Simon Mckeon is a young director from Ireland with a love for cult cinema and movie monsters, who is about debut his first feature film, “Christmas At Dracula’s”, a dark but humorous satire featuring the most iconic movie monsters of all time. Not only Dracula, but The Invisible Man, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dr. Jekyll and The Wicked Witch all make their presence known in this satirical yet dramatic feature.
I had the privilege of interviewing the indie director who names his influences for cult cinema on some of the modern, powerfully impressionable, indie films such as Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Big Labowski, and Evil Dead. Films which serve as a well of inspiration for Mckeon as he sets forth in his film career both in his native Ireland and the rest of the world. Read my interview with Simon Mckeon below.
ASouthernLife: Chrismas At Dracula's reads a bit somber but there is some classic satire present, how did you come about the story for this film?
Simon Mckeon: I always had a love for Cult cinema when I was younger, the more crazy and out there the film was, the better! I had just finished school and instead of just lazing around and doing nothing, I decided to write a screenplay. I was about to start film school anyway, but I figured it’d be pretty cool if I had a completed script by the time I started. But then writers block kicked in. I had nothing! I knew I wanted to write a film that fans would label a "cult classic" in years to come. That’s really all I had. I toiled with a few ideas, but none of them really grabbed me. I went back and studied some of the classics of Cult cinema, "Rocky Horror Picture Show", "The Big Labowski", "Evil Dead". And I noticed that all these films had a connection, they all had outlandish plots. Their titles seemed a bit off the wall and they all had a sublime mix of humor and drama. I felt that in order to stand out from the others, especially in Irish cinema, I had to make my first film quite different from the films that other directors might make as a debut. With my studying of Cult Cinema done, I began brainstorming ideas. What if I wrote about a character people are familiar with - Santa Clause? Sherlock Holmes?...Count Dracula! And what if I threw a curve-ball into the equation and put this iconic character in a setting people aren’t normally used to seeing them in?
ASouthernLife: So how did Christmas come to play into the idea, seeing that Dracula is normally associated with Halloween horror”?
Simon Mckeon: I felt that this idea would be a lot of fun to play around with. Having Count Dracula as my main character and have the basis of the film about him throwing a party, I knew that it was going to be a rogue gallery of classic horror characters that would attend. I began researching these famous hammer horror icons, from Frankenstein’s monster to The Invisible Man, like what I did with Dracula, I gave them all little quirks (to make them that but different from what the audience perceive them to be), Dr Jekyll is a recovering alcoholic, The Wicked Witch is a cocaine addict and Frankenstein’s monster is a homosexual. I tried to give them all "real" problems that we ourselves have to deal with. Thus giving these horror characters a more real-feel (if you get me). While this does seem like a comedy, I had to respect the horror roots all these characters have so the film does stay loyal to the horror genre, as the plot progresses it gets gradually darker. Long story short - it’s very much an homage to my love of cult cinema.
ASouthernLife: The characters are icons of the monster movie genre and Christmas has become like a second Halloween in the horror community, have you always wanted to do a Christmas movie?
Simon Mckeon: Funnily enough, I had no intention of making a Christmas movie! And there’s a story behind how it came to being set at Christmas.
When I had completed the first draft of the script, Dracula was actually throwing a Halloween party! It wasn’t until I gave the script to another screen-writer I know, (Mike O’Dowd, who plays Dracula’s companion Igor in the film), that he suggested that I take it one step further and transport these characters we associate with Halloween into a Christmas setting. And I loved it! I knew instantly I could have so much fun with this! I quickly re-wrote the script. I just couldn’t get the bizarre image of Count Dracula untangling Christmas lights out of my head!
And plus, I figure it’s good that every director, some stage or another makes a Christmas movie! So, I kinda hit two birds with the one stone with this one.
ASouthernLife: This is your first feature film both as writer and director, did you always know you wanted to make movies?
Simon Mckeon: I wanted to be a vet when I was growing up! It was mad. However, all the while I was constantly writing stories and trying to put on these ridiculous plays with my friends for our parents. I am proud to say that I come from a creative family, my Grand-mother was always drawing and doodling, so the arts were very much encouraged when I was younger. I never had a notion of having a career in it. I suppose it was because I always viewed it as more of a past-time.
ASouthernLife: When did you first realize you had a passion for cinema?
Simon Mckeon: The when I was in school, I remember in biology class, the teacher showed us a video from a Veterinarian clinic – an operation....all that blood! I am a bit squeamish so instantly I knew that being a vet just wasn’t for me. That was a strange time, because (as far as I remember), it was only a few days after being shown that video that we began a film making class in school. I wanted to be the actor in it, but my English teacher talked me into writing the script and directing it instead. And I did! Straight away I was hooked. Storyboarding the scenes, directing the actors what to do, creating the shots. I just loved the entire thing! I even got a buzz from the stress of it all.
ASouthernLife: How has filming gone for the film so far?
Simon Mckeon: Filming has been great. We have gotten a lot of help from the community, friends letting us shoot in their houses, people offering up their time for free to help us, we even had people make food to feed the cast and crew! Of course, like with any production, we have had our problems. The weather has been our biggest battle though. In Ireland, it’s constantly raining and while that may look great on camera, it’s not great on crew members! But thankfully it’s been a good shoot. - See more at: http://asouthernlifeinscandaloustimes.blogspot.com/2014/05/monsters-gangsters-and-holiday-cheer-my.html