Cult Director Richard Elfman Sinks His Teeth into Vampires Again with Bloody Bridget
Forbidden Zone director Richard Elfman invites us to meet Bloody Bridget, his music-infused vampire fantasia. He also reveals Danny Elfman’s fuzz-tone secret.
Richard Elfman redefined underground cinema with his barely-categorizable 1980 film Forbidden Zone, a vehicle for his musical unit The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. He re-energized absurdist cinema with the musically-propelled sci-fi comedy Aliens, Clowns &- Geeks (2021). Directed and written by Elfman, the upcoming Bloody Bridget is another music-driven piece with a score by Ego Plum (Cuphead, SpongeBob SquarePants, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse) and Richard’s brother Danny Elfman (The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Simpsons).
For Bloody Bridget, Elfman is infusing new blood, and plenty of heart, into the vampire genre he thought he’d staked with the 1998 cult horror movie Revenant (aka Modern Vampires). Richard’s wife Anastasia Elfman plays Bridget, a dance horror choreographer who is sexually harassed and tossed into a legal wringer. Voodoo father Baron Samedi (Jean Charles) mistakes her for his wife, the Irish saint Maman Brigitte, and turns her into a “Valentine vampire.” Blood is just an appetizer for the main course. She “must feast on the hearts of evil-doers,” according to the movie’s official website.”
Bloody Bridget premiered at Brazil’s Fantaspoa Film Festival on April 22. It also stars Tom Ayers as the politically-incorrect standup comic who owns the sleazy strip club Tony’s Tavern; Christian Prentice as Edwin, Bridget’s cheating leech of a boyfriend; and Marcos Mateo Ochoa as Pepe, the mute and bullied busboy. Rendered unrecognizable by extreme makeup effects, Richard Elfman plays the devil himself. Fully self-funded, Bloody Bridget delivers a spectral range of “Elfmaniac” visuals.
Elfman’s films are more than unique amongst themselves, they are original and personal visions designed to alienate commercial power brokers while still spilling enough blood to please a crowd at the Roman Coliseum. The maniacal Elfman rang up Den of Geek to rant, rave, and respond to the many issues which come up when a seductive superhero rises from the dead in vengeance against mortal predators.
Den of Geek: Your latest offering is a completely independent film. No studios, no partners, late mortgage payments. What led you to this and what kinds of guerilla tactics did you employ to do the job on Bloody Bridget?
Richard Elfman: Raising money for an independent film is exceedingly difficult, and takes much more time and effort than making the actual film. Like times ten. So, I just said “fuck it, damn-the-torpedoes,” and shot a movie. I’m passionate about what I do, and the cast and crew can feel it. I shot with two cameras, drove a brisk pace and we kept a high energy on the set. And I guess fun is the key ingredient. It’s fun to work on my films, if I don’t say so meself.
Also, a luxury we didn’t have back when we shot on film stock, but shooting digitally I can get my “good take” on an actor’s performance, then tell them, “Great take, we’ve got it! Now do one more, anything the fuck you want. Go play with it now, have some fun.” Often, we’d get our best performance on that one. Actors love it. Oh, and I seriously grill for my cast and crew, and treat them to great parties. Maybe that helps.
Did you light cigars to Baron Samedi for production’s sake? And did Jean Charles bring his own blend?
Real smoke. I had cigars and Jean brought some too. The guy has good taste.
There are some streamy sequences in Bloody Bridget. Was it awkward directing your wife, Anastasia, in that love scene with Baron Samedi?
Are you kidding, my wife with a 6-foot-2 male-model Adonis? Fastest shot in the film. One quick camera move, two seconds, before I screamed: “Cut! Cover ‘em up. Let’s move to close ups.” Fortunately, Jean Charles is a total, respectful gentleman, and we had Kryptonite padding between them. Yeah, I wanted a sexy/bloody film. The things we do for art!
What have you discovered in Anastasia as a performer which surprised you during the filming, and what is her superpower?
I’ve directed her on stage and we’ve been collaborating on live music/dance performances for years. Besides being beautiful and talented, she’s the odd byproduct of a hardcore Marine Corps-parents upbringing – military youth camp every weekend – and classical ballet and cello.
We shot the film at lightning speed. Anna was in every damn scene, often cold, beat up. Never complained, she’s a consummate trouper. The opposite of diva. I used every hack in the book to do the film quickly and efficiently. For our bloody kill scenes, instead of schlepping our practical effects department from location to location I did them back-to-back on a green screen stage. So, Anna had to have blood tubes glued to her arms, dig her nails into hard chest prosthetics, and eat a disgusting bloody prop, often trying not to throw up. Then rush through a cold shower and get cleaned up for the next kill. The kid’s a samurai. Maybe that’s her superpower.
Throwing up? You did tell her not to swallow, right? Actors waste so much blood that way, the cameras can’t see it on the inside.
Yeah, the Romans wanted blood and we really gave it to them on this baby. Ironically, Anna’s a vegetarian and, trouper that she is, offered to actually “eat” real meat hearts if needed for the kill scenes. Massive amounts of stage blood notwithstanding, our special effects department whipped up prop hearts with foam and rubber.
