Interview with the Grampire: David Blyth Talks Working with Al Lewis and More - Dread Central
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Interview with the Grampire: David Blyth Talks Working with Al Lewis and More



Al Lewis

I was totally unaware when I sent a message to Karen Ingenthron Lewis on Facebook (after she accepted my friend request) with questions about her role in the bizarro Frederic Hobbs western/horror film Godmonster of Indian Flats that I was also messaging the widow of iconic vampire character actor Al “Grandpa Munster” Lewis, who passed away in 2006. Prior to this realization I was fixated on learning more about the film that brought the world a gigantic, mutant sheep terrorizing a western town (appropriately stuck in the 1800s).

Upon connecting the dots, however, I realized that this article (which is not about a mutant sheep; sorry, you’ll have to go elsewhere for that one), about the New Zealand children’s vampire movie My Grandpa is a Vampire (known also as Grampire as well as Moonrise), quickly took on a deeper, more significant purpose.

(Note: The author will be referring to the film by its original distribution title of Grampire throughout the remainder of the article and interview.)

That production [Grampire] is a highlight of my life. My memoir, called, funnily enough, I Married a Munster, My Life with “Grandpa” Al Lewis, is now in print. A large section is dedicated to the time Al and I spent together in New Zealand. -Karen Lewis, 2016


There was a brief period during my youth when I began getting really interested in horror films but wasn’t quite brave enough to take the plunge. As a result, I began seeking out films that were – at their heart – for young adults but that possessed some horror elements: Little Monsters; The Witches; Gremlins 2: The New Batch (the first Gremlins film came out before my time); and, of course, Grampire. I have a vivid memory of seeing the VHS box in the local video store and being both intrigued and a little scared of the bright purple and white moon on the front with Al Lewis’ grinning face on it. I’m assuming because it wasn’t rated R, my parents took a chance and rented it for a family movie night.

Lonny (played by the late Justin Gocke) journeys from sunny California to New Zealand in order to pay his Aunt Leah and Grandfather Vernon (played by Lewis) a visit. While getting reacquainted with each other, Lonny and his Kiwi pal (played by Milan Borich) begin to suspect that grandpa’s odd behavior (keeping curtains drawn, sleeping during the day, his aversion to garlic, etc.) may be signs that he’s actually a bloodsucker! Sadly, and before finding any real proof to confirm their suspicions, granddaddy bites the dust – leaving a wake of bereaved family members in his wake.

Immediately following the funeral, however, their suspicions are confirmed as Grandpa rises from his coffin, pleased to see his grandson and full of promises that he’s not dangerous or at all like other dead risers. All is well until Aunt Leah’s boyfriend gets wind of their vampiric relative and sets out – stake in hand – to catch and do away with our the beloved grampire.

What happens next, you ask!? You’ll have to track down a copy and see for yourself. (The film has yet to receive the DVD or Blu-ray treatment, so you’ll have to look for a copy on VHS). Overall, Lewis looks and sounds comfortable in his familiar role of the vampire, cackling and flying about in a way that is actually somewhat spooky and even a little demented at times. There are some really interesting scenes, like the one where the two boys and grandpa are hiding out in some caves near a beach. While out flying around, these three musketeers even make a pit stop at a McDonald’s so Grandpa can sip a pint of cow’s blood. Delicious!

Left to right: Justin Gocke; Al Lewis; Milan Borich

Left to right: Justin Gocke; Al Lewis; Milan Borich

Themes of death and losing loved ones aside, Grampire toys with the viewer’s senses in intriguing, confusing, and even nostalgic ways. It’s intriguing due to some really effective and atmospheric cinematography (there’s lots of lush blue lighting, for example). It’s also, at times, confusing almost exclusively because of the oddly placed funeral scene where we see a woman performing erotic acts on her food directed at our two lead boys during grandpa’s funeral. And I find it nostalgic because director David Blyth is effective at conjuring memories of some classic 1980s monster movie fare, like Fright Night and The Lost Boys — other attempts at diluting the vampire and making him more accessible to children.

Upon revisiting Grampire, I began to wonder whether Lewis loathed assuming the image that had brought him fame three decades earlier. “Unlike Al’s best friend, Fred Gwynne, who was tired of being typecast as a horror show character,” Karen Lewis told me in an email, “Al continued to be grateful for and enjoy the celebrity his fans had given him. He loved to interact with people and kept on entertaining them as Grandpa Munster.”  Clearly, I had assumed wrong!

