“Horror.” It’s almost a dirty world in the acting community. Sure, everyone has to do the dreaded slasher or DTV monster flick to pay their dues, but, past a certain point, those roles go out the window, replaced by moody indy dramas, Academy Award winning masterpieces, and, if you’re lucky enough to stay in the business past forty, edgy erotic thrillers that reinvent you as a middle-aged sex symbol. But horror? Perish the thought.
So the logic goes.
But not for Julie Benz.
Soft spoken, cheery, and naturally conversational, she’s the last person you’d expect to be an out-and-proud horror geek; yet a horror geek she is. While many other accomplished actresses see the genre as a means to an end, for Benz, it is the end—the ultimate acting challenge, the final arena for her to prove her mettle as an actress. In return or that adoration, the genre has treated her extremely well. Benz has become a mainstay of TV horror, recognizable to multiple generations of fans for her contributions to the genre from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Dexter. Though she’s currently taking a break to work on Hawaii Five-O, Benz recently returned to the world she loves so much with Havenhurst, a psycho-thriller-meets-splatter movie out today on VOD. You can hop on over to Pennie’s review to get a look inside that world; as for me, I had the pleasure of speaking to Ms. Benz, who’s as happy to while away a lunch hour talking about horror as most people are to avoid it.
Preston Fassel: How have you seen the role of women in horror change since Buffy?
Julie Benz: I think we see more female heroines, we see—I think in film in general, not just horror, we’re seeing more women that can be flawed and be heroines, who we still root for. Can be fully realized human beings, versus just an archetype or, you know, a stereotype. And we’re seeing more women in power versus women in peril. So, uh, we’re definitely seeing that change.
PF: How do you think we’re going to see women’s roles in horror change in the next 10 years?
JB: I think we’re going to see less of the stereotype of the victim and more roles of, you know, women taking control and owning their space, and being in more powerful situations.
PF: Is there a particular genre of horror you’re more drawn to than others?
JB: I don’t like zombies. That’s the one genre I don’t like. Anything with zombies. I just—I can’t get past the zombie thing. I. Just. Can’t. Zombies don’t work for me. Maybe because it’s I played a vampire. I LIKE vampires! Zombies don’t work for me.
PF: What do you think it is about horror that makes it conducive to having its’ own community and subculture?
JB: Well, I think it’s—It appeals to you in a very specific way, that, in your terror and your fright, you can bond with somebody over that. Horror has always lived on the outskirts of mainstream, obviously, but I think that those that’re die hard fans of horror, they watch it in a different way, and assess it in a different way, and are passionate about it in a different way then, “Oh, this is a slasher film.” And there’s a large amount of people that don’t want to be scared. At all. And they just want to prance through life in a garden of daisies, and not, like, you know, ever face their own fears. And I think when you’re a horror fan, and you’re not afraid to face your own fears, that brings you together.
PF: What was your favorite horror film of 2016?
JB: Um, uh--- It all runs together! (laughs) And it was just last year! (laughs) Oh, these are the questions I’m terrible at, because I can’t remember when you put me on the spot! (laughs) What came out last year?
PF: Oh, ah… ah, let’s see, The Witch, uh, The Green Room… or, uh, wait, was that 2015? Uh… jeez… Hell, I can’t remember, either! Ah, whatever. What’s your favorite horror film, period? Doesn’t have to be 2016.
JB: My favorite horror film period? The Saw Franchise. Really, really fucked me up. I was in one, and I still haven’t watched it! Because it’s really scary, and, the first one fucked me up, big time, emotionally. And being in one was a challenge, because I was terrified of all the traps. And I was in one of the traps, and I had nightmares the whole time we were filming the movie. And I actually almost vomited on set one day because one of the traps was so real. And, you know, I took the movie to see if I could be in that world, and discovered that I can’t. (laughs) So… oh, Hell. That franchise really screwed with my head.
PF: is there a particular type of horror movie, or type of role, you haven’t gotten to play but would like to?
JB: You know, I would love to play—and I don’t know if this is so much a horror film as a genre film—but I would love to play a role like Sigourney Weaver in Aliens.