Women often make the most captivating protagonists in the horror genre, as they’re not afraid to show their vulnerabilities and emotional complexities as they battle their fears. The new werewolf film, ‘Bloodthirsty,’ is a prime example of that strong drive in women to fight to survive during their darkest times.
The horror thriller powerfully creates a space for its protagonist, Grey, to explore the visceral manifestation of her internal struggles and anxieties when she discovers that she’s transitioning into a werewolf. The main character, who’s also made a name for herself as a popular singer-songwriter, is now contending with both her development into a monster, and her evolution as an artist after the release of her hit debut album. In order to discover her true self, she must survive the trials and tribulations of finding her voice as both a monster and an artist.
Amelia Moses directed the movie, which was conceived and written by mother-daughter duo, Wendy Hill-Tout and singer-songwriter Lowell. The former also served as a producer on the drama, which features original music from the latter.
Moses reunited with lead actress Lauren Beatty on ‘Bloodthirsty,’ after they previously worked together on the filmmaker’s feature film writing and helming debuts, last year’s horror thriller, ‘Bleed With Me.’ In addition to Beatty, ‘Bloodthirsty’ also stars Greg Bryk, Katharine King So, Judith Buchan and Michael Ironside. The movie, which premiered at Fantastic Fest 2020, is being released today in select theaters and On Demand by Brainstorm Media in the U.S. and by Raven Banner in Canada.
‘Bloodthirsty’ follows Grey (Beatty), an indie singer whose first album was a smash hit, as she receives an invitation to work with notorious music producer Vaughn Daniels (Bryk) at his remote studio in the woods. Together with her girlfriend, Charlie (So), they arrive at his mansion, and the work begins.
But Grey is having visions that she is a wolf, and as her work with the emotionally demanding Vaughn deepens, the vegan singer begins to hunger for meat and the hunt. As Grey starts to transform into a werewolf, she begins to find out who she really is, and discovers the family she never knew.
Moses generously took the time last fall, following the drama’s premiere at Fantastic Fest, to talk about directing ‘Bloodthirsty’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the filmmaker discussed how after she finished production on ‘Bleed with Me,’ one of ‘Blodothirsty’s producers, Mike Peterson, told her that he was looking for a female Canadian horror director to helm the project, and she immediately felt drawn to the film’s subject matter and themes. She also shared her gratitude that the thriller premiered at the festival, and its programmers and organizers were incredibly supportive in promoting the feature around its premiere.
The conversation began with Moses explaining how she became involved in helming ‘Bloodthirsty,’ and what her overall directorial style was like on the set. “It was kind of a total coincide, really. I was looking for distribution for my other film, ‘Bleed with Me,’ which I also spoke to you about,” she noted.
“So a mutual friend between Mike Peterson and I put us in touch because he had made quite a few indie films before. We also started chatting about what kind of films we like and the horror genre,” the filmmaker shared. “He then mentioned that he was looking for a female Canadian horror director, and I was like, I do check all of those boxes.
“About a week later I was reading the script, and then I was talking to Wendy Hill-Tout, who co-wrote the script with her daughter, Lowell. I totally assumed they were still in development and they were looking for funding, and it was going to be a two-year process,” Moses admitted.
“But they were like, ‘We’re shooting next month in Alberta; do you want to come out and make this movie?’ I was like, ‘Okay, let’s go for it!,'” the helmer continued. “Our pre-production was definitely very short, but it was fun to just jump into a project so directly like that.
“What drew me to the script was the premise of this singer who was trying to write her second album, and struggling with the process a little bit. I also liked the exploration of the creative process, and the parallel transition of turning into a creature. It was a lot to explore the artistic ambition and creative process,” Moses also shared.
“To be honest, I really like werewolf movies, too! I was excited to do a transformation scene.” The filmmaker added, **SPOILER ALERT** “The fact that she transforms in the recording booth really stood out. I was like, that’s a scene that I’d love to do.” **END SPOILER ALERT**
Further speaking of the transformation scene, Moses delved into what the process was like of creating the look for the werewolves. “When I became involved in the film, Wendy and Mike had already talked to the special effects person who was going to be doing the creature design. For budget reasons, as well as to try to do something different, they decided to do more of a hybrid creature.
“Somethings I think dressing someone in a wolf costume, especially in a low-budget film, can be difficult and cheesy, so we were really hesitant about doing that. So we decided to do more of a hybrid, stripped-down version of the creature, and I was all for that because that was something new and interesting,” the director continued.
“I think when we started shooting and I saw the prosthetic on Lauren, I was really excited about how we could still get the humanity; you can see that she’s still a little bit human. It’s not like we couldn’t still see her face at all, so we were able to still get a connection, which I thought was an interesting byproduct of the prosthetics we’d gone with,” Moses divulged. “Obviously, the story’s about someone struggling with that side of themself. I think it’s interesting to empathize with the creature in that case.”
While Grey’s contending with her physical and emotional transformations, her mental metamorphosis is heightened in part by the fact that she’s largely isolated from the world when she begins working with Vaughn in his isolated cabin. The filmmaker further discussed what her experience was like of filming the drama on location in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and creating the look of the remote house.
“I had never been to Alberta before, but I knew it was going to be similar weather to Quebec in winter. But we really lucked out, in terms of shooting in Edmonton, and we didn’t get that cold weather. It was freezing while we were location scouting, but once we started shooting, it wasn’t too bad, so we were really lucky,” Moses revealed.
