Exclusive: Fairuza Balk Talks Dose of Reality; Looks Back at The Craft and Return to Oz - Dread Central
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Exclusive: Fairuza Balk Talks Dose of Reality; Looks Back at The Craft and Return to Oz

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Exclusive: Fairuza Balk Talks Dose of Reality; Looks Back at The Craft and Return to OzIn the indie thriller Dose of Reality, we are introduced to a shady Los Angeles bar manager (Rick Ravanello) and his protégé bartender (Ryan Merriman), who discover a bloodied and unconscious young woman named Rose (Fairuza Balk) passed out in the bathroom.

Rose is unable to piece together the events that led to her waking up in the back of a bar. Soon enough, a dangerous cat and mouse game is afoot among the three as dangerous secrets are revealed and Rose determines to find out who can be trusted and who put her in jeopardy.

Dread Central recently had the opportunity to chat exclusively with Balk about her latest project and heard more on her experiences collaborating with writer/director Christopher Glatis. Balk also discussed working with co-stars and what keeps her interested as an actress after 30 years in the business. And since this writer is a huge fan, I couldn’t help but ask about two of my personal favorites- Return to Oz and The Craft.

Read on for DC’s exclusive interview with Balk, and make sure to check out Dose of Reality, which is currently available on DVD and will arrive on VOD platforms and digital outlets starting Tuesday, April 23rd.

Dread Central: Thanks so much for taking time to speak with me today; I’ve enjoyed your career for a while now and thought Dose of Reality was another interesting role for you. The movie was so different than I was expecting it to be and I liked that it kept peeling away all these different layers so you begin to realize that what you thought was the real story going on among these characters isn’t the case at all. Was the fact that this had a lot of unusual twists to it a big part of why you took on the project?

Fairuza Balk: Chris, the director, had contacted me about four years ago but the script was really different than the one we ended up shooting. It still had a ways to go so I told him that I liked the idea and wanted to work with him but the story needed some fine-tuning. So when he brought me the new script, I read it and thought he really nailed down an interesting premise that I hadn’t really seen in a movie before so to me, that made the project intriguing and something I absolutely wanted to be a part of.

I liked how the story was a bit of a modern twist on the Roman Games, but I don’t want to say too much more or that might ruin it for viewers out there. Either way, I thought the idea was fascinating and to play someone who was playing someone who was really playing two other people was just so different and a lot of fun to do as a performer. And I really liked the character of Rose because she was nuts and crazy, which are roles I’ve done before, but never like this. You never quite know what’s going on with her even until the very end, which I think makes the role even more compelling because you never fully figure her out.

Dread Central: Dose of Reality almost feels like it’s structured like a theatrical play; was that something you guys picked up on? And did you get a lot of time to work on the chemistry between yourself and your co-stars Ryan and Rick?

Fairuza Balk: I absolutely saw this as a story that would make for a perfect play- I think we all did so we were very deliberate in our approaches because of that. We also had very little rehearsal time for this project, maybe only a couple of days, just because of the nature of production. That was fine with me really; everyone involved was completely professional and ready to work so we didn’t really need all that much, maybe to do blocking and more of the physical stuff. But I think it was actually better the three of us didn’t get more time because we were supposed to be strangers; we weren’t supposed to have chemistry together because we were just meeting that night so I purposely distanced myself a lot of the times from Rick and Ryan just to keep that tension up between us all.

I think when you’re almost doing improv-style physicality and reactions like we were, not preparing too much and being reactionary can only help you when you’re trying to make sure things feel natural between yourself and other actors. We shot this pretty quickly so there wasn’t a lot of time to over-think things and second guess ourselves at all; I really liked that approach because it made everything far more realistic.

Dread Central: Did you guys add your own touches to the characters then that weren’t in the script?

Fairuza Balk: Oh yeah. We all had our own ‘things’ about each of our characters we wouldn’t share with each other, only with Chris, and those were some of those moments we would just throw at each other in the movie- those shocking moments that really add to the tension. Some of those things I said to Rick, he didn’t know those were coming so when he looks shocked, he’s really shocked; it was a lot of fun to do that and get those reactions.

Keeping my co-stars guessing was something I even was conscientious of during the initial rehearsal process before production started; I was always quiet then and kept mostly to myself and never allowed myself to go ‘all the way’ with anyone emotionally just so I could keep them off-guard. It’s a difficult process to explain so hopefully that makes sense (laughs).

Dread Central: Because you’ve had such an interesting career that has spanned over a lot of different genres, what is it that you look for now when you’re considering taking on a new project? What kind of challenges are you looking for?

