LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Exclusive Interview With Drew Cullingham Director Of Umbrage: The First Vampire
By James Whittington, Monday 11th June 2012
The Horror Channel Movie Of The Month is Drew Cullingham's bloody brilliant Umbrage: The First Vampire. The film stars legendary British actor Doug Bradley and concerns an unscrupulous antique dealer's ancient mirror that serves as a portal for shadowy beings to be unleashed into the night with a thirst for blood.
We decided to chat to Drew about this outstanding directorial debut and his plans for the future.
HC: How did you start in the movie business?
DC: Slowly! There was a time when all the things I take for granted now, all the people (actors and crew) and all the facilities and so on, were a faraway dream. I worked a little in TV, mostly filming food related VTs for live shows, and I cut my teeth bit by bit on a few short films. Of course even then I was begging, borrowing and stealing in terms of kit and so on. Well, not stealing, obviously! It was a useful testing ground though, as both in the TV jobs and in the short films I was almost doing the directing by default, because I was doing everything else! I believe a director should know one end of a camera from the other, and understand how sound works, how long make-up can take to do, basic editing etc. Of course I would say that, because I've worked most aspects of filming! The biggest step was to become a proper producer, and to actually decide to helm a feature. That was scary, because it meant going out looking for real money, and actually employing a full crew. It was pretty much a leap of faith really. I scraped together a little budget for Umbrage, and the rest just followed on, sometimes easily and sometimes not!
HC: Have you always been a big fan of horror movies?
DC: Absolutely. Not just movies either. I was a voracious reader when I was younger, and my parents were actually quite strict in terms of how much TV I could watch, so I used to hide beneath the covers at night with a torch and a pilfered James Herbert novel or something similar. Before long I was an avid fan of Clive Barker and Edgar Allen Poe. I also was 'of age' in the mid 1980s. When I say 'of age' I mean that age when you are very impressionable and watch things you are far too young to watch! And as we all know, the 80s were chock full of what are now absolute classic horror films. Freddie Krueger, Jason, Mike Myers, Chucky, Pinhead (of course) - the list goes on of the nasties that stalked my boyhood dreams. Jaws was for me, as for so many people, a seminal work too. Fear has always fascinated me, as a potent force, not even just in terms of horror movies, but generally as a governor of our lives. A lot of horror movies just plug straight into that primal emotion, which is something I think should be faced and conquered.
HC: Where did the idea for Umbrage: The First Vampire come from? Were you inspired by any other vampire movies?
DC: I've always been a vampire fanatic. At one point I think there were hardly any vampire films I hadn't seen, until Twilight probably! One of my other great teenage romances was with Hammer films, and the vampire ones were always the best. Granted, there may have been an adolescent yearning for those heaving bosoms and a teenage boy's desire to have the same command over them as Christopher Lee's Dracula. But it's no secret - there is something unashamedly sexy about vampires. The main birth of Umbrage though, was the cowboy-vampire figure, Phelan. I had for some time been carrying this character around in my head. We're like big kids, us filmmakers, really: it's like I had these two favourite toys, horror and western, and I just wanted to mash them together. It's not completely original, I know, but I just wanted to cross a cowboy with a vampire. Vampires can sometimes be a little effete, but add a gruff cowboy veneer to that and you have a whole different kettle of fish.
Of course when you have an (anti)hero like that - you need some kind of adversary. I kind of stumbled across the whole Lilith thing through a number of sources, and always like the idea of strong females in stories, so the rest just fell into place. And while you're being playful like that, what more obvious scenario to have as a backdrop than a dysfunctional family in the middle of nowhere?! Oddly enough though, despite my love of vampire films and mythology, I kind of ignore a lot of conventions in this film. The word 'vampire' is never used, though it comes playfully close at one point. There are no crosses, no garlic, no bats, and no traditional way of killing them.
HC: Doug Bradley has won rave reviews for his role in the movie, how did you go about casting him?
