So, the Pope and a Cardinal are sitting together on a cross-country flight. The Pope is doing a crossword puzzle. He turns to the Cardinal and asks, “Do you know a four-letter word for ‘woman’ that ends in U-N-T?” The Cardinal unhesitatingly says, “Aunt.” The Pope blinks and replies, “Oh yes, of course. Do you have an eraser?”
While you may think that hoary old joke has nothing to do with horror, there actually is a connection – you see, the villain in the upcoming horror film Vitals loves crossword puzzles and he’s got a wicked, skewed sense of humor.
Kaliya, the brains behind the body-plundering organ-snatching ring of criminals, is played by Sachin Mehta. Mehta was in character dealing with uppity henchmen, an unconscious victim, and doing a crossword puzzle just before he sat down to talk with us. Here’s what he had to say.
Dread Central: How did you first hear about this role as the main villain?
Sachin Mehta: They contacted me. I was in a feature called The Advocate. It’s a legal thriller and it just came out. I was a lawyer. Sort of a conniving evil lawyer and they thought that had sort of the same vibe for this villain. The publicity guy for the distribution company forwarded them [one of the producers of this movie] the trailer for it and based on that they thought I would make a good Kaliya.
DC: Tell us about the character for this villain. I’ve never seen a villain doing crossword puzzles right before he’s about to have someone eviscerated.
SM: [laughter] Right? I love him because he’s not your traditional evil guy. He’s very one-dimensional. He only sees things one way, you know? In a very selfish way.
DC: So he’s a narcissist.
SM: He’s a narcissist. He’s greedy. I don’t think he even knows how greedy he is. He wants money like a kid. You know? I think he’s 8 years old and money for him is just little building blocks. And he kind of reacts… for him killing isn’t a thing.
DC: It’s a means to an end?
SM: It’s a means to an end, but it’s more just a burden that he has to do to get to where he wants to go.
DC: What’s his M.O. for killing people?
SM: He needs to sell organs. He needs this thing to just keep churning. He needs people to keep coming into the sausage machine and money to be coming out of it and that’s it. If that cycle stops, then he’s in trouble because of course he’s just part of a chain himself. He’s under the gun working for somebody else.
DC: How did he get recruited for this unusual profession?
SM: What I like about the movie is that it leaves it almost like the Joker from “Batman.” It’s a little bit ambiguous how he got caught into it, but there is regret because he wasn’t given options. He was basically told that if you do this thing for me, you will get money from it. And I think like a lot of characters in the movie, they make simple choices, but they actually have larger ramifications because they really are just plugging themselves into a large sausage factory.
DC: Of course when people think of organ harvesting, it’s such an urban myth… Do you think that it’s actually real? Have you heard of any instances or did you do any research to see if this is happening?
SM: I’ve heard of it happening but I’ve never heard of anybody actually being kidnapped. I’ve heard of somebody already in a coma, already in the hospital, maybe an operation happened, and this is in maybe in India or something. But I haven’t heard of an operation like this. But I don’t see why it doesn’t exist.
DC: That’s kind of the scare factor, right? That it’s possible.
SM: Yeah, I think that’s why it feels like that urban legend because it very well- it should be possible. It should be happening.
DC: Yeah, why not? [laughter] So tell me a little bit about the more horrific aspects of the film. Do you think it will be rated “R?” Will we be seeing a lot of blood and gore, or is it more about the suspense factor?
SM: In my opinion, I think it’s more about the suspense factor. I do think that there is some gore in it, but I don’t think it’s anything… pornographic. And I don’t think it’s anything cartoonish.
DC: Would you say it’s “Hostel-like”?
SM: I wouldn’t call it a slasher film. It’s just characters. What I like about the script is that all the characters- You get to watch each of them, the walls just keep pushing in on them and they just get less and less options as the movie goes on and that is not dependent on the gore, it’s just dependent on the choices put in front of them. And the choices are dark and drastic, you know? Death and betrayal and loyalty, but I don’t think the movie spends too much time on gore. Unless Mark [Morgenstern, the director] is planning on doing something I don’t know of.
DC: How long have you been shooting so far?
SM: This is day 6.
DC: So it looks like our heroes have just been kidnapped, according to what I’ve seen being shot just now.
SM: They’ve been kidnapped. They’re both on vacation. There’s this couple, and they’re played by Charlene Amoia and Showerman. I call him Showerman. It’s Christopher Showerman. Their characters… They’re out on vacation. I don’t want to give too much away but they are a married couple and they have married couple problems and with that sort of basic setup they are then abducted while on vacation in Goa, India. It’s foreign. It’s beautiful but it’s foreign. And whenever you’re in some place foreign, it’s scary.
DC: And they don’t speak the language, so they’ve got that lack of communication aspect of it.
SM: Right. You’re geographically displaced. Psychologically displaced. You know? And they’re kidnapped. And one of the conceits in this is that they don’t have access to help. They might have access to cell phones but they realize what’s the point? We’re in Goa, we don’t speak the language. So that bridge is burned.
DC: You’ve been at it for 6 days… what’s been the most fun or challenging moment that you’ve had to date, and then what are you looking forward to doing next?
SM: Well, one of the highlights for me personally was acting with Tim Russ. I grew up watching “Star Trek Voyager” and he’s Lt. Tuvok and there he is in the flesh across from me. He was so cool and so wonderful and I got to act in a couple of scenes with him and that was a blast! The hardest scene in this movie… Jeez, it’s probably going to be the one that’s coming up right now.
DC: Yeah, that’s very complex; all the blocking that needs to be done. I don’t think people really realize how much goes into that.
SM: Plus my character, he’s not a physical guy. He’s probably the kind of guy that gets manicures and pedicures and you know doesn’t want to get dirty and this is a scene where he probably has to get a little physical and that means my character needs to get physical which means I have to get physical which means it’s going to be very, um, challenging.
DC: The five-letter word for that: YIKES.
SM: [laughter] Exactly!
Vitals comes to us from writer/director Marc Morgenstern. Christopher Showerman, Charlene Amoia, Sachin Metha, Tim Russ, and Claudia Wells co-star. In it Showerman stars as an unassuming electrician who wakes up in an abandoned motel room in a tub of ice with his kidney missing. It’s only a matter of time before he finds his wife in the adjacent room waiting to be the next victim to a horrible organ harvesting organization. Now they must use each other’s wits and skills to escape before their captors return and their dark secrets are revealed.
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