powered_by.png, 1 kB
Home arrow Entertainment arrow Dark Gallery arrow NIGHT OWL
NIGHT OWL PDF Print E-mail
Written by by T. Ranstill   
Nov 22, 2004 at 07:00 PM
In the world of low-budget horror the most often used theme/monster is undoubtedly the vampire and vampirism. Although the bloodsuckers have been recently successful in such Hollywood fare as INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, and THE ADDICTION, this success and marketability isn't necessarily THE REASON why low budget independent filmmakers CHOOSE to make a film about vampires.  In fact, many of the recently released vampire flicks such as JUGULAR WINE, DARKNESS, CITY OF VAMPIRES, and VAMPIRES & OTHER STEREOTYPES were made well before these mainstream movies. It's because this creature of the night is indelibly ingrained into our culture and these filmmakers are simply adding to the lore of the undead, creating their own mythology with a familiar character.
One such filmmaker is Jeffrey Arsenault, who finally saw the video release of the aptly named NIGHT OWL last year. "I've always loved vampires," he explains, "and I knew my first feature would be a vampire film. I remember watching DARK SHADOWS as a very small child, only five years old. I think that moody, gothic atmospheric horror had a big influence on what I responded to in films. To this day I prefer straight horror to anything with a comedic edge."
Shot against the backdrop of New York City's burned out Alphabet City, which greatly adds to movie's production value, the film tells the tale of a young man who works a real job in a pizza parlor, hangs with his friends at various clubs, and incidentally kills for blood. "Back in 1983 I was walking with a friend in Alphabet city and all the buildings were abandoned, just black, burnt out shells with no windows or lights. Then, I heard the sound of a television set. I was with a friend and I asked her where the noise was coming from and she said it was coming from one of the abandoned buildings, and that "squatters" lived there and tapped into the electricity of the street lights. I was fascinated and thought it would be a great place for a character in a movie to live, particularly a vampire." Dismissed is all the folklore such as coffins, crosses, garlic, and fangs. The protagonist cuts open his victim's veins with a matte knife instead, which, like Romero's MARTIN, gives some ambiguity as to whether he is really a vampire. "I wanted to ignore all the folklore so there could be some ambiguity as to whether he was really a vampire or just a psycho who liked to suck on the blood of nubile young club kids."
NIGHT OWL is distinctly a New York movie and the city contributes a great deal to the atmosphere of the film. According to the director the way it was possible to shoot in the city was to shoot guerrilla-style, as most first independent films are usually done. "I just ran out with the camera and did it. I didn't apply for any city permits and filmed most of the movie at night underneath street lights. That was the only illumination; I didn't rent any lights. We shot on a busy street in Chinatown, an alley off Soho, in local bars and clubs. Other than the alley scene being shot on the coldest day of the year there were no major problems."
But unlike most independent films, who star relative unknowns, family and even friends, NIGHT OWL benefits from the presence of two of its stars, John Leguizamo (HOUSE OF BUGGIN) as the character "Angel" and a cameo by Caroline Munro (MANIAC, GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD), who has been long absent from genre films. Jeffrey admitted it wasn't too difficult getting them in the film. "John saw my ad for the movie in Backstage and just sent his picture like any other actor. He had already done lots of theater, TV, and some movies, but CASUALTIES OF WAR was his biggest credit. At the time he had also just filmed REVENGE with Kevin Costner. He was eager to work and he liked my script. He was also great to work with, had lots of energy and was really a great guy." The down side was that, if he wanted to use Leguizamo's name in publicity and in the credits, which he did, he had to pay SAG (Screen Actors Guild) rates for the cast and crew, which upped the low-budget considerably. And as for Ms. Munro? "Caroline is a friend of mine so I just called her up and asked her to do it." Simple.
Most independent projects nowadays are shot on video rather than film because it's a much more accessible medium and is far less expensive for the fledgling filmmaker. When asked why he shot on film, and to fuel the film vs. video debate, his answer came readily. "I shot NIGHT OWL on film because I wanted to make a FILM. The thought never occurred to me to shoot on video, primarily because I come from a film background. The biggest advantage to shooting NIGHT OWL this way was that I was able to travel around to swank film festivals and see the film projected on a giant screen with an audience. I also tend to think that films are reviewed in a better light if they are shot on film." But does shooting on film make it more marketable? "I haven't made a dime on NIGHT OWL yet, so perhaps if I had shot a project on video, bypassed the expensive festival circuit, and released it myself on tape, I may actually have some money now," he says. "But I tend to doubt it," he adds.
By the time this article was finally written he had already finished principal photography on his second feature, DOMESTIC STRANGERS, which draw elements from REPULSION and APARTMENT ZERO. He thinks this effort will be the bridge from independent to "art house" and hopefully reach a wider audience AND enable him to make films on a regular basis.
When asked if he's going to make another horror film, Arsenault does admit he has a sequel for NIGHT OWL in mind, though he says "I'm not sure when I'll shoot it. I have other projects in mind." Currently he is collaborating with Brimstone Productions, co-writing the script for the sequel to VAMPIRES & OTHER STEREOTYPES, which goes into production later this year.

User Comments
Your Name / Email Address

Mambo is Free Software released under the GNU/GPL License.