Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Interview with Horror Critic Molly Celaschi

Molly Celaschi got her start when she was hired for the Creature Feature In the Cellar for Comcast.

Molly has worked on the feature films RetarDead, The Spook Show, Mass Acre Hill, and the upcoming Don’t Let’s Start. Her biggest role to date was for the feature film PocaHauntus as Assistant Director/ Producer with a cameo. The film is available on DVD on Amazon, NetFlix, Vudu, and more.

Molly has contributed writing and videos for publications like HorrorYearbook.com, FearZone.com, 2Snaps.TV, and Ultra Violent magazine. She has made appearances at the Spike TV Scream Awards, Fuse Fangoria Chainsaw Awards, EA Games Studio, and the Screamfest Film Festival. Other contributions include running the SiliCon Short Film Festival 2007 and managing the Horror Division for the SiliCon convention. She has also assisted in writing for the Another Hole in the Head film festival and the Dead by Dawn film festival.

Molly attended Kent State University studying English with a minor in Psychology.

Fatally Yours: How and when did you fall in love with horror? 

Molly Celaschi:  I think I fell in love twice. It was love at first sight when I was a young kid and then a more mature appreciation as an adult. One of the first movies I ever saw was Squirm, and I ran around trying to scare people and calling them “worm-faces.” I think I was about 5 then. And my dad didn’t stop me; in fact, he encouraged me to watch more! Friday night was our movie night, so I’d get my pizza and 3 movie rentals. I think at one point I rented out the entire stock at my local family video store. This is partly explains why I have branched out into foreign horror and out-of-print titles. I’ve seen just about everything now. I took a bit of a break during the college years when I was drunk and stupid, but came to my senses when I rediscovered horror in my mid-twenties and haven’t stopped since.

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you? 

Molly Celaschi: I think the beautiful thing about the horror genre is that it means different things to different people and yet has an amazing way of connecting everyone. For me especially, it depends on my mood and type of horror. Sometimes I view it simply as mindless entertainment. Sometimes it makes me laugh, like with horror comedies or trashy B exploitation films. Sometimes they genuinely scare me (a rarity now). Other times it is a means of confronting something I wouldn’t be able to otherwise deal with. So if I have a bad day, I can watch people get taken out and their blood spray across the screen, which is really no different than watching an action film or playing video game. Or if I want to confront something I cannot in real life, like certain fear I may have, this is the way to go.

Fatally Yours: What are others’ reactions when you tell them you are involved in the horror genre?

Molly Celaschi: Shock mostly, then confusion, then disgust. Part of that is based purely on my looks. I’m a chick and a cute one at that. I don’t have a goth or punk look. I look like the girl next door, so to have someone like me say I watch extremely violent bloody films; it makes people scratch their heads. It isn’t even a matter of “Why?” but now “Why would someone like you?” So I have to explain what I like and what I do and all the “Whys” behind it. When they finally understand it, they are just grossed out. They probably think to love horror is to have a mental problem. I am “normal” in every other aspect of my life. But I like entertainment, I love movies, and I have no problem confronting my fears. I think it takes a strong person to acknowledge what scares them. I’m not going to hide from it or pretend it doesn’t exist. In fact, I want the ability to laugh at some of these frightening things and the absurdity behind it all.

Fatally Yours: Why do you think the horror genre has primarily been a man’s domain?

Molly Celaschi: Because they have penises. I’m kidding. You know, one would guess that it is because men like horror more, but I don’t think that is true. Most of a woman’s life revolves around her being constantly horrified, usually by the mystery of their own bodily functions. If anything, a woman knows a hell of a lot more about blood than a man does. Most men can’t even stand to hear a conversation about a woman’s period and we have to live it! And I’m not going to even get into childbirth, pain, transformation, etc.

But this question ties into the couple below. It is mainly because men control everything else. Why would horror be any different?

Fatally Yours: As a woman, do you think you are viewed differently than your male counterparts in the horror genre? If so, how and why?

Molly Celaschi: Yes. As a journalist writing for websites and magazines, I think it actually took reading a review or interview or article for some to even believe I did this. You wouldn’t believe how many times I was asked if I was dating the editors. That happened a lot when I first started, before people really knew me. Doesn’t happen anymore. But I was extremely offended by that. Not only was this implying that I had to sleep with a guy to get a job, but that I couldn’t possibly have any interest or talent in this genre whatsoever. Beyond that? I worked on the horror feature PocaHauntus. I helped produce that damn thing from start to finish 100%. But the only part that people notice is that I was onscreen for about 2 minutes. And that is fine. But I worked my ass off and expect credit for making that film, which is about 5 cents worth for those that have actually seen it! But seriously, I have had some people interested in that film when they heard that it was directed by a female and produced by a female. But I have also had some men say “Directed by a woman? Produced by a woman? No thank you.” And as ridiculous as that quote sounds, it was actually uttered to me by a man as he visited the PocaHauntus table at my first Fangoria show to promote it. Oh and if I mention I’m at all related to the movie biz, the first question I get from males is, “Are you an actress?”

