In the new horror-comedy Summer of Blood, Onur Tukel plays a schlubby, self-obsessed Brooklynite called Erik who, after rejecting his girlfriend’s marriage proposal, becomes a veritable sex magnet when he is bitten by a vampire. The result is partly a Woody Allen-esque comedy about commitment—and partly an out-and-out bloodbath.
“If you’re making a horror film, you have to make it about fear,” says Tukel, who also wrote and directed the movie. “I’m 42 years old right now and my biggest fear is commitment and marriage. So I thought I would make a film about those things.”
Summer of Blood represents something of a return to his roots for Tukel. His 1999 film Drawing Blood was also a bloodsucking tale. “I made a vampire film when I was about 26 years old, and it’s the only time I made money on a movie,” says the filmmaker, whose other directing credits include 2012’s Richard’s Wedding. “After 15 years of making comedy after comedy and losing my investors’ money, I thought, I made a vampire film years ago and we made money very quickly off that, let’s try that again! What’s beautiful about a vampire movie is that, with a $100 pair of contact lenses and a $20 pair of fangs, people will buy it. But we knew that with a title like Summer of Blood we had to deliver to genre fans so we did take those elements very seriously. We got a very good special effects guy and paid him not a lot of money but it was a good portion of our budget. I knew for the most part I could get by on jokes and performances, because I was surrounded by a really amazing cast, but if we didn’t have at least a couple of really cool kills or blood scenes that it wouldn’t work as a horror film.”
The horror genre was particularly attractive given that terror flicks often succeed without pricey big names. “Genre films don’t necessarily need movie stars,” he says. “I mean, Alex Karpovsky (who plays Tukel’s coworker in the film) is recognizable from the show Girls. But with independent film there is still a viability which comes with making horror films [without big stars]. I remember watching in the ’80s so many low budget horror films and none of these actors we’d ever seen before, nor did we ever see them again, but we still appreciated the fact that there would be gore, and a certain number of killings, and some nudity.”
Although there isn’t any real nudity in Summer of Blood there are several sex scenes, a couple of which find Tukel in bed with three women. Was the director ever moved to think, “It’s good to be king?” while shooting those sequences. “I don’t have a lot of confidence, even with my girlfriend, when I have my shirt off,” he says. “So being in my underwear in front of a crew, I was taken off my pedestal of being king really quickly. I felt lower than low. I’m very self-deprecating anyway and just taking my shirt off there’s no reason to be self-deprecating because my body speaks for itself. All those scenes were fun to do and they were silly and ridiculous, just because I look the way that I look.”
Should Summer of Blood prove a success, Tukel says he has plans to turn it into a franchise. “Winter of Blood,” he says, ruminating on possible future titles. “Cradle of Blood. Autumn of Blood…” Autumn of Blood? That doesn’t sound all that terrifying. “Autumn of Blood would be that film we really don’t want to do, but would pay a lot of money, and we would just go through the motions,” he jokes (well, I think). “We’ll make a lot of money doing that—and it will just be a s–tty film. I mean, that would be great, because that means I made two other movies in between.”
Summer of Blood can be seen on VOD and in cinemas from Oct. 17. Meanwhile, you can watch an exclusive, somewhat risqué clip and the film’s trailer below.