Fairuza Balk: I always want to stay interested; I never just want to work for the sake of working. There has to be ‘something’ there for me so that I can grow from the experience. I’ve never just taken a job because I wanted the check- I took the job because either I wanted to do something really crazy like The Craft or get a chance to do a comedy like The Waterboy or do an incredibly powerful drama like American History X. There has to be something interesting for me or I don’t want to do it.

I’d really like to try writing one day though; I’m not sure if I’d be a good writer but I’d like to try and maybe test those waters (laughs). I just love acting so much and I think that if you can continue to challenge yourself and find new ways to explore archetypes and different characters, then acting can be enough to fulfill you creatively and I think I’m still at that point. I haven’t really thought much about ever really branching out to be honest but maybe it’s time that I did.

I struggled a lot with being pushed too hard in my 20’s, with people telling me that I had to keep taking more and more movies because that’s really only when I’d be relevant. Hollywood is designed that way; it’s always about the new flavor of the moment and I’ve always preferred to be a bit more mysterious. I’d rather only take on projects that I want to, not take everything that’s offered to me so I can be more relevant. There’s no satisfaction in working like that, at least for me.

Dread Central: I’d love to talk about Return to Oz for a moment because I think it’s a movie that many of us love and still really holds up over all these years. It was so creepy and fun and the visuals are still incredible. How big was that moment for you, being chosen as Dorothy, who has been such an iconic character for almost 80 years now.

Fairuza Balk: It was MASSIVE; I think I was chosen out of something like 50,000 kids for the role of Dorothy, which is still really amazing to think about. I remember how much fun we had shooting it and I remember it took a very long time to film because the sets were so complex. At that age, everything really felt like a game to me so I had an amazing time making it. To live in that world as a child was anything but scary so I guess I never realized at the time how surrealistic the story and the tone of the movie was going to end up being.

The other thing I never realized as a kid was just how beloved our movie was; I thought it was kind of popular but that was about it. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized just how special Return to Oz ended up being; throughout the years, fans would send me letters or even these incredible gifts with their stories about what the movie meant to them and I was absolutely shocked. How incredible for me to be a part of something like Return to Oz and then get to share it with all these fans. It’s truly a blessing.

Dread Central: Another movie I wanted to talk about is a personal favorite of mine- The Craft. It completely stood out to me at the time because it was so rare to see such a female-driven cast and story that really celebrated being different and unusual, unlike a lot of ‘teen’ movies of that era. Did those messages stand out to you at all at the time?

Fairuza Balk: You know, looking back on it, I have to say that my experiences working on The Craft are so hard to explain because yes, that movie ended up being so special in so many ways. I think at the time all I could focus on was just trying to do the best that I could. What I remember really enjoying at the time was doing all the research into Wicca for the role of Nancy because I had no idea that it was something that was all about empowered women. That was incredible to see a religion celebrating women as goddesses and then using that as an allegory throughout the movie. Especially at that time because younger female characters usually weren’t perceived with that kind of power- not in many horror or genre movies at least.

And I loved how these girls had found their confidence even though none of them were well liked by their peers- they didn’t care; they just did what they wanted, and there’s something kind of cool and fun about playing in that world.

What’s also incredible about The Craft is how it got a generation of girls through a lot of tough stuff that those teenage years throw at you- and I think it still connects with audiences out there too. There’s something very timeless about the story because almost now more than ever, kids are being bullied for being different and it’s really hard getting through those years. I’ve heard stories from fans who have told me how The Craft helped them accept themselves or gave them the strength to come out or escape from an abusive relationship or even gave them the courage to stand up for themselves, and I think that speaks volumes for the movie we made. Sure, it’s a fun movie but it also made an impact in other ways, which I think is the best part; it’s mind-blowingly cool to find out that something you put all this work into not only does some good in the world but continues to live on for years and years.

Exclusive: Fairuza Balk Talks Dose of Reality; Looks Back at The Craft and Return to Oz

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Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls Announced for iOS

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There’s a new Castlevania game coming our way, and whilst you might be a little disappointing that it’s not a fully fledged console release, you’ll be glad to know that it’s not a Pachinko either. It’s actually an iOS game by the name Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, and it takes the series back to its classic 2D roots.

Dracula, who has been a staple of Castlevania since day one, probably won’t be showing up in Grimoire of Souls, as the game takes place many years after his true and final death. Things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows following the demise of the Lord of Darkness, however, as you’ll have to hunt down a cursed Grimoire with the power to bring Dracula back into the world. Throughout the story mode, you’ll pay as a character named Genya Arikado, a newcomer to the series, as you team up with Lucy, a member of a mysterious research organization, to prevent Dracula’s resurrection.

Grimoire of Souls will also have a co-op mode which can be played by up to four players, in addition to a four-versus-four competitive mode. For these modes, players will be able to choose from a selection of popular Castlevania characters, including Simon Belmont, Maria Renard, Charlotte Aulin, and Dracula’s son, Alucard.

