In honour of Women in Horror month, GWG’s Felicia Mancini has a conversation with published Author, Artist and Actress BARBIE WILDE. They chat about her longstanding career in the genre, how her darkest fears fuel her novels and her take on the evolution of horror.
FELICIA:What is like to be considered a horror icon?
BARBIE: It’s something that I never expected to be during my intensely varied career, but I’m very happy and proud to have been involved in a horror film like Hellbound: Hellraiser II - a film that has made such profound impression on people over the years.
FELICIA: Why do you think there are so many girls out there that gravitate towards horror now vs 20, 30 years ago?
BARBIE:Perhaps because there are more women actually making horror movies and writing horror than there was back then. Although one of my favourite horror writers, Shirley Jackson (The Lottery, The Haunting of Hill House), wrote back in the 40s and 50s.
With people like the Soska Sisters (American Mary, Dead Hooker in a Trunk and their upcoming reimagining of Rabid), Jovanka Yukovich (The Captured Bird, The Guest, XX (“The Box”), Riot Girls), Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark), Mary Harron (American Psycho), Mary Lambert (Pet Sematary), etc., as well as writers like Marie O’Regan, Sarah Pinborough and myself, women can now relate to the stories that we’re telling.
And because of 24 hour rolling news, the ghastliness of the world is always with us, so inventing and enjoying made-up terrors may be one way of coping with the real life horrors confronting us every day on our TV screens.
Here’s an interesting quote from Bela Lugosi regarding women who love horror: “It is women who bear the race in bloody agony. Suffering is a kind of horror. Blood is a kind of horror. Women are born with horror in their very bloodstream. It is a biological thing.”
FELICIA: What is your favourite thing about being such a big part of an groundbreaking series such as the Hellraiser franchise?
BARBIE: Meeting the fans and hearing their reactions to the films is a wonderful part of it, as well as participating in anything to do with Clive Barker, who has to be one of the most imaginative writers, painters and directors around.
Although sometimes I worry a bit when fans come up to me and say: “you scared me to death when I was 8 years old” and I say “What were your parents thinking?!” (All that S&M stuff in the first film is a bit harsh for an 8 year old, IMHO.) However, I still get a thrill that my Cenobite cohorts and I have managed to twist a few young minds over the years.
FELICIA: Do you feel like women are fairly represented on and off screen in the world of horror which includes books, movies and television?
BARBIE: It’s getting a bit better now, but we’re still woefully under-represented. Only 7 percent of directors in Hollywood are women, which is a pretty shocking statistic. We can’t fool ourselves that things are going to improve by themselves. We have to be more proactive and be more forceful in making our way, although it isn’t easy when you can’t even get a foot in the door because you’re a woman, or because you used to be an actress so people don’t take you seriously as a writer.
However, what I always say to folks who ask me for advice in the business is to share that inspiring line from GalaxyQuest: “Never give up. Never surrender!”
FELICIA: I read an article recently that received backlash for discussing why we need female horror villains and it also included some comments saying that it isn't something women should care to portray in film. What do you have to say about women playing lead characters in horror films and aren't the victims?
BARBIE: Speaking as an actress, villains are always more interesting (and much more fun) to play! If you gave me a choice of playing Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker, I’d pick Darth in a New York minute. (Hey, maybe that’s what the Star Wars franchise needs: a new FEMALE villain.) A role is a role, and any backlash is a bit ridiculous in my opinion. In the end, you just want the job!
FELICIA: Have you ever felt as a woman that is an author and actor in this genre that you weren't granted same opportunities?
BARBIE: Of course, but I don’t like to complain about it, because then you become known as a “whining woman”. (Or a “whinging woman”, as they say in Britain.)
One review of my serial killer novel actually started out quite dismissively, mentioning that I was just “the chick who played the Female Cenobite in Hellraiser II”. Then luckily, the reviewer admitted that I could write, gave me a great review and begged my forgiveness, but it was a weird way to start a review of my book.
No one is going to give you an easy ride. Opportunities have to be sought out, grabbed forcibly and shaken within an inch of their lives.
FELICIA: In your opinion, how has the horror community as a whole evolved?
BARBIE: I think the evolution of the horror community - its expansion, the lively debates and the “normalization” of horror (i.e., the fact that horror movies are featured so prominently now in streaming and download services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and iTunes) is probably due to the advancement and spread of the internet. The horror community of today no longer communicates just via snail mail, but now instantly conveys messages and ideas via email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Groups and forums are created, issues debated, topics explored and we can reach out to each other, support each other and collaborate with each other — all in instant and easily accessible ways.
Evolution has also occurred in the way we view horror, the new and exciting input of women into the genre, and how horror is now being recognized as a more popular art form, one that can be respected. The fact that two horror films, The Shape of Water and Get Out, have been given Oscar nods in 2018 is a wonderful tribute to this.
FELICIA: What is the process like when you start a novel? Where do the ideas come from and how do you work around obstacles like writers block?
BARBIE: I take my lead from my obsessions. For example, I have always been fascinated by serial killers and their motivations, so writing a book about one seemed very natural to me. Many of the scenes from my diary-of-a-serial-killer novel, The Venus Complex, as well as some of my short story ideas, come to me in my dreams, which make for very restless nights, let me tell you. Often, my research means that things that I’ve read during the day get mixed up and conjured up as dreams later.
If you have writer’s block, then just go back and research, research, research. There may be something out there; some little tidbit of information, that might inspire you to start writing again, or look at your work with fresh eyes.
