Q&A: “CHASTITY BITES” Bloodsucker Louise Griffiths
British actress Louise Griffiths is no stranger to the horror genre, having previously co-starred in both THE DEVIL’S CHAIR (2007) and THE REVENANT (2009). FANGORIA had the opportunity to chat with her about her most recent role in the horror/comedy CHASTITY BITES, now available on VOD from Gravitas Ventures.
CHASTITY BITES, which Griffiths says “manages to be smart, funny and a little scary, and doesn’t take itself too seriously,” is the feature debut of the husband-and-wife duo of director John V. Knowles and screenwriter/producer Lotti Pharriss Knowles. Griffiths plays the beautiful and mesmerizing Liz Batho, an abstinence-only educator at a high school with a dark past who has a penchant for preying on the chaste young ladies in her custody.
FANGORIA: First things first: Tell us about Liz.
LOUISE GRIFFITHS: She’s evil! She’s based on Elizabeth Bathory, a real-life person from the 16th century. This woman actually believed that if she bathed in the blood of virgins it would keep her young and beautiful, and she killed upwards of 600 young women. The authorities would turn a blind eye as long as she only murdered peasants, but one day she crossed the line and killed a noble’s daughter. They said, “Enough is enough,” and locked her in a chamber, and eventually she died. It’s kind of mind-blowing; she was the world’s first known serial killer. She was pretty rotten [laughs]; she was really fun to play! [In CHASTITY BITES] she still needs virgin blood and she needs it by a certain date, so here she is at this high school in California trying to find herself some virgins—which, sadly, are hard to come by these days.
FANG: How did you come to play the part?
GRIFFITHS: My manager sent me to the audition, and I’d read the script beforehand and loved it. It stood out to me because it’s not just a flimsy comedy; there’s a lot of social commentary and subjects touched upon in the film that are really relevant. And what I also liked about it was the fact that it cracked me up! I found the comedy really funny; just reading it off the page, I was laughing.
Then I went in and did my thing—and this might sound weird, because she’s so evil, but the character wasn’t that much of a stretch [laughs]! Just in terms of how they wanted her to look, plus the fact that I have a British accent, I believe I was a good fit for them without me having to do very much, but obviously, once I actually got into playing the role, there was tons of work to do. I met Lotti and John and it felt good, but I didn’t hear from them for a while; then they came back and offered me the role, and I was thrilled! They did a great job casting everybody; all the younger actresses are brilliant and so funny. It’s not easy to do comedy.
FANG: Were you influenced by historical fact and/or prior cinematic interpretations of Elizabeth Bathory, or was your approach to the character all your own?
GRIFFITHS: Because it is a comedy and set in the modern day, I really had to come up with my own interpretation, but the fact that it wasn’t completely fictitious helped me ground the character. In the script, she’s a vampire who’s hundreds and hundreds of years old, so I really liked the idea that she has lived for so long and gained so much knowledge that she’s cleverer than anyone else in the room. I wanted her to have a condescending demeanor to these young girls, who to her are idiots [laughs]. She treats everybody like they’re a bit of a moron. I wanted to give her a slow, timeless, graceful quality.
FANG: John V. Knowles has said that when you auditioned, you were really sweet and nice, but when you reunited to start shooting, you hit a switch and suddenly became pure evil. Can you talk about how you prepped to play someone so wicked?
GRIFFITHS: Between the audition and shooting, I did a lot of work, researching and reading the script over and over again. I’m not a Method actress; I didn’t go out and slaughter a bunch of puppies or anything [laughs]!
FANG: How did you find the experience of making CHASTITY BITES compared to the other horror films you’ve done?
GRIFFITHS: Because it’s a comedy, it was super-fun. I recently did a thriller, and the whole shoot was super-intense. There was no comic relief at all; it was heavy, and really hard work. CHASTITY BITES was such a joy because we were laughing half the time—it was so ridiculous.
FANG: Which thriller would that be?
GRIFFITHS: It’s yet to come out; it’s called UNKNOWN CALLER. It’s going to be great; I’m really excited to see this movie because although it was low-budget, the ingenious techniques and equipment the directors built themselves allowed for incredible shots that look as if there was a helicopter crew. It’s going to look like it cost tens of millions of dollars, and they had nowhere near that.
FANG: How about your first two horror films?
GRIFFITHS: THE DEVIL’S CHAIR was my first movie ever; it was actually my first audition. We filmed that in England at an old army base that was rundown, derelict and scary. It was a very hard shoot because of the brutal conditions—freezing cold and a lot of sticky blood. I don’t know if you’ve ever encountered the blood they use in films, but it’s sugar, it’s syrup. They pour it on, and it needs to stay where they put it for continuity; it needs to look the same take after take after take. We were in this freezing cold warehouse and I wasn’t wearing much, and I had this sticky blood all over me. It was so cold, and I was crawling all over the floor covered in God knows what. I was filthy, but it was one of the best times of my life. I was so happy! It was brutal, it was so hard, but I loved it. I just love working, so I tend to always have positive experiences, even when they’re difficult. Most of the movies I’ve done, I’ve had a good time and really enjoyed.
THE REVENANT was also a great experience. It’s primarily a comedy and it’s so funny, but it was challenging for me because my character was such a Debbie Downer. She’s miserable and crying in every scene, and everything was all about her. I want to make things real, and if I’m crying, I go into some dark places and cry real tears, because I think it looks rubbish if it’s fake.
FANG: Shooting CHASTITY must have been a lot of fun—the ending in particular, without revealing anything.
GRIFFITHS: It was really fun. We had stunt doubles; there’s certain stuff you can’t do because it’s just not allowed. We didn’t have long at all to learn the fight choreography; we were rehearsing it the morning before we shot it. But I think it turned out really well; they did an awesome job filming it. And toward the end, I just get so vile [laughs].
FANG: It’s nice to hear that you enjoy making horror movies so much, especially since so many other actors seem to be put off by the experience. Directors must love you.
GRIFFITHS: Cover me in fake blood and throw me on the floor, and I’ll be happy [laughs]. I mean, come on, if you get to do this for a living, it’s not that bad!
Check out Fango #328 for our interview with CHASTITY BITES director John V. Knowles.