By Joey Nolfi
October 06, 2020 at 01:00 PM EDT

It's spooky season, and the Boulet Brothers are cackling — not just because the drag provocateurs are relishing the start of October, the prime time of year when their witchy powers brim with extra potency, but because I've misheard a simple quote.

"Wait, did you say seven and a half cast members?" I ask after they tell me the number of drag performers who will duke it out on their upcoming Halloween horror movie/reality competition hybrid The Boulet Brothers' Dragula: Resurrection, not questioning even for a second that the queer duo — known for "exterminating" contestants from the show instead of eliminating them — might consider welcoming pieces of a queen to the Shudder spin-off versus, you know, her entire being.

Dragula Halloween Special
Credit: Scotty Kirby

"We brought back Maddelynn Hatter's head, but not her body," Dracmorda Boulet jokes, before clarifying that it's actually a solid seven cast members lifted from Dragula's first three seasons who will return to vie for $20,000 and a chance to return for season 4 of the creator-hosts' freaky, fabulous drag gauntlet. And, ahead of the project's Oct. 20 debut, EW can exclusively reveal which artists will return (appendages intact) for the two-hour Resurrection all-star edition, including 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).

The special episode will pit the ladies against each other in an unprecedented, ghoulish pageant filmed over two months earlier this year, with strict quarantine measures in place to protect both the cast and crew from the coronavirus pandemic while still satisfying the macabre series' core aesthetic tenets: fierce drag, filth, horror, and glamour. "It was half genius, half insanity," Swanthula says of the unprecedented shoot, which saw the five-person crew traveling to the contestants' hometowns to film them in self-styled-and-designed performative vignettes in pursuit of the prize — all strung together by the series' signature scripted (and terrifying) cinematic shorts starring the Boulets. "Those circumstances are reflected in some of the footage. It's going to be a bit of a time capsule when we look back at this in a year or two or more, you'll see the way America was affected coast to coast, in the four corners of the country."

Read on for EW's exclusive portraits of the Dragula: Resurrection cast, and to find out how the Boulet Brothers concocted a wild Halloween special that's part horror flick, part filthy documentary, and all renegade reality competition that sets the deliciously grim tone for season 4 of their cult contest.

Structuring the show's skeleton

Consistent with the anarchistic tone of Dragula's first three seasons, Dracmorda says the one-off Resurrection event features "reimaginations" of the main series' cinematic intros which, in the past, have set the Boulet Brothers on comical murder sprees and seances. With a stylistic nod to horror films of yesteryear, the shorts often establish the show's campy, creepy atmosphere, but Resurrection uses a scripted approach to string its competition sequences together under a much larger (and more expensive) narrative umbrella.

"The ending and beginning are horror shorts in their own universe. They're longer, much higher-production versions of what we normally do. As you flow through, there's a scripted story happening in the background as you're watching the reality portions," Dracmorda explains. Swanthula adds, "There's a little more connective tissue, so when we exit the opening horror short proper, there's still some of that element that narrates us into the reality segments. It feels like there's more going on."

Dragula Halloween Special
Season 2's Dahli
| Credit: Scotty Kirby

Digging up the "dead"

When you're eliminated from Dragula, you might leave with your head in your hands — literally, as the Boulet Brothers stage hilarious, highly produced "exterminations" to fantastically off their departing contestants in extravagantly violent ways. And one of Resurrection's main story lines revolves around the lost souls circling a return to the earthly realm. "We're no strangers to necromancy, especially at this time of the year. It's perfect!" Swanthula observes. Adds Dracmorda: "What they're competing for is a chance to be resurrected and for their drag character to return to the land of the living and compete on season 4."

Dragula Halloween Special
Season 1's Frankie Doom
| Credit: Scotty Kirby

To hell and back again

After quarantining with their five-person crew, the Boulet Brothers set out on a cross-country road trip to film Resurrection in each of the participating artists' respective cities, which gave the production a unique edge unlike anything that's been broadcast in the drag world before.

