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Felissa Rose Main



Interview conducted by Stuart D. Monroe

Every horror fan remembers that moment. You remember where you were (our apartment in Charleston), when it was (sometime in 1988 on one of our many unsupervised weekends of debauchery), who you were with (my older brother), even what you were munching on (Doritos and a big glass of sweet tea). You’re watching a nifty little slasher you picked up at the video store for your weekend binge. It’s not really groundbreaking stuff as summer camp slashers go, but the kills are nastier than most and there’s this really weird vibe running just below the surface…like a secret waiting to be told. Could the killer really be this virtually silent teen girl with the vacant stare? What’s she hiding?

Then it happens: you come to the end and the killer is revealed. Only this ending will give new definition to the word “revealed”, and you now have a newer and more proper understanding of what a twist ending should be.

The movie is, of course, the 1983 classic Sleepaway Camp, and the killer is indeed young Angela. She’s played by 13-year-old Felissa Rose. The sight of her signature snarl, so freaky on a face that has been utterly blank throughout the film, pales in comparison to the sight of her bloody torso and… what the hell am I seeing?!

It remains one of horror’s iconic endings. The woman behind horror’s biggest surprise, however, dropped virtually out of sight for almost 20 years. She went to acting school at the Lee Strasberg Institute and worked some television, but it wasn’t until 2003’s Nikos the Impaler that she rediscovered her love of the genre and the character of Angela. She even reprised the character in the 2008 sequel, Return to Sleepaway Camp. Since then, she’s embraced the title of “Scream Queen” to the fullest. Felissa has starred in well over 100 horror films (including Satan’s Playground, Camp Dread, and Victor Crowley) and has become a power player in the independent horror scene with 30 Producer credits. She also co-hosts the wildly popular Casualty Friday podcast with fellow genre legend Tiffany Shepis (Tromeo and Juliet) and Kane Hodder (Jason Vorhees from Friday the 13th Parts VII – X) on the Fangoria Podcast Network.

I was honored to be able to spend a few minutes with America’s favorite underage mass murderer to discuss her new film, A Nun’s Curse, and her role as the evil nun Sister Monday. We also discussed her deep passion for horror, her crazy schedule, our love of all things Fangoria, and a side project that didn’t come to fruition. We even got a Sleepaway Camp scoop you’re not going to want to miss!

So, sit back and enjoy! And relax – she’s a total sweetheart who doesn’t actually kill people unless (presumably) you really piss her off. She’s very, um, passionate.

felissa rose 02Stuart Monroe: Hi, Felissa! Thank you so much. So, how are you doing during Cabin Fever 2020?

Felissa Rose: I’m doing really well. I feel like I’m busier than I’ve ever been. It’s just crazy because people have thought of ways to kind of do movies or animated projects or interviews, so it’s been fun.

SM: Yeah. I’d say it’s definitely been a busier time. You have to find ways to be creative, or you end up stuck on Tik-Tok. My wife and daughter have been getting a kick out of y’alls stuff.

FR: Oh, my gosh! I know. You know, we get kind of cabin fever and bored, so I’m like, “Let’s do that!” It takes a long time actually to learn it and, yeah…it’s fun.

SM: I wish I had the time, ma’am, but I’m with you there between different writing projects just working. I’m one of those lucky bastards who gets called “essential”, so I’m still working the 45 or 50 hours a week and then trying to squeeze everything in. No rest for the wicked there.

FR: Yeah. Busy!

SM: Luckily, they got me a screener, so I did have a chance to sit down and spend some quality time with Sister Monday.

FR: Oh my God! I’m so sorry! [laughs]

SM: Man, I really dug it. Getting into that character, was there any particular inspiration? How did you approach the role as far as who Sister Monday is? How did you see that character when you were going through it initially?

