Everyone knows working a dead-end job can suck out your soul, but your blood as well? BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS is a hilarious send up of corporate culture in the guise of a vampire flick, directed by Brian James O’Connell and penned by the popular comedy troupe Dr. God and Ryan Mitts. Evan Sanders has been biding his time as the interim sales director, just awaiting his assumed promotion. When his college nemesis Max sweeps in and steals his job and even seems to be making headway with his ex-girlfriend, Evan feels something evil is at work. It is – Max is a vampire. As Evan’s coworkers fall victim one by one to Max’s blood-spattered plot, which strangely also makes them better employees, Evan finally finds his killer instinct to take charge of his career, and keep it from going from dead-end to just plain dead.
At the center of BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS, stands Fran Kranz as Evan. The actor first burst onto the scene as ‘the fool’ archetype in Cabin in the Woods, but has made a name for himself playing a variety of roles in independent films. Initially, he wasn’t sure he wanted to dive back into the world of horror comedy. “I have a little reservation when I hear about horror films because of Cabin In the Woods,” he tells me, “but this film had so much more to it, like kind of Office Space-like environment and I felt like [the film]had enough to kinda transcend the genre.” I had a chance to chat with Kranz a few weeks ago, in preparation for today’s national release of the film. Of course the film, which I initially saw at its World Premiere at Slamdance, was our main topic of conversation, but Kranz keeps popping up in some of my favorite indies (in big and small roles) so I had to ask him about those too. He’s made a conscious effort to not repeat his character in Cabin in the Woods. “The role had enough of the straight man, the everyman, the beleaguered hero,” he says about Evan Sanders, “had I been, you know, sort of the stoner in the office then I might’ve raised an eyebrow.” Despite his concerns about being typecast, the script for BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS won him over. “I liked the character, I liked all the other characters and the cast they were putting together,” he says, “I love Joey Kern, I think he steals the movie. So, there were so many wonderful, attractive things about the movie, that at the end of the day it was kind of like, ‘Get over yourself.’ It’s a great horror comedy, if you’re falling into the horror comedy world and can’t get out of it, it’s not a bad place to be.” Even Kern, who does play the stoner in the office, avoids the obvious clichés, more of an anarchist than a slacker. “His indifference is so extreme that he’s beyond just playing the clown,” says Kranz “It’s really wonderful.”
What makes the film so unique is the way vampyric trappings actually comment on cubicle life, like when Evan realizes that the vampires are able to work in the day because there’s such little sunlight in their office. The film taps into that inner rage that many of us have felt working at a soulless job. “The funny thing about BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS,” the actor says, “we shot it in an actual office building. The floor we were on was just unoccupied so we were able to get it for cheap and basically tear it apart and do whatever we wanted with it.” But on the floor above, where some of the actors had their changing rooms, was an actual office, selling insurance. “I hate to say this, because maybe they’ll come across this,” Kranz says, “but it looked so miserable in there. So if like, we ever needed inspiration, we just had to walk upstairs.”
Kranz himself has never had that sort of dead-end job but says a lot of his friends are not actors and work in those environments. “I’m spoiled. I got my first acting job after my senior year of high school. And so my parents would always get on me to get a summer job, and I even applied to like waiting jobs, coffee shops, and would always get some tiny role that would pay more than your typical summer job, so I always got out of it.”
The team behind BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS, Dr. God, performs live across the country and are a full service content creation machine for film and television. They also just completed the second season of their television series MOCKpocalypse for Mark Cuban’s AXSTV and recently sold pilots to two different cable networks. Individually or as a group, Dr. God has created content for Relativity Media, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Fox, Imagine Television, Warner Brothers, Disney Channel, Playboy TV, National Lampoon, TV Guide Network, IFC, AMC, and CNN. In the director’s seat for BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS, Brian James O’Connell controlled the madness on set, with he and the rest of the Dr God team (Sean Cowhig, Neil Garguilo, David Park, and Justin Ware) writing and performing (and often rewriting and improving on set). “So much of that movie is lifted and supported by just funny people improvising,” Kranz says, “or at the very least keeping lines organic and fresh because of improv around it or they’re able to give the whole movie a sense of ease and naturalism that sort of only great improv performers can do.” O’Connell has a small role in the film; “he’s like, the one guy in the office wearing a flannel,” the actor points out, the Xerox guy, “Brian was certainly the leader of the whole production. He was our true director.”
But the film has ensemble creation feel, like the first National Lampoon films. “Their presence was always there in, you know, in plural,” Kranz says about Dr God, “there was always more than one of ‘em on set. They were all there and all had their input and all their energy and sort of throwing lines to us and constantly thinking of ways to make the script and movie better.” If if feels like a team effort, the actor is quick to point out that most of the movies he’s done are like that. “Just by the nature of the production you have to work together and be creative just to cross the finish line, you know?” he says. For his own improv, Kranz mentions the scene where he and Joey Kern try to convince Justin Ware’s character to stay/not stay, and it ended up as a devil/angel over his shoulder thing, just throwing reasons at him out of nowhere. Another scene was where Evan tells his ex-girlfriend (played by Emma Fitzpatrick) that he got the promotion (he thinks). “It was one of those things where it was like, ‘Is there anything else you could give this?’” he remembers, “And I linger in the doorway and just started making up all kinds of humiliating attempts to impressing her, and trying to convince her that you’ve changed or grown up. I think I start talking about NPR and Gibbons, it’s totally ridiculous, and it somehow is in the movie, I can’t believe it’s in the movie.”
