Interview with Scream Queen Felissa Rose

Interview with Scream Queen Felissa Rose

Horrorific content by Jessica Gomez on April 11th, 2020 | Horror News |

First making a name for herself as the shy Angela harboring heavy secrets in the cult classic Sleepaway Camp, Felissa Rose has gone on to become a horror icon. After chatting with Felissa, it’s easy to see why she’s universally beloved. We talked about several of her upcoming projects, the driving force behind which films she chooses to work on, and what she recommends we all scare ourselves with as we live in quarantine.

Jessica Gomez (JG): Are you doing okay in isolation? We’re in kind of a scary time right now.

Felissa Rose (FR): It’s definitely strange and surreal, but I travel a lot for work, so for me, it’s been really nice bonding with my kids and my family, so I’ve seen it as a real positive. We’ve been baking a lot, and singing, and just having a good time.

JG: I know you’ve got scenes filmed for a bunch of upcoming horror movies and even more on the docket, but I assume filming has halted for now on those projects?

FR: We have, we’ve kind of been in a holding pattern. The nice thing is everything is just postponed. I hope that by June we start up again. A lot of things on the horizon.

JG: You joined Terrifier 2, which is really exciting. Terrifier has become its own cult favorite, so it seems natural that you’d be a good fit for that follow up.

FR: It’s so funny because I became a huge fan of the film, and then I would go to conventions and I would so excitedly see David Howard Thornton, and Damien Leone, and I felt like their little stalker! (Laughs) Every show I’d say, “I want to work with you guys! I love you! I want to be in your next movie!” I really love them, and that film is just gonna be a tremendous hit, and I’m so happy for them. It’s exciting.

JG: Talk to me about Killer Rose. The cast - you’ve got Caroline Williams, Brinke Stevens, Dave Sheridan...some real horror favorites there.

FR: Oh my gosh, Vincent Ward...so many wonderful names in that film. It will probably come out this fall. That movie was a passion project of mine. I work with Entertainment Factory - Rick Finkelstein is a very dear friend of mine, he’s a producer. We’ve done a lot of movies together - Death House, Camp Twilight, Garlic and Gunpowder - a lot of movies. He and Brandon Amelotte, who is another producer, asked, “What kind of movie would excite you?” And I thought, a real female-centric, Thelma & Louise, on the run, gritty, grindhouse...and they were all for it, and hired Rickey Bird to write it. We just had a blast, running around playing in Bakersfield, California, with that incredible cast. It was a character I had not done before; Rose is really a badass, solid...she scared me, quite honestly. Getting into hair and makeup was its own evolution, and I had to put on the hair, and the tattoos, and the guns...it was very exciting stepping into those shoes, and to play someone so deeply profound in her position as an assassin. I loved every second of it. Really powerful.

JG: When I was reading about it, I thought, this looks like it’s going to be really cool.

FR: I just saw the trailer for it. I wanted it to have that Kill Bill...I’m a huge Quentin Tarantino fan, and I love that grindhouse, kind of 70s feel… The cast, everyone was exceptional, and we had a great time.

JG: Speaking of a star-studded cast, you produced on Harrison Smith’s Death House, which features almost every horror favorite you could think of. What was it like on that set?

FR: That set was absolutely exceptional. You’d sit in the lunch room and see all these favorite faces, from Tony Todd, Kane Hodder, Dee Wallace, Barbara Crampton...the list is endless. I’m a fan of the genre, so I’m fortunate that I get to see everyone and call them friends at conventions, and we work alongside each other as actors. I'm always thrilled when I see them; being a fan, it’s a surreal experience. To watch them work - to see Barabara Crampton on set, to see all of these amazing people come together, was really a dream come true. The film has its own original content and unique look. It was wonderful making that movie, in Gunnar Hansen’s honor.

JG: So it’s not just Death House you’ve been involved with behind the scenes - you’ve been involved as a producer in over 30 films so far, which is awesome. Do you have any plans to direct in the future?

FR: I love that question because over the past few years, when people would ask, when I started producing - which for me, as an actress, walking into producer’s shoes felt very natural. Not unlike being a mom, it’s multi-tasking, it’s really meticulous work putting the whole puzzle together. So I never really thought about being a director. I just felt like that’s a whole other entity that I hadn’t studied, it’s a whole different craft. I think having worked alongside great directors like Harrison Smith and Adam Green, and so many wonderful people - I just worked with a great director, Bob Cook, on a new film called Scream Test. I had been saying absolutely no, and now just suddenly in the past couple months, I’m thinking if I got a script I felt really solidly mesmerized by and connected to, I think I would. I’d love a horror-esque American Beauty. I love American Beauty, but it would have to be darker, and definitely uglier.

JG: That’s really exciting for me to hear, because as you know there’s not a ton of female directors in horror. I know that you’re such a fan of the genre, and you’re such an icon in the genre, that if you ever did find that script that you connected with, that would be really exciting for everybody, I think.

FR: Thank you. I think that might be the next step. I would never do anything from an ego place or a monetary place. Everything for me has to feel really genuine. If it was authentically - you know what I mean?

JG: You’re not doing it just to do it.

FR: Right. I have to really be in love. Just like with producing - I never said, “I’m gonna be a producer.” It was like, this just feels right, in my gut, like I’m in love. For me, it has to be: I’m in love, I have to do this.

