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In the Season of the Witch: Victor Matellano on Vampyres

vampyres

By Sotiris Petridis.

Set in an English manor inhabited by two lesbian vampires and a man imprisoned in the basement, Vampyres enlivens the familiar territory with pulsating raw eroticism, wicked sado-masochism and bloody, creative gore. The lives of the vampires are upended when a trio of campers come upon the lair and seek to uncover their dark secrets, a decision that has sexual and blood-curdling consequences. Director Victor Matellano checked in with Film International to discuss his inspiration and treatment of the vampire (and its supernatural relative) in his remake of the 1974 film by Joseph Larraz.

What inspired you to tell this take on the vampire myth?

The idea to resurrect the universe of Vampyres was Joseph Larraz’s, the creator of the original film. Just like in the original, it’s a tale of witches for an adult audience. If something inspired me more than vampires, it was ghost stories. The aim is to tell a story of blood and flesh, but in a ghostly environment.

What do you mean by “ghostly environment”? Tell us a little more about the choices you had to make in order to create this environment.

Larraz and I share a taste for tales of witches. One of our concerns was that the story had an atmosphere of modern witches, and that influenced the landscape, light and locations. The forest is the home of witches. And of course I cannot say more: I do not want to give an important detail of the plot.

This film is a remake; what actions did you take in order to transfer the story to the present?

The new script was done with Joseph Larraz’s collaboration. Larraz was fully aware that the third act should be changed. The campers’ characters should be adapted as well, which is why it became three instead of two – more tension and more action. There are elements of Thomas Owen’s Blood Moon, the mood of Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932) and the myth of Elizabeth Bathory, the bloody countess.

What elements of Dreyer’s Vampyr inspired your film?

The atmosphere and the dreamlike as nonphysical, and within the physical world, the book is passed down from hand to hand by the characters. Then there is a strange character who is a direct homage, but I prefer not to disclose.

Why and how was the third act changed from the original film?

vampyres-02Larraz wanted it. The pace of the third act in the original decreases. And we think that’s where we put more creativity and introduce new topics.

The film contains influences from a wide spectrum of horror subgenres. What really influenced you during shooting?

When Larraz produced his first film his influence was the British cinema and comedy. I’m very inspired by comedy as well, but even more by the slashers I watched when I was young, especially the narratives of Carpenter and Craven. That’s how we started, with a narrative of vampires from the late seventies. The original “Vampyres” was considered more as a slasher film than as a vampire film. In this film, there is more cannibalism than vampirism as well – even torture, but always within a ghostly environment. I try to honor Larraz’s esthetic.

Why did you choose to give cannibalism a key role in your narrative?

Cannibalism is actually present in the original “Vampyres,” but this version we’ve enhanced. These women, even more than vampires, are cannibalistic and sadistic psychopaths who drink and bathe in blood. It is no coincidence that in Japan the film is titled “Red Inferno”.

Tell us about the casting. What was the most challenging moment for the actors and for you during shooting?

Filming was extremely hard. The actors and actresses suffered a lot with the cold weather and the special effects. It’s hard to work with a mix of sex and blood. Nevertheless, the team was very dedicated to the project and worked hard to complete it. It was a huge pleasure to work with real professionals like Caroline Munro (as the “Hotel Owner”). She is a sweetheart.

What part of making this film did you enjoy the most?

We had a very tough shoot due to weather conditions and nudity. Still, it was a very satisfying shoot. I was especially interested in filming in the basement, in the dungeon.

Music is an important part of horror films. As a director, how did you chose and use music in this film?

True, music is very important. In our film, the Jose Ignacio Arrufat’s music and Javier de la Morena’s song helped to wrap the story in an atmosphere of insanity and darkness. Also, Daniel Salas’ photography helped in this portrayal.

What’s next for you?

I just recently finished a very violent Western called Stop Over in Hell about a man called “the Colonel” who visits a stagecoach stop deep in the West – it has started the festival circuit. I hope you get a chance to watch it soon….

Sotiris Petridis is a Ph.D. Candidate in Film Studies at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece, and has been awarded a scholarship from Onassis Foundation for his studies. He is currently teaching Film Theory and Television History at Aristotle University as part of his doctoral studies. Contact: sotospetridis@yahoo.gr.

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