All About Evil is a black comedy about an ailing independent cinema whose owner and staff see business turn around as they begin producing all too realistic horror films. It is an ode to the sadly dwindling independent theatres and all the B movie charm of the low-budget movies associated with them. It is written and directed by San Francisco’s Joshua Grannell, otherwise known as geniusly ghoulish drag act Peaches Christ who makes a cameo in the film. All About Evil makes its UK premier at Manchester’s Abandon Normal Devices Festival of new cinema and digital culture. Dazed Digital speaks to Grannell ahead of the European tour of the 4-D premiers, themselves a gloriously theatrical merger of the fictional film and the actual cinema in which it is screened.
Dazed Digital: For those who aren’t familiar with your work, would you like to introduce yourself?
Joshua Grannell: I live in San Francisco and I moved here to do underground film-making and while I was working on getting that ball rolling about 15 years ago I began performing as the character Peaches Christ. That character was created to be a cult leader who represents all my favourite midnight movies and cult films. Peaches really allowed me to be creative and do shows and create short films but ironically I became much better known as Peaches than I did as a filmmaker. Peaches overshadowed everything.
DD: So your aim was always to create movies and Peaches was just part of that ambition?
Joshua Grannell: Peaches was always there for, and still is, celebrating my dorky nerdy love of movies. Peaches is a vehicle for channelling that. Over time, because of Peaches’ growing popularity, I was able to have a ready-made audience for these films that I was making, these short no budget movies. Finally, it seemed like the next right step was to write a feature film. So I started to write a feature and set out finding a producer, Darren Stein (writer and director of Jawbreaker) turned out to be a really big Peaches fan who really liked my movies and said that he would help me release the film. All About Evil is really all about the movies that I love in many ways and also my love for movies theatres and putting on a show.
DD: There seems to be a lot of showmanship involved in this “4D” concept. Was how the film would be screened something which was in the back of your mind the whole time when you were creating it?
Joshua Grannell: Yes, for sure. I think because I had built this career around creating shows just celebrating my favourite movies whether that’s The Evil Dead or Mommy Dearest or Showgirls or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I was really inspired by William Castle and the way that he would roll out his movies in the 50s and 60s, where the showmanship was almost as important as the movie itself, and the marketing and the gimmicks of Herschell Gordon Lewis with The Gore Gore Girls. I really loved all that marketing and all that creativity that went into packaging the movie and getting audiences to show up. When I was writing All About Evil I think that I did have the show in the back of my head.
DD: How significant is the fact that the film is set in an old movie theatre and the screenings themselves will take place in independent cinemas?
Joshua Grannell: Setting it in the world of the old movie theatres was really intentional and in some ways it was a little bit political because even though I’m not a political person I was anxious about the fact that in the States a lot of our great old movie theatres have been closing down in the last decade and have been replaced by these big multiplexes with big leather seats and gait screens, but they don’t have any of the character. It’s almost like you’re going to an airport. This film was my response in a way, what lengths people would go to, to save these old movie theatres, any lengths even if it means murdering people. I’m a comedian so that’s what I came up with but it was based in a real theatre.
DD: What is 4D? Does it mean there will be stuff going in the theatre during the screening itself?
Joshua Grannell: Exactly, 3D is so popular now; everything is being released in 3D. I was just sitting around with friends and saying it’s so funny because I actually can provide Peaches Christ because we’ve been doing these shows where we dress-up as the characters in the movies. Peaches Christ can be there, not only is she in the movies but she can walk right off of the screen and she can be sitting in your lap. That’s the joke and the gimmick of 4D where the characters will be there and you could end up dead by the end of the movie.
DD: What plans do you have for the 4D experience?
Joshua Grannell: Well, in Manchester we are going to attempt to create our stage show the way it is presented in the states. Some of it you won’t understand till you see the movie. When the audience turn up and you are greeted by evil twins who pass you a little cup you’re kind of confused. Then people slowly start to realise that they are being transported into another dimension. Some people won’t get it and will try and talk to them and they’ll just scowl. I love it because they don’t even realise they’re interacting with a character from the movie.
DD: You make these films with hardly any money, which does add to the B movie charm, and it’s quite obvious All About Evil did not have a big budget, would you be tempted by a Hollywood budget?
Joshua Grannell: I’m defiantly one of those people who think it makes sense to have an evolution with your work and that should probably include looking at how much money someone is handed. If someone is handed too much money before they’re ready they miss out on the struggle. Part of my success has been down to me and some creative collaborators, who I’ve worked with for a long time, having had such limited resources that it forces us to really think how we can create something out of nothing. I think that actually serves people’s films. I would hope that we can continue to get more money to make bigger movies but I also don’t want to be handed too much money.
DD: Even if a bigger budget were offered would your work still have an element of the grindhouse aesthetic?
Joshua Grannell: I think so because I think of myself as one of those film makers who makes this art inspired by the stuff I love. I love all those old movies and there’s a lot of film makers who I love who do that Tarantino and John Waters, I think they make movies about movies in a lot of ways. I guess I will stick with this for a while because this is my obsession and all the things I love.
The UK 4D premier of All About Evil will take place at The Cornerhouse, Manchester on October 3rd. The following day “In Conversation With Peaches Christ” takes place at the same venue and is a retrospective of Joshua Grannell’s work and an exploration of the genre he adores.