Horror House: An Exclusive Interview

Horror hosts are nothing new. They’ve been around since the dawn of television, haunting our sets with bizarre and intriguing ghouls who set the stage for even stranger tales. From the likes of Vampira, Criswell, and Elvira we’ve been welcomed you into their lairs with promises of chills, thrills and outright terror. Like any notion or cultural phenomena, the horror host has evolved. Other shows quickly took to the model making modifications to fit the platform they had in mind. Rod Serling gave us Twilight Zone and Night Gallery which offered science fiction and horror in a shorter, more television friendly format while Mystery Science Theater went a step further by breaking the fourth wall and riffing jokes over god awful dialogue and plot points. When I was in high school I’d stay up late and, if I was very lucky, the wind would blow just right and carry the signal for Dr. Gangrene’s Creature Feature late at night. Now, in the age of the internet, a renaissance is happening in horror culture and indie cinema. A new generation of horror host is appearing in our computer screens and on our smart phones. I’ve had a chance to meet some of these amazing new hosts like Malvolia: The Queen of Screams and the duo I’m about to introduce you to tonight.

I’ve been digging Aussie horror lately. Films like Alfred J Hemlock and Wyrmwood have been winning me over with their amazing story telling, beautiful portrayals, and frightening designs. The land down under is becoming a terrifying place in the most wonderful way imaginable. With a vibrant independent film and horror culture scene -as well as being a haven for sideshow performers, artists, musicians, writers, and actors- everything you could dream of is being explored and David Black is leading the way. The frontman for the band Darkness Visible has been writing, directing, producing and starring in several independent films and has already had quite an amazing career as an editor, cartoonist, and musician. Now, along with the lovely Tritia DeVisha, a talented presenter and actress, they’re trying to bring indie cinema to late night television as a pair of horror hosts whose gruesome, vulgar, hilarious antics are sure to capture your attention.

Dan - Tell me a bit about your careers in the film industry.

DB – I’m pretty much a newcomer to the film industry. I did my first spots as an extra in May 2016 starting with Cult Girls, and film by film, worked my way up. I’ve been in a theatrical horror rock band called Darkness Visible since 1994, so there are all those years of being on stage and entertaining that prepared me for this.

TDV – I started off doing modelling in my teens for Asian nightclub posters for clubs like Metro and Warehouse. I was walking down the street one day on my way to a tram stop with a friend and a photographer came up to us asking if we could help him as his models hadn’t shown up. So I spent my late teens and early 20s doing that and various bits of extra work through an agency on commercials and shows like Blue Heelers. Then I started volunteering at RMITV where I wrote and presented lifestyle segments for C31 covering everything from astrology to Bollywood dancing. I was also doing screen acting and presenting courses at various schools in Melbourne. I ended up scoring a gig as weekly co-host/presenter on independent music and lifestyle show NoiseTV on C31 (which was picked up by SBS), and working with a small crew of about 10 people we pumped out and hour and a half of television each week. I did that for almost five years where I honed my skills presenting and producing and learned to edit and work on tight deadlines. After that I took a few years off to travel and did the festival circuit. I was doing live MC work, acting, dancing, and performing at festivals like Rainbow Serpent, The Dreaming and Woodford. I returned to Melbourne in 2012 to focus on acting. I also started directing my own short films in 2015 with my short Exit from Eden – the Story of Lilith and also my experimental horror short, The Kali Geisha Erotica Grotesque, both of which have gotten into some film festivals. I’m currently doing post production on my latest piece Inanna, the Queen of Heaven. My own films are very much based on Goddess Mythology, mainly the Dark Goddess, trying to show the beauty of the Dark, and that not everything has to be love, light, fluffy or cute to be beautiful. I also won an award last year at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival for Best Supporting Actress for my roles in Revenge of the Gweilo and Mui Karaoke. My background is pretty varied and I’m enjoying presenting again with Horror House as it is somewhat my roots. Looking forward to what the future holds

Dan - How did you two meet and begin working with one another on this project?

DB - I first met Tritia at a movie networking night called Boogie Nights. I had been pestering her online to get into her movie, Inana Queen of Heaven. She wouldn’t accept me as one of the beautiful palace women though. I still think that I look damned hot in a dress, but there will be other opportunities down the track.

Dan - David Black, Palace Wench. Has a good ring to it.

