Amelia Moses’s new horror feature “Bloodthirsty” subverts the classical figure of the werewolf to create a smart and mesmerizing psychological allegory of identity, art and fame.
In the lead role, Lauren Beatty plays Grey, an up-and-coming gay indie musician who is coached by mysterious and manipulative music producer Vaughn Daniels (Greg Bryk) to find her voice and produce her second album. However, the intense guidance entails an emotional and physical transformation that releases the monster living inside of Grey.
“It was really cathartic to play a character where the human and the monster are coexisting at the same time,” said Beatty about the role. “It’s beautiful, because you still can see the human behind it, but also the physical manifestation of all of these monsters that live inside of her.”
Beatty, who had already worked with Moses in “Bleed With Me,” was new to the lycanthrope experience, but her co-star Greg Bryk was not. He played a werewolf for over two years in the “Bitten” TV show, and his 20-plus year experience in the entertainment industry was invaluable to the film and the power dynamics his character has with Grey.
“I think that one of the reasons why werewolf movies resonate with people is because they tap into that darker heartbeat we all have,” said Bryk about his role. “There’s something elemental about it that, even if we didn’t live in a very manicured and digitized world, we would know it’s still there.”
Ahead of “Bloodthirsty”’s theatrical and VOD release on April 23, I had a chance to speak with Lauren Beatty and Greg Byrk about the werewolf makeup process, their preparation for the roles and working with Amelia Moses.
How was the werewolf transformation process in terms of makeup? What kind of work did it entail?
Lauren Beatty: It was a lot of hours in a chair, but it was super fun to have it put on. They had to glue it, airbrush it, and we had hair pieces and contact lenses that were a nightmare to get in. Everything you see is practical. Once everything was complete, it was really cool to actually see the monster that you become in the film, and it’s not done in CGI later on, so you can match the acting to it. It’s easier to embody the werewolf. You still see the human behind it.
Greg Bryk: You look in the mirror and it’s you, but with these built-up cranium and fangs, which I found super fascinating. One night, when I was in theater school, I did a ton of mushrooms with my wife and, while standing in the bathroom, I looked in the mirror and I became like the devil. I just saw it. We all have that in us, right? It just came out. Looking at yourself with this makeup and the eyes, it has kind of the same sense because we all have a lot of energy in us, light energy, dark energy and to see it manifested so evocatively on yourself, I found it very exciting. And it was great to play in that makeup.
Lauren, you are a musician yourself and Greg, you recently played a manipulative figure in the Far Cry 5 video game. How did this experience help you prepare for your roles in “Bloodthirsty”?
Lauren Beatty: This movie spoke to me a lot. I was very compelled to take this part because Grey is also a musician. The music really makes this film; it’s so hauntingly beautiful, but done in a subtle way. Actually being a musician I related to a lot of stuff that Grey is going through: writer’s block, imposter syndrome and all those things that you go through as an actor as well. It was this whole other layer of why I wanted to be part of this film.
Greg Bryk: I think that the older you get and spend more time in whatever industry you’re in, there’s a cynicism that creeps in a little bit. It’s not that you’ve seen everything, but you feel you have. So when you can be startled out of that, it’s exciting. In this movie you see someone coming in that is finding her voice, and it’s an exciting process. It’s like the embers of a flame that bust again. I’ve worked with some young actors from time to time, and I find it’s always exciting to push them to find themselves and get past this preconceived idea of what they can do and where they can go, and to access their own authentic voice and be less concerned about what people expect in them or want from them, but just selfishly reap what you want. How do you take the scene? How do you take this moment? Just don’t protect yourself from the idea that you are not a nice person. I think it’s important to not be a nice person from time to time, and that’s not being a bully, it’s just being true to yourself and giving what the situation requires. The fullness in you as opposed to diluting it by being like a cupcake for everybody else.
How did you prepare for the actual werewolf part of the role?
Lauren Beatty: The only werewolf film I’ve seen is “An American Werewolf in London.” I haven’t even seen “Ginger Snaps,” which I know is one of the other few movies that have female werewolves. Well, specifically, there aren’t gay female werewolves. (Actually, one time I googled “gay werewolves” and just a bunch of male porn came up. Lots of werewolf porn.) Maybe that helps because this story is such a different take on a werewolf film. I didn’t have all these ideas on my head of what a classic werewolf film should be or how they act. I was going into it pretty much blindly. I think that probably lent itself to the performance too because our director, Amelia, really wanted the human to shine through the monster even when we were transformed. For me, it was really cathartic to play a character where the human and the monster are coexisting at the same time. It’s beautiful because you still can see the emotions behind it, you can still see the human but also the physical manifestation of all of these monsters that live inside of her, that are coming to the surface, that have been hiding deep down and holding her back.
Greg Bryk: I like the vitality of the wolf. I like the danger of a wolf. I played football in college and studied Krav Maga, and I like that. I like the language of violence. There’s a truth to physicality that is unavoidable. And there is something there, when you get into the wardrobe and the makeup, and your body feels its primal purpose. At a certain level we are hunters and we have the capacity to kill for love or sport. That was exciting about this world. I think that one of the reasons why werewolf movies resonate with people is because they tap into that darker heartbeat we all have and there’s something elemental about it that, even if we didn’t live in a very manicured and digitized world, we would know it’s still there. We are not that far removed from life-and-death survival and needing to be a bit savage to survive. There’s something in the werewolf figure that it’s appealing in both love and art.
What can you tell me about working with Amelia Moses and her approach to psychological horror?
Lauren Beatty: I don’t even know where to begin. I love Amelia so much. I honestly think she is the future of horror. Her voice and her take on horror is so needed and she is such a visionary. She has this really beautiful way of working that feels so collaborative. She can take any ego and toss it aside if she needs to in order to do whatever is best for the project and whatever is going to help us as actors get to where we need to be. I think that’s also the beauty of female directors: They are very sympathetic and very in tune with people’s emotions. There’s this beautiful thing that happens when you work with Amelia where you don’t feel like a puppet; you don’t feel just like a puzzle piece. She makes you feel like a real artist, like she’s giving you the tools to paint the canvas. It’s beautiful.
Greg Bryk: She was spectacular. She made very creative, decisive decisions. She understood the limitations that we had, timewise, and I think she solved problems in an excellent way. She was awfully collaborative. I think the best directors have confidence in their vision, they create their world, but they give us actors room to create within it. David Cronenberg was like that a lot. You knew that he knew exactly what he wanted, but he also didn’t know what surprises you could bring in, and he was going to let you play hoping that there were little fireflies coming out of you or something, and then he would catch those and put them in his world. You always felt in his world, and Amelia was very much like that; even though she is so young, she has great confidence in the world she is creating and that’s exciting as an actor, you feel very safe there.
“Bloodthirsty” is now available in select theaters and VOD in Canada and the United States.
Ricardo is a Mexico City based bilingual writer, digital animation graduate and awards season nerd. He also enjoys pro wrestling, is a Paddington fan and is the founder of the film website “La Estatuilla.”