GORE IN THE STORE
IN CONVERSATION WITH BARBARA CRAMPTON
In director Julian Richards's REBORN, an electrical storm resurrects a stillborn baby girl who is then abducted by a morgue attendant. Sixteen years later and Tess (Kayleigh Gilbert), now empowered with the gift to manipulate electricity escapes her captor and sets out to find her birth mother, actress Lena O'Neill (Barbara Crampton). While she tracks down her mother, a detective (Michael Paré) follows the path of destruction that she has left in her wake.
In conversation with FRIGHTFEST, actress Barbara Crampton discussed the personal and emotional choices that brought her to the project, thematic connections to BEYOND THE GATES and being open to the subjectivity of art.
FRIGHTFEST: What continues to motivate your desire to express yourself creatively through cinema?
BARBARA CRAMPTON: I took a break for a while from working; it wasn't something I planned to do; it just happened to me in my mid-30s. I just reached an age where I wasn't the young femme fatale, and I wasn't the mother figure, so I thought, ‘Okay, that’s it for me. I have RE-ANIMATOR, I have FROM BEYOND…’ I had a few other fun roles, but maybe that was it, and I’d had a career in soap operas.
What motivates me now since coming back with YOU’RE NEXT is I feel like I’m in a different phase of my career, and I’ve been offered some of the best roles recently. I feel that I’m more ensconced in the horror world in a way that I didn’t feel I was at the beginning of my career. When I was doing RE-ANIMATOR, and FROM BEYOND, I was an actress, and I was staying in my lane. But since coming back with YOU’RE NEXT and subsequent films, I’m working on producing and I’ve produced three movies so far, two of which you haven’t seen yet.
I produced BEYOND THE GATES and a little bit of ROAD GAMES (I didn’t have as much to do with that one), the new CASTLE FREAK and JAKOB’S WIFE, which we just finished filming right before the lockdown. So in this new phase of my career, I’m not only acting and having some of the best roles of my career, but I'm also producing and working on development with AMP, James Norrie and Bob Portal’s company.
I'm in a completely different world, and I'm having more fun in my career now than I was earlier, and so I feel it has opened up for me. I’ve been able to dip my toe into other areas of the business, whereas I just thought that I was an actress for hire at the beginning.
FF: Have these experiences changed the way you watch films as a spectator and are you still able to lose yourself in the magic of cinema? And does producing deepen your appreciation for the process, the films and the filmmakers you admire?
BC: I'm an audience member like anybody else, so when I watch a movie, for the most part, I'm sitting there, and I want to be entertained. I enjoy watching the beginning, middle and end of the narrative of a story. Now having delved into the way that films get made in the past few years, all the different processes that go into it, from the development of the script, picking out a director and crew, finding a production company and money, setting up locations, all of that, it’s a lot of work.
When I’m watching a movie I’m not thinking about those things, but because I work in the horror genre, what I do focus on probably more than anything now, that I didn't know about as much back then is the special effects, and how people accomplish things. There’s so much more that you can do now with digital effects and VFX that we didn’t have in the 80s, where everything was practical, which I prefer. I look at the films that marry some of those things together, and I wonder how did they do that?
I also give people a lot of room when I’m watching a movie too because I know how difficult it is to make a film - to raise the money, and the limitations that are put on you in a low budget independent film, whereby you only have twenty-one or twenty-three days to shoot your movie. The preparation that needs to go into it in advance to be able to fulfil the goal of putting something spectacular onscreen every day, that pressure is immense. So when I watch films and I know they’re low budget, and I see some special moments I’ll say, “Wow.” If you have five special moments onscreen for a small budget film, you've done a great job. So there's a lot more thought that goes into watching a movie now, but as I say I am a good audience member and I love to be entertained, and I’ll always feel that way.
FF: How did you become involved in REBORN, and what piqued your interest in the project?
BC: I came in at the very last minute when Julian called me on a Friday night at 11 o'clock. He said something had happened on their movie and they needed somebody to take over this role, and asked, “Could you come and do it on Monday?”
I knew Julian because he was our sales agent on BEYOND THE GATES and so I had a relationship with him, and we were quite good friends at that point.
I read the script and loved it. I thought it was cool and intelligent, but I was very nervous about coming in at the last minute and having so much to do, and so little time to prepare. But the role is as close to me as you can probably get, in the sense that she’s a B-movie actress, sort of down and out because she’s looking for her next big break to extend her career, and that was me a few years ago. So that was easy, and I could relate to that, and I have a daughter and a son I’m so close to - I'm their parent, but I also feel I'm friends with my children. I didn’t know Kayleigh, but Tess is supposedly 16 years old, and at the time my son was sixteen, and my daughter was fourteen, and I thought, ‘I understand this.’
Michael Paré is also in the movie. I had worked with him on PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH, so I knew that I had a friend on set. I felt supported in that way, and I felt comfortable with the material, comfortable with Julian, and the DP for this film was also the DP on BEYOND THE GATES. So I knew I had a friend in the camera department and it was also partially produced by, I don’t know if he got a credit on it or not, but Brian Yuzna helped us out a lot on the film, and we were filming at his house. Brian’s a good friend of mine and has been for thirty-five years, and also Monte Markham is in the cast as my therapist, who I had worked with on WE ARE STILL HERE.
I felt like I was working with family, and I thought the story was cool, a CARRIE meets FRANKENSTEIN, and it was straightforward and breezy dialogue. The story made sense to me, and I like linear narrative stories, and this had a clear beginning, middle and end. It seemed like a throwback 80s movie. It fitted into my vibe, so it was not difficult for me to say, “Yeah, I'll come down and do it.”
FF: The relationship with the past, either finding closure or being unable to, in turn becoming a victim is a central theme of the film. While a simple story that is not psychologically driven, REBORN does function on a psychological level, even presenting as a form of therapy for filmmaker and audience to contemplate.
BC: It was one of the major themes of the movie, if not the major one, and also it was the theme in BEYOND THE GATES - the older brother, Graham Skipper’s character had to move beyond the past, and leave his father behind to move on with his life. So yeah, on the surface it seems like a fun CARRIE/FRANKENSTEIN movie, but it does have a deeper meaning of this woman, this has-been, this older horror movie actress who has to leave the past behind to move forward.
FF: Interviewing Larry Fessenden, he spoke of how a film is abandoned. Would you agree?
BC: I’d never thought of the term abandoned [laughs]. I would say it’s an offering; you offer the film that you all finally decide on, and then other people will make up their mind what the movie is about, picking out different ideas and themes that resonate with them.
I know Larry well, we are quite good friends, and we just finished filming JAKOB’S WIFE. I lived with him in a house while we were shooting the movie, and Larry’s not a negative person by any means. He’s extremely positive, and that's a funny terminology that he came up with - I would say it’s more of an offering.
…If you want to talk about abandonment, and if you're going to use that term, I would say that at some point because it’s a collective working experience, then everyone has to throw something in. Then you have to abandon what your preconceived notions of what it is, and let it be what it is for everyone else. Art is subjective, and everybody has their interpretation. So whether you want to use a term like “abandonment”, or to say, “Here it is, I abandon it to you”, or, “I am offering it to you, here it is”, the result is the same - everyone’s going to create their own opinion about it.
REBORN is now available On Digital and DVD from Lightbulb Film Distribution.