JG: Obviously I want to touch on Sleepaway Camp, which most horror buffs are crazy for. That ending remains one of the more unique and horrifying final scenes in the genre, and the face with the shriek really just solidified your place in horror cannon when you were just a kid. What was that entire experience like for you? How did you muster that face at - what, were you, 13 years old?

FR: Yeah, I was 13 years old. I met Robert Hiltzik at an audition in New York. I was an actor at a local dancing school. Someone called the dancing school - I had gotten a local manager, and they said there’s an audition for this horror movie. It was my first professional audition. I was excited, I wanted to go in, and when I met Robert, that was immediately like a lovefest. I felt like I knew him forever, I felt very connected to him. I also felt connected to the character - being a teenage girl, we all know how young teenage girls operate. There’s a lot of bullying no matter what space you live in, whether you’re the shy girl, the smart girl, the cool girl...it’s just difficult. When he and I met, we had very deep conversations about how she would be portrayed, and then he told me to make that face. I think it was his passion for the character that sort of led to how I felt about her. I am a passionate person, and I very much loved her. I was hurt and angry with the way the characters were treating her, and all of that came out with that face. It’s a revenge story, and that was the pinnacle - that was the end, this is what you get. Scary.

JG: Do you ever get people from the LGBTQ community talking to you about their first experience watching Sleepaway Camp? Over time, it’s become an important part of queer cinema.

FR: You saying that, gives me such chills, because I feel very close, very attached to the LGBTQ community. I feel like we’re family. I’m thrilled that it’s become a film that does speak and resonate with people in that group because rather than marginalize - I feel like Angela’s character, all of the revenge certainly was from being bullied, but it gives the spotlight to a character being trans, and that makes my heart happy. We’re all in this together. I’m all about humanity, and having compassion for every single person, animal, everything living on this planet. That makes me happy that we can all come together, and if Sleepaway Camp can be celebrated, then I’m thrilled for that.

JG: You’re executive producing a Sleepaway Camp documentary - what can you tell me about that?

That was the brainchild of my very close friend and manager Mike Perez, and he decided that there should be an extensive doc  - we did one with the Shout Factory Blu-Ray, and this is the big version - he includes all four of the films. He was able to speak with the cast from parts 2 & 3, which are amazing Michael Simpson films shot back-to-back in Georgia. In 2003 we shot Return to Sleepaway Camp with Robert Hiltzik, so he gives great insight and a lot of stories. We’re in the middle of filming that - we’ll be filming throughout the year. Once this quarantine is lifted, we can get back to working on it. We really dissect a lot, social commentary, theories, thoughts, from all areas, all people involved. I think it’s quite interesting because this small little film - a really cheesy 80s little movie, kind of got a life of its own. For face value, Sleepaway Camp, to me, is funny. It’s like a comedy now - it has the 80s clothing, and the funny characters - but a lot of friends at conventions have said to me, it’s so much deeper. Even I hadn't, for many years, seen a lot of what is sort of subtext. We go deep with that, and we need to speak with Robert Hiltzik as well, the godfather of the film, the writer/director of the original, and Return.

JG: Your Fangoria podcast, Casualty Friday, just had its second season finale, right? Will you guys be back for another season?

FR: That is the love of my life, that podcast. Certainly, I hope so. The joy of coming together and hanging out with two of my closest friends, Tiffany Shepis and Kane Hodder - you can’t create anything better than that. The idea behind that, the producers - Natasha Pascetta from Fangoria and Matt Manjourides from The Last Drive In on Shudder - when they said, let's do this, it was really our intention to take off the mask and get real honest. Any topic that’s thrown at us. Even from the last couple of episodes that you can watch on Fangoria’s YouTube - Kane said he never wants to repeat stories, he wants to tell stories he’s never told before. It’s so cool to hear the things that are coming out. We forget that we’re even recording, it’s just the three of us shooting the shit - whether we get emotional, or angry, or excited.

JG: I think that’s what resonates with people - it’s not a scripted show, you guys are really friends, and it’s more organic that way.

FR: Very organic. I have no idea what’s gonna come out of any of their mouths. You can hear the honesty. I’m sure sometimes Tiffany wants to punch us in the face because Kane and I get super silly, and she’s very organized, she’s got the topics in front of her, she’s ready, and he and I kinda goof off sometimes. Which is great, because we have the dynamic where she’s our leader. We call ourselves Dumb and Dumber. (Laughs) We’re just completely honest. I look back and think I can’t believe I just said that. But it's from my heart, I’m just being truthful.

JG: What’s your favorite scary movie - what would you recommend for all of us living in isolation right now, that we must watch?

FR: I have so many. I have one that I always say, because it’s my number one from being a kid. People laugh when I say it - in fact James Cullen Bressack, who produced the Jennifer films, laughs when I say - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, the original. It’s a classic. It sort of epitomizes my era, and what scares me, and to me, it looked like a documentary. The acting was sensational with Gunnar and Marilyn Burns, and Edwin Neal as the hitchhiker - it was scary.

There’s so many movies now - Satanic Panic, or The Strangers - or Jaws, The Shining...I really am a lover of all the subgenres, and I love watching new stuff.

JG: It’s hard to pick one when you love so many of them.

FR: That’s why I love going to conventions. I love talking to everyone about movies, and I love meeting the people who are in the movies. It’s a win-win. Beyond anything, I’m super, super grateful. My gratitude is tremendous, for all of this.

 

You can catch Felissa in a myriad of upcoming horror films, including the new meta-horror For Jennifer, On Demand now.

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