Interview: Shannon Lark (Psychic Experiment, Devotion)

The Scream Queen is the pulsating erogenous zone within the flesh of cinematic horror. Such a living epitaph is a conglomeration of physical beauty, seasoned survival instincts, and latent weaponry prowess fused into a strong visual feminine protagonist.

Brandishing the blood carven inscription as “San Francisco’s Gore Gore Girl”, Shannon Lark was destined to become the quintessential avatar of the Scream Queen. The crystallization of Shannon’s kinship with blood, death, and horror achieved its juvenescent genesis from her witnessing at an early age the baleful crimson of Shakespearean theatrics.

The grim mark of the macabre had brand itself upon the consciousness of Shannon Lark. The innocent little girl who once was no longer existed. In her place was begotten a raven mane fallen angel of arterial splatter, disemboweled viscera, and a chainsaw wielding harbinger of Azrael. The crooked path of horror would forever lead Shannon into new and strange experiences and adventures.

Young Shannon was obsessed with horror, subjecting her senses within an ocular festival of fright, something whose shadowy cinematic flickering would fail to wane. With the passing of time, Shannon engorged her psyche like an insatiable fiend, studying the aesthetics of horror in all of visual art. She quickly became an adept at her trade, gaining the abilities as a writer, director, producer, as well as an actor. She was armed with knowledge, ability, and confidence. She was a force to be dealt with.

Shannon has appeared within numerous independent and short films such as “Zombiesize! Rigormortis This!” “Rated R for Zombies”, and “It’s My Birthday”. Her feature films include “Retardead”, “The Cleaner”, and Walking Distance”. For Shannon, acting is more than simply memorizing lines from a script. It is an intimate symbiotic relationship with an archetypal energy, something that Shannon studies and fully invokes into her nature.

Shannon does not limit her vision to just cinema, including that of the classic stilled image to her extensive creative resume. She is a model, having graced the covers of independent horror magazines such as Cadaver Girls. Shannon ascended to model elitism as one of the girls of the Coffin Case photo shoots in 2008.

Shannon was one of the original members of the Living Dead Girlz, a blood encrusted theatrical dance troupe based out of the heart of San Francisco. The group was spawned from her 2004 film “Whatever Happened To The Zombie Killers” resulting in her being not just a featured dancer, but effects wizard, prop handler, and manager. Shannon directed the Living Dead Girlz in their appearance within the 2007 short film “Brains.” Her solo production of “Chainsaws Are a Girls Best Friend” continues to capture audiences at convention appearances and obtains prodigious viewings upon internet forums, establishing her a definite cult following. Having bewitched audiences with her legendary skills of chainsaw Danse Macabre, Shannon seized the crown of gore in Burbank California as the first ever Spooksmodel for Fangoria Magazine.

Shannon is the CEO of The Chainsaw Mafia, a website focused on the networking and promotion of independent horror filmmakers and artists. The Chainsaw Mafia is also a production company, whose films include Marburg, Babies For Breakfast, Cheerleader Hell, Voyeur, as well as a stage performance of The Elm Street Murders.

Shannon Lark is more than an actress, businesswoman, Scream Queen, and an aficionado of artistic mediums. She is a revolutionary activist for the recognition and advancement of the feminine role with the horror genre. The Chainsaw Mafia’s axiom of “Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter” is the female war cry for independent horror filmmakers to obtain the recognition and respect they deserve within an industry ruled by hierarchal corporate dominion. Shannon’s annual Viscera Film Festival showcases and promotes the cinematic talents of exclusively female filmmakers, promoting and marketing their voices unto previously deaf ears.

Shannon Lark is a multi-talented innovative individual within a genre all too often reeking with the stale stench of clichéd performers and cinematic tedium. Shannon is passionate about her craft keeping a forward looking vision for not only herself, but for every aspiring actor, filmmaker, and artist within the genre. Alongside the many things that make up the mind, body, and spirit that are Shannon Lark, she is also the future of horror. It is a future filled with the screams of carnage and bloodshed.

With her very busy schedule Shannon has still taken time out from eviscerating unworthy slaves with her chainsaw to speak with me within my gore dripping horrornews.net crypt. So read on my fiends and welcome to the world of Shannon Lark.

Necromagickal: For those living beneath rocks and do not know, please enlighten the general masses about the genesis of your love for horror?

Shannon Lark: Horror is what I surround my entire being around. It’s a constant need to bring more people into making the genre, no matter how they do it. Take it to the streets, yo.

Necromagickal: What has been the weirdest experience you have had being a Scream Queen?

Shannon Lark: I’m going to generalize here, since I don’t want to call anyone out, but the weirdest things come from certain fans, via email or personal relations. Some people get really into a woman holding a chain saw!

Necromagickal: Do you feel the role of the Scream Queen limits, stereotypes, or compliments the feminine character in horror?

Shannon Lark: I think the term Scream Queen can be whatever we want! Now more than ever Scream Queens are stepping into the director/writer/producer role. This makes them so much more valuable as artists. The term Scream Queen is simply evolving and it’s incredibly exciting.

