I asked these five wonderful men in horror the same question: Can you tell me about a woman who has inspired you to work in horror or to recall a woman whom you have worked with in a horror film and talk about your experience working with her and the impact she has made on you.
The answers I got were touching, intriguing, and made me so happy to be part of this wonderful world of horror.
|Damien Glonek (left) and Ed Long, creators of Living Dead Dolls|
I always found Maila Nurmi aka Vampira to be quite inspiring. At a time when women weren't generally looked upon as being morbid celebrities, Maila created her Vampira character and broke all the molds. Sexy and creepy there was no one alive like Vampira. She was very ahead of her time and despite her displeasures with her predecessor I also have to admire Elvira in the same ways of (yes creating a similar character). The character she created with Elvira and how she merchandised and held unto all the rights is something similar to what we always aimed to do with Living Dead Dolls. Never lose sight of the original goal and always hang on to your creation. But if I had to choose one woman who inspired me with horror, it would be my mother. Being the black sheep growing up, not fitting in and developing a growing fascination with all things horror she never derailed me or second guessed any of it. Always encouraged me to do what I loved and thought nothing out of the ordinary of my interests. When the time came and we first started making Living Dead Dolls, my mother helped me make the outfits and couldn't be more proud of what they have accomplished all these years later.
A woman who has inspired me and countless other independent filmmakers is Debbie Rochon. I first worked with Debbie in 1994 on the set of Tromeo and Juliet, where she played Ness. Debbie displayed a quiet grace and bravery in taking on the role of Juliet's sympathetic lesbian lover in the midst of a very homophobic era. This was four years before the tragic murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, and many years before the gradual mainstream cultural acceptance of homosexuality. Throughout her long career she continued to consistently prove her fearlessness and willingness to take on controversial roles without hesitation. I went on to direct her in several other Troma films, including Terror Firmer, The Toxic Avenger IV: Citizen Toxie, and most recently Return to Nuke'em High Volumes 1 & 2. From my experiences with Debbie, I've come to respect her as a great actress who is 100% devoted to independent films and the independent film industry. There is no doubt that she is beautiful and talented enough to be embraced by mainstream Hollywood, yet she has stayed loyal to the local New York City and Canadian independent movie scene. In 2003, she had an unfortunate accident on the set of an unreleased independent film involving a prop machete that left her right hand badly severed. It took her over three years of physical therapy to get over the pain and regain limited use of her hand, but this huge setback did nothing to dampen her devotion to independent cinema. She continued to act and actively participate in the industry, which is a testament to the strength of her resolve. Her success is even more inspiring in the context of the extremely male-dominated horror genre, which still struggles with a thinly veiled chauvinistic culture. I've actually written an essay that addresses this called "Gynophobia & the Blood Ceiling in the World of Horror," (Click HERE to read). Her success is a direct challenge to anyone in the horror industry who still stubbornly subscribes to the idea that women are delicate and can't handle a little blood and guts. Debbie also recently directed her first film called "Model Hunger," which I have a small cameo in. She's had incredible success in her career despite the odds being stacked against her, and she should be a source of inspiration to all women who want to get into the horror industry.
|Derrick Carey (right) and Cory Udler (Left)|
The funny thing is about this question is that the vast majority of filmmakers who I talk to in the industry are women. To pick one that inspires me is actually a silly proposition as they all inspire me immensely. The women in horror movement and those involved with it are amazing and it is something I stand behind full heartedly.
I have been humbled and honored to work with, in my short time making micro-budget horror films and documentaries, women with whom I have admired and watched since I was little.
If I were to tell one story about a woman who inspired how I present myself and handle fans at conventions, it would have to be the amazing Miss Linnea Quigley. Jason Paul Collum and I had the privilege of sharing a space with her in 2011 at Flashback weekend for our documentary on her, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer entitled Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era. Over the course of the weekend Linnea and I talked about a wide variety of things concerning her films and fans. She had lines all weekend, and the fans varied from ravenous Return of the Living Dead fans to fans of the fact she is a beautiful woman. What struck me over the course of the weekend was that regardless of what was thrown at her, be it admiration or creepy lustful musings, she handled herself with poise and always showed respect to everyone that came to her table to take a picture with her or sign memorabilia. It’s hard, over the course of 3 days, to keep up a persona for fans. It gets exhausting. Most people think that it’s nothing and that these people should be so ecstatic for the adulation they receive. It’s not always roses. Linnea, regardless of the amazing icon she is historically as a woman in the B-Film industry, never once let anything get to her and was insanely approachable to everyone. There were times I questioned how she could be so trusting of fans and open to them. She just brushed it off and smiled.
