It’s a loud, mean, mad world out there, but you don’t need me to tell you that. Forget abstract badness on the macro level, let’s look in our own vast, garbage strewn backyard: the internet.
From cyber bullies to slut-shamers to Yahoo News users to your common garden variety troll, the online world is becoming a place as vile and vicious as the physical world it imitates. In all this ugliness, it’s easy to lose sight of a simple truth: it doesn’t have to be this way.
And that’s exactly why I am excited to introduce the people of CineDump to Hope Harrell, mistress of Dallas-based podcast Macabrecast. Not only does she boast a badass depth of horror knowledge, have a sassy sense of humor and an eclectic array of guests, she approaches each of her shows with warmth, humanity, and positivity.
This may sound like hypocrisy of the highest order considering Hope and her listeners are those shadowy majority who spend their hard-earned disposable income on watching people get mutilated, but Hope Harrell’s podcast is interested in delving into the healing side of horror. Everyone from Carol Clover to Kier-La Janisse has written about the cathartic effects of horror movies on audiences, especially their female viewers. In the same vein, Macabrecast’s blend of inspiring stories and engaging commentary goes a long way toward revealing the bloody, beating heart beneath all the purchased sadism.
Read on to hear about Hope’s philosophy of podcasting, horror, and all things fandom, and check out her upcoming episodes!
Pennie Sublime: How did you get into podcasting? You say it’s a long story…
Hope Harrell: I was in a really bad place in life, and I used to dance professionally-- I went to school as a dance major-- but originally, I was a radio/TV/film major. I spent all of my time dancing, so I was just like “Let me switch my major." I had developed a pretty bad injury and wasn’t able to dance professionally anymore. Which-- for most dancers, it’s hard to finish your career past, ten, fifteen years anyway. It’s a really tough thing. And it was, you know, the question of “what now?” I’d been in a pretty bad relationship, my life was in a downward spiral. And podcasting had been my escape. I liked listening to a lot of different podcasts, and listening to them inspired me to start my own. I’m a really big fan of Kevin Smith, and I know a lot of people aren’t. Some people like his movies, some people don’t. But, it wasn’t until I read his book Tough Shit that it made me realize, “Don’t say you want to be something, just be it.” And I told myself "what’re you gonna learn if you don’t try?" It’s been a journey for me. It still is. I’m new to podcasting and I think just listening to all of these different podcasts while having supportive people in my life really, really allowed me to put my best foot forward in starting a horror podcast.
PS: So why horror?
HH: I’ve always been into the horror genre, watching Turner Classic Movies, stuff like that. My parents were a little absent sometimes in my life, so movies were an escape for me then, and my brother-in-law and my sister were two people who were really big influences in my life, that would always get me involved in things of that nature. They had me volunteer at a haunted house where I’m originally from, in Denison, and I did that at about fifteen and that was the best time ever. So being around haunters and getting a sense of community with people who were into that genre was just a whole new world. I realized people were profiled all the time- fan profiled, which is ridiculous, you know, some think that horror fans are just odd or strange, and we’re probably the most docile people you could meet. So being around those kinds of people growing up just fueled my passion for horror more. My brother-in-law and sister, after working the haunted house, wanted to, as a group, go to Texas Frightmare Weekend. So we actually went to the first annual Texas Frightmare Weekend when it began, and that was an experience of a lifetime. Betsy Palmer was there, and that was before she passed away. That was an amazing experience. And Caroline Williams, meeting her, that was really cool. And the headliners were Bill Moseley, Sid Haig, and Sheri Moon Zombie, and it was right after The Devil’s Rejects DVD release. So, standing in line, I got my first full-fledged experience with that. And ever since I’ve just kept going back and after starting the podcast, it was always a goal of mine to try to be a part of it in some way. So, I worked really hard and got in touch with Loyd Cryer from Texas Frightmare Weekend, and he was really just the nicest person. He was very open to doing a Skype interview with me and we just talked about where he’s from, how he got into all this, why he wanted to start a convention in the first place, how it all kind of happened. So, it was nice to talk to him about my experiences going every year. He hears it all the time, of course, but, that was a monumental moment for me, and after that, I just thought, “You know, I need to network more with people, to get more interviews. This needs to be a thing.” People who are enjoying it are encouraging me, so I just applied for a booth, and I was lucky enough to be chosen. That’s how I got to Texas Frightmare Weekend. It’s been fun so far- trying to work my way into that kind of avenue. So, that’s why horror, I guess.