"No one has seen drag presented this way before," Dracmorda says. "You get an in-depth look at these people's lives. They all live in such different locations. Even the terrain and the people who live around them, and to have COVID happening around them when we're filming, it's such an interesting watch."

Dragula Halloween Special
Season 2's Kendra Onixxx
| Credit: Scotty Kirby

Outside the threat of a global pandemic looming over their impromptu sets, the Boulet Brothers practiced what they preached, and pushed themselves to personal limits to get harrowing footage in the thick of a deadly hurricane.

"That was our extermination," Dracmorda says, painting a jaw-dropping portrait of the pair traversing the American South as Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Marco flirted with each other's destructive courses. "You will see footage of The Boulet Brothers on Bourbon Street in New Orleans in the middle of a hurricane."

"New Orleans was a ghost town," remembers Swanthula. "It was the two of us, our crew, and no one else!"

Dragula Halloween Special
Season 1's Loris
| Credit: Scotty Kirby

Methodical madness

There's no question that Dracmorda and Swanthula owe a creative debt to VH1's Emmys juggernaut RuPaul's Drag Race for laying the foundation for drag-themed game shows to thrive under the mainstream spotlight, but Dragula pushes the format of drag performers battling for a prestigious title into its own lane, which can involve participants jumping out of airplanes, eating bugs, enduring electric shocks, receiving tattoos, and even piercing their skin with pencil-sized spears (yes, really) to remain in the competition. And Resurrection won't shy away from the ghastly bits that made the franchise a hit.

Dragula Halloween Special
Season 3's Priscilla Chambers
| Credit: Scotty Kirby

"People don't understand, all the challenges we put the contestants through, it's all based on things we've done or our drag. We didn't come up in the traditional drag world…. We were doing fetish events and punk events and performing in rock and roll bars," Dracmorda observes. "People like to see drag queens doing crazy s—, but there's a much deeper meaning about facing your fear and pushing yourself beyond your boundaries…. When we bring them here, they're thrown into a completely different world. Face your fears, grow quickly, or you're exterminated."

Swanthula stresses that there's a method — even a thematic poignance — to their madness that harkens back to a rebellion against cookie-cutter societal perfection first perpetuated by the idea of the docile nuclear family that flooded popular culture throughout the 1950s and 1960s: "Facing your fears and breaking away from the things that hold you back is the real heart of Dragula as a show, the entire body is that exact punk rock, wild, anachronistic clash…. All of that projected perfection persists today, but underneath there's real struggle in our society and people aren't treated equally, and drag is a way to project those messages and comment on the social issues we're all dealing with."

Dragula Halloween Special
Season 3's Saint (formerly St. Lucia).
| Credit: Scotty Kirby

The coronation of horror incarnate

In assembling the Resurrection cast, the Boulet Brothers had a deep well of excellence to choose from, including a diverse roster of past contenders that includes drag king Landon Cider (winner of Dragula season 3), season 1 winner Vander Von Odd (who has gone on to star in Drag Race season 9 winner Sasha Velour's nonfiction Quibi series NightGowns) and season 2 champion Biqtch Puddin', who changed the game for queer performers during the pandemic by spearheading the virtual Digital Drag Show revue on the streaming service Twitch. But the seven-strong cast for Resurrection is one that best represents the Boulet brand's horrific foundations.

"It's a fun cross section of the representation of the tenets of Dragula. We wanted to represent all the pillars that our house is built on and mix it in with someone like Victoria, she represented herself very strong in her art, but we didn't get to see too much of her personality, so we wanted to give these artists another opportunity to show more of themselves or a side of themselves they didn't get to do on their one chance on the show," Swanthula says, as Dracmorda finishes: "When we look back, we're like, these people had so much more to show. When we cast them, we got really excited, and it disappoints us when it doesn't work out and they go home early. So, these seven people are people that we felt had a lot of potential."

Dragula Halloween Special
Season 2's Victoria Elizabeth Black
| Credit: Scotty Kirby

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