It was a gray, damp morning at a pancake house overlooking a trash lined canal when I first read the news. The previous day had been Queen’s Day in Amsterdam, a giant city wide outdoor party to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, and the cobblestones were littered with beer cans and food wrappers. It was easy to see how the city might be beautiful, might twinkle and shine as the waters of the Amstel River rolled passed its gables and under its bridges but, even had the sky had not been clogged with rainclouds, the smell of stale beer and the rancid flowers of aluminum and paper blooming in the streets put to rest any concept of “quaint” or “charming.”
I was on my way to India, taking advantage of the flight’s path to eke a couple of days out in cities I had never visited. My phone didn’t work in Europe and I had struggled to find a Wi-Fi signal to check my email. As I sat hunched over a massive pancake watching flyers and banners and bottles drift by below me, I found a weak signal and connected.
And there it was, waiting, hiding in the lines of code that made up an unrelated email message. Just a singular mention, a phrase that meant nothing when I first read it.
“Michael Calvillo has passed.”
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.
I first met Michelle on the set of GEORGE’S INTERVENTION, a low-budget horror comedy I co-wrote and co-produced (renamed by the distributor GEORGE: A ZOMBIE INTERVENTION and available on ITunes and Amazon, wink wink). Skin pink, hair matted to her head by gallons of fake blood, eyes bloodshot from the sixteen hour shoot, and she still had a smile on her face. In fact, it’s rare to find Michelle not smiling.
Of course, she has a lot to smile about these days. She’s become a cult icon amongst a certain set, a Scream Queen drenched in low-budget gore. Attending conventions with her and seeing a growing fan base wade through the crowds to meet her, it’s easy to see how films like THE CELLAR DOOR or Kevin Tenney’s BRAINDEAD have permeated the lexicon of low-budget horror.
And, through it all, the New Mexico native keeps her positive energy high and attacks her career goals with tenacity.
So, I give you the next to last interview for Women In Horror Month.
(Note: Though Women In Horror Month ends today, I have a special interview that will be posted in the next few days to really close it out. Check back for that interview to learn the truth of what it’s like to work with Romero, Cronenburg, and Demme).
My goal with these Women In Horror Month interviews was to get them each up in a timely manner, spacing them out throughout the month. Unfortunately, life often has different plans.
So, I have to apologize, mainly to Martel Sardina. Martel was gracious enough to answer my questions and I haven’t yet posted her interview. Which is a shame, because Martel’s interview turned out to be very in-depth and, I have to admit, quite badass. From her work as an editor to delving into a ground-breaking comic book project, Martel has seen several sides of the industry. She also has a penchant for hopping on motorcycles and vanishing into the American Frontier. In other words, like I’ve been discovering with most women in the horror genre, Martel is difficult to label.
Let’s start with a pretentious question that the tweed jacket stick-up-their ass types would ask: Why horror?
As I write this two birds sing to one another outside my window. It would be romantic to assume it was a love song. The reality is they’re warning each other about my cat eyeing them through my window as though Purina had gone out of business.
So much for romance, eh?
Or not. I’ve always found that, no matter how sweet and well-intentioned, all romance has an air of the predatory. What is wooing your loved one other than a unique combination of cunning, wit, and using your physical strengths to your advantage? Cynical, perhaps. I try not to be. But it’s no coincidence that all the great loves that poets sing about and history passes down ended in tragedy. After all, the goal of the predator is the death of its prey. And so what better way to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day than to explore the harsher reality of the holiday named in his honor?
Horror writers often break molds. The stereotype for many is a thin, scarecrow-esque middle aged man in a Black Flag t-shirt with a blazer thrown over it, probably bullied frequently as a kid, with a twisted streak that gets exorcised in his writing lest he do something equally as horrid in the real world. Fortunately, these folks are actually few and far between. Instead the genre is filled with the truly unexpected. Wrath James White, for instance, who is a former professional MMA fighter, or Jonathan Maberry who has trained SWAT units.
