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‘Southern Gothic,’ a cult horror flick with W.Va. ties

By Staff | May 26, 2010

Vampires have an allure no matter what the setting or the generation. After a two-year delay due to a convoluted distribution rights odyssey, “Southern Gothic” has arrived at DVD counters. The indie horror flick debuted in 2007 at the SXFX Festival in Texas, where the Mark Young-directed project attracted the beginnings of a cult following due to the stylish nature of Southern lifestyles.

The story has a psychotic preacher confronted by vampires in a small town named Redemption.

WV actress Dani (McCall) Englander, known for hosting “Tecknowledge” on “The Discovery Channel” and roles in “Two Fireflies,” “Jack of Clubs,” and “Beast of Burden,” plays Ava in “Gothic.” A native of Rainelle and sister of Marquee Cinemas CEO/President Curtis McCall, Englander has also been a guest artist at the Appalachian Film Festival, where she showed a work-print of “Two Fireflies.” 

Shot on over 22 locations throughout North Carolina, seven sets were built from scratch in a warehouse to convey the unique settings. Two of the locations used had been seen in an Oscar winning film —  a turn-of-the-century farmhouse and the church — were locations for “The Color Purple.”

“Southern Gothic” stars Val (“Traffic,” “The A Team,” and numerous television dramas including “Sex and the City”), William (“Halloween,” “Deuce Bigalow”), Jonathan (“Cabin Fever II,” “The Killing Jar,”), Emily Catherine  (“Tooth and Nail”) Young, Nichole (“Ladies of the House”) DuPort, and Englander.

Now, residing in Baltimore, we asked her for a preview of the vampire flick.

Graffiti: Why are vampires films so popular? Is this one more in the "Twilight" or "Dracula" tradition or a Quentin Tarantino  blood bath?

Englander: Every generation has its vampire films and the genre seems to evolve and stand the test of time. Honestly, I haven’t seen “Twilight” (I know….I’m one of the few people on the planet who hasn’t…) so can’t comment on that. It’s not that similar to a traditional “Dracula” but as you suggested, might be more like a QT version… more like “From Dusk Till Dawn.” Both have the religious thread… and definitely meant to be more of a thinking man’s vampire flick. 

Graffiti: You have both an acting and executive producer role. What’s it like to be on both sides of the camera in the same film?

Englander: Honestly, the EP title was pretty much just that. I met Mark because of a great writer/director named Jim McQuaid out of Raleigh, N.C. I worked with him on a short film and we stayed in touch. When I started working with (now defunct) Kindred Media Group, Jim mentioned he had just returned from the Charlotte Film Fest and saw a great short by Mark Young. I contacted Mark, we talked about the short and he mentioned another script he had that was in need of financing… and “Gothic” was on its way to life.  I’ve always been a fan of vampire films so that appealed to me immediately.

I took it to KMG and one of the partners, Frank Vitolo, took an interest in it and put together the financing. I really did nothing more than bring those parties together to get the project off the ground… but KMG’s deal was “X” number of EP credits per project… and for some reason I got one there… but I really did not secure the financing. 

 When “Game 6” premiered in New York, I finally met Mark Young after developing a working relationship over the phone. He had not cast the role of “Ava,” knew I’m an actor and so he asked me to audition. I taped my audition, mailed it to him in Charlotte and was offered the role. I was thrilled… as again, I’ve always been a fan of the genre and this was more intelligent that many of the horror films we see in the market. So, I didn’t feel like I was really on both sides for this project. Sure, I was involved in some limited way on the financing side… but really I was just there as an actor and I had a great time.    

Graffiti: Did you enjoy creating what some describe as repulsive special effects? What’s a particularly grueling scene?

Englander: I LOVED the special effects! I had these amazing contacts, great fangs… not to mention a great modern day vampire wardrobe. The special effects were fantastic. I’d never done a film role that was anything like that so it was great to see how it all really works. Connor McCullough (special effects) is so talented and such a treat to work with. Especially fun? Tearing someone’s throat out with my fangs… yep, that was the best. It wasn’t grueling… just surprising. The special effects guy really wanted the blood to gush like an arterial flow of blood… and he’s a perfectionist. You had to be able to see the fangs, the eyes, the blood and really see the flesh rip out of the prosthetic head… so really very technical. The first take we did where the blood was really pumping was a little bit startling… as it was cold, there was so much of it and they forgot to tell me they flavored it peppermint! Well, that was really sweet of them… but unexpected and strange, to say the least. 

Graffiti: The movie debuted at SXFX, then has a convoluted path to USA release. And it has developed a "cult" following for some fans. What’s the secret to gaining a following and do you think it is good or bad for a film?

Englander: Gothic has had a very slow path to release and I’m honestly not sure why that is the case. I haven’t been involved in that phase of things at all.  I’m not sure what the secret to a cult following is… wish I could figure it out, bottle it and sell it as if you can’t have a sure thing; that’s not a bad thing to develop. I think a cult following can be very good for a film… especially one that hasn’t really found it’s viewing audience. Sometimes when a film straddles genres (as I think SG does a little bit), it’s harder to market and really hit your target audience. I do think it’s a thriller/horror/vampire movie… but as I mentioned earlier, it’s also a story of redemption… of hope… with the religious theme… so it is more of a thinking man’s vampire flick.

Graffiti: Any new projects on the horizon (or alternatively) what’re your thoughts on the rush to 3-D? What (and why) is the film you can’t wait to see this summer?

Englander: Right now, I have two amazing scripts I’d love to get financed and filmed. One is “The Big Effing Space Shot” based on a Kurt Vonnegut story and “Erasure,” which is a psychological thriller. It’s harder than ever to secure financing given the economy…  but I firmly believe in these two projects so I’ll continue efforts to make those happen. I also have an animal education pilot that I produced and hosted… and would like to find a home for that as animal rescue is another passion of mine.

Contact Tony at trutherford@graffitiwv.com