The lovely EMILY BOOTH has gone on to become a staple of the British horror scene after initially crashing into many a young man’s life with the brilliant BITS back at the turn of the millennium. Despite often appearing wherever the creepy world of horror rears its head, “Bouff” has regularly fronted the HORROR CHANNEL in recent years. We were lucky enough to get some time with the lovely Emily to talk about the HORROR CHANNEL’s upcoming APOCALYPSE SEASON, her short film SELKIE, a whole host of horror goodness, and even a little bit of chatter on the much missed BITS.
STARBURST: Horror Channel’s Apocalypse Season is on the horizon for April, including screenings of The Mist, The Day, The Stand as well as the network premiere of Planet Terror. What film are you most looking forward to seeing?
Emily Booth: Of the apocalypse films, I think Planet Terror - it’s the ultimate sort of apocalypse film. The Mist is actually really good. I haven’t actually seen The Day, so I’ll probably be checking out the ones I haven’t actually seen. That’s more exciting for me. It’s a big deal for the Horror Channel as well, because we’re making a lot of effort with the actual filming that I do for the Season. We’re going to an old RAF base to film all my links at Greenham Common in Berkshire. It’s desolate and grim, and the sort of thing that urban explorers would find interesting. I love doing things like that, going to facilities that are now shut down and you’re the only ones there running around. It’s really atmospheric, creepy, cold and grim.
Planet Terror is likely to be the film that stands out the most to casual viewers, and you just so happened to have a role in one of the faux trailers initially sandwiched between Planet Terror and Death Proof during its US cinema run…
Yeah, at the time I didn’t know I was sort of getting involved in this soon-to-be relaunch of the whole grindhouse era. All I remember is getting a phone call from Edgar Wright. He actually met me, and I didn’t actually know it at the time, but he worked as a runner or something on Pervirella, which was my first film. His name wasn’t on the credits, but he just came down for a couple of days. Edgar Wright, for his Don’t! trailer, he really wanted people from the world of B-movies and cult movies. He just phoned me up and asked me to be in it. Ironically, it was the tiniest thing I’ve ever done on the biggest budget I’ve ever seen. That was great. But, of course, loads of people didn’t see it because it wasn’t released as a double bill over here.
There were so many people looking forward to seeing those two movies back-to-back and with all of the fake trailers from people like Edgar, Eli Roth, and Rob Zombie. Then when it came to a UK release, the films were released separately.
It was just a box office bomb really . You’re probably a fanboy, I’m a fangirl, so we probably would’ve gone. Just the general public weren’t up for it - a 4 or 5 hour bender. It’s the sort of thing that you’d get at a festival, something like FrightFest or up in Leeds, they still do the all-nighters until 6 in the morning. You’ve got to be die-hard to do that rather than the general Joe Public. It’s a fanboy thing. I once saw the trailer, I think, at a screening I was at, but no one in the UK really saw it. I think you might be able to view it online. If you go to my IMDb page, it says Grindhouse. That’s great but it’s like I wasn’t really in Grindhouse. I’m going to say I was involved for maybe 2 seconds of screen time. That was it.
Going back to the Apocalypse Season. Say there were no money or rights issues involved, which other films would you personally like to see air as part of the season?
Maybe Mad Max again. There’s not hundreds of apocalypse-type films out there. When we say apocalypse, you think of this vision of the world being decimated and it’s overgrown. I Am Legend? That was a bit naff though, really. 28 Days Later, I would like to see something like that actually. Even though if you’re talking about subgenres then that’s a zombie apocalypse, I think visually they did a really amazing job at creating an atmosphere in London that was so freaky and realistic. The reason it was freaky and realistic is the opening shot itself, where Cillian Murphy’s leaving hospital and he walks through London and the camera keeps pulling back and pulling back and pulling back and it reveals more and more of London but you can’t see anything. I remember looking into it and thinking “How the hell did they do this?” London never sleeps, but they did catch moments at various early times in the morning in the summer. I don’t know how they did it. Apparently there’s like one moment where you can see a tramp shuffling around. London is so saturated with buzzing people from every corner of the globe, so to see that completely decimated and washed out of any human life is so amazingly chilling and eerie. But 28 Days Later would have been top for me, really. I think that sort of depicts that kind of horror apocalypse quite well in terms of the more recent horrors. That film did a really good job. They did it genuinely, I don’t think it was done with CGI or anything.
Horror Channel has put together some brilliant seasons to date, but do you have any ideas on what subgenre you’d like to see highlighted in a future season?
I’ve got a thing for tentacles and creatures. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know – it’s probably very Freudian. Films that feature monsters and tentacles, I just think they’re really fun and you can have a lot of fun with that subgenre. But there’s hundreds of subgenres. We’ve just done mad science, which was fun. We get new premieres every single month, usually seven or eight, and then obviously we’ve got our own library of films for which we’ve got options on for a number of years. So when we come up with a season, it’ll be premieres and then a few films that we already have. Like the Apocalypse Season, Stephen King’s The Stand isn’t necessarily a premiere, but it fits really well with the whole doomsday kind of thing.