Necromagickal: Peering into your bloody crystal ball, what do you foresee for the role of women in horror?

Shannon Lark: I see many more women working together to create wonderful horror films and more equal opportunity killing. I see horror becoming a little more interesting than the flood of typical slashers, and I see more women in the film industry in general.

Necromagickal: You are outspoken about not doing nudity in film. What are your thoughts on the whole subject in terms of both your personal stance as well as a general perception on whether nudity is really needed in a horror film?

Shannon Lark: Nudity in horror film goes really rather well. You have death and sex, and for 14 year old boys it’s like feeding them ice cream straight from the carton. The issue standing right now is that it is very difficult for a woman to break into the business without doing nudity. Actually, it’s practically impossible. This is why I don’t do nudity: I want to prove to myself that this can be done without taking off my top. Also, I want to help pave a way for women who love horror but don’t want to get naked for it. There should be both: it needs to be a choice and never forced. I don’t think that horror is necessarily exploiting women because usually those women want to be there. Nudity vs. No nudity should never be thought of in a Black and White scenario. It’s all grey matter.

Necromagickal: Being the first ever Fangoria Spooksmodel, what can you tell us about the future of the title and how has being its inaugural chainsaw wielding model changed your life?

Shannon Lark: Being with Fangoria has brought plenty of opportunities to my door, which I’ve chosen to take and run with or pass up. The company itself has been incredibly respectful and taken it upon themselves to promote my work, simply because they are good people. I’ve worked with companies before who have done questionable, unethical actions to get more viewers. Fangoria Entertainment is a fantastic company that actually cares about where horror has been, where it is now, and where it’s heading in the future.

Necromagickal: What films are you working on now or tell us about your most recent gig?

Shannon Lark: I’m working on a series of short films by Brian Allen of Lipstick Teeth, filmmaker Stacie Ponder, and I’m directing one as well. I haven’t been digging the feature films floating my way this year, so I’ve decided to only work with people whom I deeply respect. I’m also performing for Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors 30th Anniversary Tour. I designed a show called Chain Saws are a Girls Best Friend, which is a parody of Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend by Marilyn Monroe. I ride a 23-foot chain saw and have 6 backup dancers. It’s a blast! VISCERA 2008 will also be coming out soon, highlighting some incredible female horror filmmakers. We here at The Chainsaw Mafia are incredibly excited!

Necromagickal: What actors or actresses do you credit as inspirational to your path and why?

Shannon Lark: Frances Bay is definitely a favorite. She’s the old lady from many of Lynch’s productions, along with making an appearance in In the Mouth of Madness. I’m a huge fan of non conventional actresses, and there’s nothing better than an old lady who enjoys acting in eclectic, esoteric roles. The kicker is that she is still acting, even after having her leg amputated. I can only hope to be that cool one day.

Necromagickal: What is your dream role as an actress?

Shannon Lark: I think rape in film is incredibly important. The I Spit on Your Grave remake carries a role I am absolutely interested in. However, I think my dream role hasn’t even crossed my mind yet. It’s crazy where life can lead you.

Necromagickal: What is involved with your taking on a role in a film? Do you just need a well-written script or character or is it something more deeply intuitive about the overall feel of the project? 

Shannon Lark: It depends. I look at each script differently. No movie is the same, even if it sucks. It’s incredibly important for me to be playing a character that I enjoy portraying. Sometimes a script just isn’t very good but I latch onto the character like a dog in heat. Sometimes I’m sent scripts that I enjoy but the character is someone I don’t want to play. I’m never interested in someone that is purely sexual. It’s boring and I tend to feel those sorts of roles places the female gender into this tight plastic box that isn’t true. A woman can be sexual; she can be a lot of things. If the other “things” that make up a personality are missing, then the character is as deep as the hard plastic box she was created in.

Necromagickal: What five films do you wish to be burned or buried with?

Shannon Lark: Oh wow. Okay: Santa Sangre, The Shining, Brain Dead, The Elephant Man, and Space Balls. If it were possible to be buried with the films and then resurrected like Tod Browning, I would be into that too!

Necromagickal: What can we look forward to with your convention appearances?

Shannon Lark: I’m performing for Fangoria with the show Chain Saws are a Girls Best Friend. Look above for the details. Besides that, in Los Angeles I’ll be on a panel for Walking Distance, a wonderful indie feature directed by Mel House. Along with judging the Spooksmodel competition, I will be running around like a chicken with my head cut off: announcing, signing, dancing, and being jovial. These appearances are wonderful. I’ve been meeting so many amazing people!

Necromagickal: Why is the chainsaw your preferred weapon of choice?

Shannon Lark: I started modeling with my chain saw about 5 years ago and it just became part of my work. The chain saw is one of the best weapons for a woman to use. Dancing around with an oversized phallic object is incredibly liberating. It’s a strong symbol to be carrying around, and the message is even stronger. I think you can use any weapon in your work, and I don’t plan to be pigeon holed by using my chain saw for the rest of my career although I will always believe that every woman should own a chain saw.

