Interview: Legendary Horror Scream Queen Felissa Rose of ‘Sleepaway Camp’ Fame
By Dr. Zaius
Monday, April 20th, 2020 at 9:00 am
Felissa Rose has endeared herself to horror fans for nearly 40 years. The New York-born star was just 13 when she got her first role as a shy teen, turned killer in the now iconic Sleepaway Camp (1983). That role, as well as the film’s infamous ending (no spoilers), has stayed with her, launching a career in horror that has garnered nearly 120 roles on IMDb as well as recurring role as “Mangled Dick Expert” on Shudder’s The Last Drive In starring Joe Bob Briggs. Rose makes countless appearances at horror conventions throughout the country, and speaking from experience, there is no one more genuine and pleasant with guests. It was my pleasure to speak with her via telephone last week to discuss her career, current films, and the uncertainty of life in a true horror landscape.
Check out the full interview below.
Geeks of Doom: First off, how are you holding up under quarantine? I follow you on Twitter and I know you’ve become a TikTok star.
Felissa Rose: Haha, you know it’s something to keep us occupied, engage with the kids, and get a little exercise, and it’s just fun. I’m looking at it as a bonding experience with my family, a little reprieve from all the traveling.
Geeks of Doom: I met you at the New Jersey Horror Con almost exactly one year ago and you are one of the most genuine people I’ve met at a horror convention. And you do a bunch of cons. I missed covering two conventions due to this pandemic. Do you miss the convention circuit?
Felissa Rose: It’s just really difficult in terms of my emotions. I just love the connection and the camaraderie and just being there. I’m a huggy, touchy person so for me I love conventions because I love the people. And I’m a fan. So it’s more about not being able to see all of my friends and the travel and excitement of being in that kind of atmosphere. I really love going for the love and energy. It’s inspiring and thrilling for me. It’s hard.
Geeks of Doom: That totally came across when I met you, and my friends who met you love you as well. My good friends are the Ghost Girls from Ghost Girls Greetings and they rave about you.
Felissa Rose: Oh my goodness, the cards! I love them, they came over and gave this great card. I’m always so touched when there’s that kind of love, thought and artwork put out there. I feel very honored and flattered, I’m always taken aback and they were particularly lovely and sweet. They made such an impression on me.
Geeks of Doom: Well, I have to let them know. So before we talk about some of the films I just watched that you were in, you are Felissa Rose and so I have to start with something related to Sleepaway Camp. Perhaps even more than Sleepaway Camp, to modern horror fans, you are, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, “The Mangled Dick Expert” on Joe Bob.
Felissa Rose: I love that!
Geeks of Doom: Well later this month, The Last Drive In returns to Shudder. Can we expect to see you or hear from you with Joe Bob and Darcy?
Felissa Rose: Well, without spoiling anything, I’ll put this out there: we’re realizing there are a lot of mangled dicks in horror movies. We never really took notice, but it’s exciting for me to see this new sub-genre if you will come about. I’m thrilled. I’m beyond happy to be a part of anything involving horror movies, but especially with Joe Bob Briggs and Darcy. I love them so much. I was there for the first marathon and my heart exploded with excitement when I walked on the set. Joe Bob makes fun of me because I’m always so excited. But he’s Joe Bob Briggs, one of the greatest men ever and my friendship with him and the fact he involves me with the whole show is absolutely fantastic.
Geeks of Doom: I can’t wait, it’s one of my favorite things to watch. I want to talk about a few of your newer films that I just saw. For Jennifer and Rootwood are both available on VOD now and they’re both found-footage indie horror films and here’s you, Felissa Rose, a scream queen for 30-plus years. What draws you to these projects and would you like to share anything specific about the films?
Felissa Rose: First of all, I’m very thankful to be a part of these movies, I’m very proud of them. I was in “2 Jennifer” (2016), which started as the brainchild of James Cullen Bressack, who I love, he’s a friend and a terrific writer/director. I did Bethany with him and met Hunter Johnson on the set, and he went on to make 2 Jennifer and asked me to be a part of it and I had a blast. So then when Jody Barton took over and they asked to reprise my role I thought, ‘how great’. I really enjoy these independent horror movies and I’m drawn to the project, the script, the character, and the people around it. James, Hunter, Jody, and Tiffany Fest who plays Jennifer, the title role, she’s one of my dear friends. So I felt very close to the project since I was part of the franchise and loving the team. That’s always big for me, trusting and loving what’s going to be put out there. And I loved the character, I just had a blast on those films.
