The autumn nights grow dark and blustery as the month of October rolls its way through to Halloween. What better time to chat it up with Barbara Crampton, one of the preeminent Scream Queens of the past 30 years? The star of such classic horror films as Re-Animator and From Beyond in the mid- ’80s, with stints on TV soap operas The Young and the Restless, Guiding Light and The Bold and the Beautiful, and back in the horror genre this year with We Are Still Here, Crampton finally fled Hollywood with her husband, financial executive Robert Bleckman, 15 years ago to raise her three children in Mill Valley. We caught up with her in broad daylight, feeding on a spinach salad at The Depot.
1. What’s the first horror movie you ever saw? The Exorcist. That movie is so scary!
2. Do you ever get scared watching a horror movie? I do. The Shining still scares me. That’s one of my favorite movies and I watch it today. The scene with Jack Nicholson and the girl in the bathtub in that room? It’s the freakiest scene to me and I still get scared when I watch it.
3. How do you still manage to be scared even though you know all the tricks of the trade? I like to be a good audience and I like to be scared, so I want the filmmaker to scare me. I want to enjoy that. I don’t want to sit there and analyze it. I want to go along for the ride because I really believe that horror movies are a thrill ride. They’re fun. They’re an adventure.
4. Are there types of images that you think are inherently frightening to most people? There’s something about an expressionless or a frozen expression or not being able to see someone’s face that’s scary. Like in Friday the 13th, the fact that you can’t see Jason’s face and it’s just a mask — that image is so creepy.
5. What about your children? Are they allowed to watch your movies? I have three: a bonus child — my stepson, Ben — who is 20, and my own two kids, Olivia and Luke, who, at 12 and 13 respectively, are not allowed to watch most of my movies, because I’m either scantily clad or they’re too scary, but they did both watch We Are Still Here. I thought my daughter would be too scared but I was in the room with her and she was OK.
6. What do your kids think about your career? They like the fact I did and still do movies. I think it’s because most little boys and girls think, at some point, “I want to be an actor.” So they think what I do is fun, and cool, and make-believe.
7. Any other interests? I worked hard during the past seven years reinventing the Garden Faire at Edna Maguire Elementary [in Mill Valley].
8. Why Marin? I love it here. It’s been a great place to raise kids. Mill Valley’s such a fantastic community — so supportive of children’s education. My kids go to public school. They’re so supportive of all the sports teams, and everybody cares about one another, and I just love Mill Valley.
10. Do you help your kids with their Halloween costumes? Oh, yeah. Always. Normally, we buy like 10 different costumes for each kid because we get so excited about it. So we have 20 costumes in our living room and, depending what party they’re going to, as the run-up to Halloween, they get to wear different costumes. I’ll do their makeup for them — scars, blood eyes, fake blood.
11. You’ve made a number of top 10 Scream Queen lists through the years. And you’ve done a lot of onscreen screaming. What does it take to be a queen of the screams? In horror movies, any scream is a good scream. Still managing to look good while you’re doing it, that’s the secret of a good editor. Hopefully, they’re taking the best angles they have and cut around a weird wrinkle in your forehead or a grimace on your face. This is something I’ve thought about while screaming because I’ve done quite a bit of it. You don’t want to look bad, but you want to make it look as natural as possible and as real as possible.