Joshua Grannell interview: Midnight Mass, Elvira, B-movies and more…

Joshua Grannell. known to many by his alter-ego Peaches Christ, has just completed his directorial debut, All About Evil, Alan tracks him down for a chat...

Joshua Grannell is better known as ‘Peaches Christ’, the host of the hugely successful Midnight Mass in San Francisco, which used to be a regular event that always featured an astonishing line-up of guests, including cult favourites like John Waters, Linda Blair, Mink Stole, Edie McClurg and Elvira, The Mistress of the Dark!

In Joshua Grannell’s All About Evil the shy and retiring Deborah (Natasha Lyonne) inherits her father’s movie house. The drawback to her inheritance is that The Victoria Theatre is in financial jeopardy. The situation serves as the catalyst for Deborah’s more mercurial and murderous talents to come to the surface and her snuff movies become massively successful on the San Francisco B-movie circuit, garnering thousands of gore-crazed fans.

Deborah decides to employ an oddball cast of crazy characters which include the part-time candy counter girls Veda and Vera, who just happen to moonlight as mental patients, and Adrian, the homicidal kleptomaniac hustler and movie theatre usher.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles and forthcoming remake of A Nightmare On Elm star, Thomas Dekker, plays Steven with Cassandra “Elvira” Peterson as mom and the excellent Mink Stole (Dottie Hingle in Serial Mom) as the ill-fated Evelyn. Ticket sales to the theatre this year are going to be bloody murder.

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Joshua chatted with me about Midnight Mass, his alter-ego Peaches Christ, Elvira, All About Evil‘s production and B-movies…

When I first read about your directorial debut, All About Evil, I just had to drop you a line ASAP. How long where you working/writing/assembling a crew on All About Evil?  I read over at Sean Abley’s Gay of the Dead that it started as a short film and evolved from there?

All About Evil did start as a short film called Grindhouse that I made in 2003. I didn’t actually start working on the feature screenplay until the beginning of 2005 so, I guess it took about five years for me to write, and re-write the screenplay, put the cast together, find financing, etc.  

I love the premise of your movie –  a dowdy librarian inherits an old theatre and soon catapults herself into the limelight by making actual snuff movies. You’re something of an alt.cult aficionado. What particular films inspired you, if any, when making All About Evil?

I was definitely inspired by all sorts of people and movies. The film is definitely about my love of movies and movie theatres and what length we’ll go to to protect them. 

Some of the movie inspirations for All About Evil were Demons, Theatre Of Blood, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane, Carrie, Female Trouble, The Bad Seed, Psycho, etc.

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As far as some of the people that inspired some of the characters, I’d have to say I found great inspiration in William Castle, Doris Wishman, Herschell Gordon Lewis, and Vincent Price.

Cassandra Peterson (best known as The Mistress of the Dark, Elvira), Mink Stole (Connie Marble in Pink Flamingos), Natasha Lyonne (Slums Of Beverly Hills, But I’m A Cheerleader), and Thomas Dekker all star in All About Evil. You even make an appearance as your alter-ego Peaches Christ, host of the infamous Midnight Mass in San Francisco. You had already worked with Cassandra Peterson, when did the rest come onboard?

I had worked with both Mink Stole and Cassandra Peterson doing Midnight Mass shows together and was able to ask them to consider doing the movie personally. I was so flattered that they both agreed.

I met Thomas Dekker through producer Darren Stein and was really impressed with his acting talent, as well as his great knowledge in cult films. He truly is a fan.

And our fantastic cinematographer Tom Richmond also shot The Slums Of Beverly Hills. He knew I was interested in casting Natasha in the lead and actually called her to talk about the screenplay. That’s how we got it to her, and then she read it, and the two of us spoke on the phone. She’s brilliant and we hit it off right away.  

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When casting the role of Deborah did you have a good idea of the type of actress you wanted to cast?

I did. I knew it had to be a really special actress, someone who could walk the line between drama and comedy and bring a believable level of pathos to the role so that it wasn’t all just schtick or camp. Natasha is great and really got what we were going for.

If you could sum up All About Evil in one word, what would it be?

Macabre.

What about your role in the film. Is it strictly a cameo or is yours a meatier part?

Peaches gets a bit more than a cameo, but less than a lead. She’s there for the finale.

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What are your future plans for Midnight Mass?

I’d love to keep doing Midnight Mass in various forms throughout the year, but won’t be coming back this summer to do an entire season of back-to-back shows like we’ve done for the past twelve years. I will, however, be returning to the Bridge to do two nights of Midnight Mass on the first weekend in July with Purple Rain. People love our Purple Rain weekend so it seemed fitting to come back and do one big summer weekend.

Do you leave the door open for a sequel to All About Evil? And if so, what would be a wish list of people who you’d like to cast?

I don’t think it really wants a sequel, but some members of the cast are already pitching ideas to me about how we could do it. I do think I’d like to make another film in the same vein, to continue exploring some of these ideas, and the tone that we’ve set.

Will you continue making horror/blacker than black comedies or can you see yourself doing straight drama? And if your answer is yes to the former part of my question, what is it going to be about?

I definitely think I’d like to continue doing black comedy. It’s what I like. Perhaps someday I could do a “straight” drama, but it’s just not something I’m pursuing or even thinking about right now.  

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As far as what my next movie is about, I can’t really say at this time but ideas are churning and I’ve begun some preliminary work on starting a new screenplay.

I know this is a question that a lot of writers/directors get asked, especially when working within the horror genre, but is there anything which annoys you about horror, in general?

I think something that annoys me about any genre film is when it’s completely devoid of humour. Anything too serious usually ends up turning me off. I’m also not a big fan of the “torture porn” movement where the attraction is just seeing people in pain.  I love genre films, especially when they’re fun. They can be disgusting and violent and repellent and I’ll love it if it’s fun.

Joshua Grannell, thank you very much!