I first discovered Bruce Hickey’s bizarro occult film oddity Necropolis a few years back. At the time, I only knew it as a really cool poster that promised the sort of satisfying cult film experience I knew it simply couldn’t deliver. When I finally watched it, I was right… but it did strike a chord with me. The sight of LeeAnne Baker’s undead sorceress Eva doing her whacked out ritualistic dance and later leaking ectoplasmic slime from her six breasts was the sort of mind-meltingly weird imagery that was guaranteed to impress me. It’s not a great film, the lack of a good transfer hurts it quite a bit, but it hits a lot of good spots and I’ve found myself revisiting it regularly since that first viewing. So, naturally, when I heard a reboot titled Necropolis: Legion was in the works as a part of Charles Band’s Deadly Ten, I was pumped.
Watching the project develop was fascinating and I knew that director Chris Alexander had something very different from the original in mind for Necropolis: Legion. And so, here we are now, on the brink of the Necropolis: Legion release and we are here with some of the key talent involved with the creation of this phantasmagorical update of this little cult oddity. Continue reading for our interviews with the cast and crew of Necropolis: Legion!
Chris Alexander is the director of Necropolis: Legion. His prior directorial works include Blood for Irina, Blood Dynasty, Queen of Blood and Female Werewolf.
Q: Did you approach Charles Band with the idea of a Necropolis reboot or was it already on the slate when you were brought on as a director?
A: I’ve been working with Full Moon for five years, first because Charlie and I created DELIRIUM magazine together, which he and Full Moon publish and later, writing liners and copy for various releases, as well as helping to license weird Eurohorror and smut for Blu-ray, DVD and streaming. I had mentioned to Charlie often about my desire to make a more esoteric riff on NECROPOLIS, as well as helm a series of surreal, sexy Jess Franco-esque horror films for Full Moon. Last year Charlie came up with the idea of what would become the DEADLY TEN. I named it, we all developed it and – as is the way with Charlie Band – the machine was built and running almost immediately. Of course, this gave me the opportunity to finally direct a Full Moon picture and I went with a NECROPOLIS reboot, while also using the concept to secretly make a Jess Franco movie at the same time. Originally, I wanted to call it NECROPOLIS: DEATH WITCH (I still like that title as its VERY pulpy and direct and sounds like DEATH WISH, of course) but my secondary title was NECROPOLIS: LEGION as I liked the gravitas such a title implies. So Charlie went with that one.
Q: What’s your history with the original Necropolis? What did you think of the film when you first saw it?
A: Not much, to be honest. As with all Empire Pictures films in the ‘80s, the box art was beautiful but I found the film kind of flavorless. Of course, the big hook was the witch with her 6 breasts, wet-nursing her zombie slaves. I loved the weird sexual, maternal deviance of that device. And I also loved the concept of watching an unnatural character cruise around the natural world as well as the BLACK SUNDAY-esque set up, with a revived witch seeking vengeance and on some sort of evil mission. A simple, elemental horror movie set-up that has always sat well with me. All the sidecar subplots and flabby peripheral characters in the original did nothing for me and I always wanted to just watch the witch do stuff. That’s really all you need. One or two characters that are interesting and some pretty pictures to frame their states of mind.
Q: The Deadly Ten is a pretty cool experiment! What was it like having the entire production live streamed while you shot?
A: It was…interesting. Because even when you say “cut”, the cameras never stop running. You’re being watched. Observed. You cannot direct without being aware that you are also performing. And that goes double for the actors, who have to be a character in respect to the film itself and then be something else for the livestream cameras and the people all over the planet watching them. But honestly, our crew was so amazing. Tiny, tight, efficient. And our locations were so beautiful, the weather so bright and warm but not too hot. Everyone was having fun inventing and creating. The livestream became just another component of the process. Now, that said, when the live crew split and we were left alone just with Augie in the cabin set for the last two days, we were deep-focused and I think ended up making some of the movie’s most intimate and interesting material. When I look back at some of the more grandiose, effect heavy stuff we shot while the cameras were breathing down our necks, part of me wishes we could have had more than six days to shoot and could have gone back and re-shot some of it, alone, without the big “show” happening. But all in all, the process was totally singular and exciting and a real education for all of us.
Q: What was it like to go from your usual auteur works to directing something for a studio like Full Moon?