What’s been great about the Horror Channel is how you guys tend to show certain films that you can’t find on DVD or Blu-ray in the UK yet, such as Chillerama for instance.
We do have some really weird, rare, quirky films, and it literally covers all your bases. If you like those wonderfully freaky gems that don’t get made now… I don’t know if we’ve still got it, but we used to show this film called Baby Blood. It’s French and so brilliant, but I would never have caught it if it wasn’t on the Horror Channel. Then on the other end of the scale, they’ve got the light and fluffier stuff which doesn’t take itself too seriously. Then there’s a lot of Hammer Horror because that’s just very British. Then there’s the silly stuff that’s like a homage to grindhouse films. And then there’s the highbrow horror really, like the David Cronenberg Season or the David Lynch stuff or Dario Argento stuff, a lot of the Italian horror giallo is covered. We go from lowbrow to highbrow.
And you also show films like Martyrs that you wouldn’t see anywhere else.
Yeah, well that was a really good season, the French films of horror. Of course there was Martyrs, which split opinion, then others like Switchblade Romance. And what about this for a season, we could do female directed horror. But we’d have to get American Mary, we could get The Babadook if they’d let us. That’d be a really good season. One of the favourite things with horror, I think for a channel, is the amount of fun and creativity you can have with it both in your seasons and in your original filming. Obviously we do our own links and I used to do Horror Bites, the show that I did which promoted what we did on the channel. Now we just do the links. What we’ve started doing recently, which I’m really happy about, is we’re doing links the way I’ve always wanted to do them, which is being really creative and just letting the seasons or films dictate it. Last month I was in a morgue, a doctor’s room, there was the Re-Animator shoot, there was the anatomical skeleton. It was really cool. So now it’s not me standing in front of a green screen set, this is me having fun with it with costumes and props. It’s kind of like old-school horror hosting again. That’s a good thing with horror, you can have so much fun. The guys who come up with the new seasons, every month, year after year after year, they’re coming up with new seasons. It just goes to show the wide variety of weird little subgenres out there. But I’d love to see a Spanish horror season. Spanish horror is one of my favourites. The Orphanage is really brilliant. There’s a film called Para Elisa, and that looks brilliant and has a really horrible, horrible poster. Then there’s the Rec films, there’s the del Toro stuff, there’s Julia’s Eyes. There’s a lot of good stuff.
So how actually hands-on are you with the Horror Channel stuff then?
Well I don’t do acquisitions. I’m not in the office or anything. I’m freelance. But I am very hands-on in terms of social media, and I blog every week. Sometimes it’s like Horror Channel public relations, but a lot of the time it’s just stuff I want to talk about. I’ve got a lot of freedom with that. Like my latest blog is about horror posters that made you want to see a film.
It seems these days that a lot of that has been lost. There was always the mystique of going to a video shop and being drawn in by a random poster for a film you’d never heard of. These days it’s all digital or on-demand.
There’s not even any video shops anymore! There’s less physical promotional material. There’s bus shelters and the tube, but yeah, the big cardboard cut-outs that everybody used to get hold of. I’ve got memories, everyone’s got memories, of being in video stores and being enticed by a very shocking video cover. I’ve got in front of me a book called The Art of the Nasty, which I actually helped produce, I did the PR for it a long time ago. The Art of the Nasty is all about how the covers for these films eventually brought about the films’ demise because the covers were sometimes more shocking than the films. The whole point was to get people to watch the films. I suppose before the Internet all you had was in-your-face, shock tactic imagery. That’s all you had to make people want to watch things. They were allowed to get away with a bit more. Like Driller Killer was very graphic – a drill going into someone’s brain. The thing is, after doing some research, I don’t think it’s fair to say covers then were better. There are covers now that are really well done. Somebody said to me they watched Silent Hill based on a well-designed, freaky video cover of a girl without a mouth. I suppose, though, they’re never going to be quite as lurid as the video nasties.
Now one thing we’d love to touch on for some of our readers is BITS. What do you think made that show so popular and how was it for you?
BITS was a rollercoaster – that was crazy.
Crazy good or crazy bad?
A bit of both. It was just really crazy. So it was just me, other Emily , and then a director and a producer. There were five people doing the whole thing, and the one thing that every single journalist said was: “Do you even play games?” It was like every single time we’d be saying yes, how there was no one else who could do it. We played all the games. We didn’t always have that much time as there were one or two shows a week, but we had to do everything. So it was quite an all-encompassing job. We would be up until 3 or 4 in the morning most of the time, getting back on set at 8 in the morning. This is something I’ve taken into my horror hosting, whatever video game we were reviewing we would represent that in the whole style and set-up of the links and presenting. If we were doing a racing one, there’s probably some clever little skit that would dress us up as a race driver and running round. We couldn’t believe we were getting paid to do it all. It was quite good fun but it also involved being really physical. We’d always end up with them just saying, “Right, it’s the end of the day, we need to film you guys being crazy and wacky. Here’s a boiler suit, here’s five cans of paint. Can you just cover each other in paint and we’ll film it.” It was like that every week. It was just crazy, running around, falling over, dressing up, food fights, pizza fights, everything. It was brilliant.
