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An Interview with Brad Sykes, Director of Scream Queen

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2023

Films directed by Brad Sykes on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your movie Scream Queen has recently been re-released - so in a few words, what's it about?

 

Scream Queen is a horror comedy about horror star Malicia Tombs (played by Linnea Quigley) who is killed in a freak accident during the filming of a low budget movie. One year later, the cast and crew arrive at an ‘old dark house’ in Hollywood to try to finish the movie while a killer – who may or may not be Malicia – stalks them.

 

What were your sources of inspiration when writing Scream Queen?

 

There were two main inspirations for Scream Queen. The first was Eurohorror movies of the ‘70s and ‘80s, like The Devil’s Nightmare, House of Psychotic Women and Tenebre, which I tried to emulate in terms of the ‘gothic’ setting and some of the giallo-style murders.

 

The second big influence was my own experiences working in the movie business up to that time. Most of the films I had worked on were horror films of various budgets, so I wanted to comment on the ‘scene’ at the time with humor and parody.

 

What can you tell us about your movie's approach to horror?

 

Although I’m not usually a fan of horror comedies, somehow the mix seemed appropriate for Scream Queen, since there’s so much self-referential and ‘meta’ content in the concept. At the same time, I didn’t want to pull any punches where the horror was concerned, and made the deaths as violent and shocking as I could manage. When you’re starting out (like I was at the time), you usually try and make something different that stands apart from the crowd and is not just imitative of the other horror films that are out there at the time.

 

In my opinion, Scream Queen is also a highly ironic film. Would you at all agree to that, and if so, could you elaborate on the film's brand of irony a bit?

 

Absolutely! I wanted to set that winking tone right from the beginning, where a standard slasher film cliché is subverted by pulling back to show the film crew, with all its petty gripes and conflicts. The opening was a way of letting the audience know this was not just going to be a ‘straight’ horror movie. The in-jokes and references – to both older films and the movie biz – continue throughout the film.

 

Do talk about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand!

 

Mostly, I was just trying to finish the film in four days! But seriously, I did try and create a gothic atmosphere in the main house where we shot, which was achieved through lighting, costumes, props and the angles that DP Dave Smith and I chose. And I also tried to keep the balance between humor and horror throughout, which wasn’t hard because my cast and crew were all on the same page.

 

What can you tell us about Scream Queen's key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

I cast actors who were right for the roles and wouldn’t require heavy direction, starting with Linnea. I think she really liked that the role was written for her, and also commented on her standing in the industry at that point. She hadn’t played a role like that before, and I don’t think she has since. The rest of the cast were people either I, Linnea, or the producer knew. There were no formal auditions for the movie.

 

You of course also have to talk about Scream Queen's main location for a bit, and what was it like filming there?

 

We filmed the majority of the movie in a house in a Glendale. It wasn’t ideal for the script, but it was affordable and we did the most we could to dress and light it to fit the gothic tone I was going for. I had the run of the place for four days, and thanks to some very long hours we shot everything we had planned. We also filmed pickups and additional scenes all over LA, from Hollywood to Malibu.

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

It was a short shoot – just four or five days of principal but with lots of pick-ups later on. It was a fun shoot for the most part, with the exception of a few difficult actors and the producer, who would threaten to “shut us down” ever so often, even though it was all his money in the film. Like on any low budget film, you just keep shooting no matter what happens, good or bad. My favorite times on the set were those with Linnea, because she created a sense of calm and was super professional and friendly to everyone.

 

So how did the re-release of Scream Queen come about?

 

I had been campaigning off and on for years to get the movie released on DVD. Visual Vengeance finally stepped up to the plate and made it happen in a bigger way than I ever expected. They approached me right away once they had secured the rights, and I got involved in delivering the best elements and creating most of the bonus features.

 

Since Scream Queen has been made over two decades ago already, what are your personal opinions about the movie from today's point of view?

 

I think the movie was ahead of its time in many ways. Of course, there had been some ‘meta’ movies made before it, but not that many, and not nearly as many as have been made since. It was definitely unique in the horror genre, especially SOV horror, for the movie to lampoon itself like it does. So, the postmodern tone and some of the issues the movie raises help it stand out now, just as it did then. Technically, it's a product of its time and budget, and I wish we’d had more time and money to make a slicker movie. But as a script, I think it holds up pretty well.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Scream Queen, both then and now?