A: I knew going in that my plan was to blend my more intimate, meandering psychological and visual style with what would be a traditional Full Moon movie. But my influences from that world stem from Charlie’s early works like MANSION OF THE DOOMED, PARASITE and the Stuart Gordon stuff, horror movies that reveled in the absurd but still delivered baroque, bloody effects and always had stories that took themselves seriously, no matter how ludicrous the mayhem happening was. So it was easy to do and a pleasure to surrender some of my control to others around me, to trust their talents and for them to trust my guidance. This movie is small. It was shot for less than 50K in 6 days. Ultra low-budget. But it was GONE WITH THE WIND compared to something like QUEEN OF BLOOD, which was 10k or BLOOD DYNASTY which was – gulp – 2K! So NECROPOLIS: LEGION isn’t as personal or obsessive as some of my other work, but there many, many passages and themes and moods and images that are directly in-line with my, as you say, auteur movies. I should also mention the costumes, designed by the brilliant Beatriz Arevalo, who took my ideas and created looks for my players that were the perfect amalgam of practical and phantasmagorical. And of course, the majestic score by the legendary Richard Band. I always compose my own scores and here, I temped the movie, turned it over to Richard and he made something Gothic, opulent and purely his, though much of my guitar work was woven into the film and Richard even built some of his score around a key piece. Making art with real deal artists was a gift,
Q: Brockton McKinney is credited as a co-writer on Necropolis: Legion. What was your collaboration like and did you enjoy crafting a story with someone else?
A: Brockton is a comic book guy and his brain is bursting with an endless supply of pulp horror awesomeness. I usually use script as a simple guide for shooting, either that or skip the script entirely and just invent as I go, depending on location, mood etc. So taking my story and ideas and giving them to Brockton and having him turn them into EXACTLY the sort of Warren Publishing or EC comics type movie I wanted to make was incredible. I changed some of his dialogue here and there as we went, allowed the actors to alter some of it with me, which is a necessity. And we had to drop several scenes from his script because we simply did not have the money or time to effectively realize them. But this is Brockton’s script, a fleshing out and improving upon my ideas. He’s also really good at actually creating a real, functioning script which I am pretty hopeless at. I’d love to make another movie with him. I mean, you should see what he’s done with the awesome NECROPOLIS: LEGION comic book we published. Wow.
Q: Your prior films seem to have some heavy Jean Rollin and Jess Franco influences. What were some of the key influences for Necropolis: Legion?
A: There is less Rollin here, though plenty of the long, moody shots – which were even longer in our original cut – owe much to my favorite Rollin pictures like GRAPES OF DEATH and LIVING DEAD GIRL, but also passages from Werner Herzog movies like NOSFERATU: THE VAMPYRE. The rest of it, as I mentioned Warren Comics like CREEPY and EERIE and VAMPIRELLA, especially those covers. Polanski’s apartment movies – ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE TENANT and of course, REPULSION. Zulawski’s POSESSION. The stuff with Eva in the church bookended by her two coven girls is a visual re-interpretation of the opening scene of Jodorowsky’s THE HOLY MOUNTAIN. Of course – like all of my tortured women movies, I refer to Falconetti’s performance in THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC. But at the end of the day, I think the biggest influence for myself and the Rabidog Films team who produced the picture with me (DP and editor Phil Pattison and co-producer/cameraman Cam Schwarz) were key Italian dream-logic horror movies, specifically Fulci’s THE BEYOND and some the Italian Gothics like BLACK SUNDAY. In fact I showed the movie to Lamberto Bava recently and he mentioned how many moments were very clearly reminiscent of classic Italian horror, which was wonderful.
Q: Your film is very different from the original. What were some key elements from the original that you knew you wanted to preserve in your film?
A: Honestly? Only two. The reborn witch idea and her name, Eva. And the evil breasts. But even then, I dropped the six breasts and instead turned Eva’s satanic breasts into vampiric mouths that were a direct reference to Stan Winston’s beasts in Charlie’s PARASITE. So this is like a weird, spastic dream-state version of the more conventional and oh-so-eighties original.
Q: You have quite the cast in this one! What was it like assembling the cast and did you have any of them in mind prior to the start of production?
A: I knew I wanted Ali Chappell as Eva. She’s an up and coming performer but she’s really good and we made a really cool little surrealist mood piece called SPACE VAMPIRE together that strangely is still sitting around unreleased. Hopefully it shows up soon. Anyway, she has a strong, imperious face and presence and she is local so we had plenty of time to workshop the character as well as work with The Butcher Shop on her evil breast creation. We used a casting director in LA to find Joe Lopez as Maynard and that was great. But we couldn’t find a good Lisa or Zia. I am good friends with Lynn Lowry and called her up and she read the script and took a pay cut to fly up and do the movie and she’s perfect. I think she nails the mystic, manic “good witch” vibe that Zia had to project. She’s got that great face too. Those cheekbones. Almost the more mature version of Ali’s, which is perfect as I’m ALWAYS obsessed with my movies suggesting that the narrative is internal, potentially happening inside someone’s troubled mind, so I like the women to have similar “looks”. And similarly, Augie Duke kind of has the same energy Lynn has as well. A very unique, intelligent beauty. Augie was brought to us by Billy Butler, the actor and director, who has worked with Full Moon forever and is working with us on all the DEADLY TEN movies. She’s a real find. A remarkable performer who jumped in and knew exactly what I – and the movie – needed. The three of these women were fantastic and so much fun to watch in the final film.