Necromagickal: Tell us about the Chainsaw Mafia?

Shannon Lark: The Chainsaw Mafia is my production company, along with featuring a website for independent horror filmmakers. We do reviews/interviews with upcoming artists, along with featuring discounted equipment rental, film festivals, films/trailers, Viscera Women and the Slaughter Shop. The Slaughter Shop is held by Featured Artists and Merchants. These are independent hard working artists who do their work because they love to do it. Therefore you should give them money. Our motto is Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter and we believe that the Mafia is just like the saw: family.

Necromagickal: You are a chick of multiple pursuits in the business. Being an actress, writer, director, dancer, and entrepreneur to name a few, keeps you busy. If you had to choose only one creative pursuit out of your extensive resume, what would it be?

Shannon Lark: Acting is my first love. I’m always searching for something I can fall in love with. But wow, to give up everything else? I might have to fight you for it. :)

Necromagickal: Tell us about the Viscera Film Fest, and what we have to look forward to in its 2009 incarnation?

Shannon Lark: VISCERA is a women directed/produced Festival, with an emphasis on women only productions. The intention of the Festival is to get more women to work together, especially in a society that teaches women to compete once they are old enough to pick up a Barbie doll (and it’s usually placed in their hands).

VISCERA 2007 came out last year and made a great buzz for the filmmakers. The Chainsaw Mafia teams up with Sponsors all over the world, working with about 15 Festivals (and counting) and over 30 Sponsors to promote and help the careers along for the officially selected filmmakers.

The most recent film submissions honestly blew me away. There are so many talented female filmmakers out there, and it almost brings tears to my eyes when I have to look away from a film made by a woman because it’s so disgusting. That’s good filmmaking.

Necromagickal: What was the initial inspiration behind Viscera?

Shannon Lark: The VISCERA Film Festival was developed a couple years ago when I got some women together to make a series of short films. Most of the women never acted before, so it was interesting to get them covered in blood and make them apart of the production.
I had always loved the idea of women horror film festivals (a great one is the Pretty Scary Festival, ran by Heidi Martinuzzi), so the idea quickly became a reality. I have met so many talented women so far due to VISCERA, and it’s only going to expand. It’s positively thrilling.

Necromagickal: What are your thoughts on the whole remake situation in horror these days?

Shannon Lark: Sometimes they are good, sometimes they are bad although I don’t believe that everything is all good or all bad. One of the wonderful things about remakes is that it gets teenagers who listen to Britney Spears to see a version of a film that you adore. You never know, they might just go check out the real thing and be forever changed. I worked at a video store for 5 years: cross marketing works. It’s amazing.

Necromagickal: Do you perceive that horror glorifies violence against women too much or that the world is just full of a bunch of hypersensitive individuals in need of an adult diaper change?

Shannon Lark: Hah! Nothing like a good bowel movement!!
I think that people who stand outside the horror realm can very easily view the genre as disrespecting women. The wave of slashers that have come about since the 70’s/80’s have such exact formulas that of course the generalized public is going to think that women are abused and mistreated in the genre. The explanation is simple: women wouldn’t want to be acting in these roles if they didn’t want to. There is something thrilling about being the victim, just as thrilling as being the predator. The female gender is more sensitive, more vulnerable, and has undeniable mysterious strength because she is able to create another living being. Of course she is usually the one being chased in these slasher flicks! If it were men who could birth life and women who have testosterone, then the situation would be completely reversed.

There are wonderful films that cater to the woman being strong, even films where women are the killers! The genre is often misunderstood because violence scares people. I applaud the women who have gone before us, despite any ridicule they received for being “weak.” Running and falling in the woods is no easy task, and just like dancing with a chain saw, can be incredibly liberating.

Necromagickal: What do you foresee for the future of horror?

Shannon Lark: More blending of psychological thrillers/dramas with horror. A combination of video games and interactive video to create technology where one can BE in the movie via headset.

Necromagickal: If you were stranded and starving on an uncharted island with a pregnant woman, an elderly nun, your boyfriend, and a chainsaw your most logical next step would be?

Shannon Lark: Boyfriend builds hut using my help with the chain saw, Old lady fishes, Pregnant Lady will probably die (this is a horror film scenario, is it not?) by a snake bite or a rampant monkey who just lost her own baby. We will use her leftover intestine to spell “help” on the beach.

Necromagickal: Are chainsaws really a girl’s best friend? Are you certain about this and why?

Shannon Lark: Hell yes. At least they should be. Women need to stop depending on men so much. It’s okay to stroke something else that’s phallic.

Necromagickal: What’s in the future for Shannon Lark?

Shannon Lark: Features, plays, appearances, and simply evolving my company into the largest blood bath ever known to man.

Interview: Shannon Lark (Psychic Experiment, Devotion)

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