make a lot of people happy with your films.
BC: Awww, thanks Michael. Thank you so much.
HP: Have a great day.
Watch the trailer for Reborn here: