#SDCC16: Chuck Hogan Talks the Future of The Strain; Miguel Gomez on the Importance of Minority Characters - Dread Central
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#SDCC16: Chuck Hogan Talks the Future of The Strain; Miguel Gomez on the Importance of Minority Characters

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The Strain

I first heard of “The Strain” a number of years ago from a friend who’s really into vampire lore. I’ll never forget how she recommended it to me: “It’s like vampires, but they are gross, so you’d like it.”

It’s a sentiment that the TV show’s publicity team must have shared because many people will forever relate “The Strain” with the shocking “worm in the eye” ad campaign that was plastered on what seemed like every bus, billboard, and banner for a good while. It’s a bit misleading, as while fans of the series can definitely attest to the more shocking side of the strigoi, the real meat of the show comes from its dark and complex world.

It’s that world, populated by a diverse cast of believable characters, that brings me back each season. Well, that and the tentacle vampires of course. With the conclusion of Season 2, we had some heartbreak with the death of Nora and the taking of Zach. With only 10 episodes to tell their story in Season 3, kicking off August 28th, I was eager to find out where they are going from here. When executive producer and series co-creator Chuck Hogan sat down, I took my chance to find out his vision for the future of “The Strain.”

Chuck: From day 1, I made clear that the book was the book, and the show was the show. It’s a great source material to go back to for ideas, but I don’t at all feel constrained to that exact plot. I’m always looking for ways to innovate and build this world. It’s unique for me, because this is a world I co-created with del Toro. So going back into that and seeing where I can evolve is rewarding and fun. My plan for the show is to go where I need to go to get to a satisfying ending, just like we did in the book. I’m not saying that it’s the same conclusion or story. We just started talks a few days ago about Season 4, so we have a lot of places we could go.

Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro

He went on to explain how his collaboration with del Toro has been:

Chuck: One of the most important things for me was explaining these strigoi in a realistic and satisfying way without belaboring. In that respect, Guillermo has been instrumental. His visual and narrative style is key to the feel of “The Strain.” It’s been great coming up with ideas, getting him excited, and having him come back with something even better. It just builds until we have the best show possible.

Chuck also had some specifics as to what to expect from this season:

Chuck: Last season we introduced the feelers. People keep asking me if I’m there are going to be other new vampires, and I can say that there won’t be in Season 3. We want to explain the feelers a bit more, but we [also] want to focus on these human characters fighting against the monsters threatening them. Allegiances are shifting, especially with Palmer, so expect a lot to change with him. Also, we’re going to be seeing more of those meat processing plants.

Showrunner Carlton Cuse had more to say on what to expect:

Carlton: We pick up with the characters only a short time after Season 2 ends. We start with Ephraim as he learns about the state of the world and where the characters are now. He’s immediately affected by Nora’s death and forms a compelling relationship with Dutch that goes in an interesting direction. A big shift is that there’s no more debate about if the strigoi are bad news. It’s like smoking, the conversation is over, we all know it’s bad for you. The time for uncertainty is over, and it’s now a full-tilt battle for the fate of New York. If New York goes, the world goes with it.

Chuck Hogan

He described the tone of Season 3:

Carlton: I could go on for hours about how exactly we got the look of the show right. We have two directors of photography, and we have spent days together laboring over color temperature, light selection, and other elements to make the visual palette of the show just right. We shoot in Toronto in the winter, which is hell on the crew but perfect for the bleak, oppressive feel we are going for. The setting of “The Strain” is a character all its own, and people watch it because of that compelling world. “The Strain” is radically different from other vampire shows. The strigoi aren’t pretty or brooding. It was incredibly important for us to tell this story not only narratively, but visually as well. With Season 3, I think we really nailed the comic book look and feel that makes this show so special.

We had some time to talk to the cast as well, and it was Miguel Gomez’s description of what his character means to him that stuck with me the most:

Miguel: To me, the show is a huge metaphor. It’s about more than just vampires and deals with our doubts, insecurities, and how you handle yourself in tough situations. In Season 2, we saw some police brutality when Gus got picked up and was treated a certain way based on how he looked and where he came from. But with Gus we can see that not everyone who commits a crime is a criminal. Some are just victims of circumstance. With real monsters out there, you have to look past that and find our good and humanity. Gus is proof that you have to keep fighting, never quit, and always strive to improve yourself.

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It’s an incredibly deep and nuanced take that betrays a sensitivity not commonly expressed in today’s media. Looking past someone’s label and treating him or her like a person lies at the heart of fixing our present, tense social climate. We certainly need a bit more peace, love, and understanding, even in the vampire apocalypse.

So what about you guys and gals? Excited for “The Strain” Season 3? Let me know below, and keep following our coverage of Comic-Con 2016!

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Fearsome Facts – Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

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Sir Christopher Lee returned to portray the charismatic count of Transylvania in Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) for the first time since taking on the iconic role in 1958’s Horror of Dracula – an eight year absence. 

And while Lee endured a love/hate relationship playing the Carpathian Count over the years, the actor reluctantly tackled the role a total of 10 times for the Silver Screen. Three of those performances came outside of the purview of Hammer Horror, but this list is dedicated to the first Hammer Dracula sequel to feature the return of Christopher Lee in the lead role.

Now, here are 5 Things You May Not Know About Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

5. Dracula: Speechless

Dialogue never played a crucial part in Christopher Lee’s portrayals as Count Dracula, but this film is the epitome of that contentious notion. Lee doesn’t utter a single word during Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ 90 minutes of run time. In interviews over the years, Lee said that he was so unhappy with his lines that he protested and refused to say them during the filming process. “Because I had read the script and refused to say any of the lines,” Lee said in an interview at the University College of Dublin.

However, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster insisted that the original script was written without any dialogue for Dracula. There was even a theory that circulated for a time which postulated that Hammer could not afford Lee’s growing salary, so the studio decided to limit the Count’s screen time. Did this lead to the demise of Dracula’s dialogue? Regardless of whom you want to believe, Dracula is the strong, silent type in Prince of Darkness. 

4. Double Duty for Drac

Hammer Film Productions doubled down, so to speak, on the production and post-production aspects of Dracula: Prince of Darkness. First, the studio filmed the vampire flick back-to-back with another project titled Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966). In doing so, Hammer used many of the same sets, actors – including Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer – and crew members to shoot both motion pictures.

Second, Dracula: Prince of Darkness was featured in a double billing alongside the film The Plague of the Zombies (1966) when it screened in London. Insert cheesy cliche: “Double your pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint Gum.” 

3. Stunt Double Nearly Drowned

Dracula: Prince of Darkness introduced a new weakness in the wicked baddie, but it nearly cost a stuntman his life. During the film, it was revealed that running water could destroy Dracula. Wait, what? Apparently, leaving the faucets on at night not only prevents frozen pipes, but blood-sucking vampires, too.

All kidding aside, it was during the climactic battle scene in which Christopher Lee’s stunt double almost succumb to the icy waters on set. Stuntman Eddie Powell stepped in as the Count during that pivotal moment, as Dracula slipped into the watery grave, but Powell was trapped under the water himself and almost died.

2. Lee Loathed What Hammer Did to Stoker’s Character

Christopher Lee’s return to Hammer’s Dracula franchise was a stroke of genius on the part of producers, but Lee was more than a little reticent when it came to initially voicing his dislike for playing the iconic role. As mentioned above, a lot of speculation swirled around the lack of dialogue given to Lee in the Prince of Darkness script. And if you don’t count the opening flashback sequence, which revisits the ending of Horror of Dracula (1958), Count Dracula doesn’t appear on screen until the 45-minute mark of the film.

Dracula’s lack of character, and presence, began to affect Lee particularly when it came to signing on to play the character in the three films following Prince of Darkness. Indeed, the lack of meaningful character development led to Lee initially turning down Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Scars of Dracula (1970). Lee said in countless interviews that he never got to play the real version of Count Dracula created by Bram Stoker, at least via Hammer Studios. This was a true disappointment to the late actor.

But Hammer guilt Lee into taking on the role over and over again, because the studio claimed to have already sold the aforementioned films to the United States with Lee’s name attached to the projects. Hammer informed Lee that if he didn’t return the company would have to lay off many of their workers. The tactic worked, since Lee was friends with many of the Dracula crew members. Fortunately for fans, Lee kept coming back for blood.

1. Faux Pas

Outside of the character of Dracula only appearing on screen for the last half of the movie, Dracula: Prince of Darkness had even more pressing issues that unfortunately survived all the way to the final cut of the film. One of the most appalling of these occurrences happens during the picture’s climatic confrontation. Watch the skies above Dracula and you will see the trail of a jet-engine plane staining the sky.

Another faux pas occurs in this same sequence when Dracula succumbs to the icy waters. Watch closely as the camera’s long shot clearly reveals the pivots holding the ice up underneath Chris Lee. Finally, watch the dead girl who is being carried during the opening funeral sequence. She is clearly breathing and quite heavily at that.

***

Which Dracula: Prince of Darkness moments did you find the most interesting? Were there any obscure facts you would have enjoyed seeing make our list? Sound off on social media!

 

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Carnivore: Werewolf of London Howls on VOD

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Joining the ranks of The Curse of the Werewolf, An American Werewolf in London, The Company of Wolves, and Dog Soldiers, Carnivore: Werewolf of London is the latest in a long series of fantastic British werewolf movies. Directed by Knights of the Damned’s Simon Wells, the film focuses on a couple trying to save their relationship by taking a vacation in a remote cottage, but rekindling their old flame soon proves to be the least of their worries as they learn that something with lots of fur and lots of teeth is waiting for them in the surrounding woods.

Carnivore: Werewolf of London stars Ben Loyd-Holmes, Atlanta Johnson, Gregory Cox, Molly Ruskin, and Ethan Ruskin, and is available to purchase now on Google Play, Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, although it doesn’t appear to have received a physical release as of yet.

More information about Carnivore: Werewolf of London is available on the film’s official Facebook account, along with a ton of production photos.

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John Carpenter … NOT DEAD!

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We currently live in a world of false alarms. Within the last several days we’ve suffered everything from warnings of doomsday to Rotten Tomatoes accidentally celebrating the passing(!) and career of the very much still alive John Carpenter.

That’s right, kids; earlier today RT tweeted, “John Carpenter would have been 70 years old today! We celebrate his birthday by looking back at his five favorite films.” The tweet… has since been deleted.

We are here to tell you… John is very much alive! Alive and well, even. Carpenter himself responded on Twitter by alerting the site that “despite how it appears, I’m actually not dead.

This is great news indeed. One of horror’s best and brightest is still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Now then, let’s take this time to celebrate the man’s birthday PROPERLY by talking about our favorite films of his. Speaking personally for myself…

Prince of Darkness is a movie that both unnerves and scares the hell out of me. One of Carpenter’s most thought-provoking works is just as frightening now as it was when we first received that grainy transmission as a dream from the year…

Tell us your favorite Carpenter movie in our comments section below.

…and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JOHN!

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