TDV – Hahaha yes. I remember. We were friends on FB and I didn’t recognize David as a real person without his zombie makeup on like he had in his profile pic! We kept in touch and David has referred me for other projects. He got in touch with me for Horror House actually before the shooting even started, when he was looking for shorts to air on the pilot and wanted to screen my Kali Geisha Erotica Grotesque. Then later when I heard he was looking for a co-host I put my hand up and the rest is history

Dan - How would you describe Horror House to a newcomer? What’s can we expect to see? What’s the layout of the show going to be like?

DBHorror House is a half hour hosted horror show that showcases Aussie short horror films. It’s a bit of an old style horror show in the type of humour, but cranked up a few notches to bring it in line with today. The layout is to be 3 short movies with a bit of banter in between by the hosts and to end up with a horror themed music video at the end. Preference is always going to be for bucket loads of gore, boobs and bad taste humour.

TDV – Haha yes! Kitch slapstick humour and pretty much pushing the boundaries of bad taste to see how far we can take it and just having a load of fun doing it. Once when we were rehearsing I questioned if it was appropriate for television, David responded with something along the lines of “if we (cast & crew) are all in tears laughing at the disgusting absurdity of the jokes, then other people out there must find it funny too.” And it worked!

So yes, like David said, it’s like an old style horror show. Old school remixed and reloaded.

Dan- You two play a ghoulish duo of horror hosts on the show. Can you introduce them for me?

DB – I play Count Funghoula. He’s a bit of a cross between Max Shreck’s Count Orlock and Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, but way over the top. He lusts after Mistress Boobiyana and tries to be the man, but she always cuts him down to size … as well as cutting off body parts.

TDV – Mistress Boobiyana is similar styling to Elvira and some of the other horror goth Queens, a sexy diva vamp, but has spent lots of time in Australia so sometimes speaks with a rather colloquial ‘Strine (Australian) accent which is a contrast to her somewhat glamorous façade. She has a somewhat sadistic streak about her and enjoys torturing the Count, who she has been stuck with for so many centuries, but deep down she has a deep fondness for the little perv. She enjoys the fact that he can grow his parts back so she can continue cutting them off.

Dan - I'd also love to know about the inspiration behind characters/names and the set design.

DB – Count Funghoula loves to have FUN and is a GHOUL. It’s not my fault that fungula is an Italian word for fuck. Those who choose to associate the two just simply have dirty minds.

Mistress Boobiyana is from the Russian word “Babushka” which means grandmother. She didn’t get that name due to being old because in vampire terms, 500 years is a short time. It’s because she is a very caring, nurturing person. As for those that thought it had something to do with boobs, once again, I can only say that they have dirty minds.

TDV – Hahaha, yes. And set design just using the amazing array of David’s latex props collection from his music videos. So many different ways you can hang a dead baby! It’s fantastic!

Dan - What were the influences behind these characters? What are you trying to capture through them?

DB – I grew up with so many horror comedies that took off Bela Lugosi’s Dracula that I didn’t even think when it came to Count Funghoula. The part was virtually second nature. I think most people have seen someone do a takeoff of a vampire where the words “I vant to suck your bloooooood” were used.

TDV – Mistress Boobiyana’s styling was very much visually influenced by Elvira, who was always the Queen of those late night horror shows, with the big hair and big boobs, but I think with the personality itself was very natural to me. I’ve already played a lot of dark Goddess/Dominatrix/Mistress styled roles, so it was pretty much just exaggerating the bits we thought worked and then working on the chemistry & interaction between the two characters

Dan - Tell me a bit about the independent (and horror) film industry in Australia. What’s the culture like for filmmakers and fans? How has it impacted Horror House’s production?

DB – The Aussie indie movie industry is extremely active. There are shoots going on constantly and many are of high quality. Culture wise, I would say it’s like one big family. E.g. I got my call sheet for a small role that I play tomorrow. Out of 14 crew listed on the sheet, I know 10, so it will be like spending a day with my crowd of friends. This isn’t the only shoot going either. I was offered another part for the same day and time and had to knock it back. So, tomorrow I am at the bottom of the pecking order, being an extra but next week I could be at the top being a director. It’s pretty much like that where we all come together on different shoots to help someone’s vision a reality.

