“The real horror was on the street and not up on the screen.” — Sara Karloff on horror classic Targets (1968)
Horror filmmaking has always served as a powerful vehicle for social commentary and exploration of humanity. It’s no surprise that the genre has managed to develop an intensely passionate fan base that, over time, has made horror conventions some of the biggest pop culture events in the country. Those events not only allow fans to meet with the creators they look up to, but also bond with fellow enthusiasts over their mutual love for the genre.
Horror fans flocked to Dallas for the annual Famous Monsters Convention May 27-28. Numerous horror industry veterans such as director Sean S. Cunningham (Friday the 13th, DeepStar Six) and actress Diane Franklin (Better Off Dead, Amityville II: The Possession) mingled with fans and promoted upcoming projects.
The Emory Wheel interviewed director and historian Sara Karloff and actress Felissa Rose during the convention.
Rose played the lead role of Angela Baker in the cult classic 1983 slasher film, Sleepaway Camp, and its 2008 sequel, Return to Sleepaway Camp. Most recently, she acted in and produced Death House, a survival horror film centered around inmates who take control of a prison during a power breakdown. Though the film was screened at the 2016 Days of the Dead convention, it is slated for wider release later this year.
Karloff is the daughter of legendary horror actor Boris Karloff (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, The Mummy). She has appeared in and directed several documentaries about her father’s work, and currently tours the country promoting her father’s films.
The transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
Vikrant Nallaparaju, The Emory Wheel: One of my favorite movies of [Boris Karloff’s] is Black Sabbath, directed by Mario Bava. What was it like for your father to work on that?
Sara Karloff: I haven’t seen that. I don’t like scary movies. I leave the room during [scary movies] … I’m a total wuss. I know that the rock group Black Sabbath got their name from that film. My father’s part was one of the three stories in the film. The language part was dubbed and I think it was a very difficult film for my father. There was a lot of rain [while shooting] and his health was not the best at that time. Although he [was ill], he refused to have a double and did all his roles [himself].
EW: What was your father’s favorite film that he worked on and why?
SK: Targets . It really showed my father as himself, … an aging horror film star … [and] it portrayed his … belief that the real horror was on the street and not up on the screen. I know that when he did soliloquy in the film, he did it in one take and the entire cast stood up and gave him a standing ovation, which meant a great deal to my father… I know he enjoyed working with Peter Bogdanovich. He admired [Bogdanovich] and respected [his] creativity and talent.
EW: You starred in Sleepaway Camp at when you were only 12 years old. How did you get involved in the film?
Felissa Rose: I had a local manager in New York. I was born and raised in New York City and my parents got me [a] manager. It was my first movie audition. I met with Robert Hiltzik, the director [and] writer, and we just hit off. I got a callback and I got the role. It was so fast and really surreal.
EW: The film was filmed on an actual campsite. Was filming there fun behind the scenes?
FR: Oh my God, yes … Jonathan Tiersten [who played Ricky] and I are still best friends and it was like really being at sleepaway camp. Everyone was really young and having fun. We didn’t even know we were making a movie.
EW: What was your favorite scene to shoot in the movie?
FR: I would say it was when Ronnie tells me to go into the kitchen with Artie the cook, because he was so cute and we just kept laughing. Also, [I like] the scene in the mess hall where they say “Angela, you’re so [redacted] up.” I couldn’t stop laughing there either.
EW: Why do you think the movie became a cult classic?
FR: The movie really resonates with audiences because of the social commentary. You really care for Angela; she’s a character you feel bad for [since] she’s bullied. That’s an issue today. I think that it’s one of those things that sticks, because it’s funny, sad and it’s a revenge story.
EW: What was it like coming back almost 25 years later to do Return to Sleepaway Camp?
FR: It was the best thing ever, because I got to live out that entire experience all over again. I got to really play into understanding and feeling everything that I hadn’t as a child [with the character of Angela]. It was incredible.