“It’s all part of the gig”.
That’s a professional. That’s someone that not only realizes that these people are the life blood of her career, but that this is what she signed on for when she decided to be an actress in over 100 films. I highly respect her for that. Every time I am at a convention and/or film festival for one of my films, I always remember that every last person that comes up to my table matters, even the ones that have nothing good to say. They are all me, and regardless what side of the table I have been or am on, we are all there for a reason, we love horror.
As usual I'm going to ignore the rules and name not one but two women I have had the pleasure of not only working with but becoming friends with.
First is Shannon Lark and second is Paula Duerksen. Paula I met on social media via our mutual love and friendship with Lloyd Kaufman. From that Paula was a part of Incest Death Squad 2 and from that came Mediatrix, a script Paula wrote and a movie she starred in. I have never been around a more dynamic person in my entire life. Her glaring talents aside, she's an addicting personality. I never looked at Mediatrix as me "directing a woman's script". I looked at it as me being fortunate enough to work with her and bring her ideas to life. We busted our asses on that movie, all of us, together. Like a little cult.
I had originally had Debbie Rochon pegged to play the Virgin Mary in that movie. I don't even remember why that didn't happen anymore. But, it didn't and I needed a punk rock Virgin Mary. Tom Lodewyck had just worked with Shannon Lark on one of Joe Hollow's movies. He said she'd be great so we made the arrangements. I was a little nervous working with her, she was someone I admired from her work with the Viscera movement. I had read interviews with her online and just really respected who she was and what she stood for. We had one day to shoot all of her scenes. It was a dream to be able to make that movie with her. For some reason she likes slumming around with me. Someday I'd like to do a big project with her, not another $2,000 wonder. Her latest short, "I Am Monster", is more subversive and smart than anything going on in the genre. She's the high water mark not just for women in horror but for everyone in horror.
There are three women who inspired me in the very beginning of my career in special effects make-up. I speak of Betsy Baker, Ellen Sandweiss and Theresa Tilly who gave chilling performances in the original The Evil Dead. While it's one thing to apply make up on an actor, to see the actors make that creation come alive and frighten audiences is such a treat and so satisfying that it is the highlight of my artistic life.
But there is so much more. The conditions during the film's production were spartan, we were all far away from our homes and families and we were shooting in the chilly Winter for almost two months.
And the "Ladies of the Evil Dead" had to endure my inexperience.
The first challenge for them were the face molds I made of each of them. I did those in the basement of Sam Raimi's home and were simple, one piece molds of the front of their faces. I didn't know about Alginate, a soft mold making material that dentists use for making molds of your teeth. It's that minty tasting stuff. So I taped aluminum foil to cover their hair and greased their eyebrows with petroleum jelly and poured Hydrocal over there faces and waited the half hour or so for it to set. Hydrocal gets very warm, some say hot as it sets up. Uncomfortably hot. I recall giving them a notepad so they could communicate and they were all anxious to get the molds off as soon as possible. And I did. As soon as possible. No burns but having your face cast is a claustrophobic exercise and they were all troopers despite the long ordeal.
And the molds came out perfectly.
Then several weeks later we were on location outside Morristown, Tennessee and at the cabin in the woods. The cabin had no heat, electricity, water, toilets, windows, doors, but it did have about three inches of cow manure carpeting the floor.
So there was some work to do and all pitched in to get the cabin in shape.