FR: Well you know [director] Tommy Faircloth and I have had, um, a long-standing friendship. I absolutely adore him, and we had done Family Possessions together. So, when he brought up the project A Nun’s Curse and the character of Sister Monday and how maniacal and evil and villainous she is, I thought, “Wow. This is certainly exciting for any actor to jump into, a character that has all these devious qualities.” It’s exciting because you want to play something completely different from anything you’ve done, and I hadn’t really played anyone that dark and devilish. So, with the poster art that they had created and the idea of how she would look, it was almost like it started with the exterior. With both Tony Rosen and Sean Krumbholz being the special effects artists and dealing with the sclera lenses and the prosthetics and the work they did on my face and my teeth…it was just exciting because I love creating someone so badass! I mean, she’s awful!

SM: Yeah!

FR: Yeah! It was a thrill for me to kind of get into that character.

SM: I really dug the look, too. You talked about the lenses; everybody wants to go with the solid black lenses, but I preferred the choice for that character of the white lenses. It balanced out well with the makeup, ya’ know?

FR: It was so creepy! I couldn’t see; you’re completely blind when you wear them. Just getting into the costume is crazy. People say, “What did you draw on?” First of all, for me I just listen to certain kinds of music. There’s certain music and certain things, I’m sure, that we can all draw on that would give us any kind of momentary anger and you come from that. But when you are physically in that costume and that makeup…like I said, Tony Rosen is the man who created the Annabelle doll. He gave it that whole exterior look. It was kind of easy ‘cause it’s just so rageful.

SM: So, they really set the table for you.

FR: Yes, yes! Absolutely.

SM: You talked about Tommy Faircloth, too. I was really impressed with what everyone achieved here and him writing and directing the film. I know I’ll be keeping an eye on his future. What is it that makes him special? The film really felissa rose 03impressed me. It didn’t look at all low-budget. There was real care taken in the writing of the characters. He’s got a pretty good eye, obviously.

FR: I think Tommy is, um, one of the filmmakers that I absolutely just love working with over and over again, and hopefully we’ll continue our relationship. In fact, we’re talking about doing another project together. His passion is just on a whole other level, and I think especially being a fan of the genre he understands what it takes to draw in an audience. In all of his films, his development of the characters and their relationships is so on point and so fantastic that while you’re watching the movie you really are drawn in. It’s almost like music; he just knows how to kind of like bring you to a climax and take you on this ride, and it’s very exciting. Again, it’s all from his heart and his passion. I know he works from sort of finding locations. He had seen the location, and from there he had gotten these feelings like, “Oh, maybe I should create this world!” He has a whole world in mind, and he knows how to write really well for all these people that he creates in that world. He takes his time, and he’s just a fantastic filmmaker and person and visionary. I’m really glad to be a part of these projects that he’s created.

SM: Definitely. The locations are excellent. It’s funny; I had a little conversation with him on Twitter. Come to find out we’re both from the same neck of the woods in South Carolina. We pull for different teams…

FR: [laughs]

SM: …but, you know, the same home state. I recognized the church location, and I was thinking, “I’ve been there before.” When I was a kid, my mom dragged us all over the state going to old, burned-out churches and such. When I showed it to my mom, and she was like – I can’t remember the name of it right now – she was like, “It’s the one right outside Columbia.” I got to talking to him about it, and he said, “Good eye. You really know your stuff.” I thought it was cool that there was a little bit of a connection, and it connected me to the movie. Something like a location can really trigger something creative. That’s a rich, historical location, and he seems to shoot in a lot of those. South Carolina is beautiful and full of places like that.

FR: It’s so beautiful, and I think especially with this film it’s just like another character in the movie. So, it lends itself to, you know, setting the pace and the vibe. It’s very important. I know from having produced some movies myself that it’s very difficult on some of the budgets we work on in independent filmmaking; you really want to get it right. You want to make sure that you have the right location. And he’s also great with his cast. He has a marvelous cast in this movie. They’re all so dynamite. They were so much fun to work with.

SM: Yes! That caught my eye. The chemistry between the cast; it seems like it was a fun shoot. You can fake a lot of things, but you can’t fake chemistry. Everybody seemed to really have it together.