Kranz says his favorite improv is always the minor stuff that supports the scene and the script and that most people can’t even tell is improve. “I’ve watched a lot of movies where, I think, I can tell exactly that moment where they leave, they depart from the script and just start improvising,” he says, “a lot of times I feel like I can see that point of no return and I think the movie sometimes take a hit for it and you can tell it becomes indulgent or the creative team they might be funnier than they are.” He is quick to point out this never happened on BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS, most of the funny is in the script. Instead, there was just a lot of people being funny, playing off each other and great script.
Although Evan Sanders is a perfect character for Fran Kranz, I couldn’t help but use the opportunity to talk about a few other great roles he’s played recently.
Film: The Living
Logline: An alcoholic learns that he may have beaten his wife in a drunken rage, and his brother-in-law hires a hitman to kill him.
Kranz Plays: Teddy, the alcoholic
Kranz: I did not know Jack Bryan before, the writer/director, but we had a mutual friend. And my friend contacted me first, saying, ‘Hey, look out for this script, my buddy wrote it.’ And when I got it, I was convinced that there was like, a typo. That there was like, some mistake about him being interested in me playing Teddy, as opposed to Kenny Wormald’s character, Gordon. When I got on the phone with him, he was like, kind of saying exactly why I’m interested in you playing this part. Which is really nice, because I don’t get that a lot. And I feel like a lot of actors don’t get that. You know, you play something and you get, not even necessarily type-cast, but you’re familiar in people’s minds as something, it doesn’t even have to be something so concrete as the words or phrase typecast. For him to think of me, you know, that I could play that part was really cool and inspiring. But I guess also maybe, a little unsettling that he was like, ‘Naw, I think you are a wife beater, I think you can do that.’ But, no, that movie’s really cool, right? I thought it turned out so well.
BEARS: I think the funny thing about that film is, I think if it had been someone else in the role it would have been harder to watch. Because it was you, and because of some of the other films you’ve played, and because of the joy that you bring even in sad circumstances, that it actually made it more watchable. Because it was you.
Kranz: Yeah, no, I appreciate that. I think you’re right. I think it’d be a hard of journey to take. You have to get somewhere with that movie and that couple you have to believe there’s a reconciliation, if not at the end, just right around the corner, you know? I think it does sort of take, maybe like a softer touch or a lighter hand with those performances to not sort of make it fall into a sort of cliché or sort of two-dimensional archetypes of what that relationship is.
Film: Before I Disappear
Logline: A suicidal man watches over his eleven year old niece Sophia as a favor to his sister, taking her through the underbelly of New York.
Kranz Plays: Darren, Sophia’s awful estranged father
Kranz: I met Shawn Christensen and a writing partner of his, Jason Dolan, over a script called “Sidney Hall,” that is still trying to be made, Shawn is gonna direct it, it should be his next feature. I loved the script so much, I thought they were brilliant, and we all hit it off and became friends. So, I started going to Stellastarr* [Christensen’s Alt Rock band who are fricking awesome by the way] shows and just hanging out with them, just socially, and over time I was like, when he won the Oscar [for Curfew, the short that Before I Disappear is based on], I was like crying. It was like the happiest day of my life, you know what I mean? It was such validation for believing in this friend of yours and his talent. And we had this huge party that night, it was great. So, Before I Disappear, yeah, it was such a wonderful thing to be a part of, because it felt like, not just validation for this guy’s talent, but sort of, kind of an end and slash beginning of a journey for all of our careers, you know? But I played that tiny part in it, but it was a cool little scene. And Daniel Katz, who shot it, is such a talented cinematographer that we shot it all, basically, in one shot. And it was really a lot of fun. Although it was painful, I mean, Shawn, basically, was actually punching me in the head. For like the next week I was in a lot of pain.
Logline: A man who cannot leave the Upper West Side of Manhattan falls in love and struggles to impress his family and inherit their smoked fish emporium.
Kranz Plays: Salmon Guy [a man dressed in a salmon suit as a promotion]
Kranz: Yeah, the Salmon Guy. Yeah, Putzel’s great. That’s so funny. Jack Carpenter is great in that movie. Yeah, I forget. I think I met those guys for the actual role of Putzel and I think they were sort of like, “You have like, a little too much, like, Aryan Nation in your face, you know, to play this guy.” And then they were like, “What about the Salmon Guy?” And I was like, “That’s great, that’ll be a lot of fun.” And we kinda improvised that scene a little bit. That was actually another moment when someone was basically punching me in the head, but at least I had like the whole salmon outfit. But somehow I made the poster of that movie and I feel like people remember me a lot more than they should, but that movie’s really sweet, it’s wonderful. Melanie Lynskey, she’s awesome in it, everyone’s good in it. But yeah, it’s a sweet little movie, but that part was really, really funny. There’s a line that cracked me up, that the director threw me, what is it? “It’s hot…” Oh yeah, when he’s like, “Get back to work” or he catches me outside drinking, and I’m like, “It’s hot, sucka.”
BLOODSUCKING BASTARDS is out now on VOD and in select theaters (in Texas in Dallas, Houston, Austin and Lubbock), check out the list here.