Of the many fine people I've met in the online horror community over the years, few create as many different kinds of content as Zena Dixon, who you may know better as The Real Queen of Horror. And make no mistake, this woman is a horror fan through and through. She runs a website and hosts YouTube channel where she reviews horror movies and documents her adventures in the genre. She produces one of my favorite podcasts, Girls Will Be Ghouls. And, last but not least, produces her own movies, including the 2015 short film Hidden.
I was fortunate to claim a few of the precious free moments she has to answer some questions about what draws her to the horror genre, what kind of content she enjoys making the most, and the role of women in the horror community.
Do you remember when you first fell for horror? Was there a particular movie that did it?
Yes, I do remember! I was about four years old the day my mom, dad and 5 siblings were watching Kevin Tenney's Night of the Demons (1988). I remember being completely mesmerized by the opening of the film! Seeing animated skeletons fly against the black background and the sound of the electric keyboard coming in with the drums...it was honestly breathtaking. I was hooked. The opening of Night of the Demons was my introduction to my love for horror. My mother is actually a huge horror fan, so I'm more than positive that I've been watching horror films before I could even remember. But Night of the Demons is the first horror film I remember watching.
Has your love of the genre changed from when you were a kid? Does it mean something different to you now than it did back then?
I believe that my love for the genre has become stronger. Watching, talking about and enjoying horror films has always been consistent in my life. I remember when I was in elementary school, most little girls wanted to have birthday parties and sleepovers, I actually just wanted to spend my free time watching horror movies. I remember rushing home from school to finish my homework so I could watch one horror movie before it was too late. Of course, it was during the weekday and I had to be in bed by 8:00 p.m.; however, watching one horror film always turned into two, perhaps even three. Next thing I knew, I was going to bed after 1:00 a.m.! I was exhausted but I remember telling my friend on the school bus about different movies. I would review the movie, giving awesome points along with things I didn't care for and what I'd do.
As I got older, things pretty much stayed the same. All my friends wanted to go to parties and all I wanted was horror movies. My parents actually loved it because I was simple, I just wanted horror movies to watch and my own camera to create my own horror movies. I have a sister that is two years older than me and she was completely opposite of me. Her hobbies would change on a weekly basis.
What movies or elements of horror scare you the most?
Horror movies that touch on religion or demons, simply because I feel that they are inspired by true stories. I know there are plenty of people who may feel it's just a movie, but I experienced something as a teenager which confirmed what I always thought [editor's note: I need to get her to tell me this story!]. Horror films are addicting due to the thrill of being afraid, which I absolutely love. Truth be told, whenever I watch a horror film that involves religion, demons or the devil, it makes me uncomfortable. I feel like I shouldn't be watching it because something might follow me home.
You’ve got a lot of work to your credit, including a website, Youtube channel, podcast, not to mention the various original film work that you do. How did you first get started producing content for the horror genre?
I unofficially started back when I was a kid. After my family and I would watch a horror film, I wanted to recreate scenes and they would all participate in helping out by acting out the scenes. Then when I was in high school, I decided to take some film classes because I heard we get to watch films for 2 hours. I did that and I was blown away by all the films I never saw and it was all genres not just horror. That class advanced to where we were able to meet directors and producers. This was back in 2005 and I remember the director of Hitch (2005) was good friends with my film teacher. We had to present our films to this guy and at first I was excited. However, after seeing everyone else's films, I was getting a bit nervous because my film was the only horror. Everyone else did comedies and dramas. So when it was my turn, I had to present the title and genre to the class and this big time director. My class was used to it because we had to do four films that year and this was the third time we were making films. Needless to say, I did horror films every single time! Anyhow, surprisingly the director was actually impressed and told me that I had an eye for films. I knew right then and there I needed and wanted to be a filmmaker.
Do you prefer the analysis work that you do or do you prefer creating your own films?
That's a tough one! But I'll say I prefer creating because it's an actual process and sometimes even battle with yourself and others. Don't get me wrong, I do love analyzing horror, but it's a completely different field when you have the opportunity to create your own horror world.
For the past year and a half you’ve hosted The Girls Will Be Ghouls podcast with co-host Ashlee Blackwell. How did you two first connect and what was the genesis for the podcast?
I first came across Ashlee on Black Girl Nerds because I noticed RealQueenofHorror.com was linked to it. It's called "Black Girl (Horror) Nerds Introduction: The Origin Of My Horror Nerdom". I thought that Ashlee was awesome and I wanted to work with her for a while but I wasn't too sure what I wanted us to do. Whenever I want to work with someone, I want to make sure I have it together. I had one podcast in the past but unfortunately my co-host at the time had a lot on his plate, so I thought it would be an awesome opportunity for Ashlee and me to come together. I feel like we're opposites and I knew it would work for us! Girls Will Be Ghouls is a horror podcast that allows us to talk about and measure the diversity in the genre. Who wouldn't want to listen to two awesome ladies talking about blood, gore and diversity?
One aspect of the show is to discuss elements of race in the horror genre. Has being a woman of color affected how you’re able to work within the horror community?
Unfortunately, yes. I remember when I first started my blog I actually had people leave many comments on my page. The comments ranged from "You don't look like a horror fan." to "Are you sure you’re a horror fan?" I would even get quizzed. Even today, I'll go to horror conventions with my husband and at first people try to talk to him about horror and he's a bit puzzled and would tell them he's not the horror nerd, his wife is. I'd get the "Wow! Really?", crazy stares or again "You don't look like a horror fan." Apparently, there is some horror fan dress code I wasn't aware of. I honestly feel like I have to work three times as hard to be given a chance because people may not feel I'm a "real" horror fan because I don't look a certain way. It's unfortunate and ignorant but I'm used it. I love horror films, I'd still love them even if there wasn't the internet or horror events.
Are there any women in the horror community (other than Ashlee of course) that have been particularly influential for you?
I recently interviewed Gigi Saul Guerrero and I found her absolutely refreshing and inspiring. I had heard of her before, but when I checked out her segment "Dia De Los Muertos" in the Mexican horror anthology Barbarous Mexico (aks Barbaro Mexico) last year, I was blown away!
Who are some women in the genre that you think more people should know about?
Of course Ashlee Blackwell of Graveyard Shift Sisters. She's a voice for a community that gets zero attention. Director of LuchaGore Productions Gigi Saul Guerrero is also up there on the list.
What is the future for women in horror?
The future of women in horror is strong. I feel like there will be a “women in horror” takeover. No longer will men outnumber us. Get ready for it! I know I'm ready.
To end on a completely random question, let’s say you’re the killer in your very own slasher movie. What weapon do you use and why?
At first I was going to go with the traditional butcher knife because it's a classic and it definitely would get the job done. I'm actually going to go with a corn cob. Why not? It worked in Sleepwalkers.
In addition to her website and YouTube channel, be sure to follow Zena on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr.