Your documentary Screaming
in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era - in a
few words, what is it about (apart from what's already given away in the
title of course)?
It's essentially about what three women (Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley and
Brinke Steven) did with what little was handed
to them, and in turn created a whole new industry and sub-genre. They were
essentially "bodies" on display. The naked shower girls. The
extras. When they were finally given dialogue, and then given bigger
roles, and then given starring roles, they took that moment and the
elements surrounding them and figured their own way to exploit it all. The
movies weren't necessarily making them wealthy, so to bring in additional
cash they learned how to market themselves: trading cards, fan clubs, bars
of soap, 900 #'s... No one had really done that before in terms of women
in the horror film industry. Cheesecake had existed long before them -
they were just the girls who got to have it and eat it too.
The second story being told is about the video boom of the 1980s and how
mom & pop video stores ruled... until big box stores gobbled them up.
But while VHS rentals were at their peak, all the parties involved in this
doc rode that wave of success.
What is it that actually fascinates
you about the scream queens of old, and what prompted you to make your
I think it's just that I was a teenager at
that moment. I'm also obsessed with Debbie Gibson, Madonna, Julie Brown (MTV's
Just Say Julie), Samantha Fox... all those fun ladies of the 80s.
For whatever reason, 1986 - 1990 were the most impressionable of my
life... I was about ages 12 - 16 during the height of all this. I can
specifically say 1986 was the year I got into horror films. It's also the
year my family got a VCR. So I was pouring over the video rental shelves
every few days watching some of the schlockiest movies known to man...
Linnea, Brinke and Michelle were in many of them.
Brinke Stevens, Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley
I love scream queens in general because of their strength. Sometimes they
cower and die in horrible - or silly - ways. But a lot of times they end up
as either the heroine or the bad guy... the one with the upper hand.
Brinke in particular has spent more of her career as vampires and demons
than Victim #3. I had covered what it takes to be a scream queen and
survive the industry itself in Something to Scream About (2004),
and the articles I wrote for Femme Fatales. But it never seemed completely
focused. With Screaming
in High Heels, I wanted to tell a very specific
story, focused on not just these three girls and how they created the
modern interpretation of the "scream queen", but the entire
group of filmmakers they most often worked with - this little band of
thieves who all took the moment and made something out of it. It's a
section of film history that - whether you like the films or not - meant
something... and that is almost completely forgotten today. I wanted to
pay respect to those who'd earned it, because they're still mimicked
today, even though the younger generation doesn't realize it.
With Michelle Bauer, Linnea Quigley and
Brinke Stevens you have brought together the (I think unarguably) biggest
scream queens of their era. How hard was it to get them all for your film,
and did you ever consider others instead?
It actually was
fairly simple. The only one who took some convincing was Michelle, because
she'd been out of the spotlight for so long. But as soon as she knew
everyone else was on board, including the directors and male actors, she
jumped right in.
I had considered bringing in other actresses like Julie Strain, Tiffany
Shepis [Tiffany Shepis
interview - click here] and Debbie Rochon, but decided it would just be too many talking
heads for an hour-long piece. Knowing how much I would cram into that hour
I wanted to remain focused on the six subjects. Jim Wynorksi was actually
supposed to be in it as well but he never showed up for the interview,
which actually is fine because I realized afterwards he never really did
much with Linnea and Brinke the way David DeCoteau and Fred Olen Ray had.
Jim was a big part of creating that image on film (boobs, butts and
blood), but it was often with other women. Again, I had felt Something
to Scream About wasn't focused enough, so to me I think it's better to hear
what it was like to be in that moment from the people themselves, rather
than other people's interpretation of that moment. Does that make sense?
Jason Paul Collum with Brinke Stevens
As far as I
know, prior to Screaming
in High Heels, you have made quite a few features starring Brinke
Stevens. What can you tell us about your earlier collaborations with her?
and simple fact is that I owe my career to Brinke. I moved to Los Angeles
as a scared kid in 1998 and she took me under her wing and introduced me
to all of these people and tried to get me jobs. I've worked more for
David DeCoteau (The Brotherhood) and J.R. Bookwalter (The Dead
than anybody else, and it was Brinke who made that happen. As thanks, I
always write juicy roles specifically for her. I'm kind of a pompous ass
in always assuming she'll say 'yes' ... but she always does.
