Thursday, 23 October 2014

Screaming In High Heels: The Rise And Fall Of The Scream Queen Era (2011)

There are some good reasons why the '80s are looked back on with such fondness by horror fans. The home video boon led to a seismic shift in business models and consumer appetite (as seems to have happened again recently with the many digital services we can now try), practical effects were gloriously gloopy, and discovering real gems was a much harder task before the internet exploded, this making each positive discovery much more rewarding.

Three other reasons justifying our fondness for the decade can be found here, and they are Linnea Quigley, Brinke Stevens, and Michelle Bauer. Okay, they may not appeal to the full demographic who watched many of their movies, but each woman had a way to capture the affections of most fans.

Jason Paul Collum brings together the three ladies to discuss their experiences (how they started in the business, memorable anecdotes and such). They're not actually together onscreen, but they cover similar ground, with each lady receiving the same amount of screentime, roughly. And then we get input from the likes of Fred Olen Ray and David DeCoteau, waxing lyrical about the decade that allowed them to become such prolific directors, and the women who helped them sell their titles.

There are also plenty clips to keep us amused, and some of the stuff on display here is ridiculous. Yet I won't deny that I would, and perhaps will, watch pretty much anything with these scream queens involved. Titles and ideas were created for the sole purpose of shoehorning these actresses into some roles, and I couldn't care one bit when it leads to the likes of Evil Toons, Sorority Babes In The Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, and many more movies that are every bit as enjoyable as they sound.

Quigley, Stevens and Bauer approach their careers, and status, with a certain pragmatism that never leads to them looking down on the genre that made them such hot property, although it didn't necessarily make them rich. They don't claim to be experts on horror, but they do provide a view of how the scream queen phenomenon grew and grew, and how the bubble was filled up until it burst, thanks to their insider perspective.

The term didn't only apply to horror actresses in the '80s, of course, but that's certainly when it gained a popularity, and it's when companies decided to recruit more and more women specifically to mould into that role, which inevitably led to a decline in quality of the "stars" given convention time to meet and greet (and often get money from) fans. As these three ladies discuss that situation, it's hard to disagree with their disappointment. Yes, it could seem bitchy and toxic, but it doesn't.

As is the way with everything, something was seen to be popular, and was then exploited to the point that the market became oversaturated and people started to suffer, in terms of quality and in terms of finances. Thankfully, the original, and best, will always outlast the many copycats who come and go, and Quigley, Stevens and Bauer remain firm fan favourites while so many other names have been forgotten, consigned to the VHS bargain bin of history.

P.S. If you want to help Linnea Quigley out of a bad spot then please visit here and do what you can.


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