She continued to explain how Lewis’ role in Grampire had a greater significance for him than maybe even his co-stars realized. “When he was cast in My Grandpa is a Vampire, he felt as if everything he’d done as an actor had gone full circle and he was totally committed to the part.” Admittedly I felt infinitely better learning that Lewis had not only accepted this role with pleasure but that it, for him, signified a kind of exclamation mark on what was an unforgettable career.

Recently New Zealand director David Blyth was generous enough to talk with me about everything from the origins of Grampire to his time with Al Lewis, his darker cinematic side as director of such horror films as Death Warmed Up and Red Blooded American Girl, and finally, his thoughts on what it actually means for a film to look and feel “Kiwi.”


Left to right: producer Murray Newey; Al Lewis; director David Blyth

John Campopiano: Before jumping right into vampires, I want to briefly ask you about a horror film you made in 1984 called Death Warmed Up. Fans of 1980s cult horror may remember this one (thanks, in part, to the fantastic VHS cover featuring a scalpel-wielding skeleton). How did that project come about?

David Blyth: I met screenwriter Michael Heath (writer of the 1982 horror film Next of Kin) at a party hosted by Vincent Ward (director of What Dreams May Come, which featured Robin Williams). Michael revealed to me the outline of a story involving cryogenics and the science of bringing dead bodies back to life — both of which had fascinated me, in a science fiction sort of way. From that outline the script for Death Warmed Up emerged!


JC: How did the idea for Grampire originally come about?

DB: Michael Heath years earlier had written a children’s radio play called Moonrise, which completely subverted the vampire genre, and this really appealed to me. The feature script grew from that source. After making movies with adult censor restrictions, I decided to attempt a more family orientated movie — a vampire genre story with a twist. The original script had more entertaining special effects sequences, which unfortunately were never shot, as in the end an investor did not deliver and we proceeded with shooting a lower budget version of the film than was written.

JC: This film has been known by a few different titles, yes?

DB: The film started out being called Moonrise. The local distributor in New Zealand decided that a name change was in order and came up with the title Grampire. It changed again when the distributor in the US decided to go with the title My Grandpa is a Vampire. We were not party to the decision to change the name in the US. We weren’t really consulted in New Zealand either. To this day the New Zealand Film Commission uses both titles (Moonrise/Grampire) in correspondence with us.


JC: Did you always have Al “Grandpa Munster” Lewis in mind to play the role of Vernon Cooger?

DB: Yes, we were always interested in Al Lewis. “The Munsters” television series had always been a personal favourite and we had heard stories from travelers visiting New York that Al was often seen at a restaurant he owned in town. So we knew he was alive and decided to track him down. Al jumped at the opportunity to come to New Zealand!

JC: What are some of your most vivid memories from working with Al?

DB: Al was a fascinating man, telling stories of his vaudeville days going far back to the 1940s and 1950s. One of his favourite things to say to me regarding the entertainment industry was, “It’s not show business; it’s business show!”

Everywhere Al went, he engaged with people. He loved to entertain! On set he was very easy to work with and he brought a generosity of spirit that swept the cast and crew up into a magical world. He was happy to play a mischievous vampire who hated blood as it was a continuation of his own “outside the box” (almost vaudeville-like) depiction of a vampire character. Al embraced life. He came to New Zealand with his long nails especially grown for the movie!

The big issue on set was not bloodsucking at all — but sugar! Al, Pat Evison (New Zealand actress who played Aunt Leah), and Noel Appleby (also a Kiwi, starring here as Ernie) were all elderly and had to watch their sugar intake (on doctors orders). None of them were immune to breaking this rule on set. Likewise for Milan Borich and Justin Gocke, who were both barely into their teens. We had to watch them around the chocolate cake as the sugar sent them wild!!

JC: Several critics have commented over the years that Grampire feels quintessentially “Kiwi.” What does this characterization mean to you?

DB: Grampire is New Zealand Gothic, utilising Auckland’s wild west coast with its black sand beaches and larger-than-life characters and locations. This backdrop gives the film its unique Kiwi charm. Despite its low budget the film had some very high production values. Two of Grampire’s crew (from the design and costume departments) went on to have successful careers that included Academy Award wins in both of those fields!


JC: In 2014 Justin Gocke (the actor who portrayed “Lonny” in the film) died at the young age of 36. When did you learn of his death and what was your reaction?

