By Steve Newton
So I was looking through my collection of old Fangoria magazines last night, searching for a story I wrote to post for Halloween, and came across a set-visit piece from back in ’95 on the Tales from the Crypt movie, Bordello of Blood.
Now, that vampire movie really sucked, but going on the Vancouver set did allow me to interview Chris Sarandon, who’s a pretty cool guy.
So here’s a condensed version of the article that appeared in the January 1996 issue of Fango, which featured the Crypt-keeper on the cover. It was the “special 150th issue!”, a “giant double-issue spooktacular!”, so I was happy to be in that one.
Iron Maiden used to employ a fierce-looking, violence-crazed mascot named Eddie as a backdrop for its heavy-metal concerts, and the long-haired zombie with the ghastly grin made a wicked impression when hauled out to accompany satanic tunes like “The Number of the Beast”.
The theatrical embellishments of ’80s metal have disappeared with today’s stripped-down grunge-rock approach, but the sight of a big scary character behind the drumkit can still raise eybrows. At least, that’s what the makers of Bordello of Blood seem to be counting on when Fango visits the downtown Vancouver set of the newest Tales from the Crypt movie.
In one corner of the glass-walled, high-ceilinged B.C. Enterprise Hall–on the old Expo 86 site–the idol in question is a 9-foot devil, carved out of Styrofoam and painted crimson, complete with horns, arrowhead tail and trusty pitchfork. In front of Old Scratch is a 30-foot cross equipped with blue neon lights, which has been split down the middle so that it hovers on both sides of the demon and above a circular stage strewn with guitars, amps and drums.
There won’t be any longhairs riffing out to the glories of the undead at this venue, however, for it’s the house gig of one Reverend Jimmy Current, played by Fango fave Chris Sarandon. In Bordello of Blood, Current is a TV preacher who uses the power of the electric guitar to help win souls over to his way of seeing things.
“He’s a televangelist with a ’90s slant in that he’s kind of a rock ‘n’ roll figure,” says the star of Fright Night, Child’s Play, and The Resurrected. “He plays the guitar and jumps around the stage in an attempt to attract the baby-boom generation. Everything that he does is very calculated, and this is one of his calculations.
“He’s also a very Machiavellian kind of guy in that the end justifies the means,” Sarandon adds. “He an odd combination of deeply religious and very opportunistic, very much like, in my mind, a number of the modern evangelical people are.”
In Bordello, the rockin’ reverend makes the mistake of resurrecting Lilith, the “mother of all vampires”, played by Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition babe and one-time Stallone squeeze Angie (Jade) Everhart. She becomes part of a bloodsucker bordello operating out of a mortuary, into which the wayward young Caleb (Corey Feldman) gets, well, sucked. His Bible-toting sister, Katherine (ex-Baywatch headturner Erika Eleniak), an assistant of Current’s, hired down-and-out detective Rafe Guttman (Dennis Miller) to find the lost lad, which leads to all manner of bloodletting–familiar and enjoyable territory for Sarandon.
“It’s a great, fun genre,” says the actor. “The plots and characters are always very operatic, in a way. They’re very big–much bigger than life–and it’s always fun to play characters like that. And I actually grew up with this stuff. When I was a kid, the Tales from the Crypt comic books were very popular, and I had a huge collection of them, so this is sort of like going back home for me. Would that I had kept those comics, of course, because they’re collector’s items today, and I’m sure my mom threw out stacks of them along the line.”
Back out on the set, Everhart and Miller are being put through their rehearsal paces by bearded director/co-writer Gil Adler. On a scaffolding across the hall from the Satan-bound stage, Miller yells frantically into a walkie-talkie, then wheels around just in time to catch the purple-gowned, blood-spattered Lilith creeping up behind him. He throws a well-aimed punch at her head, but she easily blocks it, twisting the offending arm up behind the hapless gumshoe’s back. And it looks like it’s gotta hurt.
“My character is absolutely fabulous,” says Everhart between takes. “She’s strong, she’s powerful, she’s a woman in every sense of the word. She gets to be sexy and intelligent and love life and be happy and fun. Just very happy to be alive.”
