Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Lianne Spiderbaby Discussing Her New Book - Grindhouse Girls, Fright Bytes, Herschell Gordon Lewis and How She Came to Have a Part in the Toolbox Murders 2!

Lianne Spiderbaby is a girl who I have a serious girl crush on.  Not only is she absolutely gorgeous, she is also one of the most hardcore horror geeks working in the industry today!  As well as writing for Fangoria, she has both her own webseries, the rather awesome Fright Bytes…and is also working on her first book, Grindhouse Girls.  Now when it comes to the topic of grindhouse girls, Lianne is a bit of an expert!  This super smart chick has a degree in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto, in which she specialilised in female empowerment in genre cinema.  Brains and beauty, my perfect girl! <3

 What is it in particular that you love about the whole grindhouse experience and what is your earliest memory of this sub-genre?  Was it something that you were into at a young age or was it something that you became more interested in whilst at University? 

Hey Jennifer! First of all, I’m a huge fan of yours as well, and I really appreciate
you interviewing me! This is fun! Hmmm… yea. I think “grindhouse” which has
become an umbrella term that we use to discuss exploitation films from the 1970s/1980s that played in the grindhouse theaters was something that I became really passionate about in university. Of course, in high school and in my younger years I was obsessed with horror (Picture below of Lianne playing horror geek dress up!). I grew up with three brothers, so horror film rentals on the weekend were vital. It’s what we did as a family, and to this day we still see all the new horror flicks in the theater together. My family is really supportive of my work. But yea, the exploitation stuff came much later.  

I think what I’ve always loved about horror, and what I really love about exploitation is the rawness of it.  The pure, visceral experience it gives it. The smaller the budget, the more real it looked to me, and I’ve always really loved that. A lot of the women that starred in these films were striving to become the best actresses they could be, and I think that working in exploitation just demonstrates their dedication to the craft. I started writing about spectatorship practises in grindhouses in my final year of university, and I did a lot of primary research in Toronto, going into the older movie houses all over the city. I also did a lot of research on 42nd street theatres in New York City during the grindhouse period. I became fascinated with the experiences people could have while watching these crazy films on the big screen. Drug use, drinking, and sexual acts would go on in these theaters while films that had similar content were playing – I think it’s just so interesting that audiences engaged with the films in this way, no matter how outrageous. 

The grindhouses really offered an engaging experience for film goers! [laughs]. I just like the realism, the rawness, no matter how cheesy or forced it is. When Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez released GRINDHOUSE in 2007, I went to the theater (it was my birthday) with friends and family, and we all got drunk in the theater and hooted & hollered at the screen like they would have back in the good ol’ days. It was a great time, and after that, I was sold on all things exploitation and grindhouse.

You have stated before on your Facebook page that whilst writing the chapter on Roberta Collins, you felt incredibly sad writing it.  Writing within such a genre, I’m sure you are going to find that the actresses more than likely didn’t have the rosiest of lives.  Do you feel that actresses working within horror today have it a whole lot better?  I mean, it is a whole lot harder for directors to be complete dicks to their leading ladies in this day and age…right??  For example, Hitchcock would never have got away with half the shit he did had his films been made in modern times!  And this was on the more glamourous of sets…or at least more mainstream.  What is some of the worst treatment you have heard of when it comes to grindhouse girls and their directors?  Just how far would some of these women go to make the movies they so badly wanted to be in? 

 To be honest with you, I haven’t heard many bad things about exploitation directors coming from the women I’ve spoken to while working on this book. They have all been really honest with me, and rather than say something bad about a director, they will often pass on the question. For example, Dyanne Thorne doesn’t want to talk about Joe Sarno. But, Christina Lindberg and Tallie Cochrane really enjoyed him and thought he was lovely. Who knows. I think all women face some sort of sexism in their lives, including women working in horror today. I was personally attacked (and a plethora of sexist comments were made) when I spoke out about the I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE remake, but I said what I wanted to say, and that article has gotten so much exposure that everyone at Fangoria adores me for it. I’m really lucky to have such supportive people around me, men and women included. My editor, Chris Alexander, is totally my hero. I’ve been a huge fan of his writing for years, and now I get to write for him, and he’s always got my back. It’s really cool.  I’m really lucky.