 

There was no reception back in 2002 because nobody could see it! That was very disappointing to me at the time but I did make other movies which got wide releases and caught on with fans. Over the years, I’ve heard from people who saw Scream Queen somehow and really enjoyed it. Which makes this Visual Vengeance Blu-ray release all the more important, because I think fans really will have fun with this film, and by watching all the extras, discover the story behind it.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

I don’t want to talk too much about projects I have in development as I’m superstitious. But I am currently promoting my new book Neon Nightmares: LA Thrillers of the 1980s (available from BearManor Media, Amazon, B&N, etc.) and my new anthology movie Hi-Fear, which is on DVD and can be streamed on Itunes, Amazon Video, etc. I am also producing special features for other upcoming Visual Vengeance releases of my films. And I have a new movie I plan on shooting next year.

 

What got your into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

I started shooting shorts and features on Hi-8 video in high school, then went to film school at Boston University. Afterward, I moved to LA and worked in various production jobs before I was offered the chance to write and direct Scream Queen.

 

What can you tell us about your past filmwork besides Scream Queen?

 

I’ve written and directed over twenty movies since then. Some of the ones you may have heard of are Camp Blood (and its two sequels), Death Factory, Goth, Plaguers and the Hi-8 trilogy. I’ve also written two book: Terror in the Desert: Dark Cinema of the American Southwest (McFarland) and Neon Nightmares, which I mentioned earlier.

 

In all your films you never stray too far from the horror genre - so is horror a favourite genre of yours, and why (not)?

 

Horror is a favorite genre of mine, but not the only one I like, or want to work in. I’m a big fan of film noir, psychological thrillers and action movies for example. But since I directed a few popular horror films early in my career, that’s all I’ve ever been offered, or been able to get off the ground. Within the genre, there’s incredible opportunities to tell different types of stories, though. The last few anthology films I’ve executive produced and co-directed, Hi-8, Hi-Death and Hi-Fear, have been chances for me to tell horror stories that are more personal and different than standard slasher/creature films.

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

Ambitious, hardworking, impatient, demanding, collaborative and flexible. By that I mean, I always have a plan going in, but am willing to adjust if hit with any obstacles. I always try to see the ‘big picture’ and not get overly fixated on details that can hold you up. I’m also not set in a particular way of directing: I think each project demands its own style and approach, from shot choices to how actors are directed.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

In the horror genre George A. Romero, John Carpenter, Dario Argento. Outside horror Michael Mann, William Friedkin, Paul Schrader, Walter Hill, Albert Pyun. Those are just a few.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Dawn of the Dead, To Live and Die in LA, Sorcerer, Blue Velvet, All That Jazz, Streets of Fire, Near Dark, The Hitcher, Prince of Darkness.

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

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I hate laziness or lack of personality in filmmaking at any level. I’m not a fan of today’s studio franchises, like Marvel or DC movies or Fast and the Furious type stuff. Those do nothing for me. Closer to home, I think indie horror – and I’m talking about regional microbudget movies here, not Blumhouse or A24 movies – used to be much more ambitious and individualistic. It’s sad to see folks just throwing stuff out there that isn’t even an hour long and trying to milk a trend without any real thought or originality. It brings the whole genre down, in my opinion.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

My production company is Nightfall Pictures, and the best way to get news about my current projects is to find us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Nightfallpix/), on Instagram (@nightfallpix) and on our official website: https://nightfallpictures.wixsite.com/mysite

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

I’m amazed that I’m still talking about Scream Queen 25 years after we filmed it, and even more thrilled that it’s now available for fans to enjoy. If you’re a fan of Linnea, or my work, or just indie horror in general, check out the Visual Vengeance Blu-ray - I’m sure you’ll find plenty to scream about.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.

 

There's No Such Thing as Zombies
starring
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
Debra Lamb and Lynn Lowry

 

directed by
Eddie Bammeke

written by
Michael Haberfelner

produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke

 

now streaming at

Amazon

Amazon UK

Vimeo

 

 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!