And to create a modicum of mayhem along the way.
“Oh yeah, of course,” she says. “Kill a few men, rip out a few hearts, make a few vampires, some undead people. But because I’m the villain, unfortunately I’m the one who goes through all the trials and tribulations of being killed, and that includes ax swings and laser burns and knives and basically lots of blood, lots of prosthetics and lots of gore–yet looking fabulous at the same time.”
Indeed, as Everhart explains her Bordello role from the film’s dungeon set later on, she certainly looks sharp, even with blood from a gaping ax wound caking the front of her gown. And she’s very much enjoying the experience.
“I’m a Tales from the Crypt fan,” she says. “I don’t like the kind of horror that makes you scared when you’re sitting home alone, but the Tales from the Crypt guys really bring a sense of humor to their horror. It’s kind of like Beetlejuice in a sense.”
While Everhart may be a rookie to the horror genre, she’s in stalwart company with the likes of Sarandon and Feldman. Although Feldman’s output in the ’90s includes such questionable direct-to-video dreck as Stepmonster, Meatballs 4 and Dream a Little Dream 2, his previous credits include such worthy works as Joe Dante’s Gremlins and The ‘burbs and the Stephen King-inspired Stand By Me.
“I’ve appeared in Fangoria many times over the years,” he says with obvious pride. “I was in Friday the 13th parts 4 and 5, Gremlins, and Lost Boys, so I’ve done a lot of horror-type films. However, I’m not a big fan of the slasher kind of horror–I’m more into thriller/suspense kinda stuff. So if you ask me what my favourite horror movies would be, they would be like Halloween–that was a great series of films because they’re very suspenseful.”
Feldman points out that there are plenty of twists in Bordello of Blood, but he keeps mum on how they relate to his role in the film. “I get to play the first half of the movie as a kind of rebellious, angry guy,” he says, “and then the other half of the role–which I can’t tell you about, ’cause that’s the surprise to everybody–I have a lotta fun because I wear a lot of prosthetic makeup.”
The duty of transforming Feldman and others in the Bordello fell to Chris Nelson, whose credits include The Granny and Return of the Living Dead III. In a nearby reception area called the B.C. Room–which tonight should stand for Body Count, not British Columbia–the 26-year-old Nelson is overseeing the work of a four-man crew that includes perennial Vancouver artist Tibor (Needful Things) Farkas, animatronic supervisor Terry Sanderhoff, makeup FX fabrication expert Adam Behr, and Dan Cervin, who claims the title of “special effects and chief vomit stirrer.”
The guys are busy working on half a dozen Lilith bodies in various stages of violent death. There’s a realistic-looking (and pretty sexy) full upper body with an emormous tear from the shoulder to above the navel, and a succession of dummies sporting a ripped-up chin, melted-off arm and other damage, right on down to a really messy final stage. The boys don’t appear to be pulling any punches in the depiction of Lilith’s climactic demise; no wonder Nelson is quick to claim that he’s “shooting for a [Fangoria] Chainsaw Award on this one.”)
After plying his trade professionally for nearly a decade, working with the likes of Rick Baker, Tom Burman and his idol Steve Johnson, Nelson is certainly deserving of taking on an old-fashioned gorefest like Bordello of Blood. But he admits that the film doesn’t require anything especially innovative as far as the FX go.
“It’s pretty basic stuff,” he says, “nothing that hasn’t really been done before. But the challenging part is doing it differently than we’ve seen it before. For the meltdown scenes, we’re not doing the standard melting-wax shot in reverse or anything like that. We’re trying to do it so people who are watching it don’t go, ‘Oh, I know how they did that.’ That’s the most challenging part, I’d say.”
For a final take on the difficulties inherent in bring a Crypt film to life, a few words from Adler and cowriter/producer A.L. Katz are in order.
“We’re on a very tight schedule,” says Adler, “so every day is challenging. Whether we’re flying in vampires, or having them destroyed, every day is just wrought with different problems and different ways of completing the work.”
“Hunting vampires would be easier,” quips Katz, “than actually making a movie about it.”