DC: Doug was such an obvious choice to top the wish-list really. In terms of horror icons, he and Robert Englund are the only people to have played the same character eight times! As a homegrown talent, that makes Doug the UK's most iconic horror actor. Add to that my own love of Clive Barker's work, and it became a no brainer really. Pinhead was, to me, one of the most genuinely fearsome creations ever to walk the screen. There was just something so damn relentless about Hellraiser. It was true horror. As to how he ended up being cast... mercifully it was fairly straightforward. I contacted his agent, he read the script, expressed an interest, and we met up. We went for a pint at Victoria station, and I had to get the whole fanboy thing out of the way quickly. After that we just got on. Whatever I said, it must have given him enough confidence in me that he agreed to do the film. And boy, was I thrilled.
HC: Was the rest of the movie easy to cast?
DC: Jonnie Hurn (Phelan) had been cast from an early stage. I pretty much knew he would play Phelan just from talking to him, which is odd, since he's not Irish, nor a vampire or a cowboy. It was just one of those moments where you see something with complete clarity. I also met Grace Vallorani that same and was impressed with her, so she became a fairly obvious choice for Lauren. I already knew James Fisher and Scott Thomas, and they just kind of clicked with me as a double act. Rita actually answered a casting call for Lilith, but when I'd spoken to her for a while I had to tell her I just didn't see her as being right for that part, but would she be interested in auditioning for the lead, Rachel. That was the toughest part to cast, and I made poor Rita read three times I think. Rachel has a pretty nasty backstory that isn't fully explored in the film, but I wanted it to be in the character. Rita nailed it too. Even when she was freezing cold (boy, was it cold - and her costume wasn-t the warmest!) she did a great job.
HC: Did you have much of a budget to play with?
DC: Not at all. And if it hadn't been for the generosity of so many people, we would never have made what we made. For example, James Friend, the DOP, brought his own RED Camera and shot the film for free. We had to spend some money, obviously, on locations, lights, the 35mm camera that we used for a couple of days for the wild west stuff etc. But so much came for free or ridiculously cheap. Fuji did us seriously proud with film stock, all the cast and crew worked for little or nothing, even Movietech and Panalux gave us spectacular deals on grip and lighting kit. Of course, it helped shooting in winter, but still - there's a lot of people I will be grateful to for as long as I live! Not least the folks invested what budget we did have. The film was entirely funded by private investment, so do these folks a favour and go out and buy the DVD as well as watch it on the Horror Channel!
HC: The movie is the Horror Channel's Film Of The Month, you must be pleased about that?
DC: Of course I am. I am thrilled to bits about it! Umbrage was my first full length feature film as a director, and any feature film is an ordeal to make, from the conception of the idea through the filming and the ardours of post-production. I am a cinephile, and a lover of horror films, so in any way being able to contribute to the canon is a thrill to me. And recognition from a channel dedicated to the genre is something that gives me great pleasure indeed.
HC: Who in your opinion was the greatest on-screen vampire?
DC: You'd think I'd have an answer to that one all ready... My background is as literary as it is filmic, so I'd have to rephrase the question and ask myself who is the greatest vampire. Then it becomes easier, because undoubtedly it is Stoker's historically inspired creation, Dracula. I'm pretty certain that no horror character has been portrayed by more actors than Dracula, so that only narrows it down a little bit! Lugosi of course was great, and I really rate Gary Oldman (hard not to!) in Coppola's film, but I really have to go back to my informative years and my Hammer adolescence and say the mighty Christopher Lee. Happy 90th Birthday, by the way!
HC: So, what other projects are you working on?
DC: I've got a few things at different stages actually. I shot a fairly experimental micro-budget containment thriller called Monk3ys last year, which I could describe as Big Brother meets Saw! It's very much a riff on reality TV, reality in general, and the film industry, and I'm very proud that it picked up an award at last year's Raindance Film Festival. I'm hoping to announce sales/distribution on that very soon. Currently in post-production, I have a film called Black Smoke Rising which is another micro-budget tale, but very different to either Monk3ys or Umbrage. It is a poignant and personal portrayal of grief, told in gorgeous black and white! I'm also in the advanced stages of developing a WW2 psychological thriller about a pair of airmen stranded behind enemy lines. It's kind of 127 Hours meets Buried meets Jacob's Ladder. We've got some fantastic talent lined up for it, both in front of and behind the camera, so watch this space...
