Cult classics bring Barbeau to Frightmare
Star of horror flicks as “The Fog” and “Creepshow” coming to Falls
Adrienne Barbeau can talk all day about horror films. She even still makes them after nearly 40 years. But watch them? No thanks.
“I was just asked to judge a series of short horror films, and I said, ‘Oh guys, I’m not the one, this is not for me,’” says the star of such iconic horror flicks as “The Fog” and “Creepshow.”
“I love action and adventure, (but) I don’t like blood and gore.
“I don’t like to be frightened. The tension of that is like ‘Oh God …’ Plus, the scripts I get offers on, it seems like some of them have really taken a downturn since the good ones of the ’80s.”
Appearing at the second annual Frightmare in the Falls Oct. 27 and 28, Barbeau never set out to be a horror queen. In fact, she has always gone with the flow of wherever her varied career takes her, and after seven years playing outspoken feminist Carol Traynor on the “All in the Family” spinoff “Maude” in the ’70s, she chose the supernatural thriller “The Fog” to be her first movie.
It was a big one for her then-husband John Carpenter, the followup to his iconic “Halloween.” Playing a DJ in a small coastal town invaded by vengeful ghosts, Barbeau had no idea she was making a future classic. And about to make a few more.
In short order, she followed with “Escape From New York” (also with Carpenter), “The Cannonball Run” (not so fun for her), the B-movie howler “Swamp Thing” and the enduring “Creepshow.” Movies that would guarantee her place at fan shows and comic cons for decades.
“It’s an incredible community that has just grown and grown since I first became aware of these things,” she says.
In December, Barbeau was honoured by Boston’s Coolidge Corner Theatre with its After Midnite Award, recognizing her for movies that have gained cult followings through the years.
And as she’s discovered, hard to duplicate. While she still pops up in horror movies, none have made the same impact as the handful she started with. She savours the few that actually stand out.
“I just did one (‘Unearth’) in Erie, Pa., that was a really well-written script and had some good people involved,” she says. “It wasn’t just … within the first three pages six people are killed and you don’t know
who they are. ‘How badly can we slice ’em up?’ This had some interesting character development and a theme. It was about fracking and the horror that is released when people are drilling into the ground.”
For Frightmare in the Falls — Barbeau’s first ever visit to Niagara Falls — she’ll be joined by genre legends such as Doug Bradley (“Hellraiser”) and makeup artist Tom Savini. It’s organized by the same team behind Niagara Falls Comic Con, Chris Dabrowski and James Ponce.
“I was very fortunate because ‘The Fog’ was so well done and so successful,” she says. “‘Escape,’ which isn’t a horror film but a genre film I guess you’d say, and then ‘Creepshow’ and ‘Swamp Thing’… I was lucky.”
Barbeau’s movie career seemed to mirror Jamie Lee Curtis, who made a string of horror films after “Halloween” to earn the nickname Scream Queen. But she eventually distanced herself from the genre.
“In the first place, I wasn’t thinking about genres,” she says. “I was doing so many other things separate from that, it never crossed my mind. And I just took whatever came along that I wanted to do.
“I say in my memoir (‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do’), whenever I hear a producer say, ‘Oh, we can’t get that person for this film,’ I think to myself: Make the offer because you never know why an actor takes a film. I mean, I took a horrible horror film because it was filming in Moscow and I wanted to go to Moscow.”
But these days, horror comes in different forms for Barbeau. This interview fell on the day after Christine Blassey Ford’s testimony before the U.S. Senate regarding sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. In a move her character from “Maude” would approve of, Barbeau spent the morning phoning senators in her area.
“There is a depression and an anger and a rage that has set in over this last year that affects everyone on a daily basis,” she says. “It is unbelievable.
“I do love Canada. My father’s family is from Quebec, and at one point I tried to apply for dual citizenship. I’d be very happy living in Canada.”