DB: I did not know that Justin Gocke had died ‘til our recent correspondence. I was really shocked to hear the sad news. Justin was a professional actor even at such a young age. He had a maturity about him that amazed me at the time. RIP, Justin Gocke.

JC: Just a couple of years prior to Grampire, you directed the Canadian horror/fantasy film Red Blooded American Girl, starring Kim Coates and Christopher Plummer. Was it merely coincidence that your next project would again involve vampiric characters, or was this subject matter of interest to you back in those days?

DB: In terms of vampire films I was particularly fond of Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983) and Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987). When the opportunity came along to work with Allan Moyle (writer and director of the 1990 film Pump up the Volume) on the script of Red Blooded American Girl with its vampire/AIDS twist, as a director I was hooked. I’m still passionate about the horror/thriller genre, as evidenced by my recent features, Wound (2010) and Ghost Bride (2013). I’m currently working on several horror orientated scripts.


Al Lewis in New Zealand for the filming of Grampire




Winchester Starring Academy Award Winner Helen Mirren Hits Blu-ray This May



A few weekends back a friend of my grandmother’s approached me at a get-together and asked, “You’re the one who’s into horror movies, right?”

I said, “Yes, ma’am, I am.”

She says, “I saw that Winchester movie last night and loved it. You should see it as soon as possible.”

I thanked the kindly old woman and she went about her business. It was awesome.

It is with this in mind I’m chomping at the bit to see this horror movie that even my grandmother’s friends enjoyed. And I don’t have to wait much longer as today we have word that Winchester will be hitting Digital April 17 and Blu-ray/DVD May 1.

You can check out the cover art to the right and the disc’s soul special feature below. After that let us know what you thought of the film and if you plan to own it on Blu-ray!

Winchester is written and directed by Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig (Jigsaw, Undead) and stars Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren, Jason Clarke (Terminator: Genisys), Sarah Snook (Predestination), and Angus Sampson (Insidious).

The film hits Digital April 17 and Blu-ray/DVD May 1.

Special Feature:

  • “Driven by the Spirits: The Making of Winchester” Featurette


Inspired by true events. On an isolated stretch of land 50 miles outside of San Francisco sits the most haunted house in the world. Built by Sarah Winchester, (Academy Award®-winner Helen Mirren) heiress to the Winchester fortune, it is a house that knows no end. Constructed in an incessant twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week mania for decades, it stands seven stories tall and contains hundreds of rooms. To the outsider, it looks like a monstrous monument to a disturbed woman’s madness. But Sarah is not building for herself, for her niece (Sarah Snook) or for the brilliant Doctor Eric Price (Jason Clarke) whom she has summoned to the house. She is building a prison, an asylum for hundreds of vengeful ghosts, and the most terrifying among them have a score to settle with the Winchesters…



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Contracted Director Eric England Accused of Assault



Katie Stegeman

UPDATE: Eric England gave a very brief response, which we have added below.

This story discusses various forms of assault and, as such, readers should enter knowing that sensitive topics will be discussed.

In this time of #MeToo and #TimesUp, we are seeing more and more people come forward with stories of abuses they have suffered at the hands of people in power. From the women assaulted by Harvey Weinstein to Mariah Carey’s ex-security guard who accused her of sexual harassment to Timothy Heller’s accusations of rape at the hands of Melanie Martinez, people are coming forward with their stories of pain and hurt in the hopes of changing the status quo so that everyone can feel a little bit safer. Today, another story is added to this tragic list as actor Katie Stegeman has publicly accused director Eric England (Contracted, Josie, Madison County) of “…physically, emotionally, mentally, and sexually” abusing her over a three year period.

Taking to Instagram, Stegeman wrote the following passionate, empathetic, and heartfelt message:

The image Stegeman attached to her Instagram post.