FR: You can’t! It’s true, especially when you’re coming off of those crazy days…you wanna decompress and everyone would go out to dinner and have a lot of laughs. So, it was levity. It’s like, we can only do the dark and the craziness for so long. You definitely want to get along with the people on set because it’s fun and it translates onto film. I always say if you’re having a good time in that playground and working on that set, you can definitely feel that once the product…the film…is finished. I think that’s what also sets it apart. As the leader, Tommy being the leader, he has a knack for just putting the right people together – the cast, the crew, everything – and you can see that in his finished product.

SM: Most definitely. Damien [Maffei], in particular, I thought was a lot of fun to watch. All the young talent was good, but he’s already shown on a few different movies that he’s going to be making waves for quite a while. I really like him.

FR: I love Damien Maffei so much! I’ve known Damien for many years. We actually did a film years ago…like MANY years ago, close to 20 years ago in New York…and so we already had that connection. It was sort of like we hadn’t lost touch (even though we had). It felt like we were still so connected. And now we talk very often, and I just adore. We’re talking about working together again. I think he’s one of the most talented people I’ve ever met, both in his drama playing any kind of character in a horror movie, but also as a comedian. He’s really hilarious.

SM: Yeah, he does a pretty interesting job of starting off being the jackass that you want to see slaughtered and then, as the movie progresses, you’re thinking he’s not quite the douchebag you thought he was.

FR: He definitely walks that line where he has all the components that make the character stand out and be very likeable.

SM: It’s been a lot of fun to watch, for sure. I was reading an interview with you from (I believe it was 2014), and as is inevitable you were being asked about Sleepaway Camp and a lot of ‘80s stuff. You remarked that the ‘80s were a really special time because, as you put it, “We were much more naïve to the genre.” That comment just stuck with me because it’s a really good point. It is very different now. It’s 2020, and everybody’s not just connected but overly connected. In particular, the horror community is so in touch with each other. How do you think that affects the Golden Age we’re experiencing right now as far as the style of films? It’s very different from the ‘80s.

felissa rose 01FR: It is different. Certainly we’ve seen a lot of remakes and we’ve seen stories being told again because there’s only so many original films you can create. I mean, back in the day that was sort of the beginning, but I think we have so many passionate filmmakers especially in the horror genre. People come up with some scripts I’ve read just recently even that are outstanding. I think we really do owe it to the genre that brings out the most heartfelt and thoughtful filmmakers than any other genre. They’ve seen everything from the ‘70s and ‘80s, and you can feel an homage to them but with a twist and a new take and they’re certainly intelligent movies. So, I think there’s a lot of passion, and I think fortunately we have a lot of platforms where we can view all these movies. So, it’s opened itself up where we can see the movies and yet there are so many! And there’s a lot of original stuff out there. You know, different takes on old stories we’ve seen but with totally unique twists. I love everything that’s coming out recently. It’s just fantastic. I mean, even Terrifier

SM: Oh, man…

FR: Yeah! Right? Art the Clown is already an iconic character and Damien Leone has created something so special. And now, I know Terrifier 2 will be even bigger and crazier and more amazing.

SM: That character is…I don’t often get freaked out by basically anything, but…if you can make me stop and hold my breath, even for a few minutes, that’s impressive. That clown is absolutely disgusting. I showed it to my kid, and she made it halfway through.

FR: If you ever have the opportunity to meet David Howard Thornton (who plays Art the Clown) please take the chance to see him because he’s not only one of the nicest and loveliest human beings you’ll ever meet, but he’s just a very happy-go-lucky kind of guy who’s funny and smart. He’s just a great person, and it’s just hard to believe that he can bring that nastiness to that character, that role. Oh my gosh!

SM: Yeah, as good as [Bill] Skarsgård is playing Pennywise, I almost felt bad for him coming out around the same time. I love me some Pennywise, but he kind of got beat out in that category for sheer scare value.

