This month sees the 20th anniversary special edition re-release of horror documentary Invasion of the Scream Queens – an insightful collection of interviews with the actresses who screamed and slashed their way into the VHS b-movie era.
Invasion of the Scream Queens features exclusive discussions with the stars of the b-movie genre, as they review experiences playing these branded roles incorporating their opinion on nudity, personal anecdotes and trying to “make it” into the movie business. Actresses featured includes stars such as Michelle Bauer, Brinke Stevens, Melissa Moore, Martine Beswick, Janus Blythe, Marya Gant, Deborah Stern, Elizabeth Kaitan, Tammara Souza, Veronica Carothers, Mary Woronov and Monique Gabrielle as well as a snippet from director Dave Decoteau.
A “scream queen” is an actress who is categorised as staring mostly in horror films more often than not the (topless) damsel in distress or if they’re lucky the (topless) female protagonist. And even making that statement there comes through the strong stereotype that surrounds such roles. Central to this genre is blood and nudity, these being the lucrative aspects with regards to sales. Watching the interviews consecutively, it becomes evident that this stereotype is somewhat correct, as many of the girls were formerly beauty pageant queens, playboy aspirers or models. As well, a select few did not spare their quite alarmingly slack attitude to nudity. Monique Gabrielle’s was by far the most controversial, as she stated, “I have no problem with nudity, especially with the exploitation films. That’s what the public wants.”
Of course, for every “bimbo” that appeared on the tape, there was a shocker and some of these women provided some extremely insightful and radical viewpoints about what they did. In particular Mary Woronov’s excerpt kept me transfixed right from the start as she talks about her experience working in Warhol’s factory. And in fact, while this documentary is meant to focus solely on the movies these actresses were involved in, Mary manages to pull the emphasis to her paintings. She describes a colourful and at times disturbing past through her artwork proving herself to be an interesting character on and off set.
As well, although Elizabeth Kaitan’s blonde hair and bubble-gum smile might fool you into thinking of her lacking in substance, the audience learns about a past in rural Hungary and her strong belief in animal rights.
While this collection presents some alternative and distinctive viewpoints behind each actresses’ inspiration for their b-movie work, the motivation is clear and for those who are not looking as deeply into the content, there are some genuinely interesting anecdotes including Janus Blythe’s description of the snake scene in The Hills Have Eyes and Deborah Stern’s fear conjuring through the use of special effects.
Furthermore, the authentic scene shots cut between each clip are movie gold comprising classics such as I drink Your Blood and Eat Your Skin, The Vampire Lovers and Cannibal Girls. For any horror lover, this compilation creates an important little document in movie history and due to the changing nature of women’s roles in contemporary films, may never be discussed so honestly in the same way again.
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