And switching back over to horror, you’ve recently written, produced and starred in the short film Selkie. It did a couple of festivals last year, so when are we going to get to see it?
I know, I know. I think we should release it soon. We’re still entering it into festivals so I’m not sure if I can put it on YouTube yet. I’m sure we can, but it’s still doing festivals. We were in a festival in Kansas and I’m hoping maybe to get BIFFF in April in Brussels. I want to just release it soon, but we’re trying to get more of the festival circuit first. I wrote it, I didn’t direct it, but I was very involved in the whole process. I was quite surprised in how much work a short film was. Even though it’s shorter, every process involved in a feature film is the same in a short film, technically. So it’s still a lot of time and money, surprisingly enough. I think if I did another short film then it wouldn’t be anything like Selkie. It was just a sort of love letter to my hometown of Hastings and the fishing community down here. And like I said, I love tentacles. There’s no tentacles in it, but it’s got the whole sea creature thing.
So can we expect to see you doing more writing in the future then?
Maybe. I didn’t write the actual screenplay for Selkie, I wrote the story. I came up with the idea, then my brother turned it into an actual 10-page screenplay. I think I’m a good ideas girl but I don’t know if I have the discipline and the structure and everything to properly write. There’s more to it than some people think. But I’m going to carry on with my Horror Channel stuff. I love doing that, and then I’m hopefully doing another horror film soon-ish.
That would be Shed of the Dead?
Yes, that’s it. I’m not sure what I can say about it at this stage. They’ve confirmed me and Kane Hodder, and I think that’s shooting later in the year. That’s really exciting. There’s not a schedule in place yet, but I’ve been cast.
And lately with the likes of the Soskas, Jill Sixx and Jessica Cameron, women are starting to get more involved in the dirtier side of horror. Do you feel that women are starting to be taken more seriously in horror these days?
I love the Soska sisters, we’re always in touch. Every February there’s Women in Horror Month. It’s largely an American thing but it goes across the whole world for the month. I just love the whole idea of women in horror. I think women in horror are having a massive moment, which is what the Women in Horror Month is celebrating. It’s a tricky one, because women have always been in horror, but it was generally always as the victims. I suppose now there’s a lot of people stepping behind the camera. I don’t think it’s fair to say that women have been shunted from the industry and that men have never let us do it, because that just simply isn’t true. I’ve always felt that being a woman has given me a real edge in the horror industry. I’ve been welcomed in by all the men in the industry. And the films themselves are a lot more appealing to women because we’ve moved on from the whole misogynistic slasher. I’m not putting them down but they’ve had their moment; we don’t make those films anymore. So there’s lots of reasons for it. The industry has woken up to the fact that a percentage of the audience that could be watching their film has been largely ignored. So I think horror is just more enjoyable for women now. Women now aren’t prissy, they don’t walk around saying they only want to watch chick flicks. Loads of women love horror. The audience now at FrightFest is likely 60% male, 40% female – it’s really evening out. Greg Day told me recently that the FrightFest that’s just been had the largest amount of female film directors in the short film category. I’m not sure exactly why that is but there’s lots of reasons. It’s not making feminist horror, it’s not like we want to turn the tables on you bad men out there and we want to kill men. It’s nothing to do with that, it’s still about being bloody, it’s about being thrilling, it’s about being shocking, but the characters are a little more 3-dimensional now. They’re good films with very, very strong female central characters that are absorbing to watch and probably very absorbing to play. So I think women are definitely enjoying being a driving force behind the genre, and we make just as nasty films as are made by men, but I think they have a little more depth and darkness to them. And American Horror Story, I know that’s not by women, the characters written for people like Jessica Lange, it’s just a dream to play any of those characters. The women in American Horror Story are really well written.
So as well as Shed of the Dead, what’s next on your plate?
At the moment I’m just doing the Horror Channel and lots of little personal appearances at conventions like Memorabilia NEC 13 minutes, which is a little long – short films shouldn’t be too much longer than 10 minutes, really. I don’t know if I’ll do another short. It was a lot of work, but this one was a labour of love. But I’m continuing with the Horror Channel as it’s getting bigger and better.
And if you did get involved in another short then would you consider directing?
I would like to think that I could possibly do that in the future. The thing is, I think that directors should have some technical knowledge. They need a bit of knowledge about everything. They know cameras, they know lenses, they know everything, and can ask people to do exactly what they want.
The Horror Channel’s Apocalypse Season runs from April 4th to April 24th, and following this interview Drew Cullingham’s SHED OF THE DEAD has confirmed Bill Moseley, Michael Berryman and Brian Blessed to join Emily and Kane Hodder.