There’s currently no word on when Konami will publish Castlevania: Grimoire of Shadow on the iOS, although you can sign up for the Japanese closed beta right now.

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Warhammer: Vermintide 2 Review – Rat Exterminator Simulator 2018

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Vermintide 2Developed and Published by Fatshark

Available on PC through Steam (Coming to Xbox One and PS4)

Rated M for Mature


On the scale of cathartic guilt-free wanton slaughter, rat-men belong up there with zombies, Nazis, and cops in a Rockstar game. No matter how many limbs fly off, skulls get crushed in, and whispered wishes to see their families one last time before the cold embrace of death whisks them away, you’re pretty much free to do whatever without any of the self-conscious pangs that usually come along with murder. If Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide taught us anything, it’s that this unrestrained dealing of death is made all the more enjoyable when the victims are slightly adorable, in a gross ratty way. Now Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is here to deliver on more of the same, but with Chaos. Nurgle Chaos in fact, who are kind of like zombies and Nazis. So now that the gang’s all here, time to feel good about some ultraviolence.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Vermintide tells the story of the heroic Ubersreik Five (…or Four, whatever). An ensemble of fantasy tropes, you’ve got the racist snarky elf, the cheerful and outgoing dwarf, the shrill and sneering Witch Hunter, the maniacal and bloodthirsty Bright Wizard, and Markus Kruber. The team is brought together by plot for the purpose of rat slaying, and together with three of your friends you’ll murder your way to saving the world (but not really, because canonically speaking the whole world is fucked anyways). The series is an FPS in the vein of Left 4 Dead, but with a much heavier focus on melee combat. You’ll also have to unlock new gear like in Call of Duty, but unlike Call of Duty the class you play and loadout you pick actually matters.

Vermintide 2

Mama shoulda taught you not to bring a bow to a Rat Ogre fight.

Once you pick your favorite fantasy trope and prefered loadout, Vermintide 2 drops you into your selected level to complete a series of challenges and hopefully score some fat loot. In terms of simple playability, the maps are all as diverse as they are entertaining. The objectives are varied (sometimes you’ll be hunting for keys, sometimes surviving waves of foes, etc.), but always the same in that particular level. The level design is certainly geared more towards being a “game” than a living breathing world, and that’s fine. Games should be games, and if putting a random fence or broken bridge here or there to direct me towards my objective helps me slaughter rats I’m all for it. The overall effect is that the more you learn the level, the easier time you’ll have overcoming the endless hordes.

Now if this all sounds a lot like Left 4 Dead… well it is very similar. The major difference is the aforementioned focus on melee combat. While Left 4 Dead 2 used melee as an optional replacement for your sidearm, melee is the bread and butter for most characters in Vermintide 2. In service of that, the melee combat system is far more robust. You’ll have to learn to alternate between heavy and light attacks, block, dodge, and even what body parts to hit. On top of that, weapons have certain properties like armor piercing and high stagger. Even more on top of that, certain attacks have different applications of those properties. If you have a halberd, you’ll have to learn the difference between your sweeping attacks and your piercing jab attacks. The elf and Bright Wizard are more ranged focused, but the basic principles of knowing what your attacks do and which moves pierce armor still apply.

Vermintide 2

Oh shiiiiiii-

This is all just the basic overview of what Vermintide 2 is, but that’s basically all you need to know to have a good time. The game gets far more complex, but there’s a very primal satisfaction to be had in chopping your way through hordes of rats. In terms of just jumping in and having fun, the game is incredibly accessible. Anyone can understand the concept of pushing the attack button to remove heads from shoulders. Delving into the game’s complexity beyond that is really up to you.

Vermintide 2

I have come to grasp the fundamentals of the flail/rat face relationship

If you do delve into it, you’ll find a hidden layer of challenge and reward that sets Vermintide 2 far above the competition. First off are the hidden tomes and grimoires. In every level there are three tomes and two grimoires hidden somewhere. These spots can be incredibly difficult to suss out, requiring excessive collectible hunting motivation to find them on your own. This can be a bit of a challenge when there’s an endless horde of rats nipping at your heels. In reality, you’ll probably just Google the locations and memorize them before the start of each map. Just knowing where they are isn’t all there is to it. Some are quite difficult to reach even if you know where they are, hidden behind jumping puzzles that are a bitch and a half. If you do pick them up, they will make your journey even harder. Tomes replace your potion slot—meaning that you cannot take a potion with you, not that you cannot ever heal again—and grimoires reduce your entire team’s max HP by 33% each. Collecting these prizes means more loot, but make sure your team knows their shit before you try one of these difficult challenge runs.

