Thursday, February 11, 2010
Interview with Journalist Elaine Lamkin
Elaine does not recall a time when she DIDN’T love horror – she was freaked out by a Don Knotts (!!) movie, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, when she was pretty young – but that didn’t dissuade her from reading Dracula when she was around 8 years of age. Halloween was (and still is) her favorite holiday although she no longer cries when the “Big Day” is over as she did as a child. Tears up, maybe, but does not cry.
Elaine got into the horror journalist biz after seeing the 2005 period horror film, Dead Birds, and contacting first-time director, Alex Turner, to thank him for scaring the bejesus out of her. THEN she started hunting for a place that just MIGHT post her interview of Turner and writer Simon Barrett. Enter Bloody-Disgusting and Movies.ca – she split the interview in two and both sites posted her very first interview. The rest is history.
Elaine has contributed to such sites as Bloody-Disgusting, Movies.ca, Really Scary, Severed Cinema, Icons of Fright, Horror.About.com, Horror-Movies.ca and currently contributes horror book reviews (and the occasional movie review and/or interview) to Dread Central, Fatally-Yours and HorrorReanimated. She also had a film review published in Rue Morgue magazine. She lives in the deep, dark gothic South with WAAAY too many books, several cats and an interior décor that is not as Goth as one would expect.
Fatally Yours: How did you fall in love with the horror genre?
Elaine Lamkin: Good question. I honestly do not remember a time when I didn’t love all things spooky. I read Dracula when I was about 8 years old and started on Stephen King as soon as I discovered him. I also LOVED watching shows like Dark Shadows and the movies a local TV station would show after school – they were mostly horror: Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, The Birds, The House That Wouldn’t Die, The Other. And I would cry every year when Halloween was over. My parents did not know what to do with me.
Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?
Elaine Lamkin: Horror to me means “escape”. When you’re having a bad day/week/month/life, watching a horror movie can put things in perspective (“Gee, at least I’M not being chased by a chainsaw-wielding maniac”). And I enjoy the adrenaline rush most of the better horror films give you. I suppose in a way it is also very cathartic.
Fatally Yours: How and when did you start writing about the horror genre?
Elaine Lamkin: I started writing about horror after I saw the 2005 horror gem, Dead Birds, directed by Alex Turner and written by Simon Barrett. I was SO impressed by this period horror (it takes place in south Alabama during the Civil War and I am a Southerner), that upon finding out that this was Alex’s first film, I e-mailed him about possibly doing an interview. He agreed and brought Simon on-board and we did the interview. THEN, I had to find a site to post it. I ended up dividing the interview in two and sent one part to the Canadian site, Movies.ca, and the other to Bloody-Disgusting (I just liked the name). The rest is history.
Fatally Yours: What is one thing you’ve done within the horror genre that you are most proud of?
Elaine Lamkin: Probably getting my first paying gig when I wrote a review for Rue Morgue magazine. The movie sucked but it was an “in” for me. Oh, and having my boss at Bloody-Disgusting call me from a horror con in Chicago back in 2006 to tell me I was a “name”. That people at the convention were asking about me. That was VERY cool.
Fatally Yours: How would you convince people who aren’t horror fans to give the genre a try?
Elaine Lamkin: I deal with this on an almost daily basis. I had a friend who just thought that anyone who was a fan of horror was a sick puppy (the film Urban Legends scared her. I rest my case.). Anyway, she took it upon herself to watch The Devil’s Rejects and she told me after viewing the movie that it had “no redeeming qualities” (coming from her, no big surprise there). THEN, she asked me if I would recommend she watch Hostel!! I should have told her to “go ahead, you’ll LOVE it”, but I didn’t.
However, another non-horror fan friend LOVED JT Petty’s The Burrowers and Fabrice du Welz’s Vinyan when I showed them to her.
Some people are open to trying horror out, many others think it’s a waste of time and brain cells (and I feel sorry for those people).
I guess there’s very little I can do to convince someone. All I can do is recommend films/books/etc. and hope for the best.
Fatally Yours: In your opinion, what constitutes a good horror review? What guidelines do you follow when reviewing something?
Elaine Lamkin: Interesting question. I suppose a good horror review, for a film, would give you the bare bones story synopsis sans spoilers and, if straight to DVD, also tell you what extras are on the disc.
For a book, again a synopsis to get people’s horror juices flowing but NO spoilers. I also like to see the cover art of a book I’m reviewing (I suppose I do judge some books by their cover).
I don’t know that I have any “guidelines” other than some technical ones to help my editors out when I submit something to them. I just try to get across how I felt about the movie/book and try to do so in a “friendly” voice.
Fatally Yours: Do you feel women in horror get the proper recognition when compared to their male counterparts?
Elaine Lamkin: I think it’s getting better. There definitely seem to be more female horror journalists than when I got started back in 2005. And women seem to be making up the majority of the horror filmgoers. It WAS a “boys’ club” but the women are making strides.
