I’ve asked myself this question for over a year now.
To those who’ve known me for most of my life, I am the horror queen. When I first started acting professionally, I searched through every single casting site I came across just to find posts for horror films and haunted houses. I wanted to collect every bit of horror and Halloween merchandise I could find and decorate my apartment with it all year ’round. Though I’d studied classical theatre since high school, I wouldn’t be satisfied until I was officially labeled a “scream queen.”
Yet, since last spring, I find myself stepping away from this genre more and more. While I’m still all about the dark and macabre, straight-up horror is no longer as appealing to me as it once was. I find myself more and more drawn to fantasy films and thrillers. The Crow and V for Vendetta have been my favorites for a long time, and I’m anxiously awaiting the next season of Game of Thrones. While I still do a good amount of home shopping in October, most of my decor now consists of pagan imagery, animal bones, and dark portraits from artists I’ve found on Etsy. And during the rare times that I now search sites for film and theatre castings, I pay more attention to the summary and character description than the genre of the piece in question.
In no way am I 100% done with watching and acting in horror films, but I do have three good reasons to step back and really explore other options.
1. Very Selective
For one, I’ve always been very picky when it comes to my horror. Compared to other genres, it is the easiest type of film to create, which is why every filmmaker tries their hand at one at some point in the career. At the same time it’s also easy to botch, which explains all of the train-wrecks. While some have achieved cult status, countless other films released from the 1970’s onward are all but forgotten thanks to awful writing, directing, and acting. In recent years, however, it has gotten a bit better. I was highly impressed with ‘Mama,’ ‘The Woman in Black,’ and ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.’ I have yet to see ‘The VVitch’ or ‘Get Out,’ but I absolutely intend to. I would have even included ‘American Horror Story’ among my recent favorites, but after the third season, I’ve had little to no desire to watch it. Though I will say, next season’s theme has me very intrigued.
To be completely honest, I’ve never liked gore-heavy films. I won’t watch Cannibal Holocaust, the 1988 remake of The Fly, or anything from the Saw franchise. And no one could ever pay me enough money to watch The Human Centipede. I can remember a day at college when a friend borrowed a DVD of a film called ‘Feast.’ I joined her halfway through as she was watching it with two other students. By the time it was over, I had to go take a walk around my building because I felt so sickened.
More than just plain gross, however, I consider gore-porn to be a massive cop-out. And while I have absolutely nothing against on-camera nudity or sex scenes, the same feeling applies to excessiveness of both. All I see, when looking at a mountain of both, is the work of a so-called filmmaker with limited ideas and a few possible fetishes that should be kept far away from any filmset. If I want gory details, I’ll watch a true crime documentary. If sex is all you’ll focus on, don’t forget that porn is still a massive industry.
2. Pass Events
Looking back on my acting career, I’ve realized that the most negative experiences I’ve had have involved small horror films. I’ve been cheated out of a role I was cast in (twice), had a director flake on me after pushing the production date back repeatedly, and witnessed another director talk so rudely to his cast online that I backed out of his film. It shouldn’t surprise you that the storylines in all films were questionable at best. After reading one script and meeting the producer and main actor, it became more than obvious that the man just wanted an excuse to film himself with a lot of attractive women. Thankfully, I never had any scenes with him.
Not to mention that the worst directors and producers I’ve encountered also happened to be the most arrogant. Every single one brags about his years of experience, demands respect from everyone, yet can’t be bothered to hold up promises made to anyone breaking their back for him. It seems as if anyone with a pricey camera and a dire need to shock and offend thinks they’re some sort of artistic genius.
To my filmmaker friends reading this; if I am still speaking to you today, obviously this does not apply to you.
These negative experiences have also included the fans: both mutual fans of what I love and fans of work I’ve been a part of. My father told me, while I was deep in a man-hating period of my life, that I should stop looking for love within the horror scene. Only recently did I realize that he has a point. Of course, many of these fans are incredibly lovely. Others, however, are drawn to this genre simply for its political incorrectness, which then gives them an outlet for their own daily frustrations and fuels them into spewing out viewpoints that are not entirely based in fact. To them, even the smallest amount of disgust in horror films is viewed as some sort of persecution. This then explains their voting preferences, views about oppressed groups, and why I have decided to stop speaking to them. Even some of the most liberal can’t seem to pick up on blatant social cues, such as when I have no interest in dating them, or that I don’t want to be tagged in an inappropriate online post.
3. Creative Drive
All that said, my strongest reason for stepping away from horror is that I’m now seeking out work that will truly challenge me. After playing nameless monsters for much of my career, I now find myself dying to move on and break type. I want story-lines that are carefully crafted, and characters that are well-rounded and relatable. I want to be a part of something that grips the audience to the point that, as soon as the credits start to role, they’re motivated to take some sort of action, even if it’s something as small as checking on a loved one. While some have been quite fun, the horror films that I’ve acted in never did that for me. Even main characters are simply too flat for my liking.
I must confess that this was an enormous reason for walking away from my web series gig, ‘The Sin Reapers,’ last year. I had just found a new job and was trying to save money for an apartment, so my once flexible schedule was now gone. At the same time, I was fleshing out the plot line and characters for my own dystopian fantasy series, and was becoming so engulfed in it that coming to set was beginning to feel underwhelming. I was growing increasingly frustrated with portraying the same type of character I’d been given for years while writing another that was completely unique to anything I’d ever written before. I quickly realized that I had to step away from my role and really focus on my own projects.
While ‘The Sin Reapers’ was perfectly fine and everyone was amazing to work with, I could no longer be a part of something that my heart just wasn’t into. So on my last day of filming a three-part episode, as soon as we had completely wrapped, I pulled Kevin and Matt (the producers) aside and told them that I had to step out. To my relief, they understood, and even thanked me for waiting until all was finished to let them know. They have since found another actress to take over my role, who I think does a much better job with the role than I ever could have.
As I said earlier, I’m not done with horror at all. I still enjoy looking for new films to watch in my spare time, and there is still some merchandise that I want to collect. But for the time being, I would like to move on to acting in other genres and finding other sources of inspiration. Being a “scream queen” no longer appeals to me. I simply want to create work that’s both meaningful and uncomfortable.
It’s beyond easy to shock and offend. It’s easy to put on heavy makeup and prosthetics, hide in a dark room, throw some special effects together, and make everyone jump. But to make your audience think, to really get them to look deep down within themselves and question their own thoughts and behaviors to the point of crippling fear and anxiety: now that is a true gift.