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Credit: Shudder 

How The Boulet Brothers created a Halloween Dragula special during a pandemic

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Oct 29, 2020, 1:00 PM EDT

Trick-or-treating might be a no-go in 2020, but the drag queens known as the Boulet Brothers have made sure there are still scares, devilish performances, and ghoulish surprises on the menu in their reality competition spectacular, Dragula: Resurrection. Celebrating the spooky season is still possible! The two-hour event (available to watch on Shudder now) combines creative challenges, horror shorts, and an intimate look at the seven returning contestants who are competing for a $20,000 prize and a place in the forthcoming Season 4. Instead of bringing the performers to Los Angeles, the Boulet Brothers hit the road and went to the home towns of each competitor — all while keeping to strict COVID-19 protocols.

The Boulet Brothers traveled to California, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia to visit the Dragula: Resurrection line-up of Frankie Doom (Season 1), Loris (Season 1), Kendra Onixxx (Season 2), Dahli (Season 2), Victoria Elizabeth Black (Season 2), Priscilla Chambers (Season 3), and Saint (formerly St. Lucia, of Season 3) as they present three different floorshow challenges. Shooting any kind of entertainment since March has been a challenging experience, and SYFY FANGRRLS jumped on the phone to talk to the Boulet Brothers — aka Dracmorda and Swanthula Boulet — to discuss how they pulled off this special, what it was like shooting in cities across the country during a pandemic, and why Dragula has always strived to be inclusive. (And while fans of the first three seasons will be familiar with the performers, the special is also a great way to experience the combination of drag, horror, filth, and glamour this Halloween.)

"The idea for this special and going to their homes was an idea we've had for a long time. [But] it seemed a little bit like a fantasy," Drac explained about the genesis of Resurrection. Rather than hindering this pipe dream, the events of 2020 made it possible. "And as fate would have it, a pandemic happened and we did have some months open up to go film," said Drac. "Everything happens for a reason, I guess, and we took the sign from the universe and went for it."

While Dragula has expanded its production size over the seasons, a core five-person team is behind everything you see on screen. As Drac explained, "There's no part on the show that isn't touched by all of us." Taking everything they learned from the first season, the small skeleton team set-up was something the two hosts were used to but with an additional set of years on the inaugural endeavor. "We had a ton more experience, skills, and the best equipment that money could rent. So it was a big difference." Referring to Dragula as a passion project, Drac added, "At this point, if you give us a little bit of a budget, we can make a blockbuster movie, because we are comfortable making something out of nothing."

Credit: Shudder 

Similar to the genre Dragula embraces, scale isn't a prerequisite for greatness. Horror thrives through creativity and some of the most iconic scary movies and characters are predicated on intimate experiences in terrifying locations. And what could be more terrifying right now than an out-of-control pandemic? "We really had to look out for each other, it was like an extermination challenge for us," Swan recalled about the experience of traveling as a five-person team in a van with all their equipment. But the biggest challenge of production? "As we went across the country, we were in states where people didn't give a s**t. Social distancing was out the window, there were no masks."

Over the three months it took to shoot the special, there were some other obstacles to surmount, including the weather. "We basically dodged two hurricanes to get that footage in New Orleans," said Swan. "That's how we got this footage of Drac and I spinning in the middle of Bourbon Street because the whole city was evacuated. And we're like, 'Let's get in full drag and run through the night.'"

It isn't just the contestants that are drawing inspiration on iconic horror characters and archetypes, as the hosts star in vignettes between each floorshow to elevate the viewing experience. Swan described the duality: "We were creating these horror moments not only to tip the audience off to the coming challenge, but we were also making an homage to The Ring by creating the death tape." In the regular series, when a character is eliminated, they are "killed off" in a sequence worthy of any scary movie. Dragula: Resurrection also follows this pattern. "From that footage, we harvested the death imagery that ultimately 'killed' all but the one at the end" — don't worry, we won't be revealing who the Final Girl is.

