by Alan Kelly
Proving both a rewarding and immersive experience is film programmer and journalist Kier-la Janisse’s punishing film study/memoir hybrid House of Psychotic Women. Self-examination via the other in exploitation & horror cinema is arguably a controversial (and potentially divisive to readers) way to approach non-fiction film analysis, albeit a risk worth taking (is there any other kind?) with the author’s life-long pathological adherence to cult-ish celluloid paying off. So far, the book has received uniformly positive reviews, a glowing endorsement from the late writer Iain Banks and introduced a whole new audience – and not only those affiliated with the broad range of film circles which the author’s obsession has occupied over the years – to the depth, scale and psychological carnage of Kier-la’s life and brilliant work.
Janisse has penned a selection of self-reflective essays (Don’t worry, this isn’t just the one-note ramblings of a narcissistic trauma junky; Janisse cements her conclusions/arguments with expert film analysis and razor-sharp feminist rhetoric) on archetypal female psychotics in cult cinema, offering hardcore cinephiles (and horror purists) even those with an encyclopaedic knowledge of many of the films a meta-driven overview (an opportunity to explore the minutiae of each character by way of painful autobiographical exhumation) of the cinematic ghosts in the historical narrative of exploitation cinema.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Montreal native would end up carving out a career in the blood-and-guts-caked horror film industry with her past & present journalism credits including writing stints with Fangoria and Rue Morgue, respectively. She also happens to be a regular guest at international events like Adele Hartley’s Dead by Dawn in Edinburgh and a short film submissions wrangler at Fantasia and one of the most talented and respected people working in the genre right now…
By Michael Varrati
I will totally admit that I have a thing about witches.
Like most people growing up in the age of modern pop culture, my first exposure to these hexy broads came in the form of Margaret Hamilton’s iconic Wicked Witch of the West. As countless generations of children had been captivated by the magic of The Wizard of Oz, I’m sure my parents thought they were doing a good thing by having a family movie night to show me Judy’s musical adventure.
Of course, they couldn’t possibly know when the film started, nor could I, that major life trauma was mere minutes away. In their defense, everything was going rather swimmingly at the onset. The movie was colorful, the songs were fun, and these little people were singing about candy-centric organizations. These are all things with which a little kid will have no problem getting on board. However, suddenly, in the midst of all this Technicolor gaiety, a flash of smoke and wicked cackle brought my little world crashing down.
Interrupting Dorothy’s gleeful bopping in the most epic way, the green specter of Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch was revealed for the first time…
…and I freaked the fuck out.
By Michael Varrati
Hail, bloody Marys!
June is upon us, and for most of the continental United States (Illinois is in question as of late), the month long celebration of Gay Pride has begun!
This June is especially gay for those of us here at Midnight Mass HQ, because in addition to our usual celebrating, Peaches is currently gearing up to welcome horror’s most illustrious male scream queen, Mark Patton, to join her for a June 22nd screening of A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. Long celebrated for its overt gay subtext, Nightmare 2 is the perfect flick for blood-thirsty gays who are looking to add some chills to their Pride thrills.
Of course, Nightmare 2 isn’t the only horror film out there that adds a little queer to its fear, so today we’re going to delve a little deeper into some homo-horrors and provide for you the absolute best assortment of horror films to give your Pride party a little zest.
Luckily, as multi-faceted as my friendship with Peaches Christ may be, the one thing above all else that we share in common is our love of silver screen scares. As such, this article provided the two of us the marvelous opportunity to sit down and do what we ghoulfriends do best: Gab about gore.
Of course, beyond Midnight Mass, Peaches is no slouch when it comes to injecting a bit of the old homosexual hijinks into a genre flick. Her own movie, All About Evil (directed by her alter-ego, Joshua Grannell) saw drag queens and camp icons alike join together to face off against a murderous character played by Natasha Lyonne, and the film has already inspired a number of cult screenings worldwide. Of course, humility dictates that we shouldn’t include it in our list, but I’m going to give it an honorable mention. After all, this is Peaches’ site, and furthermore, it’s a damn good movie, which is something I’d say even if I wasn’t part of the PC team. Besides, Christ gives so much for us all, I think watching All About Evil this month is a good way to give back to Christ.
By Michael Varrati
Watching the kaleidoscopic fever dream that is Rob Fatal’s La Bamba 2: Hell is a Drag leaves the viewer with the indelible impression that the very zeitgeist is having a revolution.
As the title suggests, La Bamba 2 is something of a spiritual sequel to the 1987 film starring Lou Diamond Phillips, which, in of itself, is a bit of a conundrum. After all, how does one make a sequel to a film that is based on such true, extremely finite events as the life of Richie Valens? If you’re Rob Fatal, you do it with panache, surrealism, and no small amount of camp.
La Bamba 2, which will have its world premiere at the San Francisco Underground Short Film Festival (hosted by our own Peaches Christ and Sam Sharkey), is as much an ode to Valens as it is to Fatal’s own personal and cinematic explorations of self and culture. Moreover, it is a film that isn’t confined by any one set of rules, utilizing the biography of an icon to explore the hopes and dreams of an individual seeking an identity of his own.