Fatally Yours: Even though women seem to be getting more and more involved behind the scenes in horror, why do you think there are less female horror directors, writers, producers, etc. in the genre than males?

Molly Celaschi: Because there are less female directors, writers, producers, etc. in all genres. It isn’t horror that is sexist; it is Hollywood in general. I could write a novel based on that alone.

And, the sad part is, I feel there are more men in horror willing to give women a chance than there are in other genres. But because horror is the Black Sheep of the bunch, we are all already typecast. It is easy to say, “Horror is bad, you are bad, women cannot get a job in this genre because it is demeaning to women…” But I don’t think that is it at all. The majority of the people claiming horror is sexist are the ones that generally do not like the genre to begin with. It is just one more reason to hate it.

You need women for horror period. One of the selling points of a horror film is that it has women in it. So we are a commodity and a necessity. But not necessarily in the way we want or have complete control of. We are not going to be offered the director seat or a writing gig right off the bat, but we would be offered an acting role without even auditioning easily.

Take films like Carrie, The Descent, or Grace. All of those were written and directed by males, but they had extremely strong female characters dealing with female-centric issues. Carrie was an outcast with momma issues and a severe lack of tampons. The Descent was an all-female trip to reconnect with one another and do manly things like fall down holes and swing on ropes. Grace was about a woman raising a problem baby on her own after her idiot husband died. These were all great films, the first two of which are classics at this point. Now flip the script. Say those 3 films were all written and directed by females and marketed as such. How popular do you think they would have been? How pretty would the reviews have been? Men (and even some women) would have torn them apart. They would have hated them upon reading the first 2 lines of the synopses alone. But Carrie is cool because it is Brian F’ing DePalma and Stephen F’ing King. The Descent is cool because Marshall’s Dog Soldiers rocked. Grace is cool because it has a bloody baby and is directed by a man covered in tattoos.

What about Jennifer’s Body? I swear I was the only person on the planet to give that a glowing review. I loved it. It was written by a female and directed by a female and was about mostly females and their lady issues. It was exceptionally well-written and tons of fun. And what happened? It did poorly at the box office and got terrible reviews for the most part. That is a shame. Flip the script again. Say men wrote and directed that and it was marketed as such. I think audience attendance would have been double the number. Why? Because a man writing and directing Megan Fox sounds like a much better idea.

Fatally Yours: I loved Jennifer’s Body too! What elements can female filmmakers/authors/journalists/etc. bring to the horror genre that are lacking in males’ perspectives?

Molly Celaschi: A filmmakers and authors, they can at least give their female characters a voice and some personality. They are not just pin ups and screamers. I think females in general are more intuitive and sensitive; they would probably bring more personality to the male characters as well. As female journalists, we would probably cover a broader range of films as well as have a broader prospective. When I was reviewing horror movies, I was complimented most by my male counterparts; mainly because I love a dirty movie just as much as they do, but I also have the ability to point out things they may have missed during their viewing.

Fatally Yours: Do you think it’s harder for women to be taken seriously in a genre that seems to be dominated by males? 

Molly Celaschi: Yes, for the most part. To get the start, it is hard for women. But if the genre is dominated by males, and then a female makes a great film/novel etc., wouldn’t it garner more attention? In some ways it almost benefits females. But I guess if that were really the case there would have been a huge shift a long time ago.

Horror actresses probably have an advantage over actors. I think female journalists probably have an advantage as well if not just for the novelty. But female writers and directors get the short end for sure.

Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed a change in women’s roles in the industry? 

Molly Celaschi: I think the percentage of female directors, authors, journalists, etc. is increasing. Just look at the surge of vampire fiction by female authors. There were not too many female journalists but now they have Pretty-Scary.net, which is female-run and written. Even yourself, with Fatally-Yours, was started by a female. I think the actresses have it better too. The majority of female roles in horror films in the ‘70s were relegated to the woman who takes her clothes off, the innocent good girl that needs a strong man to protect her, or the negligent/ evil mother. That is pretty depressing. But I think the roles have at least branched out beyond that, even though those roles are still plentiful these days too. And in addition to the acting, some actresses get the chance to write or produce the production as well. A good friend of mine acts in dozens of movies, but her main passion is music. This gives her the opportunity to score the films she stars in.