FR: I agree definitely! It was fun working on that, on Terrifier 2. I’m really excited for it to come out and for them to get the accolades they deserve just like the first one.

SM: There’s already a ton of hype. Everybody’s looking forward to that one. I assume, like a lot of other stuff right now, that it’s kind of sitting on the back burner until we know what’s going on with the rest of the world unfortunately.

FR: Yeah. I think they were just finished. I think Damien is editing right now. He’d normally be home putting it together, so I guess for him it hopefully didn’t affect anything.

SM: Yeah. You talked about being a producer, and I knew you had done some producing. Until I got down to digging in a bit on IMDB, I didn’t realize how prolific you’ve become in that area. How insane is your schedule from the producing side of your career alone? You have a shitload of credits as a producer…

FR: [laughs]

SM: …it seems like you’re just constantly working.

FR: It’s been a really busy time especially in the last couple of years. I have three children, and they’re a little bit older now. I was really primarily a stay-at-home mom. Like just a few years ago, when I decided to get back, I had stayed home with the kids. And I love everything in balance, so I needed to fulfill my creative energies and what not. So, I just kind of jumped in. It felt like a natural segue to go from actress to producer. I love to put projects together, and I often times get to work with cast and crew who I work with over and over again; I love them and we’re family. So, it’s just balancing everything and making sure the schedule is locked and good to go. With the kids, it’s making sure they’re well taken care of. Then it’s off I go to conventions and filming, and I’m having a great time right now.

SM: I bet. That’s awesome! I have to dig in and ask, again, because my eyeballs bugged out of my head a little bit looking at your credits. In all the pre-production stuff they have listed for you on IMDB, and I know IMDB is an imperfect beast at best…it has one listed in there as Angela: The Official Sleepaway Camp Documentary?! What’s up with that?

FR: [laughs long] So, that’s exciting. That is executive produced and directed by my dear friend and manager, Mikey Perez, and he already started all of the interviews with the casts of Sleepaway Camp 2 and Sleepaway Camp 3 when we were in Georgia. We went to Atlanta Days of the Dead, and so he was able to meet with all of those actors. They’re amazing! So, we’re really going to take at least the next year to tell the story: what is Sleepaway Camp? What is it about? It has a lot of layers and a lot of social commentary. Certainly we know about the bullying and that Angela is a trans character. So, I think it’s kind of important for us to delve deeply in there. They had done a really wonderful documentary; Justin Beahm had done it on the Sleepaway Camp Blu-Ray for Shout Factory. And now we can take it a step further and look at all four films and all of the different actors and characters and Robert Hiltzik’s motivation behind this little film that kind of took on a life of its own.

SM: To say the very least. You talk about Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers and Sleepaway Camp 3: Teenage Wasteland as well in terms of tracking down interviews. Does that include Pamela Sprinsgsteen?felissa rose 04

FR: I mean, she’s definitely on the list of people we’d like to speak with.

SM: She seems like she’s pretty hard to get a hold of.

FR: She’s pretty hard to get a hold of, yeah. She’s a very busy woman, as far as I’ve heard. She’s a photographer; she’s the sister of one of the biggest legends in the world, Bruce Springsteen. I just think it’ll take a lot of ambition to get her locked in, but we are ready to try.

SM: Man, I hope so. That would be killer. I’d love to see the continuity between the two. Sleepaway Camp is one of those series that almost exists in two different timelines – the Felissa Rose timeline and then there’s the Pamela Springsteen timeline. If you can get all that together in the documentary, that would be so sweet!

FR: It’s very interesting. I mean, especially because they are so different in tone. The first one takes itself seriously, and the second one…being that the second and third were filmed back-to-back in Georgia and has the tone of that late ‘80s horror style that is more dark comedy and dark humor. And Pamela – she was amazing! I love that Angela. It would be terrific to speak with her.