The first time I hired her was for my short Julia Wept. I paid her a tiny
bit of money and she essentially did it to help me out. I had designed it
as a visual resume to hand out to producers so I could get some directing
jobs... and I did. So there again is Brinke getting my foot in the door. I
got Something to Scream About as a direct result of Julia Wept
included on the Something to Scream About disc from Tempe). Then I wrote her into
October Moon (which was a huge success for Tempe) and October
Moon 2: November Son. Shy of Normal, my lone comedy, was actually a stage play with a group of
college kids. When I optioned the rights to it, I wrote in a new character
- an author who has lost her mojo - just so I could bring Brinke in as the
lead who ties the three stories together. I really, REALLY enjoy giving
Brinke roles that give her something to do. She so often
handed bit parts as psychologists and moms these days that people -
filmmakers - seem to forget she's an actress - and a good one at
that. Give her something to chew on and she'll go to town!
was it like working with these scream queens (and of course your other
interviewees) on Screaming
in High Heels?
Everyone was a delight. The whole
thing was shot in 3 days in Los Angeles. Jay Richardson and Kenneth J.
Hall were actually filmed and interviewed by Anthony Masi (Halloween:
25 Years of Terror) because of scheduling conflicts. So it was quick. But
everyone seemed to be so appreciative - and a bit dismayed - that a
documentary was being made about them. I don't think any of them
realized their own place in film history until they saw the finished
documentary. They initially didn't get it either. Based on their responses
since, they all have been really thankful. I have too, because to sit in a
room with these people I've admired for the better part of 25 years was a
truly awe-inspiring moment for me.
Has working on your film at all
altered your perception of scream queens as such?
really. I've studied them so long and written so much on them as a whole
that the only really new thing I walked away with was how they've all
accepted what they created and the labels they were given - good or bad.
They're all very gracious about their success. No shame at all about the
nudity and the negative reviews or complete refusal by the mainstream to
be acknowledged as legitimate. They enjoy being scream queens.
their budgetary shortcomings and obvious flaws, many of the classic scream
queen movies are reissued again and again to this very day. How would you
explain the continued popularity of these movies?
they keep getting rediscovered because the films wind up getting exposure
in multi-packs and bargain bins. Seriously. And I'm not being rude. A lot
of these girls' movies are being put out at cheap prices, so it's not
really for any kind of effort other than the folks who own the rights
trying to make more money. And that's a good thing.
As for the dedicated fan base, the fact is that these movies are fun.
Campy. Crappy. Scary. Sexy. Whatever end of the genre they fall fall into,
they stick with you because they're not mainstream. I think it's because
the bulk of the work is so eclectic, good or bad. What mainstream movie
follows sorority girls who find an imp in a trophy in a bowling alley and
then get possessed by it? Point made.
of your favourite scream queen movies, and the directors who did scream
queens in general the most justice?
For Brinke, Linnea and
Michelle, obviously Nightmare
Sisters and Sorority
Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. But with other screamers: Stripped
to Kill II (Maria Ford and
Debra Lamb), Sorority House Massacre II (Melissa Moore and Robyn Harris),
of course the Slumber Party Massacre-trilogy... ugh. Too many to mention.
Let's just say I love Felissa Rose, Julie Strain, JJ North...all the Friday
As for who gave them the most exposure: Fred Olen Ray, Roger Corman [Roger
Corman bio - click here],
David DeCoteau, Jim Wynorksi, Charles Band...
If you had to make a
sequel to Screaming
in High Heels in, let's say, 25 years and you had to choose three
of today's horror actresses as your scream queens, who do you think you
would you choose?
Hands down Debbie Rochon and Tiffany
Shepis [Tiffany Shepis
interview - click here], and probably Felissa Rose. It's funny because they're not
necessarily the same as Linnea, Brinke and Michelle image-wise... they've
amped it up somewhat. And Felissa came into it so long after Sleepaway
Camp - like, 20 years later! But each of them have taken what the original
three did and spun it into their own versions of continued
success... that's the key. Being able to not just mimic the image, but to
make it their own.
Let's go back to the beginnings of
your career: What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you
receive any formal training on the subject?
formal training. I simply was a lonely teenager who spent his weekends at
first watching a plethora of movies - then for whatever reason began
studying them. I remember the moment I decided to become a filmmaker. I
was sitting in my bedroom rewatching Friday
the 13th for probably the 30th
time and first realized that I knew the names in the end credits by heart
- I'm talking caterer and gaffer... then at that moment I knew I wanted to
see my name in the end credits. Not necessarily in a key
crew role - I just wanted to see my name somewhere on the screen and know
that I was a part of that creative process.