Fatally Yours: Do you ever get annoyed at how women in horror movies always end naked or with their clothes ripped off? Do monsters not like men’s abs?!

Molly Celaschi: Yes and No for different reasons. I like nudity, male and female. The issue I have is not with nudity. It is more that it is typically females getting naked, and for no particular reason. It depends on different factors. If I am watching an exploitation flick, I would expect gratuitous pointless nudity. But I hate watching a fairly good movie where I am attempting to follow the plot and a woman just stops by to say Hi and get naked. That aggravates the shit out of me. And no, it is not fair either. It is rare to have male nudity in any genre of film.

Fatally Yours: What are your top three movies with gratuitous sex scenes?

Molly Celaschi: Oooh what a fun question! First and foremost, The Perils of Gwendoline. I love that movie. It is hysterical and brilliant and just all around ridiculous. It is a love story at its core, but it also happens to have about 100 naked bald ladies utilizing strange apparatuses and, what I can only describe as, futuristic treadmills.

Barbarella. Okay so there are not what you would call “gratuitous” sex scenes, but she does float in outer space naked, make it her mission to have sex with any man who helps her, and then gets raped by a giant piano. Awesome film.

91/2 Weeks. Okay so this one catches a lot of flack for being, well, not so good. But that is beside the point. Some of the scenes are hot. Mickey Rourke doesn’t have his infamous busted face yet. And after all the male-domination, it is the woman who comes out on top. He declares his love for her. She tells him he is pathetic and then walks away. A happy ending!

Fatally Yours: What horror movie would you say is equally fair in terms of men being objectified or at least, losing the same amount of clothes?

Molly Celaschi: Slaughter High was a good one. You see full frontal male business. Sleepaway Camp, although I guess you could debate that one. I don’t really believe that men are objectified in horror films, so this is a difficult one to answer. Although I do recall that men seemed equally angry at the new Friday the 13th as women did. A lot of complaints I heard (not taking into account the story or the un-Jason-like kills), was the depiction of the males. They were portrayed as compulsive-masturbators, philanderers, dickheads, and just all around retards. So I guess men don’t really appreciate being objectified either.

Fatally Yours: Do you feel you’ve become desensitized to stereotypical scenes in horror like the half-naked girl screaming and running for her life in slow motion? Or are these types of familiar horror tropes still effective and necessary? 

Molly Celaschi: No, I don’t think I could ever be desensitized to that. An image like that will always get someone’s attention one way or the other. Nobody is going to look at a naked woman running and not feel something. Which is why it is still used to this day. Not only is seeing a jiggling woman sexy, but to see a woman in her most vulnerable state needing help will illicit some type of response. It’s like if you saw a baby crying or a dog get kicked. You just want to help. You know it’s fake, but it works on a visceral level and you just want the pain to stop.

And I don’t think that a half-naked woman screaming is “necessary.” If someone feels it is necessary to put that in their film, then I’m afraid they don’t have much else to offer the audience.

Fatally Yours: Do you feel that other people view women as being “soft” and not able to endure horror as well as men? How do you fight this stereotypical view?

Molly Celaschi: I usually fight with my fists, but I don’t think that’s what you mean. The people that view women as “soft” are men. And I don’t even think they really believe that. I think they want to give this image of soft women, so that men can feel more powerful. You know those scenes where the girl gets scared in a movie theater and cuddles up to the man and he wraps his arm around her and smiles? Bullshit. I have never in my life done that. But I can sure as hell remember the times a man came to me to be held.

The majority of guys I have dated were not horror fans at all. Getting them to watch one was like pulling teeth. I remember this one guy in particular let me rent The Strangers even though he was terrified of it. During one scene, he ran out of the room because he couldn’t stand the building tension. He reappeared 5 minutes later at the side of the TV demanded to know what happened while he was hiding like a coward. I told him if he wanted to know, he would have to watch the movie like a big boy and figure it out on his own. Now is that “soft”?

Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you admire and why?

Molly Celaschi: Kathryn Bigelow because she has a better career than most male directors. She is inspirational. Debbie Rochon. This woman is actually a great actress, yet will do low budget films, sometimes for no pay, just because she loves the craft. And she is kind. Jill Shoelen because she has starred in so many cool slasher films and has an adorable look to her. Adrienne Barbeau. Great look, starred in many cool films, and married John Carpenter. Debra Hill, a great producer and backed most of the Halloween series and went on to produce Hollywood box office hits. Mary Shelley. She wrote one of the greatest gothic tales in history and played with Lord Byron in ghost story competitions. God, there are probably a dozen more, but these come to mind immediately.