Q: As a fellow Ontarian, it’s very cool to me that this is the only Deadly Ten production to be shot in Canada. How did it feel to have that distinction?
A: Amazing because – like my fellow Ontarian David Cronenberg – I always act locally and think globally. I have run the world’s biggest horror film magazine – FANGORIA – and I did it from my home in Oakville, raising my three children. I only went to New York when I needed to, which wasn’t often. Full Moon is in Hollywood. I work with people all over the world. And I only travel if I think it’s necessary. And I shot all my movies – none of which were financed by Canadians, all of them American or European – here, around my home, using people I knew and trusted and in locations I discovered on long, lazy drives. In fact, over the span of six movies now, I think I’ve turned the Halton region into a kind of weird, Gothic otherworld. I’d happily work anywhere in the world of course, but so far, everything I need to make the kinds of movies I want to make is here.
Q: What are some other Empire titles you’d love to reboot or reimagine?
A: I love the early Charlie Band movies like TOURIST TRAP – which of course everyone loves and wants to remake – but my favorites have to be MANSION OF THE DOOMED and PARASITE. There’s just this weird, moody energy to them. PARASITE, especially. I love the western vibe of it, which I would love to explore. A kind of Sergio Leone sci-fi horror movie. Of course, the PARASITE score is one of my favorites and I asked Richard to quote it for his NECROPOLIS: LEGION score and he did, often. THAT was wild…
Q: Any chance we’ll be seeing Eva return in a sequel?
A: You need to read the NECROPOLIS: LEGION comic. Brockton and Shawn Gabborin sculpted this insane prequel that would be a joy to film. That said, as with my “Irina” vampire films – BLOOD FOR IRINA, QUEEN OF BLOOD, BLOOD DYNASTY – I would love to take the character of Eva and keep inserting her into new worlds. In the movie I suggest that she’s perpetual, manipulating time itself, trapping characters in a kind of ever-changing loop. I would love to explore her being reborn endlessly from the muck, like Christopher Lee’s DRACULA in the Hammer films. Just appearing like cypher to affect whatever world she ends up in. There are endless movies to be made about her!
Carlos Henrique runs The Butcher Shops FX Studio. His resume ranges from mainstream fare to low-budget independent horror and his effects help bring Necropolis: Legion to hellish life.
Q: How did you initially get involved with the project?
A: Me and my Fx Studio The Butcher Shop FX Studio were brought in to the project by director Chris Alexander. We’ve known each other for years now, from back in the day when he was the editor of Fangoria magazine. Always been a fan of the magazine, growing up on it and we made contact back then at a horror convention called Shock Stock which happens every year in London, Ontario. I was lucky enough to be included in the magazine in the 3-D issue and have been in his debt since. We had the opportunity to do a few special fx on a few of his lower budgeted films and things went well. He contacted us about this newest one and we happily agreed and once again things went well. I think a lot of people are going to dig this flick!
Q: Were you familiar with the original Necropolis before being approached with this project? What were your thoughts on it?
A: I’m a huge Full Moon Features film fan, especially the 80s Empire stuff. Re-Animator, Troll, Robot Jox, Castle Freak, Dolls, all those Ghoulies films, Arena, all of those films are Gold. I wasn’t familiar with the original Necropolis though. I did check it out as soon as word was made this one was a go. I appreciate it and it was fun, especially the 80s themes and style and I do love that one scene. Yeah you know the one!!
Q: It goes without question that Eva’s monster breasts are a key visual in the film. How much free range did you have in terms of designing them?
A: The budget was low on the film but working with Chris he did give us a lot of creative control on how things were fabricated and designed. The only thing really that he wanted 100 % were that the teeth of the monster breasts to resemble the teeth of the Charles Band classic Parasite. I was happy to do that as the design of the Stan Winston made creature in Parasite was fantastic and super fun to look at. Pretty much everything else was left in our court in how things would be designed and fabricated.
Q: What’s your personal favorite effect that you had to pull off for the film?
