Claydon, Phil (Lesbian Vampire Killers)

Phil Claydon first came to my attention eight years ago when he burst onto the UK horror scene with a low budget psychological thriller called Alone, notable for its sole use of first-person POV shots for the film’s serial killer which meant that you never actually saw that character on screen. Now the affable young director is back with his sophomore film, an altogether more commercial prospect in the shape of “>Lesbian Vampire Killers, a British comedy/horror that we’ve been tracking here on Dread Central for some time.

Phil Claydon and the cast of Lesbian Vampire Killers

Lesbian Vampire Killers pits two fun-loving lads (Mathew Horne and James Corden – BBC’s “Gavin & Stacey”) against a horde of salacious sexy bloodsuckers in a remote cursed village. Jimmy has just been dumped by his girlfriend, so Fletch suggests that they go hiking for the weekend. When they discover that they’re staying in the same cottage as a party of female foreign students things seem to be looking up for the pair, but little do they realise what the night has in store for them. As the moon rises, so do the lesbian vampires – and they need Jimmy and tourist Lotte (MyAnna Buring – The Descent) to revive their Vampire Queen!

Phil previewed an exclusive clip from the film at last year’s FrightFest event in London last August, so it was fitting that he should choose the festival to host the film’s World Premiere as its centrepiece “surprise film” at its recent Spring Awakening all-dayer at the Prince Charles Cinema last weekend. Having been invited by Phil to see the finished film earlier in the week, we met up in a nearby restaurant in London’s Leicester Square to chat about lesbians, vampires and killers prior to the film’s debut screening with an audience.

Phil Newton: So we’re here in Leicester Square for the World Premiere of Lesbian Vampire Killers

Phil Claydon: The secret screening!

PN: But this is not your first time at FrightFest is it, you were here in 2001 with Alone, so what can you remember about that time?

PC: 2001 was an exciting and nerve-wracking time for me. It was good to have the film in front of an audience. Alone sold well, it did okay around the world, but obviously making your first feature film it’s not a guarantee that you’re going to be able make a second feature film.

PN: So what have you been doing since then?

PC: In the interim period I’ve been writing scripts and trying to get other projects up and running and within that time, about five years ago, I found Lesbian Vampire Killers written by Paul [Hupfield] and Stew [Williams].

PN: The writers were friends of yours, right?

PC: They were friends of a friend.

PN: So it’s been in development for quite a while?

PC: We tried to get it up and running as a low budget film and through the trials and tribulations of the film industry, we had producers and financers attached and they were doing all that they said they were, so the project was up and running and (pauses) then it fell apart! But in that time we had James Corden attached, pre- Gavin & Stacey and he was an ambassador and he loved the project and wanted to do it so we kept in touch.

PN: I’d wondered if James and Mat [Horne] had been cast together as a pair or separately?

PC: James wanted to work with Mat, they work very well together and they get on well together. He gave me the DVD of Gavin & Stacey and through that we managed to get Mat on board. Then Gavin & Stacey went large and with those two attached we went to Momentum Pictures, did the full spiel, pitched the movie, they fell in love with it and from then we managed to be where we are now.

PN: It must be a blessing for you having James and Mat involved what with the enormous success they’ve had over the past year, and a new sketch show for the BBC this month?

PC: You know, you can put two people in the same room together, two actors, and they’ll try and pull it out of the bag, but if it doesn’t work then it doesn’t work. But with James and Mat they just know each other inside out and they work very well and they were perfect for the parts and it was the right script at the right time. It all comes together like most things do in the film industry.

PN: I think the dialogue in the film works very well with the two bouncing off one another, would you agree it’s more of a comedy than a horror film?

PC: It is, it’s predominantly a comedy. James and Mat play Fletch and Jimmy, thrown into this Hammer horror world… not old skool Hammer, it’s more of a modern polish on the good old fashioned creepy inn, the cottage that they go to, and the forest at night.

PN: Let’s just clarify the title, it’s killers of lesbian vampires not killers who are lesbian vampires or vampire killers who are lesbians, right?

PC: Exactly! There’s three ways you can slant it, so technically there’s three films. The sequel should be Lesbian Vampire Killers (laughs).

PN: And the title was there right from the start wasn’t it? Did you have any problems with that when you were trying to pitch the film to actors, was it a hindrance?