One example of a modern horror actress who has suffered a terrible tragedy and came out absolutely brilliantly is Chauntal Lewis, star of your first movie The Toolbox Murders 2.  Chauntal lost her left hand in a horrific car crash back in 2009 and has since waited two years for her new prostetic hand to be built; which included raising the money for her new hand that is indeed a work of art itself!  As I was writing this, Chauntal posted the news that we have all been waiting to hear, her new hand is almost ready and she can’t wait to be able to show it off to the world!  What was it like to work with this amazing chickadee on what is sure to be an interesting follow up to Tobe Hooper’s remake of the 1978 film of the same name?  (Photo below of Lianne, Chauntal and Brian Kraus)

To be honest, I was only on set for one day and I wasn’t even really supposed to be in the film. I went to set to cover it for Fangoria, and the director Dean Jones dug my look and was a huge fan of the magazine, so he put me in the film as a dead body. My friend Kyle Morris was starring in the film as well, and that’s how I ended up there.  From what I can tell, Chauntal did a really amazing job, and she was really sweet to everyone on set, making small talk with everyone. It was really fun, though, and I’d like to do some more acting in the horror genre. I’m just not into playing bimbo-victim types.  (Lianne playing dead for the camera below! :D) 


Whilst some treat grindhouse actresses as lesser actresses than say your big Hollywood stars, you write about them with the compassion and intellect that they deserve.  Just how easy has it been for you to get in contact with these starlets and what has their reception of your work been like so far?

Honestly, I’ve been SO lucky because I’m in touch with almost all of the women that I’m writing about. I’m writing about 13-15 women. This has all been made possibly because of all the networking I’ve done, and the passion I’ve shared with people when it comes to this book. My intentions are good, and I think people can tell that I have a good heart, this is a labor of love, and so they have hooked me up with contacts so that I can get in touch with these wonderful women. I really need to thank Elijah Drenner, James Bialkowski, Robert Plante, Ian Jane, Brian J. Quinn, and Rickard Gramfors because they have all been so helpful and supportive when it comes to the actresses. I think the women like speaking to me as well because they are usually interviewed by  men, so I bring a different perspective.  I’ve only been turned down once for an interview, and that was by Pam Grier. I get it, she’s a movie star. I still love her, and luckily she wrote a book about herself and there is so much information about her career out there that I won’t need an interview to feature her.

Some of the actresses that you have interviewed so far have included Dyanne Thorne and Christina Lindberg You have also written a chapter on the tragically deceased Roberta Collins, as previously mentioned.  And perhaps even sadder, have one to write on the very recently deceased Tallie Cochrane, a woman who wanted to tell you her story, a story that she wanted the perfect writer to do, and she had chosen you.  That is such an amazing honour and I can’t imagine how upsetting it must have been for you to read of her death.  What has your experience writing about these amazing woman been like so far and who else do we have to look forward too in your book?

Yea, losing Tallie in the middle of all this has been really hard for me. I took it pretty badly. Luckily, Robert Plante has shared with me his interview with her and he was able to ask all of the questions I wanted to ask her, so I’m going to be able to share some of that in the book. Everyone should visit his awesome blog. I literally fall in love with each chapter that I write, I fall in love with each of these women and their stories, especially if I speak with them. Dyanne and Howard (her husband) are good friends of mine now. (Picture to right - Lianne with Dyanne aka Ilsa and her husband Howard Maurer)

I don’t want to give too much away, but I ’ve written and am writing about Laura GemserLynn Lowry,  Camille Keaton, Cheri Caffaro, Pam Grier, Barbara Bouchet, Edwige
Fenech, and Sybil Danning. There are a few others…

I just recently bought The Big Bird Cage and I think my favourite actress from the movie was Candice Roman; she was an absolute star as the cute blonde, nymphomanic Carla.  I was kind of sad to read that she only made 3 movies, including The Big Bird Cage.  When I looked into the recent documentary she made, From Manilla with Love I realised that it was actually made by one of your BFF’s, Elijah Drenner (above with Lianne).  How awesome is this documentary and is it available to buy? :D 

Ahhh yes! Elijah makes the COOLEST documentaries, I’m really lucky to know him and have him in my life. He knows EVERYTHING about these women. I’m constantly phoning him for tips and stories, and I spend everyday that I’m in LA picking his brain. He made AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE as well, which is a great film. Everyone should buy it. He also has a blog and a contact at I Wake Up Screaming

When it comes to exploitation remakes, the most recent one is obviously I Spit on Your Grave, a film that I wholeheartedly agree with you should not have been made!  One of my favourite articles regarding this subject was in fact one that you wrote entitled I Spit on Your Movie where you expressed your distaste at the lengthy rape sequence, the pre-rape sexulisation of our protagonist Jennifer Hills (played by Sarah Butler) and also the fact that Butler was in no way old enough to have been playing the lead part.  The attitude and downright shit that you got for this well articlulated and informative article on the Fangoria site was unbelievable.  Many complained that the horrific rape sequence wasn’t actually long enough!  

