The past month has been insane. There are usually periods of time like this every so often for everyone but, for me, they always seem to crash down at the same time that I’m attempting to accomplish a few things. One of those things being my “Women In Horror Month” interviews. As such, I kept having to push things back and back. So I apologize to anyone who’s been reading these so far. But I especially apologize to my final guest, actress Lynn Lowry.
So, two weeks after the month was over, here’s my final Women In Horror interview.
If you’re a horror movie fan, you’re familiar with Lynn. Born in Illinois but raised in Atlanta, Lynn got eaten by the horror machine while performing in stageplays in New York. The list of directors that she’s worked with reads like a who’s-who of horror icons: George Romero, Lloyd Kaufman, Jonathan Demme, Paul Schrader, David Cronenberg. From SHIVERS to CAT PEOPLE, Lynn has been in some of the most iconic horror films of the twentieth century, something she didn’t even realize until a few years ago. Her love of the genre, and of independent filmmaking in general, has kept her in the limelight with films like GEORGE: A ZOMBIE INTERVENTION and the 2010 remake of Romero’s THE CRAZIES, a film that she also starred in the original version of.
The following is a transcription of a phone interview, so any mistakes or oddities are my fault.
Let’s start with a pretentious question that the tweed jacket stick-up-their ass types would ask: Why horror?
Well, let’s see. I can give you two different answes for that. One – I really do love horror. I’ve loved it since I was a child and first saw King Kong and the Mummy and it was really exciting and a fun thing to do.
As for being an actress in horror, that was an accident. I was in New York studying all the classics – Ibsen and Checkov – and then I was cast in I DRINK YOUR BLOOD, SHIVERS, CAT PEOPLE, and it was all an accident. I’m thrilled.
I wasn’t terribly thrilled at the time because the people weren’t established and I never thought that anyone would see these films. I think I only found out the first time ten years ago that these were popular. I had pretty much given up acting, not theater, but had given up film work and then I found out that I had this kind of cult status, so it was kind of a second chance.
You’ve worked with such iconic horror directors as Lloyd Kaufman, George Romero, Paul Schrader, and David Cronenberg. What’s it like working with the big names?
And Jonathan Demme too. When I worked with them they weren’t giant names. They were just regular people. Nothing special. George was great. He loved what he was doing. He cast it right and the actors pretty much did their thing. The same with Cronenberg. He never gave me much direction. He just liked what I did and what I brought. He was more interested in overseeing the technical aspects. I never would have thought David would be who he is today. But that film still holds up. No one had ever seen anything like that before, that body alt horror.
Lloyd was a riot to work with. I don’t even really have words to describe that situation. He was great and we had a ball.
Paul had done a few things at that point and that was a big budget film. I didn’t like working with him. He was my least favorite director. He was very insensitive and didn’t care if you got hurt or anything. He was very brusque and very fast and it was very difficult to understand what he wanted.
The passion. Low budget films especially, the ones I’ve worked on, even in the past few years, there’s a dream involved, just a real love for the work to make something out of basically nothing. Really, truly have no money but the people have such a passion where with studio films it’s just a job, they get paid to do this, they do their job and do it well and there’s not that sense of camaraderie. That sense of purity. THE CRAZIES had a hundred people on the crew and most of them were standing around most of the time doing nothing, where the [low budget] films I’ve made, everyone is working their ass off. It’s hard work.
For the acting, when I did THE CRAZIES George Romero would say “be crazier here, have a breakdown here,” where with the remake the makeup people would run in and say “get them to crazy level 6.” The makeup makes it easier than pulling up these emotions from a deep dark place.
I would have killed to have done Vivian Leigh’s role in GONE WITH THE WIND. That would have been an incredible role to do and I’m particularly well trained in Southern- Tennessee Williams- type material. I’ve done a lot of his plays in New York and I’ve always been a big fan of the genre. “Divination” was another.
I would kill to do any of Meryl Streep’s films. She’s amazing. It would have been incredible to have done SOPHIE’S CHOICE or any of her films.
Or Katherine Hepburn or Bettie Davis. All the great actresses.
I was up for this role Susan Sarandon got in a film called CANNON JOE that John Appleson directed. That’s how I met Lloyd Kaufman, by the way. Peter Boyle landed Joe and I got a callback and everything. Of course I didn’t get it and she got it and you can’t help but wonder if I would have got to do some of the roles she went on to do. But [the audition] led to my first film…
You got to flex your comedic chops to rave reviews in GEORGE: A ZOMBIE INTERVENTION. Any plans to do another comedy?