Betsy was the first make up subject. I recall waking her up about 4:00am as I figured the make up would take 3 or 4 hours to apply the make up. Betsy woke up and I took her to a room with a cot and she laid down, fell back asleep and I applied the make up. Due to some discussions between Sam Raimi and I we changed the concept of the '"deadite" designs so on Betsy I was making it up as I went along. I applied liquid latex rubber onto Betsy in the form of veins radiating out from her eyes. It took 5 hours to do and we made it to the cabin just in time as the Sun was coming up and the shot had to be done during the night. Betsy played Linda and Bruce, playing as Ash had to drag Linda off the porch, down the steps and out into the yard as the possessed Linda shrieked and screamed. This was the very first scene we'd shot that was a "horror" scene. And Betsy shocked us all. Her deadite was angry and supernatural and I remember the stunned silence of the crew reacting to Betsy's performance. If you watch that scene again you can just make out the vein make up.
But it would get worse. The contact lenses were nothing like they have today. They were thick plastic, hemispheric, and completely opaque. The actors could see nothing with these contacts on.
The optometrist who designed them had warned us about not keeping them in the actor's eyes for more than 15 minutes at at time. And he gave us a bottle of sterile solution to keep their eyes lubricated. It was dangerous to allow the eyes to dry out. The sterile solution was gone in a day or two. Without running water, the only liquid on set was coffee and that was used instead of water. Yikes.
Ellen had the lion's share of the make up and had to endure the cold in a short nightgown. The night scene where she is running in the forest and the vine attack scene was freezing, tiring and endless. I did my best keeping a blanket ready for Ellen in between takes but again, Sam had found real show business troopers.
Ellen had to fall back into the small trap door, doing her own stunts while blind with the contact lenses in place. From the angle I saw her fling herself back into the trapdoor hole that had been dug, I couldn't believe she didn't crack her head on the trapdoor frame. Yeesh.
Theresa also had a tough time. She is in a fight scene with Ash and Scotty and was rigged with a fake arm that Scotty would attempt to cut off. The scene took a couple of days to shoot. I wound up using my vein design for Theresa's character Shelly so that make up was built up and took the 4 to 5 hours to apply. The actors would have to wear the make up all day long and days were running14 to 16 hours a day.
The fun goes out of make up in an hour so wearing it all day is taxing and disturbing thus creating the term, "the latex point". That is where the actor's face wants the make up off . I think it's something similar to tissue rejection like a bad organ transplant. But they all trooped on.
The script required that Linda's head be cut off. So I had to make a full head mold of Betsy. I had never done a larger face cast than the front of a face.
And of course I screwed it up.
The mold was done in two parts. Again I didn't use the Alginate and it was not known to me. So it was all done with the Hydrocal again.
I did not properly cover here hairline on her forehead so when I applied the Hydrocal plaster it embraced her hair and that was a problem.
With two halves to the mold Betsy was under this heavy mold for about 2 hours. And it is cooking her head.
So when I tried to separate the molds Betsy let me know the front mold was solidified to her bangs. So I couldn't separate the molds.
My solution was to carefully lift up the front mold and with a single edge razor blade held by two fingers I slowly moved my fingers and razor up under the mold trying not to cut off her nose. All the time the hot mold is pulling on her hair and hurting her. I remember the pit in my stomach. I didn't want to hurt anyone. Yeesh, again.
It must have taken ten minutes to get the razor up to Betsy's hairline and carefully cut her hair and finally freed her from the mold.
And then there was more. Betsy was in her Linda deadite make up and had to emerge from the grave Ash had dug and walk toward Ash as he clubs her with a beam. In the film it looks like a heavy wooden beam but it was a Styrofoam beam. Sounds better than being hit by a wooden beam but it's was not. Betsy was being clobbered and it hurt.
And of course Betsy is wearing the contacts so she is blind and can't see the beam coming. Yeesh. If you look closely you can see the beam breaking against Betsy head. In fact as that was the only beam we had Bruce had to hold the beam together so he could hit Betsy some more.
When I see The Evil Dead it is like watching a home movie. I can tell you where I was standing during the shots I witnessed and I will never forget what those three fine actresses went through to create their memorable roles.
And for all my inexperience, and the discomfort and pain they went through, today they tell me I was their protector during the shoot. I tried my best and Betsy, Ellen and Theresa made my make ups come alive and I couldn't be more proud of what they did, especially under the rough conditions. They will always be special people for me and my inspiration increases every time we meet.
I want to end this post with a little something special that really hit me in the heart. Damien Glonek said something to me while speaking about this post that sums up what this whole thing is about...he said "it is "our" genre". I can't think of a better quote to end with...it is OUR genre!