Kevin Sean Michaels: Musing with the Grand Keeper of Vampira's Throne by Brian Kirst

Sometimes ya' just gotta have heroes. Now, I'm not talking about heroes as in those that you slavishly worship, but as in those people that you just think are cool as shit! I think Kevin Sean Michaels is cool as shit. Why? Because Michaels has worked on Troma's terrifically titled 'Poultrygeist: Night of the Dead Chicken' and his directorial short, 'The Last Days of Rik Mortis', lauded by the New York Times, concerns a Goth Rocker who delivers a lethal blow job. More importantly, Michaels celebrates all that is Maila Nurmi in the exciting documentary 'Vampira: The Movie'. In 'Vampira', Michaels finally gives full due to the original horror hostess and helps resolve the long and bitter battle between Nurma and Elvira's portrayer Cassandra Peterson. Kevin is now setting his laser-like, zombie bloodshot eyes onto lauded scream queen, Ingrid Pitt. I can't wait - and who knows? After reading the interview, below, and checking out you just might have a new hero, yourself.


  Brian: Okay, Kevin - Was filmmaking something that you were always interested in or did you discover that, one day, like a male Alice you just happened to fall down a cinematic rabbit hole?

KSM: A male Alice? What a great idea for a gay porno. - Probably already done. I used to make films on Super 8 when I was a kid. Silent films like the old silent films. That's when I found out that if you said you were making a movie it would bring out all sorts of unusual people that you don't really know but would arrive on set like they were your best friends. But film has always interested me. Getting back to your question, I guess the only holes I've run into in this business are the a-holes. But that's every type of business. I've met a lot of great people, too

Brian: Are the types of films you want to produce wide-ranging or are you interested in a certain style? For example, 'The Last Days of Rik Mortis' seems to have a psychological horror bent.

KSM: Do you guys remember 'Friday The 13th: The Series?' I watched that when I was a teenager. I love cursed objects and twist endings. Rik Mortis was an experiment for me. I am a big George Romero fan. Yes, there are zombies in his movies, but there is also psychology. And death is not always glorious like 300. Sometimes an event can happen and people attempt to cover it up. That's what happens to Rik. I hope to make more movies like this. We just finished up a short called, 'Helen To Pay'. It is about a girl that gets revenge on an old nemesis of hers by possessing her with voodoo. This girl does everything to her, and I mean everything, to humiliate her enemy. Ultimately, the girl suffers the consequence.

Brian: Ouch - and great title! (And I loved 'Friday the 13th: The Series', too!) Now, speaking of Rik Mortis it has one of the best death scenes ever! How was that death by bath tub blow job executed?

KSM: Thanks, I like putting my characters where they are uncomfortable-- like freezing cold tubs. On the set, I kept thinking of a line from 'Seinfeld' where George comes out of the pool and refers to his penis as a "frightened turtle." And what's wrong with showing penis in movies? It's the final frontier! It was funny, too, because actor-musician Edward Palmer never took a bath with so many people in the room before. In the story, I liked the idea that a guy could easily drown a girl by being distracted on a cell phone call and pushing her head down in the water. This is what Hitchcock would be doing now, only I put more emphasis on the "cock."

Brian: Nothing wrong with that! - Rik Mortis focuses on a Goth-like Emo-esque musician. Is music a huge inspiration in your work? What are your favorite bands? (I'm a music whore, myself, so I am always fascinated to find out what others are into.)

KSM: It's weird how music affects mood. I am a music whore, too. If you looked at my Ipod you'd find everything from Cat Stevens to Nine Inch Nails to German Cabaret singer Ute Lemper. That's why I don't let people look at my Ipod. But music and mood are key. On Rik Mortis, there where times when my editor Alexia Anastasio and I would look at each other and agree that maybe scenes don't always need background music. When someone is trying to get rid of a corpse do we really need to hear strings? Why not have a little Tony Bennett instead? Too tacky?

Brian: Not at all! - You've got to tell me about 'Poultrygeist: Night of the Dead Chicken'. It sounds awesome! In fact, I'd sell my niece and nephew just to say I was involved with something so cool sounding!

