As his debut gallery shows open in London, the writer-curator puts a ghoulish questionnaire to the artists taking part, from Sam McKinniss to Sue de Beer
Taken from the spring/summer 2019 issue of Dazed. You can buy a copy of our latest issue here
As he curates not one but two gallery shows (which opened on the same night, in London’s Sadie Coles HQ and Rodeo galleries) we asked Charlie Fox to create a chill-inducing guest edit for our spring/summer 2019 issue, diving into horror’s cult appeal, the genre’s fascination with teenagers and why horror “can be so beautiful it hurts”. Here, he asks the artists participating in one of his two shows, My Head Is a Haunted House, about the stuff that gives them goosebumps (and answers the questions too).
What’s your favourite scary movie?
Sam McKinniss: Carrie, duh. Or The Shining.
Claude Wampler: Let’s Scare Jessica to Death (1971). As a kid, I saw this so many times. It seemed to be on TV every Saturday afternoon. Jessica, just released from a mental hospital, moves to a quiet little New England cracker town to recover, but the folks there are the living dead. Or maybe she’s still crazy? You never know! It’s horrifying and played so beautifully by Zohra Lampert, who was also brilliant in Cassavetes’ Opening Night. Actually, now that I think about it, Opening Night is my favourite scary movie.
Sue de Beer: I had a hard time choosing; I watch so many scary movies and read so many scary stories. Here is my list: Inferno (Argento). The Birds (Hitchcock). The original Halloween (John Carpenter) – so beautiful. Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis). The Shining – the sound especially. The Wolf Man – the original with Lon Chaney. Paul Morrissey/Andy Warhol’s Dracula. Herzog’s Dracula. Deep Red (Argento). Eyes of Laura Mars (co-written by John Carpenter, directed by Irvin Kershner) – I love this film. Possession by Andrzej Żuławski. Aliens. Polanski horror is nice – how you peep around corners. An American Werewolf in London. Vertigo (Hitchcock). The Driller Killer (Abel Ferrara). I like Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Trans-Europ-Express – not sure if it is scary enough. Meet the Feebles (Peter Jackson).
Marianna Simnett: The Exorcist is top of the list.
Cameron Jamie: Black Devil Doll From Hell (1984) by Chester Novell Turner is hands-down one of my all-time favourite films ever made. I pretty much base and judge all of my friendships on how people react to this film.
Jason Yates: Motel Hell.
Matt Copson: The Skeleton Dance.
Charlie Fox: The Devil’s musical number in Fantasia.
What’s the best nightmare you’ve ever had?
Sam McKinniss: Ex-boyfriends visit me in my dreams all the time, it’s EXHAUSTING and sometimes VERY HOT.
Claude Wampler: Best meaning worst, right? Worst nightmare: I suddenly realised a huge audience in a European warehouse-type venue was waiting for me to do a performance I was completely unprepared for. I decided to do a butoh dance. For my costume, I cut my baby daughter’s head off and stretched it over my face as a mask. It was perfect! While I was butoh-ing through the crowd I was thrilled to see the horrified looks on their faces, interpreting it as a great artistic success until I realised they were reacting to the severed baby’s head on my face. In that moment I clearly understood my costume was doing all the work. I also realised that I couldn’t put my daughter’s head back on, because it was badly damaged from the stretching, and she was dead. I woke up knowing that my art practice will be the death of my daughter. Someday. Somehow. In Lee Strasberg’s method, actors use the ‘sense-memory’ technique to get emotional in a scene. Whenever I have to cry on cue I use my sense-memory of that dream.
Sue de Beer: LICE.
Marianna Simnett: I was a horse inside a classroom and they stuck me to the wall, raped me then set me on fire.
Cameron Jamie: I was carefully examining a human foetus made of very soft fabric which I was holding in my hands and every time that I squeezed it, the foetus made extraordinary chirping noises and sounds.
Jason Yates: I was trapped in an automaton warehouse for Thanksgiving parade and they all came to life. Snoopy was after me.
Matt Copson: All of the ones where I get to sit down and have a chat with the monster that’s chasing me.
Charlie Fox: Every one where I’m a werewolf.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Sam McKinniss: Yes.
Claude Wampler: Believe? I don’t believe in belief. However, I do know it’s unknowable. Ghosts? Sure! Aliens? Sure! God? Sure! I have no fucking idea what’s ‘real’ and it’s completely irrelevant anyway, since none of them are coming to save us. Or are they?
Sue de Beer: Maybe I am a ghost.
Marianna Simnett: No. You’re dead and then you’re rotten meat.
Cameron Jamie: I never believed in ghosts until I saw something in 2011 in the form of a severed human leg without a foot floating above the right side of my bed. I couldn’t believe it. The whole composition and formation of the severed leg was made up of very tiny luminescent light-greenish glowing energy particles. The leg was also nervously shaking and couldn’t stop moving or keep still. I stared at this thing for probably ten minutes to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating or dreaming. At one point, the leg started to swing down vertically at an angle as if it was trying to hit something. It was strange because it wasn’t attacking me, but hitting the right side of the mattress. At one point, I decided to reach out to put my hand through it, and when I did this the severed leg slowly started to fade and disintegrate. I later realised that there is definitely some other higher-energy thing living with me in my apartment, and I’m totally fine with it. I’ve never seen anything since, but I immediately started to become more aware of things in my place. Shortly afterwards, I began to hear the doorknob of my bathroom shake slowly from the inside whenever the door was closed, as if someone was locked in and trying to come out. I now always feel obliged to open the bathroom door when I hear this sound to let out whatever is making this noise. It’s a bit like owning an invisible cat or a dog scratching the door, wanting to be let out.
Jason Yates: Absolutely.
Matt Copson: I Want to Believe.
Charlie Fox: Hell yes.
My Head Is a Haunted House runs at London’s Sadie Coles HQ, June 4 – August 17, and Dracula’s Wedding runs at Rodeo Gallery, London, June 4 – August 3. (On opening night you’ll find Charlie running between both.)