Now this is all stuff that was also in Vermintide. More of the same can be good when it’s well done, and Vermintide 2 is certainly well done. What makes Vermintide 2 a cut above the original is the new leveling system. Each character now levels individually, unlocking new traits and classes. There are 30 levels of traits to unlock, and two extra “careers” for each of the five characters. Each character levels individually, but loot boxes can be carried over between characters to make the grind a little easier. Still, it’s a hell of a lot of grind.

As a veteran of vanilla WoW, grind isn’t a dirty word to me. What matters is that the grind is leading towards something worth the time and effort. For Vermintide 2, that largely comes in the form of the different careers. More than just a visual change, careers can radically alter how your character plays. I’ve put the most time into Markus “Vanilla Ice Cream on a Waffle Cone” Kruber, as I like melee bruisers and I’ll be damned if I play a dwarf. Upon reaching level 7, I unlocked the Huntsman class and the character switched into a ranged damage role with strong melee backup. Reach level 14, and you’ll become a Man at Arms, an even tankier melee dude with a dash attack. Each career has its own skill tree, and certain weapons that only it can use.

Vermintide 2

So while I won’t see many people grinding all five of the crew to level 30, there is a lot of value to your repeated runs. The permanent progression that the leveling offers is a great way to add reward on top of the gear drops. The downside to this is that it’s far more difficult to hop between classes. While gear was certainly a factor in your success in Vermintide, you could still pretty easily jump into a character you only had a few pieces of gear for and do reasonably well. As your strength is now determined by your level, it’s not so simple in Vermintide 2.

This is a good segway into my biggest overall criticism with the game: playing with random scrubs is unbearable. If I had the choice between sleeping in an Arizona bar dumpster during the summer and trudging through all of the levels with random people, then I’d be using garbage bags as a pillow. Between having to know the locations of the tomes/grimoires and knowing how to actually be good at the game, finding a proficient four man team comprised of random people is like watching the last white rhino get hit by a shooting star. Even in my three man team, we’d quickly write off the fourth random player as more of a liability. The AI is decent enough at shooting stuff, but won’t pick up any of the collectible goodies without some inconsistent trickery. So you can either waste your time in subpar games, or get a solid group without other life commitments. And given the amount of grind that’s in this game, finding that consistently is the four-leaf clover wreath left on the rhino’s grave.

Vermintide 2

Pictured: Most of my teammates, before asking why I didn’t back them up.

It’s a pretty major gripe in terms of my own personal enjoyment, but even in my most frothing moments of scrub-induced rage I couldn’t exactly fault the game for just being what it is. And what it is is excellent. A huge cut above other cooperate shooters, the edition of new chaos units and the leveling system makes Vermintide 2 replace Left 4 Dead as the industry standard. Cleaving hordes of skittering rats has never been so fun, and definitely shouldn’t be missed.

Here is where the review should end, but wait, there’s more! You can’t talk about Vermintide without mentioning the exceptional developer support. The original game was still cranking out patches, updates, and DLC years after its release. With Vermintide 2, Fatshark has already been on top of releasing a slew of balance changes, updates, fixes, and more. It’s only been a month since release (yes I know, this review is late), and they are on their third major quality of life improvement patch. As a game it was already excellent, but that kind of community interaction and developer support truly makes the game exceptional. It’s a game you should definitely buy, and a company you should be happy to support.

  • Game
4.5

Summary

Ridiculously fun combat and near infinite replayability combine to form the perfect rat-smashing package. The best co-op shooter on the market. The only downside is that there isn’t a really good way to play without a solid team. Get your friends together and waste away the weeks.

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Channel 4’s New Series True Horror Opens With A Warning For Nervous Viewers

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If you live in the UK, now has never been a better time to renew your TV license. That’s because Channel 4 are broadcasting a new dramatized documentary series called “True Horror”, which will take you into the heart of four terrifying true horror stories.

In pure Channel 4 style, each episode will open with a disclaimer reading “scenes of paranormal activity may disturb viewers”, before heading straight into a mix of both real life interviews and scripted segments. The first season of “True Horror” will consist of four episodes, with a special called “The Witches’ Prison” also being broadcast on Halloween. Today’s episode will be called “Hellfire Farm”, and will recount the tale of a couple who moved into a supposedly haunted farm in the Welsh countryside. This installment was directed by BAFTA nominee Tom Kingsley, and will be shown at 10pm.

“True Horror” was produced by “The Enfield Haunting’s” Jamie Campbell and Joel Wilson, and stars James Dryden, Charlotte Eaton, Sammy Williams, Katie Jarvis, Adam Leese, Amy Morgan, and James Tarpey. And you really should watch the series, because it needs the ratings. If not, we’re just gonna get more of the soap opera and singing competition garbage that usually dominates British TV.

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