While theatrical horror was few and far between in the 1990’s, the decade marked a boom in straight-to-video genre film releases. More and more content was being made directly for the video market. Charles Band, who had run Empire Pictures in the 1980’s, had now established Full Moon Entertainment as a production house specifically to make cost-effective films for video release. They had already found success with Puppet Master, Crash and Burn and Meridian. Their next movie would be a little different. Subspecies was an old-school, throwback vampire movie set in Transylvania. Naturally, Band always looks for the cheapest way to do something.
So he decided the most cost-effective solution would be to actually shoot the movie in Romania. This was virtually unheard of at the time. In fact, Subspecies would be the first American production to be shot there. The shoot, while short, was not without its troubles. The Romanian crew and the American crew had very different mentalities and the language barrier was not small. For those interested in seeing what the footage was really like, Full Moon has hours of un-doctored footage from the filming of Subspecies up on their streaming site.
Nonetheless, the movie was a hit on video when it was released. The actual Transylvania locations definitely sold it and helped it achieve an impressive atmosphere for a film of its size. By focusing on the rivalry between two vampire brothers, it brought in both the Anne Rice audience and the classic horror audience alike. The movie’s cheap production just helped it to feel like a leftover relic from the era of the 60’s and 70’s productions that it was inspired by.
Every decision that was made during the production of Subspecies was strange at the time. It was a beautiful but extremely poor location to shoot in and no American crew had ever shot there before. But it was extremely cost-effective. Because of the economy, a Romanian crew would work for a week on the budget an American crew would work for a day. Despite the culture clash, it was an investment that paid off. Given that Subspecies was a video hit, Band made the decision to shoot the second and third entries back-to-back, which was also unheard of at the time.
Full Moon established a studio in Romania after the success of Subspecies and shot almost all of their features there throughout the early 1990’s until their split with distributor Paramount Pictures in 1995.
While what they were doing was unprecedented at the time and thought of as a strange way of conducting business, ten years later, every single low-budget horror movie was doing just that. Most of the DTV Wrong Turn, Pumpkinhead, Hellraiser and later Return of the Living Dead sequels were shot in Romania and each of those franchises had two movies that were shot back-to-back over there. It may have been strange in 1991, but in the early 2000’s, it was simply the way things were done Even the massively successful Hostel had a script written to cater to an area of the world it could afford to shoot in, just as Subspecies had done years prior.