TDV – Indy filmmaking/filmmakers/crew and actors are crazy, dedicated people. Someone once said “acting is everyone’s second favourite job”. Everyone still has to eat, pay rent and live, but without external funding, a lot of filmmakers are self-funding their projects out of their own pockets from their day jobs and making big sacrifices of time and money. Many people work for free and collaborate on these projects so that we can create art and entertainment and then hope that it gets picked up so we can get it out there to a wider audience. And so we can get studio or government funding to continue creating. So I guess we are one of the lucky ones to have been picked up, and hopefully soon we can get sponsors on board to help us cover costs of production.

Dan - Are you still taking submissions from filmmakers who might be interested in having their films aired on the show?

DB – I will be taking submissions for as long as the series is running. The first series is all Aussie short horror movies, but it’s likely that I will have to open that up to the world for the second series because I don’t think I will find enough shorts from just Australia. TDV – Yup, the more the merrier, the more we have to choose from the better films we can screen. It’s wonderfully exciting and inspiring to have a platform for filmmakers to showcase their art.

Dan - This is going to be on late night television? Can you tell me when and where we can find it?

DB - It will be late night. It’s going on Foxtel Aurora nationally across Australia in early 2018. We haven’t been given the program guide yet. It will likely be shown 3 times a week, so catching the show shouldn’t be too much of a problem for those who stay up late. TDV – So yes, stay tuned, we’ll let you know as soon as we get more details.

Dan - There are some risqué, even gruesome gags in your scenes. Has this posed a problem for you in trying to translate the show to t.v.?

DB –The problem was actually the opposite. I thought the script for the pilot was too extreme for tv, but the producer wanted it even heavier. Australian community tv has often screened the heaviest of international arthouse movies, so it’s more a case of not veering too close to what commercial tv would show.

TDV – Yeah I was shocked when we got picked up by Foxtel, so I guess we just take it further and keep pushing boundaries until they tell us to stop!!

Dan - Are there any plans yet to open it up to a larger audience online?

DB – I would like to get the widest audience possible. As heavy as we are, shows like Outlander, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead have moved the bar so far that it might be possible. The heavy stuff that was once the domain of B grade movies is now tame compared to what the big, moneyed up shows are doing. I haven’t put a plan in place yet of how to open this up to a larger audience but the dream is there.

TDV – Goals definitely.

Dan - How do you hope Horror House is going to be received on television versus through other media outlets?

DB – I have no idea. Technology is moving so fast that even planning for today means that you are out of date by the time your product is available.

That isn’t a new thing though. I used to be a cartoonist and when I was getting ready to launch my cartoon strip Punkz In Space in 1993, newspapers changed the format of the funnies page and suddenly the cartoon strips were being printed at roughly 65% of the size they had been for years. We found that the strip needed to be simplified to survive at that level. If we had gone ahead and launched, we would have been whacked again within 2 years as colour became standard and would have had to create pantone matching system charts for every single colour on the various characters.

In short, you can plan and have to, but the rate of change is always going to force you to make adjustments on the way.

TDV – Obviously we hope it will be well received. It’s a Cult kind of show and has potential for a good following and we can always tailor and refine things as we progress based on audience response and feedback. Perhaps release different edits for tv & web, with more explicit versions available to view online?

Dan - What are you hoping to bring to the cultures of horror and filmmaking through Horror House?

DB – I hope to bring a high visibility, regular outlet to Aussie filmmakers for horror. This in itself should boost activity. When you are an artist and you suddenly start seeing lots of high quality product coming out, you then take influence, get busy and raise your game.

TDV – Exactly. This show is a showcase platform for artists, and hopefully inspire filmmakers to create more.

I’d like to point out that David has been making everything from music videos to independent horror for nearly 25 years and, despite invitation after invitation to Australian news and media outlets, has had nearly zero press coverage for the incredibly cool work he’s doing. Meanwhile, here in America, we love every bit of blood, gore, and schlocky humor that he and his compatriots have been bringing to life and in the last six months alone more than 18 different horror and cinema sites and ‘zines including Psycho Drive-In and Decay Magazine have talked up his projects. And now, of course, 52 Weeks of Horror is proud to add to that list with our coverage of the gruesome and enticing Horror House.

Horror House is an amazing, funny, grotesque show featuring some of the coolest Aussie horror as well as some Troma style gags that you can’t help but to love. Check them out on Facebook at @HorrorHouseShow and keep an eye out for everything coming up from a land down under.

Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.

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