The plot of La Bamba 2 mostly concerns itself with the character of Rob Fatal (playing some semblance of himself), whose idolization of Richie Valens has led to a lifetime of yearning and identity crisis. However, Fatal gets the chance to come face-to-face with his hero when the rocker is taken captive by the forces of the underworld, and Fatal is pulled down to Hell to help in the search. Read More…
By Michael Varrati
Featuring Event Photos by Nicole Fraser-Herron
“Is she really going to throw a Ball in a movie theater?”
Making my way through the historic Castro Theatre on the night of “Paris is Burning: A Celebration,” this was a question I heard more than one audience member ask in confused fascination. Of course, their puzzlement was not without good cause. A typical Ball can last anywhere from 10-20 hours, and usually requires a whole venue for its participants to gyrate and pose. To have a Ball in a movie house seemed rather outrageous, audacious, and, well, absolutely Peaches.
Of course, knowing Peaches Christ’s special panache for celebrating movies in a manner befitting their legacy, I cannot think of a more appropriate way to honor the iconic Paris is Burning.
…and, oh, did she ever.
By Michael Varrati
A predator in Prada, her eyes sweep the runway with a cold gaze. In the world of high fashion, Anna Wintour’s opinion is everything, and as the editor of Vogue, she evokes…
I’ve just been informed by another of Peaches’ undead minions that, despite the grand flourishes of Anna Wintour’s Midnight Mass-esque persona, hers is not the vogue we’re here to talk about today. Instead, I’m here to take you to the floor and highlight the world of voguing, a dance movement that came from the gay Harlem ballroom scene and emerged into a cultural phenomenon.
To be fair, I knew all along this piece wasn’t about Ms. Wintour, but I couldn’t resist. After all, despite their worlds of difference, the Queen of Fashion and the Queens of the Ball have one huge thing in common: They both understand that presentation is everything.
As Peaches prepares to unleash Paris is Burning this weekend at the Castro Theater (with legendary guest star Latrice Royale), my dear ghoulfriend and I thought it wise to revisit the cultural impact of voguing on gay culture and beyond. Now, to truly explore the significance of this movement would require far more time than our little space here allows, so we decided to focus on one aspect that Peaches and I are always ready to celebrate: Film.
By Michael Varrati
If you’ve ever been thrilled by the ruby red splatter of blood or gasped in glee at images of sinewy guts, then there’s a strong chance you owe a debt of honor to Herschell Gordon Lewis.
A towering figure in the pantheon of fright, Lewis has been hailed by many as “The Godfather of Gore,” and it’s a title he’s earned every right to hold. Though blood and violence onscreen existed long before the audacious auteur hit the scene, it was with a veritable sense of sleaze that Herschell Gordon Lewis literally upped the ante of the horror genre to the visceral level it exists at today.
Declared by John Waters to be one of “the greatest filmmakers of all time,” Herschell Gordon Lewis began his legacy in fright films for the rather simple reason of needing to make a quick buck. In the late 50s, Lewis was working as a humanities teacher and ad man in Chicago, directing commercials in his spare time to supplement his income. After buying out the advertising studio he produced commercials for, Lewis turned his attention to larger projects: Film.
By Michael Varrati
In the midst of a discussion about the pitfalls of filmmaking, I suggest to iconic director Jeff Burr that he should teach a master class on the subject. Burr laughs me off with a word of polite thanks before moving onward, but I remain serious in my assertion.
Known by many genre fans for his contributions to existent franchises and off-beat indie fare, Burr has made an impact on the horror community over the last three decades by pushing ever forward with his craft. Although likely most identified as the man who gave the Sawyer family life anew in Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3, Burr’s wide body of work encompasses a plethora of thrills and chills that have helped give him the insight to inspire and advise a new generation of filmmakers.
In fact, it is Burr’s place as an inspiration to those that have grown up with his films that led to our little fireside chat today. Recently contacted by Henrique Couto, an Ohio-based independent filmmaker, Burr was surprised to discover that one of his lesser known films, Eddie Presley, had served as an inspiration to Couto on his own forthcoming feature, Depression: The Movie. Now, thanks to the cinematic kinship of the two films, Eddie Presley and Depression are set to play a once in a lifetime double bill at the Hollywood Theater in Pittsburgh, PA…and Burr couldn’t be more tickled about the idea.
From the very beginning of my association with Peaches, one thing we’ve always come together on is our need to celebrate our heroes.
However, this commonality isn’t shared solely by the boss lady and myself, but rather is a thread that runs through the veins of each member of the Midnight Mass family. We all have this compulsive yearning to worship at the altar of those who shaped us into the children of the popcorn we are today. You can see this love and passion in every single one of Peaches’ stage shows, and hopefully it’s also reflected in my columns here on the site. As dyed-in-the-wool monster kids, we consider it our duty to carry the banner ever forward into the night, shouting of love and schlock to all who will listen.
Because of this continued commitment to spreading the word, we always like to recognize a kindred spirit when one crosses our path. In recent years, one such individual has proven to be a cut above many of his peers, celebrating his idols with a level of style and class that few can match.
The man in question is documentary filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz, and for his continued effort to make sure future generations know the names of his idols, we wanted to take a moment to make sure you knew him. Read More…