Picture it: Shreveport, 1980-something, a late Friday or Saturday night. A man sits in his favorite spot on the couch, watching cheesy horror flicks to unwind from a long work week. Except for lights and noises emanating from the television, the house is dark and quiet. His wife and daughters are sleeping peacefully in their beds, or so he thinks. A slight shuffling sound makes his ears and eyebrows perk up. He knows he is no longer alone. Out of the corner of his eye he spots a small figure moving. The man quietly clears his throat and a little girl whispers, “I can’t sleep, Daddy.”
If you haven’t figured it out by now, that little monster was me. I began enjoying cheesy horror movies at a young age, with my dad always by my side. I was afraid, yes…but not as long as he was there. We watched all kind of classic bad movies while my dad explained to me that nothing that was happening was real. All of this allowed me to relax and see the humor behind the make-up and prosthetics. We laughed together at the lame special effects and cheesy one-liners, joking around and wondering ‘who comes up with this crazy stuff?’ I looked forward to those “late night double feature picture show” nights with him. I vividly recall my dad’s laughter when Ash smashed the mirror in Army of Darkness and fought off an army of mini evil Ashes. (Still my favorite scene) I got a little spooked out when the skeletons started walking, but he said they were nothing to fear because they were so dumb. My dad wasn’t afraid and that stuck with me. Another thing that stuck with me was the fact that most girls my age didn’t really watch that kind of stuff. As a matter of fact, I used to keep my secret love for Raimi films and Bruce Campbell to myself for fear of being called “weird” for digging a guy with a big, cleft chin and a chainsaw for an arm.
The genius behind the creation of Elvira is the woman who plays her, Cassandra Peterson. She was given artistic freedom in coming up with the character of hostess for a new weekend horror show in which she would star. Elvira’s Movie Macabre was born and bad horror films haven’t been the same since. Years later after catching her show on the weekends at times over the years, I went to an all-girls slumber party and the birthday girl had a VCR at her house. (This was a rare thing in the 1989) Eight little girls spread their sleeping bags out on the floor and giggled the night away while watching our favorite femme-fatale in her first feature film Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. I started to feel a little better about the fact that I liked “weird stuff.”
In April 2010, I attended Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas, Texas. I waited in line for two hours to meet George Romero and it was totally worth it. He is the Father of the Modern Zombie, after all. However I will never forget meeting the woman who helped introduce me to Papa Romero by poking fun at something that used to scare me more than anything – zombies. (Yes, the woman who founded and runs the SBC Zombie Walk used to be afraid of zombies.) She looked just as good in person as she ever did on television. I was beside myself when I told her how much of a positive influence she had on me. I’m obviously not scared of zombies anymore – getting older does that to you – so I thanked her for showing me a way to appreciate how different creators can depict monsters in unique and interesting ways. Horror films sometimes use humor to make us laugh, fear to make us shiver, and dramatic situations to make us think deeply about our society. My personal favorites are the ones that make me laugh, smile, and fondly remember good times with my dad rather than the films that attempt to shock with ultra-violence and gore.
Elvira reached an audience of not-typical horror genre fans such as myself and ending up becoming an icon. Over the years I have made my own characters and published my own short stories, all horror-themed and some centering on strong females. Thanks to women in horror and parents who didn’t discourage my fascination with the macabre, I am no longer ashamed to admit that I just like what I like. To me and the many women who grew up with her as a role model Elvira represents a desire to be more than just the dingbat being chased by a monster through the woods, tripping on nothing and dying a stupid death while screaming for help. We want to see a woman stand her ground, kick her heels off, put her hands on her hips and face the beast. When she does open her mouth, instead of shrieking in fear, she says something like, “What is that cheap cologne you’re wearing called? Catch of the day?” then uses those ridiculous heels as a weapon to kill the monster and save the day. (GIRL POWER TO THE MAX!)
Cassandra Peterson “Elvira” will be attending Geek’d Con 2016 weekend in Shreveport, Louisiana – August 19-21, 2016. Check out their website HERE for more info! Also check out KTUX – 99X The Rock Station for good rock music & more info about this awesome con, which is in its second year!
And I will leave you with this….