Oh. I had a ball doing that film. It was so much fun. I seldom get cast in comedy in film. I’ve done a lot of comedy on stage, but most people don’t think of me as a comedic actress. But I’m very funny and love to do it.
I hope there’s going to be a George 2 and maybe I get to play [Barbara’s] sister. Comedy is hard but comedy as opposed to drama is… just more fun to do. Drama is more draining to do. It’s a great feeling once you’re doing it and once you’re finished it’s a great relief. But I think it’s harder on your instruments. I loved doing “Divination” but it was shot in two days and it was difficult because it required so much crying and pain and fear. You have to constantly be in a dark place and that dark place isn’t a lot of fun to be in. And you have to be in that place always and you can’t relax and let that go. I find as an actress it’s better to live in that place during a shoot and then when the day’s over let it go. Even when I do something like BASEMENT JACK where she’s a psychotic bitch, I still have to find the pain to do that so she does’nt come across as one dimensional.
It seems that, while every genre is subject to remakes these days, more horror films are being remade than in any genre. You’ve been involved in a horror remake or two, and have starred in a few classics that were remade also. What is about horror that specifically that fuels this “remake fever?”
I think that people realize there’s a huge fanbase. I think the only remake I made was THE CRAZIES. It was a twenty-one million dollar budget where I think we had a one hundred fifty thousand budget [on the original]. I think the people involved realized it had a huge fanbase. This one was a George Romero film and he’s become so popular. Horror films are so popular and films from that era are so raw and grindhouse and so real, though they never seem to remake them that way. They have so much money, they can’t reproduce that quality. When we were doing these you’d have, “oh, the boom broke. What do we do?” “Let’s tape it to a broomstick.” We had no computers. Everything had to be hands on. It gave it an almost documentary look.
“Horror is dead,” is a common and not-as-witty-as-they-think-it-is pun writers use to describe the state of the genre. Is horror dead? If so, how can would be Dr. Frankensteins revive it?
Who says that? What does that mean? (laughs) There’s a new horror film that comes out every week so I hardly think it’s dead. I think it tends more these days to shock you rather than scare and I think that’s a shame because horror was based on you being scared watching it, and that feeling was titillating and like a roller coaster, knowing that big scare was coming as you head down, where horror today depends more on shocking you. Take THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT remake, which I really liked. It focused more on “is she going to get away” rather than scaring you. I hear INSIDE is incredible and I really want to see that. It sounds frightening. Horror is missing the scares but I think it’s harder to get now because people are used to that.
There are three doors. You think the second door has the cat and, if not, usually the third door has it. You expect it at the third door maybe they should put it at the first door. (sighs) But look at what happened to Tom Skerrit when he got killed in ALIEN. No one expected that.
Horror’s not dead. There are just certain elements that need to be revived.
Finally, given that it is Women In Horror Month, what is it like being an actress in the genre? Do you find yourself typecast into the “stock” female roles we see time and again?
No, I’m pretty much typecast in horror. Not typecast in a particular role. I get to play the killer, the victim, the psycho, the nasty killer, and get to play different types of killers and different types of horror, but to break out of horror would take someone like Demme to cast me in one of his films.
But I don’t mind. I love horror. I was just cast in a short film called “Eggs” and it’s great. I play a woman whose son was killed in the war and whose husband killed himself becuasde of it. And she’s lived alone for eight years and she goes to the store and thinks the eggs are talking to her and that they’re her son and asking her to save them and keep others from eating them. It’s very peculiar.
I try to look for as interesting roles as I can. I’m offered a lot of scripts now which is great because I don’t have to audition anymore. Which is so exciting because I hate that part of the business. I’d love to play in a film that’s not a horror film, but I have no problem doing horror as long as people want to cast me. I feel very honored and appreciative to all of my fans who’ve rememebered me and created who I am. Very grateful.
For more information about Lynn, check out http://www.lynnlowry.com/
You can also purchase GEORGE: A ZOMBIE INTERVENTION, a film I co-wrote with director JT Seaton that stars Lynn, from Amazon or on ITunes.
Brad C. Hodson is a writer living in Los Angeles. His stories have appeared in anthologies alongside Neil Gaiman, Chuck Palahniuk, George RR Martin, and many more of his literary heroes. For a listing of his literary and film work, please check out his Bibliography at https://brad-hodson.com/bibliography/