PS: You said the horror fandom is one of those “docile groups.” Do you have any thoughts on that?
HH: Yeah, absolutely. I plan to have an episode about this soon. I think that people should just like what they like and people should just let others like what they like, no matter what it is. I interviewed a sword-swallower in the Dallas area who was a medical student who got really sick, and part of her recovery was to learn hand-eye coordination again, and she picked up contact juggling. So, after doing that and meeting all these circus-folk, she made her way into being a sword swallower. I don’t know how she did it, but she already knew the anatomy from school, and now she’s one of the most well-known sword-swallowers in the area, but she doesn’t look like one. She doesn’t look like your average circus-folk type of person, and that’s okay. I don’t think it matters. I think that’s a great example of that. People should just love what they love and be who they want to be. There really isn't a mold.
PS: What do you think it is about horror that attracts so many people?
HH: We like being afraid. We like being thrilled. We like being on edge, and I think we also like to explore ideas about things. I feel like horror really makes people tick. It makes people think in depth about things they wouldn’t normally think about in their everyday lives, and I think it’s a great escape for a lot of people. I think it’s really relateable--more than people may expect.
PS: What has been your biggest challenge since you’ve started working on your podcast?
HH: Ummm... everything! (laughs) As a “newbian,” I’m not an audio technician. So, learning the ins and outs of audio. Networking with people is another one. Just technical difficulties. Skype interviews can always be iffy. And the prep, too, required before every episode. I think right now the struggle for me is being consistent because I have a full-time job. So it can be difficult for me to just be consistent as much as possible, as much as I would like to be. If I could quit my job and just do this full time, and try to bring together the horror community even more in Dallas, that would be amazing.
PS: Who’s been your best guest so far?
HH: I would say my best guest so far would be between Frankie Stiletto, the sword swallower, and Loyd Cryer, because Loyd Cryer was kind of that pivotal one for me that was a huge turning point. It was like, “Okay, if I can do this, I can do anything.” Also, Frankie, she was more of the inspirational podcast episode. While I want to talk about pop culture and movies and things like that, I also want to talk to creatives in the Dallas area that are inspiring, that are into the weird kind of shit that we like. (laughs)
PS: You mentioned a couple time about bringing the horror community together in Dallas. How do you see yourself doing that?
HH: I’m still working out the kinks, but I just want to involve myself as much as possible. I want to set goals and keep accomplishing them. Things like hosting movie nights at the Alamo Drafthouse in Richardson. I would love to do something here [Alamo Drafthouse Cedars] in October and do some sort of blood drive collaboration. And have it be an Alamo Drafthouse/Macabrecast Presents… giving back to the community and to others, but at the same time, it’s bringing out everybody that is into this thing. Or not.
PS: What advice would you give for anyone that wants to start being creative?
HH: I think that creativity is in everybody. I think that it’s highly important whether you have a full-time job or you’re just not sure of what you want to do. I think it’s important to just step your toes in. Because if you don’t try it, you’ll never know. I think creativity is part of what makes us who we are, and I think it’s imperative that you explore those things that make you a creative because you never know where it could take you.
PS: Anything to add?
HH: This is all new for me. I know it’s always really difficult for women to do this kind of thing, especially in the horror genre. It’s like, “You gotta step your game up.” It’s difficult whether it’s the horror genre or pop culture, in general, to be taken seriously. I feel like it’s hard for women. So, my goal is just to really be different. I want to talk about pop culture, and I want to interview people. I want it to be an inspiring kind of show. Like a horror and healing type of thing, if you will. I would also just add, if anything, here at the very end, would be that I like to keep things positive. I think that it’s easier to, if you will, “shit” on things that you don’t like. I think that debate is important, and I think it is imperative to develop new ideas and new opinions about things but I want to keep things positive and light and talk about the good things instead of the crappy things. We’ve got debates, we’ve got things that we talk about that we dislike, but I just want it to be a positive experience for anyone who’s listening. This was really just an idea that was for me to help myself through a lot of things that I was going through in life, and if I get listeners from it and people start to follow it, that’s great, but it’s not the main goal. If it can touch somebody like podcasting has touched me, then that’s all I can ask for.