And then there’s Maria. Writer. Samurai. Disney Copywriter. Maria Alexander describes herself as a “former fundamentalist turned fatalist.” While it’s tempting at first glance to shrug her off as “just another Goth chick,” a conversation with Maria will beat that notion out of you with a foot long piece of rattan.
Maria’s fiction has appeared everywhere, including LOST ON THE DARKSIDE and UNSPEAKABLE HORROR. Her non-fiction has been highlighted in THE WOMEN ACTION NETWORK and THE ANTHOLOGY AT THE END OF THE UNIVERSE: LEADING SCIENCE FICTION AUTHORS ON DOUGLAS ADAMS’ THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY. She’s frequented BBC World Radio’s “Have Your Say” and can currently be found in the anthologies NIGHT TERRORS II (alongside moi – shameless plug) and MUTATION NATION, as well as her poetry collection AT LOUCHE ENDS or her Samantha Blaze detective yarn UNHOLYWOOD.
February is WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH, a month I’m sure most of you had no idea existed. February, I mean. Who keeps track of anything between Christmas and the Fourth of July?
In all seriousness, women in the horror genre are often relegated to the role of Victim. Only female stand-up comics seem to get less respect. Yet, without the contribution of female writers, the genre would lose many of its greatest works. Frankenstein, The Haunting of Hill House, The Lottery, Interview With A Vampire, and Beloved are all born from the twisted minds of the fairer sex.
Being a huge fan of the works listed above, I wanted to take a little time this month and showcase some of my favorite women in the genre. Who better to start with than my friend and mentor Lisa Morton?
If you’re a fan of horror prose, then you undoubtedly have heard of Lisa. Her short fiction has appeared in magazines like Cemetery Dance, anthologies like THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, and even in the LA Times. Her fantastic 2009 novella THE LUCID DREAMING won the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Long Fiction, followed by a win in 2010 for her first novel THE CASTLE OF LOS ANGELES. She’s also the author of several nonfiction books, including THE HALLOWEEN ANTHOLOGY, and was the imagination behind films like MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS.
I could continue to list her accomplishments, but my fingers don’t have that type of endurance.
On to the interview!
In the wake of Congress failing to perform anal rape upon the whole of the internet, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the issue of piracy.
I realize I’m a little late to the party here, but the recent debates over SOPA and FUBAR and whatever other idiotic bills were put forth to stop online piracy have kept my brain churning.
Webster’s defines piracy as:
1. practice of a pirate; robbery or illegal violence at sea.
2. the unauthorized reproduction or use of a copyrighted book, recording, television program, patented invention, trademarked product, etc.: The record industry is beset with piracy.
3. Also called stream capture. Geology. diversion of the upper part of one stream by the head ward growth of another.
While I’m sure we’re all in agreement that definition 3 is the sexiest and most exciting definition, let’s look at the first two. It’s no mistake that the idea of infringing upon copyrighted material has purposely been labeled with a word that conjures images of violence, rape, and horrible sea shanties.
I initially assumed this was a tactic of the music industry. Yet, upon further in-depth and difficult research using the most obscure resources (i.e. Wikipedia), I stumbled upon the fact that copyright infringement has been labeled “piracy” for over 400 years.
In 2008, we started shooting a movie. It was long and frustrating and far more expensive than it should have been. It was stressful and didn’t turn out how we wanted it to. It fell victim to the budget and to a small timeframe to shoot the film in and every other worry that low budget films have.
But we made it through it. We made a feature film. It’s won dozens of awards at festivals from here to Germany. Fans have sent us artist renderings and t-shirt designs. We’ve gotten some great reviews. People like the movie. No matter what pitfalls we had or how many film snobs can point out that we rushed a shot, at the end of the day the fact that it’s enjoyed is all that matters. People get it. It makes them laugh in all the right places. It makes them cringe in all the right places. And they dig the characters. For the longest time I watched the film and could only see our compromises, our mistakes. But. while I know what we wanted to do differently or with more panache, a theater full of fans don’t. All they know is that it makes them laugh. Every fan letter, every chuckle at a screening, every smiling face at a signing, makes me realize that the movie works.