FELICIA: How did you feel accepting the role as a cenobite and can you tell us any cool tidbits about working on set?
BARBIE: I nearly didn’t go to the audition, because the first Hellraiser film disturbed me so much! (Although it also intrigued me. The character of Julia in particular was such a captivating diva of horror. And I loved her sick and obsessive relationship with Frank.)
Of course, in the end, I was very glad I got the part. The first Hellraiser film had caused quite a stir, so it was very cool to be part of such a groundbreaking project.
The cenobites all had very early calls because of the makeup process: I was in makeup for 4 hours, Doug “Pinhead” Bradley was in the chair for 6. Then the inevitable waiting around to get on set. However, we all did ridiculous things to keep each other’s spirits up: I did a lot of singing of show tunes from musicals like “Cabaret”, Simon liked to perform the CanCan occasionally, in full “Butterball” gear, and Doug told jokes and stories, etc.
FELICIA: Would you ever step into this role on screen again and if so what would a 2018 cenobite be like?
BARBIE: If I was asked, then of course, I’d like to reprise the role. As for what a female cenobite would be like today, just have a peek at my collection of short horror stories, Voices of the Damned, which features three Female Cenobite stories about a former nun turned demon called Sister Cilice. She’s a very devious and powerful character.
FELICIA: Why do you think Hellraiser has stood the test of time?
BARBIE: I think it’s because people are fascinated by the new kind of monster that Clive created. Cenobites are not mindless creatures chasing girls in boob tubes through the woods with a chain saw. They are very vocal about their motivations and they talk to their victims, which is unusual for modern monsters. They have thought processes and perhaps can even be reasoned with — up to a point.
Also, the idea of the Lament Configuration is so unique and irresistible: a puzzle box that can open a doorway to another dimension — perhaps to hell, or some other infernal place.
FELICIA: Is there any one thing in particular that scares you as one of your greatest fears? For myself personally, I could be in a room full of evil clowns with chainsaws and it wouldn't scare me as much as a tiny mouse running across a room would. What about you?
BARBIE: My greatest fear is home invasion. I wrote about it in my short horror story, “Gaia”, which also features in Voices of the Damned (and was first published as “Uranophobia” in the anthology, Phobophobia). Just the idea that someone knows you’re home and then breaks in anyway to terrorise you into giving them your PIN number or whatever, really freaks me out.
I also hate (and I mean HATE) basements, ever since I was a kid. Yet again, I dealt with that phobia in my short story, “Botophobia”, which is also included in Voices of the Damned. I watched a lot of horror and sci-fi movies when I was a kid and bad things always seemed to happen in the basement.
FELICIA: What makes a good 'final girl' aka a scream queen and do you have a favourite? I’m somewhere between Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween and Sidney in Scream, personally speaking. What about you?
BARBIE: My favourite Final Girl film is actually called Final Girls, directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson and written by M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller. All the female characters in the film kick butt in an amazing way.
I’m more of a Sigourney Weaver in Alien ‘Final Woman’ fan myself.
FELICIA: With all the new horror remakes popping up if there was another Hellraiser on the horizon who would you cast to play your part in a remake?
BARBIE: I’d love Jessica Chastain to play the Female Cenobite, as she has such a powerful presence. She was such a wonderfully wicked baddie in Guillermo del Toro’s gothic masterpiece, Crimson Peak.
FELICIA: Favourite horror movie of all time?
BARBIE: Well, the movie that has had the greatest effect on me and my career would have to be the first Hellraiser film. (Yes, I do prefer it to Hellbound.)
Taking Hellraiser out the equation, I have a fondness for sci-fi horror, so I’d have to say the original 50s versions of The Thing From Another World (1951) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) are particular favs. I also love black and white 60s horror like The Innocents (1961) and the original The Haunting (1963). I think that the scariest films that had the most visceral impact on me when I saw them at the time were Alien (1979) and Carpenter’s The Thing (1982).
FELICIA: What’s a new horror movie you watched as of recently (could be from last few years) that stuck with you or you really enjoyed?
BARBIE: I adored the Autopsy of Jane Doe, directed by André Øvredal. If I can go back a little bit more, then the Soska Sister’s American Mary is one of my favorites. Sinister, directed by Scott Derrickson was also very effective. And anything directed by Guillermo del Toro. (I’m really looking forward to seeing The Shape of Water.)
FELICIA: What are you working on next and what can our readers get their hands on now?
BARBIE: In pre-production: a feature length horror film called Blue Eyes, based on a short story of mine. It’s co-written with Chris Alexander (Blood for Irina, Queen of Blood, Female Werewolf, Blood Dynasty, Space Vampire) and will be directed by Chris. Starring Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy.
Out now: Voices of the Damned, an illustrated short horror story collection published by SST Publications. (Publishers Weekly: “…sensual in its brutality.” “…a delight for the darker senses.”) Each story is illustrated in full color by top artists in the horror genre, such as Clive Barker, Nick Percival, Daniele Serra, Vincent Sammy, Tara Bush, Steve McGinnis, Ben Bradford and Eric Gross.
Out now: The Venus Complex, my debut dark crime, diary-of-a-serial-killer novel, published by Comet Press. (Fangoria: “Wilde is one of the finest purveyors of erotically charged horror fiction around.”)
Film Script: Zulu Zombies.
New real life horror novel, working title: The Anatomy of Ghosts.