PC: With Momentum attached and James and Mat attached it legitimised the project. This had to be something to be read, because Momentum would not be financing it and James and Mat wouldn’t be in it if it didn’t have something about it so once you got past the title – I mean a lot of the time we just called it “LVK” when we sent it out and said it’s a comedy – then the actors would read it and realise what it was.

PN: The writers said they wanted to write Withnail & I meets Hammer horror, and ironically you’ve ended up with Paul McGann playing the Vicar in the film. How was it having him around?

PC: Brilliant, it was meant to be, that’s what I think about casting sometimes. They said Withnail & I with vampires, Paul McGann’s on board and it just gives you a nice little story.

PN: You also have a bevy of beauties with the sexy students and the lesbian vampires of course. I imagine it was every male’s fantasy being there on set every day?

PC: Yeah, brilliant, it was a lot of fun! It was like being at a female frat party! Obviously I was too busy working…

PN: Was it an easy shoot, did you have any challenges while filming that you had to overcome?

PC: Only Hitler and an unexploded World War II bomb!

PN: Oh really? What happened?

PC: We were filming down at 3 Mills Studios [in London] and there was a huge bomb discovered in the local drainage system. It turned out to be an unexploded World War II bomb that started ticking which obviously shut down our ability to film in the studio. They had to detonate the bomb eventually, which did blow up, and it left two dents on the bonnet of my car which I’ve left there because technically I can say that I’ve been bombed by Hitler!

PN: James is a writer himself, did he have any input into the script and was he improvising on set much?

PC: Well, James improvised mostly on set, he’d start riffing on stuff and that’s what keeps him going; he buzzes off changing things around and just keeping himself on his toes.

PN: You use a lot of white gloop instead of blood in the film, was that a deliberate choice to ensure a 15 certificate here in the UK?

PC: No, the choice wasn’t to do with the certification at all, it was there because I liked the idea that these creatures are pretty tactile and have no bones. I loved it when Bishop got ripped apart in Aliens and all that white crap goes everywhere, I just like the aesthetic, the look of it, so I thought let’s do it.

PN: It really gives you the opportunity to throw everything at the screen.

PC: Yes, the splatter!

PN: Was there anything you had to cut from the film?

PC: No, thirty-two days made it a pretty lean shoot so basically with reference to deleted scenes, there aren’t many of them.

PN: The film has quite a distinct style to it, did you work very closely with James Herbert [the film’s editor] during post-production?

PC: Yes, me and James love working together, we have a right laugh, we’re like best friends. We just treated it like a comic book because it felt like a comic book story and that’s where we kind of based ourselves. We shot it like a comic book too so it just evolved naturally really.

PN: Inevitably there will be comparisons with Shaun Of The Dead, but what other films influenced you? I heard you mention The Lost Boys when we last met?

PC: Yes, The Lost Boys, Ghostbusters, Gremlins… anything by Joe Dante was more of an influence in making this film than say George Romero and Dawn Of The Dead were for Shaun Of The Dead. We’re always going to get compared to that film because it’s one of the only others that has been made in Britain – we only make a few of these films, very few indeed. If you put two TV stars from a successful programme into a movie that is a riff on a horror genre then you’re always going to get those comparisons. Those comparisons are fine because I think these films should exist, I love Shaun Of The Dead, it’s an amazing movie. But we’re not Shaun Of The Dead, we’re not trying to be, we were just trying to have fun and make a really good Friday night popcorn picture.

PN: So the film opens here in the UK on the 20th March, what about in the US, have you secured a distributor there?

PC: No distribution yet. All the big studios want it and they love it, Harvey Weinstein loves it, and they’re all just waiting to see how it does over here theatrically first. Believe it or not, the title is a hard sell in America.

PN: What’s next for you, have you had any offers since completing the film? Would you consider doing a remake or do you want to do something original?

PC: I’ll do something original. I’ve had, and read, scripts but I’ll probably do something that is generated by myself because I’ve got lots of cool ideas and scripts that have been written pre- Lesbian Vampire Killers and there’s one of those that I’d really like to attack next.

PN: Finally, will we get to see the gay werewolves?

PC: Gay werewolves will appear in one form or another! (laughs)

Phil Claydon and Phil Newton

With thanks to Phil Claydon and FrightFest’s Paul McEvoy.

Phil Newton

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Steve Barton

You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.