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Q&A: Barbara Crampton talks “BEYOND THE GATES”

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From her soap opera days to her iconic roles in Stuart Gordon’s RE-ANIMATOR and FROM BEYOND, Barbara Crampton has stolen the hearts of cinema fans in and outside the horror genre. After taking a break from acting, Crampton returned in front of the camera in Adam Wingard’s YOU’RE NEXT, followed by a string excellent fright films in the years since. Now, Crampton returns to play an ominous figure within a sinister video board game in Jackson Stewart’s BEYOND THE GATES. Always a friend to FANGO, this writer spoke with Crampton regarding the film and her great talent in choosing roles…

FANGO: You play such a unique role in BEYOND THE GATES.

CRAMPTON: Have you seen it yet?  

FANGO: I’ve watched it four times, the movie.

CRAMPTON: You’ve watched it four times?!

FANGO: Yeah, I love the hell out of it.

CRAMPTON: Oh my god, thank you so much. I became involved because I’ve known Jackson Stewart for five years.  I met him at a performance of RE-ANIMATOR: THE MUSICAL a number of years ago; he was an intern of Stuart Gordon’s a few years ago and they were friends so I met him there.  And I don’t know, there was just something about Jackson that I really liked from the moment I met him.  I thought he was very charming, nice, and funny, so we hit it off and became friends.

In the meantime, he had written some short films and he asked me to act in a couple of them, so I did. He was working on the show SUPERNATURAL as an assistant in the writers’ room, so he was really working his way up to his first feature. I think he was ready by the time he did BEYOND THE GATES; He sent me the script for it, and I immediately fell in love with it, because it had a wonderful foundation in the story between the two brothers who were estranged from one another and coming back together for a common goal to find their father, and ultimately, finding themselves. I love stories like that.  You know, they’re wonderful, archetypal stories. These two brothers wind up both being heroes in the movie, and I just really liked that it had a foundation like that.  

I think, for me, horror movies that are my favorite do have those foundations and good characters and wonderful journeys they have to go on and obstacles that they have to overcome to become better people.  I really respond to that as a person.  So, that attracted me and also I thought the horror elements were really cool and right on. I really loved the character of Evelyn, and immediately when I read the script. too, I was like, “Oh I could play that part.”  But I didn’t say that to Jackson because I wanted to see, you know, “Well, does he want me to play this part or not?” He’s the director and he wanted me to initially come on as a producer and I loved the movie so much that I said I’d do it, regardless of whether I play this part or not.  And after a few weeks, we decided that I should play the part, and that was with about four days’ notice before we had to shoot my actual scenes, so it happened really fast.  When he sent me the script, he wanted to start shooting in a month, and he had gotten a lot of the people involved in the move, already in place.  And so, for the last month, we were really working hard to hit our start date and make it happen.

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FANGO: Because of the role you play, did you get a chance to work with any of the actors?  Since your role is kind of confined to that board game video?

CRAMPTON: I didn’t.  I know the other actors; Graham Skipper is a friend of mine, and Brea Grant is a friend of mine.  I didn’t really know Chase [Williamson] that well but I had met him a couple of times, we just weren’t friends yet.  But, you know, in the movie there is a wall between us because I’m on the screen and they’re reacting to me.  I didn’t really need to interact with them or know what they were going to be doing or how they’d be responding to me before I started shooting.  With that being said, we shot all my stuff before we shot the stuff in the living room with them with me on the screen, and all of my footage had to be put together and then had to have beats in between, pauses in between so they could speak, and we also had to degrade the footage on a VCR tape so it would look like it was old.  

When we shot all the stuff in the living room, and they had to react off of me basically on the screen, we did discover that there were some moments that needed to be enhanced.  They needed reactions off of things that I said, and I needed to react off of things that they did.  So, we did some additional shooting to clean up some of that stuff and it worked out really nicely.

FANGO: As a longtime fan, something that I’ve always admired about your career, especially since YOU’RE NEXT and so on, is your choice in which roles you play. A lot of people come back into the genre or acting in general and they take pretty much anything handed to them, but you’ve done completely different- and very smart- roles and films.  Are you very specific on what types of stories and films that you do or do not want to make?

CRAMPTON:  I am.  I mean, there have been some offers that have come in over the last few years that I said “no”  to and because I felt like there’s maybe nothing I could bring to the role, or I don’t think the role is interesting enough for me, or it won’t challenge me in a way. I’ve also been very lucky because I have been offered some really wonderful roles throughout my entire career.  I mean, the role of Meg in RE-ANIMATOR was a fantastic role, and the role of Katherine McMichaels in FROM BEYOND was a fantastic role. I would say that those two movies really gave me my career in the horror genre, and in addition to that, I think that lately, I’ve just been offered some immensely satisfying roles for me, as a performer, and so I’ve been really lucky with that as well.

FANGO: The fan base for a lot of the films that you do, they’re very rabid.  I mean, they want merchandise, pins; they want all kinds of stuff. How do you feel about that kind of fan base that completely embraces these films?

CRAMPTON:  Oh, I think it’s wonderful!  The horror fans are some of the most loyal and dedicated of any genre, if not the most.  I think, when we have all this merchandise that gets sold, it helps cement the movie and the memory of the movie in the fan’s mind. They get to feel like they’re a part of it and people feel very close to their horror movies; it’s a part of them, it’s a part of who they are as a person and they identify with them so much. I see this when I go to conventions and I meet people and I talk to fans on social media and they tell me how much a film meant to them.  So, I love all of the memorabilia that people make up and sell and just as long as it’s good quality and 100% machine washable! [laughs]

BEYOND THE GATES, starring Barbara Crampton, is now available on VOD and select theaters from IFC Midnight.

About the author
Jerry Smith
A lifelong genre fanatic, Smith loves all things Carpenter and plays a mean game of hide and seek. Currently the Editor In Chief of Icons of Fright, Jerry hails from the dead center of California and changes diapers on his off time.
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