Having tackled folk horror in her directorial debut, The Wind, followed by a Misery-inspired episode in Into the Dark: Delivered, director Emma Tammi has since undertaken the werewolf subgenre in Into the Dark‘s season two finale, BLOOD MOON. In the film, when Esme (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and her ten-year-old son, Luna (Yonas Kibreab), move to a small desert town looking for a fresh start they attract all the wrong kinds of attention. As the locals begin to probe, Esme must battle to protect her son and a terrifying secret before the next full moon threatens their very existence.
Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings had the chance to chat with Emma Tammi where they discussed everything from the making of BLOOD MOON, what she enjoyed most about the story, and, of course, all things werewolves.
Thank you so much for speaking with me again, Emma! How did you get brought on to this project and what did you enjoy most about directing BLOOD MOON?
Emma Tammi: The story. I had done one other episode of Into the Dark, so I was fortunate enough to already have a relationship with the show. They were hoping to get up and running on this episode, which was the season finale for season two, during the pandemic, which was a little tricky (laughs). So we were just kind of in talks about that casually at first cause they didn’t know if they would be able to get up and running, then it became a bit more concretely. It was really exciting to A) be able to work with Blumhouse and Hulu again on this show, but B) to just get back to work. I think the crew and the cast and myself were all just very grateful and appreciative to be able to do it and to do it safely. It was both a challenge and a real gift to be able to be in production on something last year. We were doing post-production remotely and that was really interesting. We’re all just living in our Zoom worlds right now so it’s basically just an extension of that (laughs). But all the logistics of shooting in a pandemic aside, I really responded to the script and I thought that the lead character, Esme, was a really complicated, interesting, strong, and vulnerable mom on a journey to protect her son at all costs. That just felt like a great character to hang this thriller on top of, which is, I think, at the heart of what BLOOD MOON is genre-wise, a thriller with a sprinkle of supernatural (laughs).
What was the most important aspect of the story that you really wanted to get across to the viewer?
Emma Tammi: I really felt that if that mother/son love and bond wasn’t super solid that the whole movie would crumble. That felt like the most important thing to track, really, in every scene of the film. Megalyn Echikunwoke and Yonas Kibreab, the two actors who brought those characters, Esme and Luna, to life had such great chemistry and great dedication that they brought to this piece. It was really a joy to find that arc with them and everything else was kind of hung on that. When we went off into the supernatural places within the story, it just kind of felt like this great extension and building off of the characters, which was really great.
In werewolf films, we’ve come to expect certain horror tropes, especially in regards to when a character transforms into a werewolf. However, in BLOOD MOON, you took a softer, though no less violent approach for the final reveal. Can you talk a bit about that?
Emma Tammi: I think for werewolf stories, in particular, the key or thing that I’m always looking for as an audience, and then in this case as a storyteller, is what is the werewolf story representing? What is it telling us about ourselves? And I think with a young boy, in this case, Luna, he’s dealing with both the legacy of having a dad as a werewolf and also coming of age. He’s 10 and trying to figure out who he is and wants to be out in the world but his mother is overprotective of him and really sheltering him from exposure to other kids and people. I think it was such ripe content for a mother’s fear and anxiety about a world that doesn’t understand her son and a world that is potentially out to get her son. Megalyn had really amazing insight after she read the script, she was like, “it reminds me of having a kid with a disability and trying to navigate the world that is not suited for your child because they’ve got a whole other set of issues and considerations that they need to deal with on a daily basis.” I thought that was such an apt insight. For me, going back to the heart of the story being a mother/son love story, that was such a harrowing journey to go on with a mother just trying to protect her kid at all costs when nothing is working out, and I was like okay, that’s the way in. I think with Yonas when he was starting to do some of the transformation stuff just performance-wise, not talking about VFX with which there is a little bit, but not a ton, his own agony and turmoil was so palpable that I felt like the werewolf element was just such a character beat for him and not just an effect and not just a schtick but really having these peaks of grappling with your inner demons and/or your body changing in ways that you don’t understand. As a kid, you’ve got a little bit of autonomy and it eventually increases but you’re pretty much at the mercy of adults and your parents, in most cases. There was just a lot of great things, too, to play with there.
Was Yonas aware of what kind of movie he was filming? I only ask because I’ve talked with directors who worked with child actors and it was later revealed that the kids had no idea what type of film they were making.
Emma Tammi: Totally aware, he’s the savviest and smartest (laughs). On top of that, he had also been a werewolf the last four Halloweens in a row, like totally just loves werewolves. So that was a really fun side thing that we learned after we cast him. He was very excited to play a werewolf (laughs). That being said, he was the youngest actor that I’ve ever worked with, to date. There is a difference, obviously, between working with kids and adults but he just brought the professionalism and the wherewithal that most adults bring to the table. He was just such a joy to be with on set, he really lightened the mood for all of us every day.
Lastly, cause I have to ask now that you’ve made BLOOD MOON, do you have a favorite werewolf movie?
Emma Tammi: American Werewolf in London was definitely one that we were referencing throughout, but it’s obviously a totally, totally different film than this. I’d put that film up at the top though.
INTO THE DARK: BLOOD MOON is now available exclusively on Hulu. For more on the film, check out our review here.