Whoa, this was a bloody one! Why go Hawaii when there’s never a dull moment in the thick of the vampire apocalypse?
We spoke with Neil LaBute about Van Helsing Season 3, Episode 7, "Hunted Down," which aired on SYFY on November 16, 2018. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Is it me or is this the most violent episode of Van Helsing yet? Tons o' blood 'n' gore in this one, from Scab's ritualistic castration to the rather brutal camp battle to Sam's usual mess-making. Oh, and Scarhead getting his damn heart torn out, and even Axel's temper was running pretty hot in this one. A fun and very gruesome ride, for sure.
You're not wrong, but after last week's oceans of tears (Flesh falling to his death, emotions running high with Jolene and Doc, Flesh's heartbreaking "comedy" act, etc.) we figured it was time to take back the night and spill some blood. The Scab Sisterhood ritual was pretty crazy, but we pumped up the volume (as it were) with the waterfall of blood, courtesy of our illustrious VFX team, led by Mr. Tyler Gooden and Mr. Michael Nachoff. This one really took a number of experiments with blood flow and angles and that sort of thing, but all the time we in the writing room were just pushing them to make it insane. I think we hit the mark.
As for the campground firefight, that was all thanks to director Ms. Leslie Hope, Mr. Kimani Smith (stunts), and Mr. Ronald Richard (director of photography), along with the multiple heroes in SFX, VFX, makeup and costumes as well (and a very game cast who even did some of their own stunts). There are a couple great head explosions in that section that I'm very proud of. Plus — as you mentioned — Scarhead and his henchman get their hearts torn out and have their blood guzzled by none other than Ivory herself (with the promise of a few more castrations to come), and Sam gets up to some funny business (that is actually not very funny at all).
Overall, yeah, pretty high on the blood and gore meter this time around — makes the job worth doing, frankly.
The first time I was introduced to Leslie Hope as an actress was in Oliver Stone's 1988 adaptation of Eric Bogosian's Talk Radio. And, of course, Men at Work (1990, see image below). Is this indeed the same Leslie Hope that directed this episode?
This is indeed that Leslie Hope, and she was a breath of fresh air on the set — really prepared, funny, sharp, and hard-working. Being an actress, she knows how to direct actors and how to get good, realistic performances in the midst of a lot of craziness and bloodshed.
You're right earlier when you mentioned that Axel was a bit of a hothead in this episode — I think Mr. Jonathan Scarfe played into the fact that Axel is now rethinking his choice and wishes he'd stayed with the vampire hunters, but like a true marine, he's going to see his mission through to the end. He has some great moments throughout the episode, especially during the camp fight which ends with him in an emotional rage at having already lost one of their party in the battle and when he has a tense standoff with another truck driver that ends in bloodshed; you can see the anguish on his face — seconds before killing someone — knowing what he's about to do and trying to stop it but pretty sure how it's about to end. A really great moment.
Overall Leslie injected some real humor and movement into Episode 307, as she did with the other episode she directed for us (upcoming). I hope it's not the last we see of her — also would love to see her in front of our cameras as well; I've always enjoyed her acting, so who knows where else we might find her in the Van Helsing apocalyptic universe.
I really like how the vampires took front and center in this episode -- it reminded me of the days of Dmitri and Julius. There was also more of a "fantasy" kind of vibe in seeing the many different factions and their various rituals, from the Sisterhood to Scarhead's daywalkers -- very Game of Thrones-esque. Are you indeed looking to expand on the specifics of the vampire mythology as we enter the second half of the season?
We would love to expand the vampire universe! Always a dream, but it's that very word, "expand," that drives me crazy — the hardest thing and most expensive thing and most time-consuming thing about this show is the vampires, so I hardly ever feel like we have enough. I always want more. Hundreds and hundreds more is what I want, and that's usually not feasible, but that's what I hate most: not having what you need to realize the original vision.
And yes, even back in the Dmitri and Julius days, I always hoped to have greater numbers of vampires wandering the halls, attacking the hospital, killing each other, etc. You can never have too many vampires — that's why it's called a "vampire apocalypse," for God's sake! I do want to get back to some vampires that are similar to Dmitri and his brood; I loved all those lounging, decadent creatures like Rebecca and Antanasia and getting us back into a bit more blood and sex and competing factions of vampires would be a fun direction to turn back toward.
Hawaii is a safe haven, eh? Should you guys go to Hawaii and film an episode in which absolutely nothing happens? Might make for an interesting contrast, no?
Who knows? Hawaii could be totally s***, wiped out as the vampires came over on the last plane out. Probably not, but anything's possible. One thing we shot two seasons ago (in Episode 111 when Susan was killed by Sam) was the whole gang lying in the tall grass of a field and enjoying the sun for the first time in a long time. Then, out of nowhere, Mohamad spots a plane flying high overhead and we all (audience and characters) begin to wonder where and what life might be left outside the apocalypse. We've been discussing a new safe haven in the north, and if we're renewed — I don't know how many more times I can ask nicely, Mr. SYFY Man! — that may be a logical place for us to go: somewhere safe. Problem with safe havens in TV shows, as we all smile to ourselves, is that they're never safe (because if it is indeed safe then it's a dramatic failure and not the right place to be).
To answer your question, though: I believe there is somewhere out there in the known world that is safe from this current plague of vampires, but your guess is as good as mine (well, maybe not as good as mine, but I'm not telling … !)
I like that both Sam and Mohamad have something resembling "spirit guides" (though Mohamad's is decidedly more benign than Sam's). Is this another illustration of their oddly symbiotic relationship, or is it just a coincidence in this case? (Also, "Killer of meeses — I kiss you to pieces!" might be my favorite Sam line to date.)
This one was by design, and another way to bring back a couple of actresses that we really liked: Ms. Emily Haine from Episode 211 and Ms. Jesse Stanley from Episode 213 (and others in Season 3). Both of these women brought us their A game again and helped us revive two really vivid characters from our past. I love what goes on between Mohamad and Cara in the Johnson Family bunker, just so much fun to have them back together in this very odd way — I think the writers' room outdid itself on that one.
Sam and Mohamad have had this unique and symbiotic relationship throughout the apocalypse, and that is only going to ripen for the next few episodes, so get ready for a bumpy, bloody, scary, and even silly journey ahead — as you say, Mr. Chris Heyerdahl can't help but twist his lines apart or sing a response or do something really strange to keep it fresh for Sam. There is honestly just nobody else like him in our cast — maybe in the entire acting world — and I couldn't be prouder of that fact.
Should we be wary of Kit's unborn child? Something about her "two possible fathers" story filled me with dread.
Ha! I'm glad we've created an atmosphere of dread for you — and you should be nervous of everyone and everything on this show — but it probably doesn't extend all the way down to little newborns (I think). Who knows? Maybe you've just shot yourself in the foot and given me a horrible new idea about vampire babies or something like that! I really love the Kit story and Ms. Maddie Phillips, who makes a lot out of her character. Tough, vulnerable, sad, funny — she managed to be all those things and to make me care about her as well, and that's just not easy in a few minutes of shared screen time.
Maddie's one more example (like all the names above) of the rich depth of actors living in the Vancouver area and how good they are at jumping into a world like ours and making an impression with only a few lines, some torn-up clothes, and a little bit of dirt on their cheeks. I admire these people so much, the "working actor" who goes out there to all these auditions, faces all this rejection, and once in a while feels the thrill of getting to do what they love (and have dedicated their lives to).
Bravo, all you Van Helsing actors! We are very lucky to work with you and know you! These are people I respect, brave enough to go out there and put their talents on the line rather than never having the guts to chase their dreams — in fact, God bless actors, writers, directors, and other crew members everywhere! Thank you all for your hard work and persistence and for making shows like this one possible.