Courtesy Zoe Wassman

Blood, Guts and Bambi?

Bampire gives Bambi a killer transformation in the latest film coming out of Eugene

Bambi, the sweet Disney star, is getting a makeover — hopefully in time for Halloween — complete with fangs that could kill in the upcoming movie Bampire, thanks to local filmmakers who have teamed up with an assortment of film industry talents. 

Writer Zoe Wassman and director Taylor Morden have transformed innocent Bambi into a part fawn, part vampire, terrorizing those who dare to go searching for it. And Wassman believes their monster, Bampire, has the potential to make Eugene the next Hollyweird. 

“I think this film is going to be the next household name that comes out of Eugene,” Wassman says. 

Bampire is produced Wassman’s local production company, PATH Films, together with Popmotion Productions. After coming up with the premise for Bampire, she says that she knew it would be the perfect first film for PATH to produce. She wasn’t the only one who saw potential for the film, and before she knew it, Bampire grabbed the attention of Diane Franklin from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Greg Sestero from The Room. Both appear in the new film. The Room is a cult favorite for being so absolutely bad.

“A lot of people read it and fell in love with it, and from that point on, I couldn’t get it out of their grasp,” Wassman says of her script. “It was one of those things where the fire just started catching, and when they read it, they wanted to be a part of it.”

This horror comedy puts a dark spin on the original novella Bambi: A Life in the Woods by Felix Saltan. Set in the ’90s, the film follows a recently divorced community college biology professor who becomes obsessed with finding the Siberian musk deer, aka Bampire, after finding evidence of the deer’s existence locally. After sharing his newfound passion with his class, he convinces a group of ragtag community college students to venture into the woods, which in this case happens to be a little outside Veneta, and find Bampire. Bloody comedic chaos ensues. 

Actor and co-producer Malachite Saaquya says that part of the reason the script resonated so much with people was because it is a slasher film that focuses just as much on character development as it does gore. 

Saaquya says, “It’s like you expect it to be kind of cliché and cheaply made and just sort of thrown together, but it’s not that at all. It’s elevated.”

One element that Wassman and Saaquya are particularly excited about is the use of animation and VHS camcorder footage throughout the movie. Morden, known for directing The Last Blockbuster, was able to recruit hand-drawn animator Josh Stifter, known for his work in the film Tusk, to animate parts of the film that may be too expensive and time-consuming to attempt with real actors.

Inspired by the Blair Witch Project, the camcorder footage adds to the suspense of certain scenes while also cementing us audience members in the ’90s world Bampire takes place in. 

Wassman says, “The idea of trying to make a story like this at all budget levels is insane. And so the fact that, like, 20 other insane people were, like, ‘Sure, we’ll participate in that. We’ll even volunteer our time for large portions of the project just because we believe in it.’”

Bampire has mostly wrapped up shooting and is now in the process of crowdfunding so they can finish the film. Wassman says that they’re looking to raise at least $25,000 to finish production, receive a master color grade, an immersive sound mix, hand-drawn animation and hopefully the rights to use a ’90s tune or two for the soundtrack. If the film can meet its crowdfunding goal promptly, Wassman and Saaquya hope for a release date of Halloween 2024.

While Wassman and Saaquya hope that Bampire will be their big break, they say they mostly want the film to put Eugene on the map as a place where filmmaking can thrive.

“​​The local talent and crew that we have here is chomping at the bit. They are ready for the next big thing,” Wassman says. “That’s how inspired people are here. They are looking for a bigger opportunity than they’ve had access to.”

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