SM: Yeah, we hope so. There’s another interesting project that I came across in the deep dive on my research that there doesn’t seem to be much info about, so I figured I’d get it straight from the source: How is the work with Harrison Smith [director of Death House] going on the whole revival of Carolco Pictures?

FR: So, Harrison and I met almost ten years ago when he reached out to me to do a movie called Camp Dread that I absolutely love. Then we had been contacted by a team of people who had taken over the Carolco name, and Mario Kassar was jumping on board as well as one of the producers. It has since really become defunct because there were a lot of ties with the name, red tape, and whatnot. We really haven’t done anything with them, sadly, but Harrison and I have made a handful of movies from Camp Dread to Zombie Killers to Garlic & Gunpowder to Death House and now The Special. So, we’ve gone on our merry way and continue to. We have a new film in pre-production called Dark. It’s been a wonderful collaboration with Harrison and if anything happens with Carolco we’ll always be here because we’re huge fans of the brand that was Carolco back in the heyday.

SM: Yeah, I think we were all pretty big fans of Carolco Pictures. The laundry list of movies they made in that run was just insane. That was a whole generation’s entertainment, pretty much, from the big ones to the small ones. So many good flicks in there.

FR: Yeah, and I never rule anything out. You know, you can never say that. I’ve seen projects that were supposed to go, and nothing happens. Then years go by and we’re back on it, just like Return to Sleepaway Camp. That was years in the making, and so I never rule anything out. I never say, “Oh, it’ll never happen.” I think it’s all about timing. When the right time hits, you’ll know and then everything aligns.

SM: True. I mean, you were pretty much tracked down for Return to Sleepaway Camp. All that internet clamor and all those fans that just had to have you back…

FR: And I’m so, so grateful for that. Such gratitude to be a part of that.

SM: It’s funny talking about Return to Sleepaway Camp. I had read somewhere that you had cussed out Fangoria for their review of the film? That’s crazy. What’s that story?

FR: [laughs] Well, well…it was just because obviously I worship Fangoria. I work for them; I have Casualty Friday, the podcast with them. They’re like the loves of my life. Um, but back in the day, which now we’re talking seventeen years ago, we made the film (Return to Sleepaway Camp) in 2003 with a lot of love and heart. It’s almost like it’s one of my children. So, if you tell someone their baby is ugly, you’re going to immediately bring out the mama bear. And I’m just the type of person who, you know, I just speak my mind and say, “Why? I want to know!” And it was more of that. I think it was kind of blown up into something it really wasn’t. I’m just pretty vocal, and anyone who knows me knows that I speak from my heart and I’m passionate about the projects I’m involved in. Of course, everyone has their own opinion to what their review or critique is. I just feel very close to Fangoria, and we had gone back and forth. It was more passionate and exciting. You know? It would be like with a friend where you’re like, “Why do you love it? Why do you hate it?” You know?

SM: Yes, ma’am. I hear you.

FR: And I’m very lucky to have the relationship I do with Fangoria. I think the new Fangoria with Dallas Sonnier and Natasha Pascetta (being our producer for Casualty Friday) is great. We’re so lucky to see it back in print. And the movies they’ve been producing now, too – it’s a very exciting time.

SM: Yeah, the movies they’ve been putting out are absolutely amazing. That new Puppet Master [The Littlest Reich]

FR: Oh my God, yes!

SM: …was one of my favorites of last year. For the quality of the kills alone, it’s epic. When you can get beheaded and end up peeing on your own severed head? That’s fantastic.

felissa rose 05FR: Yes! And I can’t wait for Castle Freak [remake] as well with Barbara Crampton and my buddy, Matt Manjourides, who’s producing. It’s an exciting time. Fangoria has always been the best, and will always maintain to put out the best product. We’re so fortunate for it being back in print, and they have a list of podcasts that are absolutely amazing.