Whilst watching the movie Red Hill it occurred to me that when a man attacks and/or kills a woman, they more often than not have to rape her too.  Now when I posted my thoughts about this on my Facebook page I had a number of people reply saying that this is just Hollywood making men out to be like this.  I am not so sure I agree with this.  It’s like this kind of behaviour is deemed acceptable; and to have a lengthy rape sequence in a modern film is almost promoting this very idea.  As you pointed out, the majority audience for these types of films is males between the ages of 18-25.  At least some of them are going to say that if the lead character is prancing around half dressed before the rape, then they will justify to themselves that “she deserved it!”  Not all men will say this, but there will definitely be some.  Hell, look at the Toronto police officer who told a bunch of law students that ‘women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized’.  This is coming from a man who is supposed to be helping women.  This kind of archaic thinking needs to stop, however films such as the I Spit on Your Grave remake don’t help matters.  What are your thoughts on all of this…after all of my ramblings!?! ;)  (Picture below - Camille Keaton in I Spit on Your Grave)

Well yea, that’s just it, and that example of a Toronto police officer calling a woman slutty for how she was dressed is perfect. My intentions were to simply point out the sexism and the issues in the film, and people went insane. Not just men, either. Some women didn’t like it and there were comments made by women saying they wanted to “cut my tits off”. Really? Again, using a part of my female anatomy to demean me is exactly what I’m talking about, and this was coming from another woman. I think it scares people to look in the mirror and see themselves as something other than perfect, and I hit a few sore spots by pointing out some of our human faults. What can I say? I like the article, I still stand behind it, and the people in my life whom I love and work with also support it. I can’t please everyone.

One of my favourite grindhouse directors is Herschell Gordon Lewis How was it that you came to work as this legendary director’s personal assistant and what was he like in person? :D (Picture below - Lianne working with Herschell Gordon Lewis)

He is the most charming man I’ve ever met!  Herschell is just… a ray of sunshine. I had been volunteering with Rue Morgue for a year or so, and Rod and Marco knew what a big fan I was of Herschell. So, when he was added to the roster for the FESTIVAL OF FEAR, they gave me a call and asked if I wanted the gig of being his personal assistant for the duration of the festival. I’m still such a huge supporter of that festival and of my friends at Rue Morgue here in Toronto. 

Anyway, I jumped at the chance, and yea, I got to hang out with him all weekend. We talked a lot about real blood effects versus CGI, of course, and we talked a lot about his wife and their love of travel. He also performed a song from 2001 MANIACS on stage at the FoF party with Chris Alexander, who worked for Rue Morgue at the time, and that is how Chris and I
met! So, when I started writing I would send him  sample of my stuff and when he took over as editor-in-chief at Fangoria, he brought me on board. That weekend with Herschell was really pivotal for my life and writing, even years later in the present day.

When do you hope to have Grindhouse Girls finished and do you have a potential release date and do you have anyone, such as grindhouse directors/stars etc. to do a foreword for the book?  I can’t wait for the release and I’m seriously checking out flights to Toronto so I can come to the launch party!  :D

Well, I’m still writing the book, and it will be completed by the end of August.  That is my deadline. I’m also looking to have a foreword written, and I have a few special-someones in mind for that. After that, I’m going to contact publishers and get the ball rolling. I’ve already been contacted by some literary agents and publishers, but I just need to focus on getting the book done first. As soon as it’s going to be out for the public, I will let you know!

Last but not least, what can we expect from your ever so lovely self in the future, what would you like to accomplish?  As I’ve mentioned before, I think you’d make a wicked documtary filmmaker…and as Fright Bytes Episode 1 (See Screencap Below of Lianne in Scream parody) has proven, you have the potential to be an amazing actress too!  So much potential and I am excited for every single step of it my lovely!

You’re so sweet, my goodness…! Right now, I’m 100% into my book and writing for Fangoria and doing Fright Bytes. Once the book is out and I’ve done everything I can do with it, I’m going to write a screenplay. I have an awesome idea, and I keep building it in my head, so I will give that a try. I try not to focus too much on the future, because it’s really important to live and love the present, and recognize the path that we’re on today, you know? I AM looking forward to July 2011 though because I’m heading to the San Diego COMIC CON, so anyone who is coming out should stop by and say hello! Thank you SO much, Jennifer! This has been fun! xox 

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