And now, finally, after so much work and so much stress and so much money, it’s finally available to the public. Vicious Circle films releases GEORGE: A ZOMBIE INTERVENTION (formerly GEORGE’S INTERVENTION) nationwide on DVD today.
My novel DARLING will be released by Bad Moon Books on October 26th. To celebrate, I’m posting a series exploring some of the mythology that inspired the book. This is an old post, but since it deals with one of the core concepts of the book I thought I’d do a little re-purposing. To learn more about DARLING, check out it’s page here or visit the Bad Moon Books site. You can also find a preview of the novel here.
Check out Part 1 of the series, “Black Hounds.”
A GHOST STORY FOR HALLOWEEN
I don’t believe in UFO’s. In fact, the whole idea of “Ancient Astronauts” being responsible for the pyramids and any other great achievement of ancient man offends me as an amateur historian and a human being.
I think psychics and mediums are frauds and scam artists. I think these people are the lowest of the low, using illusion and parlor tricks to prey on people in pain.
Loch Ness is empty of anything larger than an old truck tire and crop circles are, without a doubt, elaborate hoaxes. “Ghost Hunters” is, quite possibly, the most bullshit laden program I’ve ever sat through. I doubt most ghost stories that people tell me, understanding as a writer both how imaginative people can be and how fallible our senses (and our minds) are. I am, in short, a skeptic.
But I do believe in ghosts.
An odd contradiction to be sure, but there is something about the idea of ghosts that clicks in my lizard brain, something about the fact that it’s a shared phenomenon across every culture with little deviation from the idea of what they are and how they behave. Leprechauns are strictly Irish, penanggalan strictly South East Asian, yet ghost stories permeate every single culture that has ever existed on planet Earth.
Growing up in the foothills of Appalachia, you tend to develop a peculiar taste for ghost stories. There’s a definite cultural aspect to it, generations of Scottish and Irish immigrants bringing tales of black hounds howling along windswept moors and phantom highwayman stalking the crossroads at night into the storytelling atmosphere that pervades the South. Surely there’s a geographic element to it. How can anyone live amidst those dark, ancient mountains on streets named for long dead Cherokee and Creek chieftains and not feel like something stands at the foot of their bed at night?
But I still think most people who do think they saw something at the foot of their bed did not. Maybe I’m an asshole like that, but to me the mark of intelligence is a combination of keeping an open mind while applying logic and a healthy dose of doubt.
Webster has a couple of interesting definitions for the word “skeptic.”
The two definitions I like are:
*a person who questions the validity or authenticity of something purporting to be factual
*a member of a philosophical school of ancient Greece,the earliest group of which consisted of Pyrrho and his followers, who maintained that true knowledge of things is impossible
Those two definitions perfectly encapsulate how I view “otherworldly” phenomenon. I question stories of encounters with anything that could be deemed supernatural, yet, like Pyrrho, don’t think that science is able to attain all the answers.
In the van ride home from KillerCon 3 in Las Vegas, Hal Bodner looked out the window at the desert speeding by. Behind him, John Skipp flipped through his CD’s with John Palisano, trying to find the perfect road trip music. Lisa Morton and Shannon Neil sat in back, sunglasses on, Shannon napping while Lisa was deep in thought. The speed at which she works, she probably wrote another novel on the ride home.
I was tired. Hell, we were all tired. KillerCon will do that to you. It will wear you out, but in the same way that a beautiful hike or a one night stand wears you out.
“How many bodies do you think are buried in the desert here?” Hal bit his nails and squinted toward a dust-stained trailer surrounded by empty oil drums.
I glanced into the rear view and met John Skipp’s eyes. Skipp scratched his cheek and I could still see the blood caked under his fingernails.
In the beginning it was rather nice. We were into all of the same books, the same movies, liked the same restaurants. We’d take turns going to work or cleaning the house. And he was always brutally honest about what that shirt looked like on me.
But then things changed.