The special effects and backgrounds were quite impressive, what can you tell me about them?
The “practical effects,” or physical things, bloody hearts, monster make-up, etc., were done by Roy Knyrim and SOTA/FX. Roy and his team are masters at this, I’ve worked with Roy since Modern Vampires, 25 years ago. Roy is also a director and has horrifically killed me in several of his films.
The digital effects and wild fantasy backgrounds were created by Emmy-award winning VFX artist Kevin Kutchaver. Film is a collaborative medium and, despite the modest budget, we had a “killer” crew to work with.
What inspired Tony’s Tavern and the bad jokes?
Tom Ayers, who played Tony, is a veteran actor and also a working stand-up comic. The character Tony is a racist, homophobic asshole and Tom played it that way. What inspired Tony’s Tavern? Easter egg: Tony’s Tavern is the same bar set we used in my last film Aliens, Clowns & Geeks, and was called “Jumbo’s.”
Tell me about fusing tech and silent expressionism in Marcos Mateo Ochoa’s mute character, Pepe?
Marcos is a fascinating guy. Professional dancer with two economic degrees. He did multiple roles in my previous film, both dancing and speaking. He has an amazing, expressive face that the camera loves, dialogue or not. A pleasure to work with, we’ll give him plenty to do in Bloody Bridget 2.
Your brother Danny, and Ego Plum scored the film. What do each bring that’s unique to them? And can you ask Danny how he got that fuzz on the guitar?
Life may have its ups and downs but I lucked out finding my little brother was reincarnated Mozart and my best friend Ego, aka Ernesto Guerrero, was Mozart Jr. Music is a key element driving my films, and I gotta’ say we’ve got a million-dollar score on Bloody Bridget. Danny did music for Wednesday, [he’s] also doing Beetlejuice 2. My “zero music budget” films must deal with his and Ego’s busy schedules. Fortunately I’m a percussionist. Ego actually had me add some final notes this week, before the Bridget sound-track locked.
Also, Anna and I currently play in a band with Ego: Mambo Diabolico. By the way, Ego is Hollywood’s most sought-after TV cartoon composer. A major studio just signed him for a big animated feature.
Wow, can you tell me what Ego’s new gig is?
He’s joining the major comic book cinematic universe. I’m not able to say whether it’s Marvel or DC, but it’ll be splashed in the trade press soon. But I can reveal that Danny uses a Version 289799B Fuzz-the-System fuzz/buzz button on his guitar.
With all the work which went into producing this on your own, was it still easier to make than Revenant?
Revenant, fucking oy vey. Most traumatic film experience in my life. [It had a] great Matthew Bright script, great cast. Originally [it had] Oliver Stone producing, but [he] fell out with other producers. Major behind-the-scenes drama, slower than hell first-time DP, production halted day 12. [The] bond company had me surreptitiously take over as producer, minimally pieced things together over a few weekends after breaking into my brother’s warehouse, telling his biz manager to screw himself. Had nightmares for weeks after, dreaming of fighting to get a shot off. I just did an interview for the Blu-ray, stayed as positive as I could.
How have your vampires grown between films?
I got to stake Udo Keir in Modern Vampires, something I’d wanted to do since he swept me away in Warhol’s Dracula. Bloody Bridget was something else, a “Valentine Vampire.” Blood only whets her appetite; she must eat their beating hearts!
Where do you think the new film fits in your canon?
In terms of films that I feel really express the inner-Elfo vision, it would be Forbidden Zone, Aliens, Clowns & Geeks, and now Bloody Bridget. Those three. I had creative control.
Where did the Isadora Duncan obsession begin?
[Laughs] I’m a serious dance aficionado. Isadora Duncan was certainly a daring cultural icon who challenged Victorian sensibilities, but “the Mother of Modern Dance?” Ha! Her “dancing” was comprised of a few silly moves, no technique. Absurd to watch, actually. And Absurdism is Richard Elfman’s middle name. Our comic/tragic Bridget O’Brian was impressed though. I had Anna incorporate some of Isadora’s key ridiculous moves into Bridget’s “classy” dance number at the club.
What can you tell me about the Schlimazel of Sebreim?
A gothic vampire’s tale of love, lust, revenge, and redemption. [I’m currently doing an] audiobook for the novel, to be released later this year. Two more novels coming after that, catch me over the summer.
Will a schlemiel be mentioned in any of your upcoming novels?
[Laughs] Schlimazel, our reluctant hero’s name, actually means an unlucky or accident prone person in Yiddish. In our novel, his brother is named Schlemiel, Yiddish for loser/schmuck.
I read good things about the premiere. What are future plans for Bloody Bridget?
Right now we’re starting the festival circuit. We just brought the house down in Brazil. Canada next, then Europe. U.S later this year. Anna and I create live pre-shows before screenings, enlisting local music and burlesque talent to perform with us. Too much damn fun.
A few minor special effects are just being polished up, and at some point soon we’ll talk to distributors. The film is definitely “horror niche” but I’m an entertainer at heart and it plays. So we need to find the best fit with the right distributor. But now we’re just enjoying ourselves. As we have no deals or investors on this one, we can do whatever the fuck we want. Yee-Haw!