Mark Vadik: Thirsting for Cyrus with Horror’s Next Great Find. By Brian Kirst
Director and writer Mark Vadik is a man on the rise. His first film The Thirsting gave the Lilith legend a twist and has been hugely successful over seas. While that twisted horror flick engaged the services of veteran actor Mickey Rooney, his latest blood scabbed opus, Cyrus: The Mind of a Serial Killer, features such beloved genre figures as Lance Henrikson, Doug Jones and Danielle Harris (to name just a few). While the talented, uncompromising Vadik also has a slate of other limb strewn projects on his plate, he recently took a moment to answer a few questions for this exclusive Horror Society peek into his viciously creative mindset. Beware – but enjoy!!
Brian: Who were your first creative influences – Joan Jett loving rock n’ roll – The showmanship moves of William Castle – Werner Herzog’s story telling chops?
Mark: Believe it or not – Shakespeare. I’ve always been a big fan, even as a little boy (my first 2 hamsters were named Hamlet and Ophelia). I think his works have (hopefully) had a big influence on the way I work with plot and dialogue. Later I really came to appreciate “theatre of the bizarre” (Brecht, Pinter, Becket, etc.) So I try to work classical structure in with some twists. As far as film influence, I’ve always loved the old black and white films (especially the old Sherlock Homes Series) and film noir.
Brian: What was your introduction to the Lilith myth and why did you decide to incorporate that in your first feature, The Thirsting? (Lilith rocks – The Jean Seberg movie is fab, too!)
Mark: While I was doing my college work, I was introduced to Jung and found that a lot of his concepts seemed to make sense to me. And, if you like Jung, you like myth. So I really wanted to work in myth and archetypes into my first film. Lilith just seemed like a spooky character to work into a movie – the bad devouring mother archetype. Then each of the girls really centers around another “type” theme: Michelle is the Electra complex gone really bad, Clareese is a perversion of sexual power, Jackie has a very specific OCD, etc. It was a great challenge to work these themes into a horror film without beating people over the head with them. I want the movie to stay with the people when their done watching it, and to do that I really believe you need to incorporate those types of themes and concepts into a work.
Brian: What was the most arduous part of putting The Thirsting together and what was the most enjoyable aspect of it?
Mark: The most arduous part was definitely making the move from theater to film and trying to play catch-up with the crew on the technical aspects of movie making. The most enjoyable: a toss up between working with the actors and working in post to see the story come together.
Brian: Time for a Mickey! – Any Mickey Rooney set stories from The Thirsting?
Mark: Mickey does not like to swear – at all. And one of his lines originally included the word “damn”. So we sat down and had a discussion about the line – well obviously Mickey has been around for awhile and worked with every huge name you can imagine – so when you hear Spencer Tracey this, Elizabeth Taylor that, Judy Garland this – you listen to the advice with a very receptive ear and open mind. So I agreed to cut any profanity from the role. He smiled, got up and said “Good, every writer should be willing to do re-writes”. Then, he turned around and said “except Bill Shakespeare – never re-write Shakespeare – remember that.” And I do.
Brian: Perfect! It looks like The Thirsting is available only on DVD as a German import. While my German forefathers are very proud of that fact – I would like to see it myself! Any plans for a US release?
Mark: That movie is actually out in almost every territory in the world except the US right now and has done pretty well (people seem to either love it or hate it – not a lot of in-between) so we got a couple of solid US distributors that we are in talks with – and hopefully we’ll have the movie out in the US/Canada by year end.
Brian: Cool. – What stories did you use as your primary influence to create Cyrus, Mind of a Serial Killer?
Mark: I was actually working on another script “American Boogeyman”- doing research on serial killers – and some of the real facts and stories were absolutely horrifying. AB has more of an occult/possession feel to it. At the same time, I was driving to a convention in MN (Cyrpticon) and passed by a creepy deserted farm house – and I thought – what if all the things I had been reading about took place in that house – it sent chills down my spine. So the next day I sat down and wrote a short story called “Roadkill” based on my research and the house – and that turned into “Cyrus.”
Brian: You are working with multiple genre fixtures in Cyrus – Danielle Harris, Brian Krause, Doug Jones – How did you work this kind of magic and is the fan boy in you just leaping for joy?
Mark: Well the script really worked most of the magic for me – the actors liked it – which makes the casting process infinitely easier. And yes – it was a huge treat to get to work with actors who are not only “iconic” in the genre, but just amazingly talented. They bring a real sense of life to the characters, which makes your life as a director much easier – you get to guide the actor and their choices to develop a story as a whole. You’re not starting at square one with them. For example, when Brian got to location, he had done a ton of research on his own – and let’s face it – Brian is a good looking guy. Normally he plays the guy who the girl falls in love with, not the guy who kills and terrifies the girl. So the first thing he asked was, would you like to cut all my hair off and do you want to shave my arms (serial killers often do this so DNA evidence won’t be present of victims – if they’re bodies are found) and we went with it – that’s just the kind of dedication he had to the role. And “outstanding” doesn’t even begin to describe his performance – it’s not only one of the best performances I’ve seen in horror, but probably one of the strongest most multi-layered characters I’ve ever seen anywhere.- Danielle Harris, what can you say about her – just a consummate professional. You marry her up with Lance Henriksen in scenes and the two have an amazing chemistry. They were both brilliant. Doug Jones, outside of just being one of the nicest people in the world, creates this great pondering mind in the character of Dallas. Kim Rhodes (Suite Life of Zak & Cody) juxtaposes him perfectly. The rest of the players as well: Patricia Belcher (Jeepers Creepers) spot on with Maybelle – Rae Dawn Chong – just a thrill to work with. Shawna Waldron – amazing; Tony Yalda – brought great levels to Tom; Aris Mendoza – great; my Vicky – a very challenging part, Anne Leighton, just gave an amazing open vulnerable performance. I really can’t say enough about the cast as a whole.
Brian: I can’t wait to see it! What part of the process are you in right now with Cyrus and when can we expect to see the completed feature?
Mark: We’re posting and the first screening is scheduled to be at Cannes this May.
Brian: Lastly, any words of advice (IE: Never fix up Adam’s vengeful first wife and a misanthropic serial killer on a blind date) and any future projects (besides Cyrus) that you’d like to tell us. And thanks – this has been better than becoming a madman’s statistic any day of the week!
Mark: Words of advice –for other film makers – let’s see: “make sure you have coverage” and “fire anyone on set who says we can fix it in post – they lie.” And yes – I’ll give myself some shameless plugs: I have 3 movies slated for 09/10: The one script I mentioned earlier – American Boogeyman (which is another serial killer movie); The Academy ( a teenage horror piece) and The Lucifer Claw (which is a martial arts/vampire/ good guy movie).