SM: Oh, yeah. I’m always listening to something on the way into work, and I’ve just discovered y’all. So, sorry…I’m behind on my work. [laughs]

FR: Oh, hey. That’s not all, though. They’ve got Movie Crypt with Adam Green (writer/director, Hatchet series) and Joe Lynch. They have Shock Waves with my buddies, Rob G [Rob Galuzzo, Acquisitions & Development at Fangoria], Ryan Turek [VP of Development at Blumhouse], Elric [Elric Kane, Inside Horror and Pure Cinema Podcast], and Rebekah [Rebekah McKendry, writer/director and professor]. So, it’s great. They have a huge list of great podcasts.

SM: Well, we’ve all got a lot of time on our hands to be able to listen right now.

FR: Yes! Now is the time. Watch all the movies. Listen to all the podcasts. They’re great!

SM: So, here’s the inevitable “What’s up next?” question. I know you have a ton going on, but what’s the priority right now?

FR: Well, I just wrapped a movie called Scream Test in Florida that I’m really excited about. And I worked alongside buddies of mine that I work with frequently in Vincent Ward (The Walking Dead) and Dave Sheridan (Doofy from Scary Movie). And then Vincent Ward is in the title role of The Step Daddy, which is a remake of The Stepfather, directed by Thomas Churchill. And then Thomas Churchill and I did a creature feature last year called Big Freakin’ Rat, which is super fun and Dave Sheridan and Vincent Ward are in that, as well. You know, just For Jennifer and Rootwood all just came out in the past week, and now A Nun’s Curse comes out. I have a bunch of projects that I’m working on as soon as this lifts and we can get out there and make some more great horror movies.

SM: Nice! Until then, you’ll just keep on shaking it [on Tik-Tok] and trying to avoid that cabin fever, right?

FR: Yes! That’s right. Absolutely. Everybody should check in with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder for The Last Drive-In. Season 3 starts at the end of next week.

SM: Oh, yes…I’m abnormally stoked for that one. Between stuff like the resurgence of Fangoria and bringing Joe Bob back, it’s so great.

FR: Oh, my God! We’re in the middle of, certainly, an even greater golden era. I think now we’re better than ever. And with the conventions we can meet people face to face, and it’s given us more of a connection to the movies we love in this genre.

SM: Agreed. I love the way the cons highlight the genre in general. It’s not something that you see for other genres. It’s really exclusive to horror to have that family and that community that comes together the way horror fans do. I guess maybe anime does, to some degree, but as far as major genres go, you don’t see drama conventions or comedy conventions. But horror is just…

FR: I always say that! You don’t see drama conventions, you don’t see rom-com conventions. There’s a reason there are horror conventions, and it’s all about the love and the camaraderie and the community that we have.

SM: Yes, ma’am. Absolutely. Well, I think I have actually run out of stuff to even ask…

FR: Aww! Well, thank you!

SM: Thank you! You have been just amazing.

FR: Well, thank you so much for having me. I greatly appreciate it!

SM: Yes, ma’am. Thank you very much, Felissa. It’s been a great honor.

FR: It’s all mine. Thanks! Bye!

SM: Bye!

Horror DNA would like to thank Felissa Rose for the honor, her time, and for being so accessible and fun to talk to. What an interview!

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About The Author
Stuart D. Monroe
Staff Writer
Stuart D. Monroe is a man of many faces – father, husband, movie reviewer, published author of short horror, unsuccessful screenwriter (for now), rabid Clemson Tiger, Southern gentleman, and one hell of a model American who goes by the handle "Big Daddy Stu" or "Sir". He's also highly disturbed and wears that fact like a badge of honor. He is a lover of all things horror with a particular taste for the fare of the Italians and the British. He sometimes gets aroused watching the hardcore stuff, but doesn't bother worrying about whether he was a serial killer in a past life as worrying is for the weak. He was raised in the video stores of the '80s and '90s. The movie theater is his cathedral. He worships H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Clive Barker. When he writes, he listens obsessively to either classical music or the works of Goblin to stimulate the neural pathways. His favorite movie is Dawn of the Dead. His favorite book is IT. His favorite TV show is LOST.
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