So I taught myself how to write a script from books at the library, bought
the book Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car Prices by Rick Schmidt
(which I reference to this day), gathered a group of friends and a
camcorder and started making shorts on video. By the time I was offered Mark
of the Devil 666 I had learned some sort of skills. It's a piece of
shit, but when you consider I never sat in on a single filmmaking class
(short of a film theory class), I'd have to say it's not the worst ever
(contrary to IMDb). I'm still learning. Every movie I make teaches me
debut as writer/director was I believe Mark of the Devil 666: The
Moralist. A few words about that one, and lessons learned from it?
not a good movie, but to have started with $400 and a group of non-actors
and no formal training ... it's at least bearable. And it taught me that I could
make a full-length movie. There's a marked improvement between Mark of
the Devil 666 and my second movie 5 Dark Souls, which is still shot-on-video
and made for $400, but it's visually and story-wise much more solid. I
also learned that when you don't pay people to show up they often don't
and then you spend 5 months filming the movie instead of 5 days...
films of yours you'd like to talk about?
I just wrapped Safe
Inside, which actually reunites many of my 5 Dark Souls actors for
the first time in 15 years. Safe Inside follows a guy (Chris Harder,
Extraordinary Measures) who has inherited a house from his mother (Judith
O'Dea, Night of the
Living Dead), and during his first night alone he starts
to believe there's something inside with him. His best friend Betsy
(Brinke Stevens) is his only source of sanity throughout the evening.
I think I'm going to be really proud of Safe Inside. All the elements just
fell into place between actors and crew and events during filming. It was
possibly the easiest shoot I've had as a director. It's also probably my
most mainstream-ish film. The October Moon-films have a lot of fans, but
they're also limited in who will watch them. This is just a
straight-forward possible monster-in-the-house suspense movie, somewhat in
the tradition of the 1970s thrillers like When a Stranger Calls,
Eyes of Laura Mars and all those Dan Curtis tele-movies.
Otherwise I'm telling folks to watch for the first time on DVD release of 5
Dark Souls. I had my editor Derrick Carey clean it up, so it's coming
out as a 15th Anniversary special edition this fall. You reserve it on amazon now! That's my not so subtle hint. But for whatever reason it's
another one that people are always contacting me about. So I figured
between it being an anniversary year and regrouping the cast for Safe
Inside, it made sense to put it back out now.
You also did
lots of assistant directing for David DeCoteau, who's actually one of your
interviewees in Screaming
in High Heels. What can you tell us about his approach to
filmmaking, and what have you learned working with him?
David I learned how to make films quick and efficient. He goes in, gets a
master shot and a close up on each actor and moves on. He can make a movie
in - hold on - 1 day (!) because he has it down to a science. He's a
master of catchy titles and hiring hot young actors. It still takes me
more time to make a single feature (Safe Inside is my shortest fiction
film with a 5 day shoot). The other thing I learned from working with him
is how to manage a film set. Keep everyone in order and moving along since
so much is being crammed into a short amount of time.
making movies, you have also written quite a few articles and books on
B-movies. What can you tell us about Jason Paul Collum the writer?
write at an 8th Grade level. Seriously. I write pop culture and fluff. I
enjoy meeting my heroes - the actors and directors I grew up watching and
admiring. I like to interview people. My writing fits perfectly into the
pages of Femme Fatales. You'll likely never see an article written
by me in the pages of Time. But I'd like to think I'd fit well into
People. Here's the catch: I don't want to be in Time. I'd
rather be in People. Whether writing for journalism, fiction,
children's books or film, I simply want my reader to be entertained. I
like to teach - but not weigh the reader down. Kind of the same as a B-movie.
future projects (in whatever medium) you'd like to talk about?
from Safe Inside, I'm just completing my first children's book titled
Egg. I'm doing my (supposedly) final edit, and will start shipping it
off to agents in the coming weeks, so watch for that in the future.
who inspire you?
Brian De Palma (Carrie), Wes Craven
(Deadly Blessing), Alfred Hitchcock....
Your favourite movies?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
1 - Carrie (1976)
2 - Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (1988)
3 - Moulin Rouge (2001)
4 - Friday the 13th, Part 2 (1981)
5 - The Color Purple (1985)
6 - Edward
7 - The Electric Grandmother (1982)
8 - Steel Magnolias (1989)
9 - Finding Nemo (2004)
10 - Precious (2009) & Little Darlings (1980) (tie)
and of course, films you really deplore?
Pet Sematary II
(simply awful), House
at the Edge of the Park (too pointlessly vulgar),
and I used to say Crazy
Fat Ethel II, but now I kinda like it... and I'm
generally not a fan of torture porn. I like to be scared, not grossed out.
movies website, Facebook, whatever else?
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
think I'm good...
for the interview!
No, Thank You!