KSM: I think Lloyd Kaufman might have had to sell a few people into slavery to make 'Poultrygeist' (laughs). It was very cool to work on it. The fans will love this movie. I was working at Troma for years waiting for Lloyd to decide to make something new. The day (and Lloyd) finally came. What's great is that Lloyd never does anything to be successful at it; he follows whatever interests him at the time. When he found out in the 80s that horror movies were losing money, he went out and made 'The Toxic Avenger.' And working with limited resources is so frustrating. But it makes you make a better movie because you don't have cash to throw at problems. And the title is cool sounding, you're right! I should mention 'Poultrygeist' every time I try to get a bank loan (laughs).

Brian: How did your interest in Vampira begin? Was it hard to track Maila Nurmi down? Also, was it hard to get her involved with the project or was she interested from the get go? (Phew - so many questions!)

KSM: I was always fascinated with Vampira since seeing 'Plan 9 from Outer Space' as a kid. Who was she? Why didn't she speak? It was like Greta Garbo, those personae that you can't touch. Most people who have seen 'Plan 9' remember her exclusively. I was a big fan of Elvira as a kid, too. I was reading magazines like Fangoria about Horror Hosts and its tradition. Three years ago, I made a decision that I should seek out Maila Nurmi. Everyone I spoke to told me that she'd be impossible to find. Go to the McDonald's in Silverlake (West Hollywood) and look for her, Conrad Brooks instructed me. But instead, I finally got an address and started writing back and forth with her. We found we shared the same dry wit. Once we became good friends, I suggested that we should begin recording all her great Hollywood stories. It's funny: Someone emailed me and asked me if she speaks in my movie...could we make a documentary with her as a mute?

Brian: Silence is golden! - You were able to interview some incredible people for 'Vampira: The Movie'. Was there anyone that made you couldn't believe you got to interview? (Mamie Van Doren would have made me sweat like a nervous school boy! And I'm gay!)

KSM: Mamie Van Doren, yes! Yes! I am in the same bathtub with you on that one, Brian! Mamie's interview will be on the DVD, as she did not make the theatrical cut of the movie. Too steamy for theaters! I always love when they put that on DVD boxes. I had goose bumps for weeks after meeting Mamie and believe me they are hard to get rid of. It was the same when I interviewed Julie Newmar for the Troma release 'Seduction of a Nerd'. For 'Vampira: The Movie,' I was extremely honored that I got so many celebs and idols of mine to participate. Sid Haig, Debbie Rochon, Bill Moseley, Forry Ackerman... all heroes. And Ari Lehman, who played Jason in the first 'Friday The 13th', did a great job on the musical score. But I guess the biggest surprise is Elvira. Everyone's heard about the 1980s lawsuit between her and Vampira, but few know the details. The hatchet is finally buried with this movie. It's like we changed history a bit by making this documentary.

Brian: Cool! What are the future plans for 'Vampira: The Movie'? Is it being released on DVD or is it still playing festivals? I can't wait to see it!

KSM: We are touring with the documentary right now. I feel like Al Gore... isn't that scary? I can't believe that we are going all the way to Erlangen, Germany to screen it at Weekend of Fear. I asked if the festival directors wanted me to add German subtitles and they told me, "Don't worry, Kevin, we all speak English here." So I now I've learned something about everyone in Germany. We should have a DVD release sometime soon.

Brian: Okay, Heir Gore - any future plans, bits of wisdom, or other obscure screen icons we should get in a lather about?

KSM: Hmm, another bathtub reference. Very good! Yes, I am embarking on a new documentary project that focuses on Hammer horror star Ingrid Pitt. She is famous for her bathtub scene in the original 'Wicker Man.' She made a lot of great films including 'Where Eagles Dare' starring Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton. Like Maila Nurmi, Ingrid has had a vampiric life. You should rent 'Countess Dracula' and the greatest lesbian film of all time 'The Vampire Lovers'. I guess I am very interested in older women. Can you guys at Racks & Razors give me Dame Judi Dench's phone number? Thanks Racks & Razors!