“The Butterfly Room” is one of those movies that are really coming in under the radar. It just debuted at the Laemmle NoHo 7 without much in the way of publicity, and that’s a shame because this thriller directed by Jonathan Zarantonello proves to be a real treat for horror fans as it features several actors we all remember from various horror and cult classics. Among them are Barbara Steele who is best known for her work in a number of Italian gothic horror films like “Black Sunday,” Ray Wise who left an indelible impression on us with his performances in “Robocop” and “Twin Peaks,” Erica Leerhsen who survived a few ill-fated horror movies like “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” and the remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” Camille Keaton who suffered such unforgivable brutality in “I Spit on Your Grave,” Adrienne King who memorably decapitated Jason Voorhees’ mother in “Friday the 13th,” and P.J. Soles who showed us things we really did like in John Carpenter’s “Halloween.” Looking at this cast, you’d think that this was another version of “The Expendables” but with horror icons.
Another big horror favorite in “The Butterfly Room” is Heather Langenkamp who is still best remembered for her role as Nancy Thompson in “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” Here she plays Dorothy, a single mother who has her own reasons for keeping her son away from butterfly collector Ann (Barbara Steele). As the movie goes on, you find out exactly why Dorothy has such a bone to pick with her, and it is not worth spoiling here.
How she got involved with 'The Butterfly Room'
Langenkamp dropped by the Laemmle NoHo 7 for “The Butterfly Room’s” opening night for a Q&A with the movie’s second assistant director Brian McQuery. When asked how she became involved with this production, Langenkamp explained that it all started with a journalist friend of Zarantonello’s who introduced the director to her while at a horror convention.
“This journalist friend was my introduction, and I noticed that Jonathan was lurking in the background (laughs) for several hours,” Langenkamp said. “Finally we struck up a conversation and he gave me the script later. I have to say that when I read it, I felt that the part of Dorothy was one of the better parts that I’ve read in many, many years. I think, from what you see on the screen, she’s a very strong woman and she’s a very fierce mother and I really enjoyed playing such a part. I remember we got together at this restaurant in Santa Monica, and I think I shocked Jonathan a great deal by telling them how much I liked it and how I really loved this idea that this horror movie focuses on an elderly woman which is something that is really rare.”
Working with child actors
In addition to all the horror icons, there are also several child actors in the cast who play kids that become way too friendly with Ann. Now there’s a saying that the things to avoid while making a movie are working with animals and children, but Langenkamp found working with child actors like Ellery Sprayberry and Julia Putnam very informative and fascinating.
“It’s kind of a lesson every day in how to be so natural and so in the moment, and I always get a lot of inspiration from children like Miko Hughes (who appeared opposite Langenkamp in “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare”) who was like that for me,” Langenkamp said. “You just zone in with them as they really experience the movie in a different way I think, and it is really refreshing. Ellery was really fun to work with, and I remember this one day when she had to go too long here to short hair too long hair and everybody was panicked. But Ellery was just smiling and taking it all in stride, and we had a lot of fun on the set as I remember.”
On returning to acting
Ever since her days battling Freddy Krueger, we haven’t seen as much of Langenkamp as we would like. Acting for her has since become a part time job, and she spends most of her days running AFX Studio, a Special F/X Make-Up Studio in Los Angeles, with her husband David LeRoy Anderson. One of her more recent acting roles was as a character named Moto in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” but her role as Dorothy in “The Butterfly Room” is the biggest one she has had in some time. This led one audience member to ask her if coming back to acting was like getting back on a bicycle to where everything comes back to you quickly.
“I would have to say not at all like riding a bike,” Langenkamp said. “I think that you’re much more self-conscious about how you’re doing as you get older especially if you’ve taken time off. I was really worried a lot of the time about whether I was going to be able to get my chops back up to speed, and I’m happy with the way the movie looks on the screen. I’m much happier than I actually thought I was at about 6:45 tonight (the movie started at 7:40 pm) because I get a lot more critical of myself too as I get older. Both of those things combine actually, making for a very uncomfortable day today, but now I can relax. I don’t think it’s like riding a bike. I wish it was more like that.”
On her love for acting
But even after being away from acting for a long time, Langenkamp still has a great love for it. She explained why that is the case and also talked about what it was like working with Steele who is probably the biggest horror icon in the cast of “The Butterfly Room.”
“It’s probably my favorite thing to do,” Langenkamp said of acting. “I think one the most creative things that a person can do is bring a script to life and think of the character and think of how you’re going to interact with someone like Erica. Those scenes were a lot of fun and especially all the scenes with Barbara Steele. She is one of my personal heroes and someone that I greatly admire, so I often watched her. She’s a very elegant woman and she’s very powerful, so sometimes I would just watch her and try to learn from her in the thing she did to be kind of a majestic creature in the film. I learn a lot from the people that I work with and I always and see what their techniques are and how they get prepared, and I take whatever I can from people like that.”
Working on a movie with a very low budget
Like many horror movies coming out today, “The Butterfly Room” was shot on a very low budget and had a tight shooting schedule. Moreover, Zarantonello started filming this movie back in 2010, and it is finally making its premiere four years later. With little time to make this movie, actors don’t have the same luxuries that are available to them on big budget studio productions. Langenkamp described the pressures she faced and how she learned to deal with them.
“It’s always difficult especially with wardrobe and hair when there’s really not enough time to get all that is necessary, and maybe there’s not enough personnel to take care of everybody,” Langenkamp said. “There are four or five ladies sometimes who all need to be ready within an hour of each other, and so we had very quick moments in the makeup chair sometimes (laughs) and you just have to put your vanity aside. That’s the hardest thing for an actor to do, but you realize you’re not going to get the hour in the chair that may be would make you feel more comfortable. In the end I really do feel like naturalism is the rule of the day, and looking as natural as possible as much as an actor. Maybe you don’t love it, but I do think that it adds to the reality of filmmaking. So every time I didn’t get enough time in the chair, I would say in the end that it’ll be better for the film.”
Welcome back Heather!
It’s great to see Heather Langenkamp back on the big screen after being absent from it for some time. She may not be interested in stardom nor is she looking to make a big comeback in movies, but she is still very much interested in giving the best that she can as an actress. While she may forever be linked to “A Nightmare on Elm Street” to where many can’t see her as anyone other than Nancy Thompson, she can still hold our attention whenever she appears in a movie. Clearly she is more comfortable these days running a special effects studio, but I hope we get to see more of her at the movies sooner than later.