With Rootwood, I met Marcel [Walz] and loved his work. He has a certain flair and style that is absolutely sensational and it comes across in Rootwood. It’s very powerful aesthetically, character driven and I loved what he had written for the character I play. She was exciting and juicy and it was fun to jump in those shoes because as an actor you want to play something fierce and fun and go crazy out on the playground if you will. It was really a joy to work on both projects.
Geeks of Doom: As an iconic horror star, do you have a sense of giving back to the horror community by appearing in many lower budget indie films?
Felissa Rose: No, I mean it’s a space that I love. I love independent horror because that’s where the heart truly remains. The passion, the creativity. The real difference is budget restrictions which obviously leads us to find other ways to make the movie. And that speaks for itself, the location, the talent, the writing. It’s super fun. You get on these rides and they’re relentless. I love it, they’re such great films. I really enjoy working in this space. You can play and hone your craft and work with these terrific actors and writers and directors. And you can focus on creating a character which maybe you don’t do with a bigger budget. It’s a different animal. It’s more fun and there’s more freedom.
Geeks of Doom: You have one of my all time favorite horror movie death scenes.
Felissa Rose: HAHA, I bet I can guess!
Geeks of Doom: I bet you can. You joined Victor Crowley, the fourth Hatchet film, and now you’re attached to another new horror franchise with Terrifier 2. Terrifier gained a lot of notoriety for its death scenes. Can you tell us anything about Terrifier 2 and what’s like to join these budding horror franchises, coming from Sleepaway Camp, which spawned several sequels?
Felissa Rose: One of my most favorite experiences ever was joining the Victor Crowley cast. I had been a huge fan of Adam Green and all the Hatchet films. I followed his career and he’s such a tremendous person and a huge talent. When I met him at a convention and I kinda fangirled all over him at Rock and Shock. I did Scary Sleepover with him and I was so excited to be a part of the newest Hatchet movie and I still am. We did a watch party the other night and I’m just so appreciative to Adam and so thankful and happy to be in that franchise. And that kill was so amazing. When I read the script and saw Victor was killing me in that way, I was so happy; I’d never read anything like that.
With Terrifier 2 it’s kind of the same thing. I stalked Damien Leone and I love David Howard Thornton, we’re always at conventions together. When I love a movie or a writer/director, I set up myself to meet them. At the end of the day, I’m a fan. I told Damien constantly how much I loved his work and the film and was blown away by David Howard Thornton’s work as Art the Clown. When I got the call from him and he asked if I wanted to be in the film it was the same as with Adam Green and Victor Crowley, and I was just so excited. Certainly with this movie I can’t give anything away, but I have a cameo and it’s a really fun moment in the film. Terrifier 2 will be like nothing else. They know what everyone’s expectations are and they’re gonna blow them away. They’re artists. That’s what you get with independent filmmaking, these geniuses who bring characters and effects that are just like no other. I’m so happy to be a part of the Terrifier family.
Geeks of Doom: Finally are there any upcoming projects you want to promote that we haven’t talked about?
Felissa Rose: I’m super proud of a film we just wrapped before we started the quarantine called Scream Test with Dave Sheridan, Vincent M. Ward, and Darby Hinton. I have a movie coming out with Thomas J. Churchill called Big Freaking Rat and another movie called The Step Daddy, which is a remake of The Stepfather with Vincent Ward in the lead role. I have a few movies, A Nun’s Curse comes out in the next month by Tommy Faircloth. He’s a dear friend and he’s wonderful. I look forward to getting back to the convention life and some other films I have in the horizon.
Felissa Rose was amazing and felt like I was connecting with an old friend rather than an actress from over 100 horror films. We discussed family, social distancing, the impact of remote learning for teachers and students, and our school-age children. She was over the phone as she is in person, completely awesome. For Jennifer and Rootwood are both available on VOD now; Joe Bob’s The Last Drive In returns to Shudder next Friday, April 24th. Sleepaway Camp is streaming free in all its glory on Amazon Prime Video and you can find the Sleepaway Camp Felissa Rose-inspired card amongst countless others on the Ghost Girls website, and at their etsy store.