If there’s one word that could effectively capture actor Noah Segan’s feature directorial debut, Blood Relatives, it’d likely be earnestness.
The charming horror-comedy sees writer/director Segan starring as Francis, an old vampire whose nomadic lifestyle gets upended by the arrival of Jane (Victoria Moroles), the teen daughter he never knew he had. Francis and Jane embark on a bloodsucking road trip that’ll test their new family bonds.
Blood Relatives is a personal story for Segan. Ahead of its release on Shudder, just in time for Thanksgiving on November 22, 2022, Bloody Disgusting spoke with the filmmaker about the horror-comedy’s charming sincerity, Jewish vampires, and the touching origin story behind Francis’s ultra-cool 1969 Barracuda Fastback.
It becomes apparent from the outset that Francis’s identity is intertwined with not just his vampirism but his Jewish heritage. When horror often explores Judaism through demonic possession, Blood Relatives offers a refreshing departure.
Segan explains how this naturally evolved from the story’s origins.
“I think there’s the macro answer, which is that vampirism and Judaism have been connected for a very long time in a very tragic distressful way, blood libel, and of course just the overall vilification of people of Roman descent, of Eastern European descent. That’s always been a dirty aspect of vampire stories. As I talked about my heritage and where I’m from, I’m a fifth-generation New Yorker. I don’t know my family who died in the Holocaust, but I know that my family died in the Holocaust because I’m a Jew.
“So, it was a way to speak to the thing that we should all be speaking to, which is how does our otherness connect us to people we are not like? How do we, as individuals and people who identify as part of marginalized groups, connect with one another for support? My Judaism is the way that I can do that. That’s the way that I can speak truth to power. It became a mechanism to do a thing that I think everybody should be doing.”
Segan gave a thoughtful answer on what it is about horror and monsters that makes it such an accessible vehicle to explore real-world issues.
“Well, there are smarter people than I who can answer that. In fact, I just spent some time with one of them. There’s a brilliant professor at the University of Pittsburgh on the Romero board named Adam Lowenstein, who wrote an incredible book specifically titled Horror Film and Otherness. It touches on everything from classism to ableism, racism, antisemitism, and many kinds of marginalized discussion, marginalized people in horror, and why that does attract us in many ways. George Romero was a hallmark of that work from his first film, the movie we all know and like. I think that the idea that we are all others, that we are all monsters, and that all of our families are monsters, but they are our monsters, and they are good monsters, is the takeaway here, right? That’s the drive; that’s the goal. The goal is not to say that we’re unafraid; it’s to say we’re afraid together. Right? Which is something for which horror movies exist.
“They exist to say that we can share these feelings together, and that makes them less scary.”
Segan wrote Blood Relatives after becoming a father; his debut is dedicated to his children. It lends a tender authenticity to the film, which his co-lead, Victoria Moroles, exemplifies well.
When asked if that earnestness was the defining quality he looked for when casting Jane, Segan replied: “I think on a surface level, I was trying to speak to myself; I was trying to write a dialogue between a 30-something-year-old dad and his 15-year-old self and have that conversation. I think what Victoria brought to it that completely transcends that sort of surface goal was a certain honest-ness and sincerity, as you point out, to saying, ‘Whatever this kid is going through, it’s real.’
“It was a John Cassavetes quote, where he is like, ‘Whatever you feel is real.’ Whatever you’re doing is what you should be doing because you are doing it. It’s this pretentious way of thinking. But in terms of what Vic was able to do with the character in acknowledging that this kid may be smart and may be a vampire and may be existing in this world where the same rules don’t apply as they do in reality, she is feeling very real feelings, she is going through very genuine struggles, and she never ever diverted from that. It makes the movie work. It’s her stewardship of that that makes the movie work.”
As a road trip movie, Francis’ car plays an integral role. The 1969 Barracuda Fastback is a totem for the vampire, a prized possession representative of his identity and journey within the film. Fittingly, that car is as personal to the filmmaker as the film itself, and Segan reveals a very touching story behind it.
“It is a cool car. I’m standing next to it. I work next to it in my garage; my office is half office, half garage. The car was left to me by a godfather, a mentor of mine named Tom Richmond, who has recently passed away. He was a very prolific cinematographer who shot a lot of your favorite movies. He shot Chopping Mall; he shot movies for Alex Cox. He shot the ‘Jeremy’ music video for Pearl Jam and the Lisa Loeb video for ‘Stay.’ I mean, Slums of Beverly Hills, Love and a .45. Look him up, and you’ll see this incredible journey that he had through punk, queer, indie cinema of the ’80s and the ’90s. He was a friend of my family. When I came to LA, he took me in and let me be his assistant. He rented me a room in his old house in Venice. And he had this muscle car that he loved dearly, that he had actually bought from a little old lady in Pasadena. Just exactly the story that we’ve all heard. He got the car that way.
“Then, when he retired about ten years ago, moved to New York to teach at NYU and SBA, and continued to give back and grow the family that he chose, which I was a member of, he gave me the pink slip to the car.
“So, when it came time to write the movie and to talk about what was going on in the film, it felt like yes, absolutely, this is a totem. But at its heart, it’s not just a totem of what we think of as something really cool. This guy is not the coolest guy in the world because he drove an old muscle car. He was the coolest guy in the world because he took people in and loved them for who they were. And he gave things back, and he contributed to this thing that we love, movies. And so that’s why it’s the thing in the movie.
“I am grateful to be able to tell that to you because I haven’t had that opportunity.”