HC: Drew Cullingham, thank you very much.
DC: Thank YOU for having me.
Umbrage: The First Vampire will get its UK TV premiere on the Horror Channel June 22nd.
Related show tags: UMBRAGE: THE FIRST VAMPIRE MORE INTERVIEWS Interview with Stewart Sparke, director of Book of Monsters
Posted on Friday 29th April 2022
A birthday bash becomes a bloodbath when monsters escape from a supernatural storybook, leaving a group of teenagers to fight for their lives and shut the party down in the UK TV premiere of Book of Monsters on May 16th on Horror. We chatted to its director, Stewart Sparke about this fun, retro-filled fright-fest.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a film director?
SS: I remember first realising that I wanted to make films during one of many viewings of The Mummy (1999) on VHS in my bedroom on an old 15" TV. I became quite obsessed with the film and tried to make all my friends come over to watch it ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Paul Hyett, director of Peripheral
Posted on Wednesday 16th February 2022
Paul Hyett is a multi-disciplined creative whose work is as inventive as it is imaginative. His latest movie is a dark sci-fi chiller named Peripheral and it will have its UK TV premiere on Horror, Friday 25th February at 11.05pm.
Here he chats about this incredible movie and his plans for the future.
HC: How did you become attached to Peripheral?
PH: The producer Craig Touhy and I had been friends for a while and had nearly done another movie together and he'd liked the claustrophobia and tension of The Seasoning House so we met up to discuss Peripheral. When he pitched it to me, very much a low budget, contained movie, in one apartment. I must say I was a little hesitant. I...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Abigail Blackmore, writer and director of Tales From The Lodge
Posted on Tuesday 14th December 2021
Ahead of Horror Channel's Xmas Day broadcast of her horror comedy feature Tales From The Lodge, director Abigail Blackmore recalls the brutal weather conditions, the challenges of casting and the joy of playing at FrightFest.
HC: Thanks to Horror Channel, Tales From The Lodge finally gets its UK TV premiere on British TV. Excited or what?
AB: So excited! I know a huge amount of people watch the Horror Channel so I'm hoping it opens TFTL up to a whole new audience.
HC: Looking back to its showcase screening at FrightFest in 2019, what are your abiding memories?
AB: It was a wonderful experience! FrightFest has long been one of the highlights of my ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Barbara Crampton, star of chilling horror Sacrifice
Posted on Wednesday 8th December 2021
Barbara Crampton is a Horror Channel favourite. This much loved and much admired creative is starring in the UK TV premiere of Sacrifice, which is showing December 12th at 9pm on Horror so we chatted to her about this movie and her plans for the future.
Note that there are some spoilers for Sacrifice in the interview.
HC: Can you recall how you felt the first time you stepped onto a TV or film set?
BC: Yes, I remember the first time I was ever on a television set, it was for the soap opera, Days of Our Lives, and it was my very first job, and I had one line, "Hi. I'm your cousin Trista from Colorado". It was to the character Marlena Evans and subsequently I had w...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Michael Mayer and Guy Ayal from the acclaimed movie Happy Times
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
Happy Times, which is showing at Grimmfest Online, is a movie that takes the home invasion genre and turns it inside out! Directed by Michael Mayer and co-written with composer Guy Ayal, the movie is a bombastic, bloody and hilarious piece of cinema. I chatted to them both about this dinner party from hell.
HC: Where did the idea for Happy Times come from?
MM: The idea for the movie started forming when I was invited to a Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year's) dinner in Los Angeles. It was the first year of Trump's presidency and wherever you went all people wanted to talk about was politics. One thing to know about the Israeli expat com...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with D.M. Cunningham, writer and director of The Spore
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
If you like your horror with a huge lashing of gruesome effects and a strong story then The Spore is for. Showing at Grimmfest Online, the movie from D.M. Cunningham is a smart take on the body horror genre. Here he chats about this movie which is guaranteed to get under your skin.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a director?
