Even drenched in blood — and I do mean buckets of blood, like a Carrie amount of blood — there are still undeniable things that stand out about actress, writer and producer Rachel Amanda Bryant.
First, are her friendly but driven deep blue eyes that apparently sometimes turn green depending on her mood. Second, is a genuine smile that is so inviting it pulls you in like a tractor beam as if we were in a Star Wars (Rachel’s favorite) film. And finally, what really shines through is Rachel’s unflappable positive attitude.
In director Jason Horton’s new splatterfest celebration to many horror genres, The Campus, Rachel plays Morgan, who is caught up in a demonic sort of Groundhog Day as she is cursed to relive a day in which she is killed over and over in horrific ways.
While the film, which premiered in theaters last weekend, has received mostly decent reviews, one thing that has remained consistent among reviewers is Bryant’s solid performance. Take a look at the trailer below:
I begin my interview by recalling one of Rachel’s memorable lines from the film.
REEL CHICAGO: So bitch, you’re from Glendale?
Rachel flashes the smile I have become used to seeing.
RACHEL BRYANT: Bitch, I’m from Colorado!
Now, we’re both laughing.
RC: I really enjoyed The Campus. It has a Looney-Tunes meets Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead feel to it.
RB: Oh, thank you! I do die in some looney ways for sure!
RC: I first saw you in the short horror film, Jet Set LA, where you were – there’s no easy way to put this – eaten by a cannibal couple. So, for your next film, a feature, you are slapped, beaten, gouged, eviscerated and god knows what else in 84 minutes. What on earth drew you to The Campus?
RB: I was brought into the project when there wasn’t a full script yet. Jason had written it but was still going through drafts, so I was given a treatment. I wanted to lead my first feature, so of course I was excited for that, but I was also really excited to work with Robert Bravo [Special FX master], one of my dearest friends.
RC: I really enjoy his work. He actually made you look ugly which is a feat in and of itself.
RB: Ha! Anyway, the treatment detailed this woman [Morgan] grieving over the death of her father, and that is something I related to. Even when I was young, I spent a lot of time thinking about who I would be or what exactly my identity would look like if and when I lost my parents. I was really drawn to Morgan’s humanity – the fact that she’s not really that likeable at the start, she’s a bit of a brat, and that she is able to redeem herself by the end of the film.
RC: It does give her a complete character arc. How did you like being drenched in blood for so long?
RB: I don’t mind being covered in blood (HA!) In fact, most of the time I really liked the icky fun gooey kid like energy I had when playing in it. However, there were nights that were quite cold, and that was when I would get uncomfortable because the blood on my skin would then get quite cold.
RC: I don’t even like the feel of flour on my hands so I can’t even go there. So, this is your first feature? Congratulations on that.
RB: Yep. And thank you.
RC: Since a feature is comparably longer and more stressful than shooting a short film, talk to me about what your first day was like versus your last day.
RB: The shoot was exhausting. We did almost entirely nights, so the first day started at 6 pm. And we shot the “start of each day” scenes all on that first day. I remember being entirely excited and understandably nervous, hoping that everyone on set would be nice, and ready to work. I am a focused performer, so once that camera is on, I’m there and committed. Everyone was ready to rock this script, and there was a level of stress but I loved how committed everyone was and how nice everyone was.
RC: Nice is super important. There are a lot of douchebags.
Rachel flashes her smile again, nodding.
RB: The last day was equally sad and exciting. I was so glad to see that we’d progressed, that we’d told this story. But I was sad to say goodbye to these people. They’d become my family… This experience has changed my life in more ways than one.
RC: With Jet Set and now this, you’ve become somewhat of an Indie Scream Darling. Do you see yourself going in the [scream queen] Jamie Lee Curtis [Halloween] direction?
RB: I mean, I see myself going in the Rachel Amanda Bryant direction, but Jamie has had a great career and I would LOVE to have a career like hers. I am an actor through and through, it doesn’t matter if it’s horror, sci-fi or romantic comedy, I will find the truth in the character and focus on telling the story.
RC: Speaking of stories, what is the Rachel Amanda Bryant story. Before you were screaming, what kind of stories were you telling? How did your story begin?
RB: When I was five, acting was the furthest thing from my thinking. I wanted to be a waitress when I was a kid, I would take everyone’s orders after dinner and give them fake food! HA! But as I got a little older, I really focused on writing. I actually wrote five novels while growing up—
RC: Five? You were J.K. Rowling before there was J.K. Rowling.
RB: Right?! I really wanted to be a writer, and I spent so much time in my own imagination with characters I dreamt up. I wasn’t a very social child, and I was really shy, constantly feeling like I was an outsider or I didn’t belong. So, I spent a lot of time by myself, playing and writing. I started acting after I auditioned for a community theater production of Anne of Green Gables.
RC: Reminds me of when I would force neighborhood kids to perform The Wizard of Oz in my grandmother’s basement.
RB: Who did you play?
RC: Oh, the Tin Man! Always the Tin Man. I liked the axe. He influenced me. Well, I guess the entire movie influenced me until I gazed upon The Poseidon Adventure which changed my life forever. I knew then I had to make movies. Who were your big influences growing up in Colorado?
RB: My mom and dad were always very silly in my household, which created a safe place for my brother and I to be all weird and act out characters. My mom loves Lucille Ball, and constantly references episodes of her show when it mimics everyday life. I definitely look up to Lucille Ball, she’s hilarious and empowered and beautiful. I also really love Kate Winslet, and I see a lot of myself in her – the roles she chooses, the stories she tells. Titanic really opened my eyes to epic story-telling and really resonated with me.
RC: We have a ship disaster movie love in common. I may have fallen slightly in love with you. Slightly.
RC: This is the part where we act like we’re on The McLaughlin Group and I fire questions at you and you answer as quickly as possible.
Rachel shifts, prepping and bracing herself.
RB: Bring it!
RC: Favorite Band.
RC: Favorite 90’s jam.
RB: Tough. “Baby Got Back” or “Groove is in the Heart.”
RC: You’re stranded on an island what do you bring?
RB: Lots of sunscreen since I’m pale as a ghost. Chapstick. Also, I would bring my “how to build a boat” kit.
RC: You are a prepared woman! Let’s turn the conversation a little serious before we part. We’re in the #metoo era. I’m sure you have had your share of #metoo experiences?
RB: Yeah. I’ve had #metoo experiences as an actor, as a producer, as a woman, as a student, as someone just walking down the street.
RC: I’m sorry. I hate to think my daughters are going through it as well. To me though, it does seem like the definition of #Metoo is broadening to include what some would call ‘bad dates?’ What do you think of this?
RB: I think the conversation needs to be had. So, I’m glad it’s happening. It will be uncomfortable for a while, but that’s ok because “uncomfortable” leads to the greatest growth.
RC: Unfortunately, last question. I’m enjoying this way too much. You have a time machine. What version of you do you visit?
RB: I would visit 7-year-old me and tell her to go out and make friends. Get out of her comfort zone more.
RC: I guess I have one more. Did you ever eventually waitress?
RB: I did not!
RC: I guess there’s another goal for you!
RB: I guess there is!
The Campus is available to stream on Amazon and itunes. Do rent it if you get a chance and have a strong stomach! Click here for the link.
Contact Colin Costello at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @colincostello10.