Another challenge was scouting for creepy locations, which in some cases involved using the internet ahead of time. Some of the contestants even built specific sets to go with the incredible costumes and this drive to create an environment in addition to the costume was exciting for the whole team. Everyone got the same three challenge briefs, but the interpretations of a witch, a ghost, and a vampire are extremely varied — each drag queen stepped it up. Because a weekly competition format can be brutal in how little time someone has to show off their skills, the seven contestants who have been "resurrected" have been given another chance. "They are extremely talented, all of them like across the board. They just need the opportunity to show it," said Swan.

Credit: Shudder

Away from the "pressure cooker of Dragula in Los Angeles," the home turf advantage helped their inner monster shine. Swan pointed out this personal factor was the biggest highlight of the production. "We've said it a few times, we're fans of our contestants, but to see them in their own element — they had a different air about them." Performing in a safe environment is only part of their involvement, as Frankie Doom, Loris, Kendra Onixxx, Dahli, Victoria Elizabeth Black, Priscilla Chambers, and Saint also recorded intimate talking heads, which touched on some of the challenges that have dominated the news this year, as well as personal setbacks and triumphs. "It was very emotional. The person that was asking them those questions was me," said Drac. "I'm really interested in all of them. I love to really talk with people and get to know what makes them tick." At times it was overwhelming, Drac noted: "With Saint, we had to stop the interview. I literally went over and was hugging her and thanking her for sharing this because it's so powerful. It's so important right now." One challenge was "to keep our own personal emotions in check."

Black Lives Matters and the surge in violence against the trans community — particularly the murder epidemic impacting Black transgender people — are two topics that are discussed and highlighted within the performances and interviews. One of the requirements for the winner beyond their creativity and talent is they need to be a "monster with a fresh perspective." Drac expanded on what this means, saying, "We wanted to cast people that had something important to say at this important time in the world. People are questioning their beliefs and their comfortability with things like how they think about race or trans issues." It isn't a case of shoving a message down someone's throat, rather, "Our intention was, let's give them the platform and let them speak about what's important to them."

Credit: Shudder

Some of the contestants discuss how the concept of being a Goth has typically existed in white spaces and has lacked diversity, but one aspect of Dragula the TV show is how inclusive the contestant line-up is — including a Drag King victor in Season 3. When we asked the pair about the diversity of Dragula, Drac spoke about the origin of the series. "Our show has always been open to all performers across the spectrum because our clubs have." Running for 20 years, Drac describes those events as "A huge variety of people. I think of it like a Rocky Horror Transylvania party. There was always people from all sexualities, preferences, everywhere and it was always like that." Dragula also speaks to the idea that as an art form, drag is always evolving. "I think the answers just lie in the people that are actually creating it," said Swan.

When it comes to the combination of drag, horror, glamor, and filth celebrated by The Boulet Brothers, the answer to what this competition and community are striving for is best described by Swan. "We consider Dragula, a platform that highlights the disenfranchised, the misfits, the outcasts, and the people that aren't celebrated enough and that don't have a space. We like to create that space and just give these artists an opportunity to express themselves in every way they can." Their desire is "to encourage the artists to always be pushing the boundaries of their art form and what it is."

Credit: Shudder

Like most reality competitions, previous seasons have included contestants who have antagonized each other, but there is no show villain archetype on Resurrection. Because everyone is in their homes, disagreements are virtually nonexistent — though shade is still thrown. Furthermore, they have managed to project community and the bonds that previously existed with each other via the talking heads segments. It is impressive how the Boulet Brothers have managed to evoke their material pre-COVID while also speaking to what audiences want to see right now. "It looks ridiculous to see people bickering about stupidity on a reality show during the time we're going through. It's just not the right time for that. It may never be the right time for that again," said Drac. "And I feel like this content is the right message for the right time."

The Boulet Brothers aren't having their usual Halloween celebration, but have instead crafted a special that welcomes all Shudder users across the globe to have fun this spooky season. And while they have cast the first Season 4 contestant, they will be putting out a call for open casting on Halloween. When asked about the forthcoming plans for the new season, they noted that they wanted to focus on the special and celebrate the winner first. Drac summed up the mood, as well as what Resurrection is striving for, as "I hope people watch it and they draw some positive inspiration. It's our attempt to give people hope in a dark period."

Dragula: Resurrection is available to watch on Shudder now.

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