DM: I started out wanting to be a makeup effects artist. After seeing Night of the Living Dead and discovering Fangoria magazine I was hooked. Tom Savini was a huge influence on my trajectory toward becoming a filmmaker. It wasn't until later that I discovered that you could boss the monsters around on set being the director. That's...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Ben Charles Edwards, co-writer and director of Father of Flies
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
A vulnerable young boy finds his mother pushed out of the family home by a strange new woman in Father of Flies, and he must confront the terrifying supernatural forces that seem to move in with her. This intense and chilling movie is showing at Grimmfest Online Edition so we chatted to director and co-writer Ben Charles Edwards about this movie.
HC: Where did the idea for Father of Flies come from?
BE: It came from my childhood experiences. When my good friend and journalist Dominic Wells was talking to me about my next project, he told me to draw on real life experiences. So, I did. My own experiences were neither as heightened nor as traumatic as they may...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Marcel Sarmiento co-writer and director of Faceless
Posted on Friday 15th October 2021
Showing at Grimmfest Online Edition is the incredibly inventive horror/sci-fi hybrid Faceless. Here, co-writer and director Marcel Sarmiento speaks about this superb movie.
HC: Have you always been a big horror movie fan?
MS: Definitely as a kid. My first movies made with my Betamax were all about scaring one other and how gross we could push makeup effects. We mostly strangled, stabbed, and threw each other off buildings. I think as I got older, I appreciated what you could do with horror more than horror for horror's sake. I love that you can make characters do things that in any other genre you couldn't make them do and still come out the other end liking them and routi...SHARE: READ MORE Tom Paton, director of G-LOC chats about his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman
Posted on Tuesday 14th September 2021
Ahead of the Horror Channel premiere of his sci-fi action thriller G-LOC, director Tom Paton reflects on why making movies is like solving a puzzle, his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman.
Horror Channel will be broadcasting the UK TV premiere of your Sci-fi adventure G-LOC. Excited or what?
It's honesty so strange to me every time Horror Channel debuts one of my movies. The channel has been such a big part of my life growing up and informing my taste in films, that it's always a "pinch myself moment" when I see something that I've made appear on their TV listing. G-LOC is much more of a SCI-FI adventure than any ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Alexis Kendra, the writer and producer of The Cleaning Lady
Posted on Tuesday 15th June 2021
Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of The Cleaning Lady on June 26, the film's star, writer and producer Alexis Kendra talks about playing a 'Goddess', coping with lockdown and why she can't watch horror films on her own.
HC: The Cleaning Lady is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?
AK: I love you guys. Always have, always will. I'm honoured.
HC: It's a very disturbing film, dealing with abuse, addiction and hidden rage, yet the characters are sympathetic and have real depth. It's horror with a twisted heart. As a co-writer, alongside your director Jon Knautz, what were the main challenges in getting the balance right between acting and writing? <...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of Rabid
Posted on Tuesday 1st June 2021
Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of Rabid on June 12, Jen and Sylvia Soska reflect on the challenges of re-imagining Cronenberg's body horror classic, meeting the great man and their new monster movie, Bob.
HC: Rabid is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?
SS: The Horror Channel has supported us and our work since the beginning, so it's a special treat to have the newest film premiere there!
Js: We are so excited. Having Rabid on Horror Channel feels like coming home. They've been very kind to us. We are happy to have so many of our films on there.
HC: We all, of course, remember that Rabid was one of David Cronenberg's earli...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Mickey Fisher, creator of sci-fi series Extant
Posted on Thursday 6th May 2021
Horror Channel will be continuing its commitment to bringing cult and classic sci-fi to its audience with Seasons 1 and 2 of the CBS Studios/Amblin Television production of Extant, starring Halle Berry as astronaut Molly Woods, who returns home to her family, inexplicably pregnant after 13 months in outer space on a solo mission.
The series begins on Horror May 11th so, we decided to chat to its creator, Mickey Fisher about how the series came to be produced and what it was like working with Hollywood royalty.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a writer?
MF: From the time I was maybe five or six years old I wanted to be an actor. Going to see Star...SHARE: READ MORE Interviews Archive: 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Monday 27th June
Wednesday 29th June
Tuesday 28th June