Fatally Yours: What advice would you give women who want to become involved in the horror genre?

Molly Celaschi: Start. You put one foot in front of the other and you’ll be surprised how fast the other will follow.

You want to act? Then go find something local and do it for the experience. You might even get paid. Keep your clothes on. Be an extra in your spare time, collect your $75 for the day. Meet everyone and be nice and collect business cards. Don’t let them touch you inappropriately. Audition for main and supporting roles. Show up on time, know your lines, treat everyone with respect including the garbage man. Look nice, don’t be bitchy. Be professional and courteous. Expect long hours, labor through it. But don’t let anyone degrade you, alone or in public. Don’t starve yourself and don’t do coke. That’s gross. So is smoking, but I won’t hold that against you.

You want to write? Then write something. If it is a script, register it with the WGA and then send it to whoever will read it. Get at least 5 varied opinions. Submit your script to festivals. If it is a book, research publishers and send it to hell and back. Expect to not hear anything from 99% of the places you submit for a solid 6 months. Cry. Write something else in the mean time. Now repeat the process.

You want to direct? Don’t buy a camera and don’t spend thousands on film school. Borrow a camera or make some cute boy shoot your short film for you. Make it for nothing, but make it look good. Submit it to festivals for the attention, but more importantly, show it to people with money. At this point you will have learned that good audio and lighting make one hell of a difference. Now make a feature. Make it for next to nothing and make it look good. Send copies to every website and magazine you can think of. Submit to festivals. Submit to distribution companies with a press kit including synopsis, cast & crew bios, full list of credits, quotes, reviews, and anything else you can think of. Hold a screening somewhere. You can make about 50% profit of ticket sales, depending on the location. Never stopping talk about your film. Not in a million years. It has been made. Pat yourself on the back. Now go make another one.

You want to be a journalist? Write a few sample reviews or articles. Submit them with a cover letter to whoever will accept them. You will most likely get hired for nothing, maybe perks. Don’t let that deter you. Use it to your advantage. Gather as many contacts and freebies as you possibly can. Interview people. Film yourself interviewing people. Write original articles. Write “Best of” and “Top Ten” articles. Find your voice. Every writer has a distinct writing style. Act like a professional writer even if you are not getting paid. If you are published, congratulations, you are now a professional. Don’t quit your day job. Save your best work. You never know when you might need this. Make a box of 200 business cards for $25 and pass them out to people you want contacting you later. Ignore the weirdos. Write some more. Travel to conventions and film festivals. You will get in for free with your new spiffy press pass. I hope you can pay your rent. Now submit to places that actually pay.

Fatally Yours: What’s the last horror movie that made you think “this is some effed up shiznit!”? 

Molly Celaschi: Well if you mean just disgusting me, I’d say some Cat III (Hong Kong) films have done the trick. The last movie I saw that stuck with me for a while was Martyrs. I guarantee this is a movie that will make people talk. You cannot watch that and walk away with no opinion. I recall watching Lifeforce recently and being appalled at the depiction of women in it. I don’t mean nudity. I mean that the basis for the plot is that beautiful women are evil and make men do bad things. The implications were sickening.

Fatally Yours: What’s one horror movie you think is HIGHLY overrated?

Molly Celaschi: The Halloween series. I just never got into Michael Myers at all. He just didn’t have a face or a voice or anything that interested me at all. He just stood around looking confused a lot. Even the leading ladies in the films are pretty boring. Just being a tall man with a knife doesn’t make you scary. At least Jason moved and had a strange back story and you could see his face at some points. Freddy, Leatherface, Pinhead? Now that is what I call character. Oh and Scream annoyed me.

Fatally Yours: What are your favorite horror films, books, etc.?

Molly Celaschi: For the movies, my absolute favorites are Dead Alive, the Evil Dead series, the Nightmare on Elm Street series, Psycho (original), Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original), The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Let the Right One In, Martyrs, Phenomena, and Deep Red. I have a soft spot in my heart for really goofy films too. I’m proud to say I own these gems: The Boogens, Mountaintop Motel Massacre, Return to Horror High, The Exterminator II, The Clown Murders, and Night of the Demon.

My Favorite directors: Tim Burton, Chan Park Wok, Dario Argento, David Mendes, Wes Craven, George Romero, and Tobe Hooper. My favorite horror video games are, of course, the Resident Evil series, Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, Indigo Prophecy, Scratches (PC), Parasite Eve II. Books are I Am Legend, Frankenstein, and The Walking Dead (graphic novel).

You can find Molly’s writings on horroryearbook.com and find more info on PocaHauntus on IMDB.

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