Jason Dugre Talks the Insane Horror of Saint Bernard from Severin Films [Exclusive]
Are you ready for the weirdest movie of the summer? Legendary FX Master Gabe Bartalos is back with a hallucinatory horror trip like no other with the definitely strange and sometimes downright shocking horror experience Saint Bernard. This is Bartalos’ second directorial feature, jumping behind the camera for the first time since his 2004 cult favorite Skinned Deep. But Bartalos is perhaps better known as the horror master behind the FX in some of the biggest horror franchises of all-time, with his movies including Gremlins 2, Leprechaun, Dolls, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives and so many more.
Bartalos brings back his old friend Warwick Davis from the Leprechaun franchise for a role in Saint Bernard, which is almost impossible to describe in simple terms. The movie was shot on both 16mm and 35mm, giving it a very distinct look and feel that is not of this earth. You can tell by watching the Saint Bernard trailer that you’re in for a treat.
The story follows a classical musical conductor who takes to carrying around the severed head of a Saint Bernard dog. Jason Dugre plays the conductor, who’s name coincidently happens to be Bernard, taking the man on a journey through insanity, letting him wallow in the abyss of madness. It is being called ‘a must-see for the truly adventurous’. The movie is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and most digital platforms. Jason Dugre offered his take on the movie, and how he got wrapped up in this psychedelic adventure.
Jason Dugre: Well, thank you! Mostly though, at this point in my career, it’s more like it is in the Wizarding World. You know, the wand chooses the wizard. Well, the projects, they choose me. Or maybe it’s the casting directors. Or the producers. I don’t know but someone is choosing me. And I hope they continue to do so.
And how did Saint Bernard come to be?
Jason Dugre: It was developed in Gabe’s brain first and foremost. That’s really where the magic happens. And then when it came time for him to realize his brain pictures, he asked me to jump on board. He had cast me previously in his first film, Skinned Deep. That movie had been a crazy experience, which included me getting arrested for running naked through Times Square in New York City. So needless to say, when Gabe asked me to do this new movie, I jumped at the chance! HA! Actually, arrest aside, I DID have a great time on that first movie and, more importantly, Gabe and I had formed a pretty good bond, so I was excited and flattered to be asked to do Saint Bernard.
How was it working with the legendary Gabe Bartalos? I imagine it would’ve been a very unique experience?
Jason Dugre: I met Gabe 20 odd years ago and so I’ve worked with him a bunch in that time. To call it “unique” is an understatement. You could also call it gratifying, exciting, fun, perspective-shifting, adventurous, I could go on and on. He IS a legend in his field. As a director, he has a rock solid vision. You know that he knows exactly what he wants to capture in a scene and that’s so great. You have faith that when he says we’re moving on, it’s because he got exactly what he wanted. As an actor, it’s amazing to have that kind of faith in your director. The biggest thing I have taken away from my years working with Gabe is that he is a really great friend to lots of people. And he’s fiercely loyal to those friends and they are loyal right back. He made this movie mostly through his own ingenuity and, almost as important, the help of others. And you really got a sense that when people showed up to work on the film, sure, they were happy to be working on such a unique project but they were mostly happy to be helping Gabe. So, yes, it IS unique. Usually in this business, loyalty only lasts so long. But not in this case.
Because of his background in FX, did he work differently than other filmmakers you’ve worked with? If so, how?
Jason Dugre: Yeah I would say so. Because he was doing everything, he was intimately entwined with everything from the script to the food we ate on set. And the FX work was no different. If he builds an application or a creature and it doesn’t work for some reason, he is the one who fixes it. It’s like a farmer who actually goes out into the fields with his workers and gets his hands in the soil. He has a much better idea of what is happening in that field on a micro level. In the realm of making a movie, if Gabe is with you in the same freezing, cold water tank, he knows what you’re going through. He’s going through the shit with you because he’s right there with his hands in the soil. And that’s not always the case.
Where was it shot? Was the community supportive of the movie shoot?
Jason Dugre: We shot all over the world! Literally! LA, New York, Paris, Bakersfield. I’d say that different communities acted differently towards us but only in the level of how much it didn’t really bother them that we were there. We did shots on the streets of Paris, near the Notre Dame, by the Eiffel Tower and not only were there minimal battings of eyelashes, in some spots we were actually attracting intrigue and enthusiasm. In Paris a woman accosted me to ask me questions about the film and it turned out that she had been an actress years before and was really interested in making her own films. It was pretty cool.
And how similar to yourself is the character?
Jason Dugre: On the surface, not at all. I’m not a music conductor and I don’t do drugs. I’m a bad drug doer. Mostly because I’m a hypochondriac. Hypochondria and drugs do not mix. BUT I was once described as “someone that stuff happens to.” And that’s not far from the truth. Whether that means I have a passive attitude toward life or that I just hang around on the edge of activity until I just get swept up in the chaos, I’m not sure. But in this movie, I play the personification of that idea. Saint Bernard is at times a blank canvas who finds himself in situations that are not even remotely of his doing. I don’t, personally, feel like that’s the kind of person I am but I think it could be said about me to a certain extent.
How was it working with Warwick Davis?
Jason Dugre: Warwick is amazing. I had the pleasure of working with him on Skinned Deep as well. He’s a talented guy and a true gentleman. He was nothing but great for the few days I’ve worked with him. I tried to play it cool around him as much as I could because I could have geeked out on him hard. I’m a big fan of everything he does. But I decided to play it like it was normal, I was supposed to be there in his presence. And honestly, I got to hear some cool stories and we got to have true conversations. I never got to find out what it was like to make Willow but we connected on a personal level. Besides, maybe I’ll ask him that next time. Perhaps in Saint Bernard 2. Gabe?
What should the audience expect from the film?
Jason Dugre: Expect nothing expectable. This movie is mind-bending, funny, bizarre, beautiful, gruesome and artistically horrific. And that’s in the first 30 seconds. Expect a crazy ride, that’s for sure.
What did you do to prepare for the role?
Jason Dugre: I learned how to conduct. Not in front of an orchestra, unfortunately, but I learned the movements of a baton and I studied what the job of a conductor is in an artistic sense to the orchestra, the music and ultimately the audience. I also went through the script and sort of made notes on what state of sanity Saint Bernard was in at any given moment. Because we shot the film out of order over a long period of time, I needed to do my best to be consistent. Oh and I also learned how to fall out a window and run in dress shoes. Those were harder than you’d expect.
Horror movies can evoke all kinds of emotions. How do you unwind after starring in a horror movie?
Jason Dugre: Whiskey. Actually, it was mostly really fun so I never felt like I had to unwind. I love my job. I really do. Sometimes I would be relieved that we had just pulled off a particularly hard shot (like on the freeway) because we would have been planning and worrying about it for a while and it had ended up going off without a hitch. But those were few and far between. I’d just be glad when Gabe was happy with what I did on a given day. Because I’m in almost every frame of this movie, THAT was the real pressure for me. Staying consistent and interesting. But if he liked what I did, then I went home feeling great. So yes there was whiskey but mostly for celebratory reasons. Not for emotional support.
You can grab a copy of Saint Bernard over at Severin Films today.