Mary Lambert laughed into the phone when I pointed out that, in films and books, there seem to be an awful lot of vampires and hellspawn roaming around Southern California through the years. "Yeah, well, duh. Los Angeles is the natural place to put your soul at risk. It’s just like the crossroads down in Mississippi where Robert Johnson met the devil. L.A. is the place you come to if you want to bet your soul.”
Lambert has a Southern drawl — she’s a native of Arkansas — but the filmmaker is no tourist in L.A. In the world of music video production, she was a pioneering force in the boom days of the 1980s with signature works that include Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” "Borderline" and “Material Girl” and Janet Jackson’s “Control” and “Nasty Boys.” She would go on to work with Sting, Mariah Carey, Mick Jagger and Motley Crue and though her videos were often exercises in narrative in a way that many music videos are not, she was restless to tell stories in longer form.
Lambert made a name for herself among horror fans by directing the 1989 film adaptation of Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” and its sequel. Now, with “The Dark Path Chronicles” on Fearnet.com, she has made a meeting point between her two career paths. The series, which starts Nov. 6, will tell the tale of an L.A. teenage girl and the handsome bloodsucker (literally) that she meets during a hypnotic sequence at leafy Griffith Park.
There will be seven episodes, each 3 to 5 minutes long. The cast is young, up-and-upcoming actors and the music is by some bands making a lot of noise (again, literally) on the underground scene, much of it Goth-tinged and all of it ominous in its metal styling. The bands include Zombi, Junius, Jesu, Watch Me Burn and Prophet 7:13. Says Lambert: "The music industry, as it is, is completely changing and the way people find and enjoy their music is changing. It’s very exciting and I’ve always wanted to tell a story in a series of music videos. This is a story that is a good one, too." Here’s a synopsis that Lambert’s team sent over to me:
Dark, bleak and distorted, The Dark Path is a parallel reality, like the 5th dimension or the Astral Plane. The physical world and the Dark Path are alternate realities separated by vibrational frequencies. Aspects of the physical world have their counterparts on the Dark Path. Vampires use the Dark Path to hide, especially in the daylight and to travel unseen. To travel the Path, one must be an Adept, (someone who has attained a proficiency in the occult arts.) The series begins as Samantha, a lovely but somewhat strange teenager, hears someone whispering her name. She leaves her shabby apartment, and with blood trickling from her ears, follows the voice to a roach coach in the middle of Griffith Park. She opens the vehicle’s door and suddenly a young vampire materializes out of nowhere. This is Jurgen, who is also "Adept" on the Dark Path, and has awakened after 75 years to discover a world he no longer understands. He demands that Samantha help him. Frightened but dangerously attracted to him, Samantha joins him and the haunting adventure ensues.
I asked Lambert if this is a tough time to be doing a vampire story — with the "Twilight" sensation, "True Blood" and the recent "30 Days of Night" and the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t "Moonlight," it sure feels like that sector of pop culture has been pretty well, um, drained. "I think good stories are good stories, I don’t think you worry about what other people are doing or what they have done. This is a story I’ve wanted to tell for a long time…Los Angeles is like a character in this story and the use of music and the way we tell the story are completely different than any of the things you mentioned. I can’t wait for people to see this."
— Geoff Boucher
A scene from "The Dark Path Chronicles," courtesy of Fearnet.com.
Lambert’s music video for "Material Girl" created a defining persona for Madonna. Image from the Los Angeles Times archives.
Lambert directed the 1989 film adaptation of Stephen King’s "Pet Sematary." This publicity still showing Fred Gwynne in the movie is from the Los Angeles Times archives.