[Pause. What a pleasure. Deep Breath.] For many years I have been keeping this man’s secret from going public. For many years I had to make sure I was safe and of sound mind coming forward. I wanted to come from a place of kindness and without fear. Well, today is the day. For three years, director Eric England abused me physically, emotionally, mentally, and sexually. The irony of this photo is not lost on me. I was thrown into tables, choked until I couldn’t breathe, threatened with scissors, knives, screwdrivers, and was denied the right to turn this man down for sex for fear of, as he called it “awakening the beast.” To say I am lucky to be alive is an understatement. Sitting and watching the trailer for his latest movie #Josie is all the reminder I need to come forward. Impressionable, young amazing women like [Sophie Turner] should not be working with someone like him, and if I remain quiet, the pattern will continue. Eric, I hope this forces you to bow out gracefully and get the help you need. I know your team is aware of your history as well as the LAPD. It’s time to go and give way to the creatives of this town, who also know how to treat people when no one is looking. I want you to know I forgive you and thank you for reminding me how strong I am. I also want the people,who knew about Eric’s abuse and continued to work for him to know, that I forgive you too. But now you have a choice. From here on out I ask you to do the right thing…even though it’s impossible at times. I want to thank all the amazing people in my life, who stood by me no questions asked. Especially my amazing hero [Brett Pierce], who reminded me that great men still exist. I stayed quiet for the integrity of our movies, out of respect for your family, for fear of you running a smear campaign, for fear of you hurting me, for fear of you stopping my movie, for fear of you making sure no horror director would hire me, but I am no longer afraid. I will happily put my career aside, if it means saving someone’s life, because no one should ever have to go through what I endured. I hope you find your peace and come out of this a better man. Love and light.

Josie refers to England’s latest film, which stars Sophie Turner and Dylan McDermott. The film follows the relationship between an older man and a high school girl who recently moves into the area. It was just released in limited theaters and on VOD.

Stegeman responded on her Instagram feed after receiving several comments of support, saying:
I cannot thank you all enough for your support. Means we are getting to a better place of zero tolerance. Please do me a huge favor and still watch Josie. There are a lot of innocent people involved in this movie and residuals are how they pay their bills. All I ask is that moving forward, we do not create a platform to reward violence or manipulation. Let’s fill this void with greatness and do our damnedest to put excellence at the top…not just the loudest voice in the room. I am so so so lucky to be surrounded by people, who do what’s right…not what’s popular. I am beyond inspired by you all. There’s no need to bash Eric…no one person is all bad…it’s just simply his time to go. Keep sharing the message and the love!

We at Dread Central take allegations like this very seriously but for clarity’s sake, we must also make it clear that England has not been officially charged. I want to personally highlight the powerful and empathetic presentation of Stegeman’s accusation. As she herself claims, she wanted to come at this from, “…a place of kindness and without fear.” I believe that she has done so and I laud her for that. Should these allegations be confirmed, I want to send her my best wishes on her road to recovery and to let her know that she is not alone. Already there are many voices lending their support in this difficult time.

We have reached out to England for a comment, who simply replied, “I’ll be releasing a statement soon.


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Leprechaun Returns to Syfy Next Year; Warwick Davis Does Not



You can always tell when it’s St. Patrick’s Day by Syfy running a Leprechaun movie marathon. But this St. Paddy’s Day, Syfy surprised everyone with a teaser for a new Leprechaun sequel set to premiere on the network next March.

Leprechaun Returns appears to be taking a page from the forthcoming Halloween reboot by positioning itself as a direct sequel to the original film. Sorry, Lepre-fans… looks like those excursions to Las Vegas, outer space, and the hood never happened.

Twenty-five years after the Leprechaun terrorized a pre-“Friends” Jennifer Aniston and experienced his first defeat via a four-leaf clover down his gullet, the little fellow gets revived in modern times when a group of college girls unwittingly awaken him while tearing down a cabin to build their new sorority house.

The new installment in the Leprechaun series is written by Suzanne Keilly (“Ash vs Evil Dead”) and directed by Steven Kostanski (The Void). There’s an interesting combination.

Taylor Spreitler (“Kevin Can Wait”), Pepi Songhua (“Ash vs Evil Dead”) as Katie, and Sai Bennett (Lake Placid: The Legacy), along with Emily Reid, Oliver Llewellyn-Jenkins, and Ben McGregor, are among the potential new victims of silly limericks and supernatural slaughter. Mark Holton reprises his role as “Ozzie”, the goofball friend from the 1993 original who narrowly survived his first encounter with the Leprechaun. He might not be so lucky the second time around.

One bit of casting that may prove controversial to fans of the franchise is Warwick Davis, who will not be returning to the iconic horror role he played in six films (the less said about the misguided prequel Leprechaun: Origins the better). Replacing him as the pint-sized monstrous Irishman with a lethal taste for gold wil be Linden Porco.

Even though we won’t be seeing Leprechaun Returns until around St. Patrick’s Day of 2019, Syfy has already premiered a teaser with Porco’s first appearance as the Leprechaun, giving us a year’s advance warning of what’s to come. Check it out above, and then let us know what you think!


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