But there ARE still some “bimbos” out there who continue to embarrass those of us who take this seriously. I say if you can’t spell, you have no business being a journalist.
Fatally Yours: As a woman who writes about horror, have you found it harder to be taken seriously in a genre that seems to be dominated by males?
Elaine Lamkin: No. I feel like I was accepted from the beginning, being the only full-time female writer at Bloody-Disgusting. And when I met people like Spooky Dan Walker and the BIG names at the one horror convention I have attended so far, everyone was just lovely. Plus, I know my stuff – grew up on horror so I wasn’t some “fan girl” hoping to get in good with the film industry like some people I have met.
Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed a change in women’s roles within horror whether it be roles in horror films, women behind the camera or women writers?
Elaine Lamkin: In films, the roles for women seem to be getting stronger. I absolutely LOVE Neil Marshall’s The Descent as the cast is all-female and some tough females at that. I know there is still that mindset of brainless, big-breasted bimbos taking off their clothes at the drop of a hat in horror films but I think with the success of films like The Descent, MAYBE that long-running trend will fade away.
And there have been some amazing films directed by women: Antonia Bird’s Ravenous, Mary Lambert’s Pet Sematary and Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark spring to mind immediately.
In the writing genre, there have always been strong female voices: early Poppy Z. Brite, early Anne Rice, Elizabeth Massie, Rhodi Hawk, Cherie Priest, Caitlín Kiernan, Tanith Lee, Charlaine Harris (for the True Blood fans, of which I count myself one), Sarah Langan and several others I’m forgetting.
Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you admire?
Elaine Lamkin: Real women? I admire Axelle Carolyn as she started out as an amazing horror journalist and parlayed that into a career as an actor as well as a published horror author. I also admire Fatally-Yours’ Sarah Jahier for starting her own website devoted to all things horror. And I can’t forget Jovanka Vuckovic who did one hell of a job as editor-in-chief of Rue Morgue magazine for…five years? All strong, incredibly talented women.
Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you to keep writing about horror?
Elaine Lamkin: I simply love horror and have since I can remember. Plus, I would like to eventually write a book (fiction or non-fiction) in the horror genre.
As for inspiration, that would have to be any and all films, books, etc., be they good or bad (the bad ones REALLY inspire me to want to write a better story of my own).
Influences for me would definitely be Stephen King, Dan Simmons, the late Michael McDowell and early Robert McCammon. I grew up reading these guys and if I could write something even a quarter as good as the “worst” thing any of them wrote, I would be happy.
Fatally Yours: What are your favorite horror films and books?
Elaine Lamkin: THAT’S a tough question! Films: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (both versions), The Changeling, Session 9, The Woman in Black, The Descent, Trick ‘r Treat, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, The Birds, Dead Birds, Carnival of Souls, The Devil’s Rejects, The Orphanage, The Devil’s Backbone, Frontiére(s), Ils and many more.
Books: Stephen King, Dan Simmons (especially Summer of Night and The Terror), Stewart O’Nan’s A Prayer for the Dying (someone PLEASE option this book and do it justice!!), Thomas Tryon’s The Other, Michael McDowell’s The Blackwater Saga, Edward Lee, Sarah Langan, Tim Curran, Robert McCammon, Rhodi Hawk, Cherie Priest, Joe R. Lansdale, Thomas Ligotti, Phil Rickman.
Fatally Yours: Outside of horror what do you enjoy doing?
Elaine Lamkin: I have several projects I’m working on: a biography (eventually) on Madame Delphine LaLaurie, the Elizabeth Bathory of New Orleans, possibly one on Elizabeth herself and I’m also working on several short stories I would LOVE to see accepted into an anthology. And I read EVERYTHING, unless I’m buried under a pile of horror books that I have to read and review. The number of books in my library is shocking. And my library is VERY eclectic – everything from gangsters of the 1930s to medical textbooks to the history of costume, cookbooks, mysteries, historical novels, foreign language books…you name it, I probably have it (or did at one time).
Fatally Yours: What are your goals for yourself within the horror genre?
Elaine Lamkin: I would like to eventually get a paying gig (wouldn’t we all?) but until then, I will continue to churn out the reviews and interviews. I am also starting a “boutique” publicist company so if anyone out there needs my expertise within (or without) the horror genre – film or books – to get into the game as well, just contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Fatally Yours: Where can people find your reviews/more info on you?
Elaine Lamkin: Googling my name will take you to a lot of my interviews. The bulk of them are on Bloody-Disgusting but I also have reviews/interviews on Dread Central, Fatally-Yours, HorrorReanimated, Severed Cinema, Really Scary, Icons of Fright and, if you can find them, Movies.ca. I also have a website on MySpace, which should give you a taste of what I like as well as a Facebook page. I’m working on having my OWN website soon (fingers crossed).