“We were also super lucky to find the house. We looked at a lot of places, and nothing was really standing out. I think when you have a single location, it really has to be an impactful place. The house is essentially an extension of Vaughn, and he’s an eccentric character who’s wealthy, so that really had to be shown in the house,” the helmer further noted. “Once we found the house, we were like, this has to be it, so we were lucky to get that location.
“The guy who owns the house has a lot of stuff; he’s into antiquing and has all of these old things. So it was really a process to work with the production designer (Mike Kasper) to take things out and redesign the space,” Moses revealed.
“We also chose to embrace a lot of what was already there. For example, a lot of the scenes, like when Grey was running and the hitchhiking scene, were supposed to be filmed in the woods. But there weren’t a lot of trees around the property, so we kept trying to find little patches here and there,” the filmmaker also shared.
“Then I was like, wait a minute, we have this incredible junkyard, and it’s super unique. So we decided to embrace that location, and weave it into the film,” Moses added.
Further speaking about her experience of collaborating with Beatty and the rest of the actors, the director delved into what the casting process was like for the movie. “Greg Bryk, who plays Vaughn, was already involved in the project when I got on board. I’ve seen some of his work, so I was excited to work with him. With Lauren, I knew her from ‘Bleed with Me.’
“Katharine and I actually went to film school together-she was actually a year below me. I didn’t really know she was an actor until she finished school. I saw a web series she starred on called ‘The Walk-In Closet,’ which she also wrote. I also did a music video with her that my friend was directing, so I’ve seen her around and thought, she’s a pretty good actor. She’s very charismatic and has a great look, so I wanted to have an opportunity to work with her,” Moses shared. “When I read the script, I immediately thought, ‘She’s Charlie!'”
“Another aspect I was considering when I was casting her and Lauren was that they’re both queer performers in real life, as well. I know they’ve both struggled with being cast in queer roles. I know a lot of times they write those roles for themselves. So it seemed like a good opportunity to work with queer actors for queer roles,” the filmmaker also shared.
“When they met, they seemed to have really good chemistry, and it all just worked out. They brought a lot of themselves, as well as authenticity, to their characters and their relationship,” Moses noted. “It’s not the main part of the story, but I think it’s a good opportunity to have queer actors play queer characters.”
Following up on the fact that the performers brought a sense of authenticity to their characters, the helmer explained what the process of working with the actors to build their characters was like throughout the production. “Again, the pre-production was really short, so we didn’t have much rehearsal time; instead, we were just throwing into it, just like a lot of aspects of this project. But I think it was just a matter of talking as much as we could in the beginning, and developing the characters through a little bit of prep work, so that we could play a little bit on the day,” she noted.
“I think all of them brought a lot to their characters. Lauren is also a singer, so part of the reason why we cast her was because she could sing. I also liked the fact that she has also written for herself before, so she had the insight into that creative process and struggle,” Moses continued.
“So we talked about those elements, and once we began shooting, we talked about finessing those details. They all brought a lot to their characters as performers,” the filmmaker added.
Further speaking of the music, in addition to co-scribing the script, Lowell also penned all of the original songs that are featured in ‘Bloodthirsty.’ Moses went into additional detail about what the process of working with the screen- and songwriter was like as they created the music for the narrative, as well as the drama’s overall score.
“All the songs that you hear that Grey’s writing in the film were all written before I came on board. I heard (the track) ‘Bloodthirsty,'” which subsequently received a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Original Song, “while I was in prep in Calgary. I was immediately like, that’s a great song, and we used that for the audition song. So that was always going to be a core piece of music that was going to be important, and it became the title of the film,” the director shared.
“So I heard most of the songs that were already written as I was coming in. Lowell’s a very talented songwriter, so I didn’t really give much input into that because I trusted her to do her thing. Obviously, it’s her script, as well, so I wanted to make sure that whatever she wanted to bring to the table was going to work for me,” Moses added.
“Then, with the score, that was obviously more my side of things, and we worked with Michelle Osis on it. Since we got into Fantastic Fest, we had a very quick time to get the score and sound design together, and Michelle really killed it,” the filmmaker continued.
“It was my first time working with her, but she’s an excellent collaborator. How I work with music is that I give a lot of references. Before she wrote anything, I would send her a piece of music and we’d chat about it, including what I like about it,” Moses also divulged.
“There was a lot of back and forth, talking about the tone and texture of everything. I think that really helped when it came time to write the music, and her figuring out what was needed emotionally for each scene. I was really happy with how it turned out,” the helmer added.
Further speaking about how ‘Bloodthirsty’ had its World Premiere during last year’s Fantastic Fest, Moses followed up on the experience of debuting the film to the festival. “Similarly to Fantasia (where ‘Bleed With Me’ had its world premiere), I think Fantastic Fest did a really great job of pivoting and creating a really good online experience and keeping things exciting,” she noted.
“It was kind of mixed feelings when I found out that we got in; obviously, I was super excited that we got in, but I’ve also always wanted to go to Austin, and on top of that, I’ve always wanted to go to Fantastic Fest, as it sounds like a really awesome festival to attend. So I was really sad that the year we got in was the year that it wasn’t happening in person,” the filmmaker admitted with a hint of a laugh. “But obviously, it’s not a good time to be traveling right now. So it was a bit bittersweet.
“But all the festival programmers and organizers have been incredibly supportive about promoting the film, as well as me and the cast and crew. They’ve been doing the best they can, and the fact that they still put the festival on is really awesome,” Moses concluded.