Fright Night StillAhead of the home entertainment release of Fright Night 2: New Blood, HeyUGuys had the opportunity to speak with the immortal Gerri Dandridge a.k.a. Jaime Murray. During the course of our conversation she confessed to her habitual tendency to remove the horror from horror films, showed a refusal to define herself as either a Freudian or a Jungian, described a yucky feeling, and spoke about the challenges of unearthing a little gallows humour thanks to realism. Yes, we are still talking about the aforementioned vampire film…

Prior to starring in Fright Night 2: New Blood, how familiar were you with the Fright Night films?

I hadn’t seen the films until I got sent the script. I’m not very good at watching horror movies; I get really scared. In fact I have to admit that I had to be talked into even watching this one, and I watched it in three parts because I get really scared. I never like watching movies in the morning, and so I end up watching them at night, and then I am all freaked out. So even though I was in this one, I kind of enjoy it a little bit when I am watching it as long I am with someone else, but I’d probably ruin it for them. I talk through all the scary bits and turn the music down because I find that too creepy. I did watch Fright Night with Colin Farrell when I got sent the script, though I didn’t want to. I wanted to read the script on its own terms and think about what I could maybe bring to the project. But as I was reading it, and because it’s a comedy and a horror, I wasn’t sure… Sometimes when you are reading the script you need a point of reference, otherwise you don’t know how to read it. So I read about ten pages and I didn’t really know whether it was meant to be funny or frightening? So I sat down and I watched Fright Night with Colin Farrell, and then I went back and I re-read the script. It was great because it gave me a point of reference, and it made me realise that even though it was really scary and dark in places, it was also funny but still naturalistic. It’s a fine balance to get right, and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t go back and watch all the Fright Nights just because I may or may not have fallen in love with another actors performance, and if I did I might accidentally try and mimic that, and that’s never good. You can never copy what somebody else has done, because you’re not going to do as good a job. Either that or it will be hollow. So I wanted to do something different, and I just focused on the different circumstances in the script that I was given, and tried to make the most interesting choices I could.

How has Fright Night 2 influenced or possibly changed your perception of the vampire myth and/or vampire stories/fiction? Have you always been a vampire fan, or has this been an introduction of sorts?

I enjoyed True Blood, and I was aware of the vampire myth. It is a fun and an interesting myth, and I also actually dressed up as vampires for Halloween. Other than that I didn’t really ponder it too much, but through making this movie I have read a lot of Freudian and Jungian analysis of the vampire myth, and why both the psychotherapist and psychologist talk about why we use the myth. It’s a retelling of a story that resonates with people because it’s cathartic to selective consciousness, and in my opinion the vampire myth is a myth about narcissism. It’s a myth about these creatures that are so attractive, useful and sexy when you first meet them; they charm their way into your life, and they make you invite them in. There is however always something a little off about them, a little frightening. It’s a trade-off situation. You are getting more out of it by listening to your instincts and your fears, and then by the time they have weaselled themselves into your life, they have pretty much sucked you in, because they are hollow, and they have nothing inside of them. They have no sense of self, and they take yours away from you, and ultimately devastate your life or kill you. There are lots of mirrors in it: Catholicism, Christianity and modern religion, and if you’re not filled up with light you have to be careful because you might allow the darkness in.

It’s interesting that you talk about the cathartic element, because performance could be perceived as a cathartic experience for the performer. Does film and performance offer you an opportunity to explore your darker side?

Well it’s interesting. When I first got the project I just thought that it was an exciting project. Then I started to research, and I was researching into the Báthory (the serial killer, the Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed). It was a tough set of night shoots, and I got straight off a plane and went straight into it. So there was an element of jet lag. Everything that you see in the film was really happening. We were jet lagged, we were working long hours, there were night shoots; you could go a little bit doolally. I was also reading all this material about darkness, diseased wine and people who do bad things, and then there’s the Báthory and how violent and how ugly what she did was. I did feel a bit yucky. I went into it not giving it too much thought, and actually in the process of making the film, I just thought I don’t know how people do one horror movie after another. Maybe if I had played the victim and I was running away and screaming, but for me to actually go there and try and be ugly, have murderous thoughts, be selfish and abuse my power, was not something I need to examine too much. It didn’t make me feel particularly wonderful.

Going back to your earlier point about the fine balance of horror and comedy, there are some schools of thought that argue the two are not complimentary. As an actress, how challenging is it to balance the two?

We had a lot of conversations about that; well I had a lot of conversations before I started working on the project. I spoke with Eduardo the director as we were both concerned because you want it to be scary enough that it’s going to interest and excite the audience. If you want to go there you don’t want to keep letting the air out of the balloon; you don’t want to ridicule that. We talked about how if it’s going to be truly funny, can it be truly scary? I think that we got the balance right, and that’s one of the reasons it was good for me to watch the one with Colin Farrell. By basing it in reality, there is a grim humour when you are scared or when things are really bad, and if you play it real, there is that which we call gallows humour that you get out of it. Also there are no one liners; it’s not hysterical. It’s darkly funny and I think that certain characters bring their own humour to it. So all the humour comes from “Evil Ed.” You see how ridiculous and annoying he his, and you kind of see it through Charlie’s eyes. You see him rolling his eyes and trying to be this good person, but he’s also quite charming and funny as well. You see the humour in that but you also see that Peter Vincent the vampire slayer has his own humour. He’s a larger than life character, and he is similar to people we see on reality TV and some of the characters that we have met in life. It’s funny but it’s based in another reality, which means it doesn’t disrupt anything. It’s not like Gerri is a barrel of laughs, but it’s based in enough reality there is something quite funny in the fact that she has this immense power. She’s actually just cracking her knuckles, enjoying the feeling, and enjoying the inevitability of this young boy. She’s thousands of years old and she’s seen this all before and maybe he’s a little bit more challenging than normal, and that’s fun to her. I think the audience will enjoy watching that and there are enough elements and sources of humour that come from natural places that don’t disrupt the horror too much. Sometimes it is quite nice to feel scared, but in a sense you want that release. It is an interesting way that they have worked it in, and it works in this movie.

If you could take one experience away from Fright Night 2, what would it be?

I loved Romania; the Romanian crew. It is a place full of history and the locations were amazing. I was working with a great bunch of people. Most of the actors were British, and they are incredibly talented. I’ve been working in America, Canada, and New Zealand for a long time, and I have met some wonderful people, but there is something quite nice about working with us Brits. We all have the same point of reference and the same silly jokes, whether it is mimicking people, Fawlty Towers or Little Britain. I don’t have those same points of reference in the same way when I am working with people from foreign countries. So it was nice to have that experience just before Christmas.

Fright Night 2: New Blood is released on DVD on October 21st.