Most notable for playing Trish in cult 80s slasher The Slumber Party Massacre, Michele Michaels is an American actress and writer born in Orange, California. Landing her first acting role in Amateur Night at the Dixie Bar and Grill (1979), Michele went on to act in New Year’s Evil (1980), Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987), and Hero and the Terror (1988).
Being big fans of The Slumber Party Massacre, we were excited to get the opportunity to chat with one of its main stars!
Was the film a cut above the slasher films made at the time?
Although I didn’t read, DON’T OPEN THE DOOR, the original script by Rita Mae Brown, I remember THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE screenplay by both writers as deeply human, with overlays of irony and truth. Written as a parody and making fun of most other ‘Slashers’, Director/Writer, Amy Holden Jones turned the genre on its head and initiated ‘the feminist edge!’ This propelled “The Slumber Party Massacre” into a deeper understanding of courage and liberation within the wider scope of bawdy female realism. It gives the characters permission to break the norms, subvert expectations, and leads us on an unexpected journey; one which focuses the lens on ‘true feminine voice and comedic release’ in order to elevate choice and freedom.
This story exemplifies the power of the Feminine. It rose out of a movement that protested authority and the rules of patriarchy based on Second Wave Feminism.
SPM ushers in a kind of Brechtian Gesture that employs the animus of the Female Archetype to create a new Siren for the 21st Century! We laugh, we sing, we own our sexuality to its’ fullest potential. We refuse to relinquish our freedom to the Male Patriarchy, yet we always enjoy the true Masculine Spirit in love with our dance. It is a ceremonial empowerment to slash the drill, and kill off the false, male bully. We’re left to rejoice!
What did you think of the screenplay for The Slumber Party Massacre, written by Amy Holden Jones and Rita Mae Brown?
The Set of THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE was alive with the creative spirit … there was an extraordinary feeling of synergy on the set and excitement to take a leap of faith with each other! The cast and crew, together, had a fearlessness that made for edgy fun and experimentation. We were always reaching beyond ourselves, into the imaginal worlds.
The risk-taking nature of this group, made for effortless cutting edge ‘Slasher Magic’ – our Make-Up Department created all things ‘Gore’ and Amy’s Lighting & Camera work were exacting. There was such commitment to expertise that Amy guided through all the filming.
She gave us space to experiment and the camaraderie with my fellow actors made it easy for me to focus into my character as Trish. It gave me creative license to shape my relationships, which facilitated my rhythm within the scenes. Aaron Lipstadt, Producer and “Pizza Delivery Man” held strong for all of us on the set too, even though he ‘delivered a cold pizza’ (lol)
What was the feeling on the set of The Slumber Party Massacre? Did it feel like a special horror film?
I came from a background in stage, improv, and experimental theatre. Understanding Trish’s sub-text gave me the confidence to risk ‘throwing down a scene’. For instance, there was a spontaneous moment when I sat down at the piano and started playing a song of mine and began to improvise. Trish playing on the piano at the opening of that scene ended up in the final cut.
After performing in a number of horror films, and playing lead roles across multiple theatrical areas, I felt honored to be given my first lead role in a feature.
As a Feminist myself, I recognized the groundbreaking work of Rita Mae Brown, (author of “Ruby Fruit Jungle”) as an activist Lesbian feminist.
It was a great surprise for me, in the industry, to not only witness Amy taking the reigns as Director but also as the first feminist to direct a comedy horror film! As unique as I knew this was at the time, it was not even close to the understanding I now have, of the history-making impact on the genre this dynamic generated.
Heading to NYC just as the film came out in L.A., I went to see the movie at a large theatre in NYC. Having heard Amy and Roger were stunned to see the packed house for the Hollywood Premiere, I really wanted to feel the audience’s reactions. Sitting incognito in the back, I was shocked by their engaging, hi-volume responses and their enthusiastic interactions with the characters on the screen.
Did the film prove to be very popular, when released to video?
Walking in Greenwich Village, I saw SPM [The Slumber Party Massacre] playing for years as the Mid-Night Show at The Waverly Theatre.
Between the theatres that kept playing it and the video stores that were so popular, the gross take on The Slumber Party Massacre seemed huge. The film steadily grew in popularity and developed a large fan base. Then, the Blue Ray DVD got released and was well received by the fans.
Were you satisfied with the final cut of the film?
I felt the story was really cut together well, especially with the unexpected moments that occurred during the shooting. Many of these gems were kept from the cutting room floor by Amy’s brilliant editing (her first career before writing and directing).
Do you sometimes attend horror film festivals?
I love attending film festivals as well as conventions and meeting the fans. I’m excited about women’s film festivals and ‘women in horror’. I enjoy the exchange of ideas, inspiring insights and learning about new projects. I attended the iconic Chiller Theatre Convention in New Jersey which had a really wonderful attendance. I felt so happy to engage with great people, who had fallen in love with SPM [The Slumber Party Massacre].
Will Hollywood remake the film?
As the original film slowly worked itself into becoming a cult classic, The Slumber Party Massacre was also developing into a franchise. Due to the seminal nature of the film, it spawned two sequels. It also inspired a recent remake. All have been directed by women!
SPM’s [The Slumber Party Massacre] continuously growing fan base now extends across a whole generation. The number of studies on the film’s historic influence has expanded through Four Waves of Feminism. The original SPM’s [The Slumber Party Massacre] cultural impact empowered a recent remake of SPM for this new generation to further evolve the values it imparted.
Phil Blankenship included THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE in his historical vault collection for the original film (celluloid) preservation of the most influential films in their categories for THE ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURES and SCIENCES, Los Angeles, USA.
Over the last few years a few more things occurred on behalf of THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE:-
Museum of Modern Art, NYC, Included “The Slumber Party Massacre” in it’s MoMA 2022 Screenings: Horror Film Festival Retrospective
THE CRITERION CHANNEL Included SPM [The Slumber Party Massacre] in its’ list of The Top 100 Horror Films
BOOK RELEASE due out in 2023 on THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE by April Snelling [Title not yet set]
How can people keep up to date with your latest projects?
MICHELE MICHAELS Website coming this year with Podcasts that inform
Instagram MicheleMichaels12 and www.Facebook.com/Michele.Michaels.735
IMDB is: Michelle Michaels
This interview was provided to Grimoire of Horror by John Wisniewski
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