A: My personal favorite effect in the film is easily the rebirth of Eva. We decided to create the effect as if it was a makeup effect created in the 80s as this film was a celebration of that time and was meant to feel like it could’ve been possibly from that time. We went back and created a melting rebirth effect and homaged such awesome 80s rebirth scenes from films such as Nightmare on Elm St 4 and Hellraiser. Eva is born from the blood of another and the melting fx we created were done using different layers of Wax and melting it and then reversing it in post. The beating heart was fabricated in silicone and had an air bladder inside it in which we could pulsate it with our own air and/or a large syringe.The Rabidog guys Phil Pattison and Cam Schwarz who also helped shoot the film and were a large part of it, designed and built a small set which looked just like the live action one and we used these elements to shoot in this smaller set. The controlled area was perfect for lighting setup and fire safety issues. The results turned out fantastic in my opinion and it looks other worldly and fits in perfectly with the style of the film. We were so impressed with the final scene, we just finished a short making of for our youtube channel if anyone is interested in seeing the behind the scenes on how it was all created. It will be posted on our Butcher Shop Fx Studio Youtube channel by the time you read this.
Q: What as the most difficult effect you had to pull off?
A: The most difficult scene in the movie fx wise to create was the Breast feeding scene. This scene involved the two actresses as well as 4 puppeteers. One puppeteer to control mouth movements, one to control the cable controlled tongue, another to control the drooling mechanism and another to hold the Monster Breast torso and puppeteer movements. Even some cgi was added to that scene after the fact to show that the lifeform was being pulled out of her and into Eva as she fed. It did work out quite well, and were all super proud of it!! Super fun stuff!
Q: The production seemed to have had a pretty brisk pace. Are you generally good with working with tight schedules?
A: One of the quickest movies ever made in history!! I think from the beginning till it being available to the public its been 4 or 5 months in total. A massive accomplishment indeed! We don’t mind the quick pace but yeah we do prefer to work with longer schedules. Multiple takes instead of single takes are greatly appreciated.
Q: Was this your first time working on a Full Moon production?
A: Our first time working for Full Moon was about 3 or 4 years ago on the sequel to the Full Moon classic Shrieker. We created the Shrieker for the film and then the film …it just collapsed. Not sure really what happened there but that’s one film I think could use a sequel. The design of the original Shrieker is quite beautiful and so fun to look at. For our take on it we made the Shrieker a bit skinnier and added a Pumpkinhead feel to him. We also added a creature eye to his back spine and some character morphing into his shoulder. I really liked what we did with him, too bad it wasn’t to be…
Q: What are your personal favorite Full Moon/Empire Pictures movies?
A: My favorite Full Moon films are Re-Animator, Troll, Robot Fox, Castle Freak, Dolls, all those Ghoulies flicks, Arena, Castle Freak, Crash and Burn, Bad Channels, Killer Eye, oh the list will go on forever, there are so many!!! It’s been an honour to work with Full Moon, hopefully we get to do more in the future!
Ali Chappell plays the bloodsucking-breasted antagonist Eva in Necropolis: Legion. Her past credits include the low-budget Canadian horror features Late Night Double Feature and The Final Ride.
Q: First off, you give a really damn good performance in this film! What was it like to take on this role and how much input did you have in terms of how it was performed?
A: It was challenging to take on this role because there no backstory in the script to this character. We start in her third act basically. So I had to create a whole world as my moment before that brought me to the opening moment where she is first introduced. But it was rewarding and id love to play her again.
Q: Were you a fan of Full Moon or Empire Pictures prior to coming on board this project?
A: I love Full Moon. I grew up with Puppet Master and Subspecies so it was pretty awesome to have a chance to be a part of the Charles Band universe. I hope I get to do it again.
Q: You get some of the most memorable moments in the film. What were your favorite scenes to shoot and which did you find the most challenging?
A: Wearing those contacts and trying to see was the biggest challenge. There were many moments when someone had to guide me around especially in those darker scenes haha. The whole experience was a blast though. From the cast to the crew, it was wonderful.
Q: Were there any particular performances from other films that you studied for inspiration?
A: It’s definitely a mix of Sybil Danning in Howling II, Amanda Donohoe in Lair of the White Worm, and Lena Headey in Game of Thrones.
Q: If you could explore the role again in future films, what are some new elements you’d like to bring to the character?
A: I would love to explore more of a backstory so we get to know who she was before she becomes the witch. We start the movie in her third act so we don’t know who she was before this and why is became this or how she became this. I’d love to make a prequel about her.
Q: Any final thoughts you’d like to share with the fans reading this?
A: Yes, I would like everyone to know that I did not wear a prosthetic. Those are how my breasts truly look. It’s been a gift as well as a struggle.