Fangoria Magazine No. 222, May 2003
By Michael Gingold
Years after her
"Camp" classic, actress Felissa Rose is back getting down and bloody.
In 1992, The Crying
Game caused a sensation by making its "heroine" a girl with, let's say,
something extra. This twist on gender perception caused quite a stir---but
horror fans had seen it all before. Nearly a decade earlier, the slasher
opus Sleepaway Camp startled fans not only be revealing it's killer to
be the shy and gentle camper Angela, but by showing in the most explicit
way possible that she was actually a he, a boy heretofore raised as a
More then anything
else, that finale won Sleepaway Camp a cult following that continues to
this day, with two questions likely uppermost in the fans' minds: How
was that climatic shot pulled off, and and what happened yo Felissa Rose,
the young actress who portrayed the crossdressing little psycho?
This year, horror
devotees will learn second query in a big way. Rose is coming back with
almost as much a vengeance as she demonstrated in playing Angela, appearing
in a string of independent horror features, beginning with Andreas
Schnaas' gorefest Nikos the Impaler (debuting on a Schnaas-produced DVD;
see www.nikos-themovie.com for details). She also has a cameo role in
Horror, the second film from Desecration director Dante Tomaselli, arriving
on disc from Elite Entertainment May 27.
As for that first
issue: So, did the actress wear a very special prosthetic, or ... "We've
talked about it at conventions and things, but people still wonder,"
Rose says. "Just to set the record straight, Ed French, our make-up effects
person, made a mold of my face with my mouth open [and screaming]. Then
[director] Robert Hiltzik found a boy, a college student---he had to be
18 to do the nudity, but he had to be small because I'm small, and have
a narrow face to fit my 13-year-old face cast. It was very difficult to
find that boy, and I'm sure it would be difficult to find him again [laughes]
! He got really drunk, put the mask on and did the scene naked. All the
close-ups are mine, and all the full-length shots are his.
Rose is flashing back
to this memorable screen debut on the set of Nikos, in which she and Joe
Zaso play college professors contending with the titular reanimated
barbarian cutting a bloody swath through New York City. Relaxing in the
green room of a small Long Island soundstage while all manner of disgusting
mayhem is prepped nearby, the actress recalls that her trip to Camp occurred
"when I was 13, exactly 20 years ago, in upstate New York City. I wanted
to be an actress and got a local manager, and he got a call from Robert
Hiltzik, who had contracted all the New York agents, saying, "We'd like
to meet as many kids as we can.' So I went in, and he and I immediately
bonded. It was strange, like a brother-sister thing. He offered me the
role, and I said yes."
But not before getting
her parents' permission, which might seem easier said then done for such
a graphic film. "They were really young---hey were my age at the time,"
Rose recalls, "and they thought it was a hoot for me to do a horror movie.
They said, 'Sure, as long as you don't have to be nude or kill anybody.'
" It was for another reason, though, that her hands in the murder scenes
were doubled by actor Jonathan Tierston, who plays her onscreen cousin
Ricky. "Robert wanted more masculine hands," Rose explains. "Mine are
small and feminine, so ..."
All the bloodletting
is Angela's revenge for the constant torment she suffers from fellow campers
and counselors alike, but Rose recalls that her experience on the
set was far less traumatic. "I kind of wish I could say, 'Yeah, it was
really tortuous,' " she laughs, "but I got along exceptionally well with
everyone. We were only shooting a couple pages of dialogue a day, and
when the camera stopped, I would laugh and play around with everyone.
There's so much waiting around when you're making a film that you get
Although the actress
did meet with producer Jerry Silva about reprising the now sex-changed
murderess for the direct to video Sleepaway Camp 2 and 3, Pamela Springsteen wound up taking over the role.
"She was awesome," Rose says. "Unfortunately, she and I have never met,
have never spoken, and I'm a great admirer of hers. Maybe in the future
we can get together and talk Angela."
Certainly, many other
people have enjoyed chatting about the character, and Rose's on-line popularity
helped lead to her recent career resurgence after her long stretcg away
from the cameras. "I just didn't get any work, really," after Camp, she
says. "I was a teenager, in high school, and I wasn't pursuing [film]
as much as I am now as an adult. I decided to go to college, got my BFA
and did a lot of theater. I married a theater director [they have since
divorced], mad he and I wrote a bunch of plays and did original productions
in New York. And a few years ago, Jeff Hayes from Sleepawaycampmovies.com
wrote me a letter saying, 'Hey, I just want to know where you are.' From
there, I started getting e-mails from young directors who were fans of
Sleepaway Camp saying, 'Hey can you do my film?' "
One of those admirers
was Nikos actor and line producer Zaso. "He and I were in touch through
e-mail, and we met in January. He told me all about the project and gave
me the script [by Ted Geoghegan]. When I heard Andreas Schnaas was directing,
I definitely wanted to be a part of it. I really enjoy the fact that he
is so completely---I don't want to use the word 'obsessed'---but in love
with the gore and blood. I've never been a part of a film that has so
many killings. So I was fascinated by that, and wanted to be involved
in a horror film of that type. I had yet to play sort of the co-star to
plenty of that to go around, as FX creators Marcus Koch and Jesus
Vega have contributed a seemingly endless supply of guts, other body parts
and blood galore, with Schnaas committing much of the onscreen mayhem
in the title role. "He was a lot of fun with the effects, " Rose says.
"Everything from their creation down to having as much blood around as
we can. I think we bought out the Karo syrup at local stores.
"I thought in the
beginning that there would be a language barrier" with the German Schnaas,
"and it was a little difficult for me at first because I had never
played this type of woman. She's a professor, very conservative, or smiley
or sexy or anything, and I had to get my head into sort of downplaying
who I am, and I had to converse quite a bit about that, and once
we started having that dialogue, I became very excited, and he directed,
gut-spewing of Nikos is a far cry from the surrealistic Horror, which
begins with a demonic goat terrorizing a girl and switches to a group
of youths fleeing a drug rehab center center and arriving at a farmhouse,
where one of them kills a preacher who runs the place. Then things get
weird. Very weird. So, Felissa, what's your take on this unusual (and
very well shot by Tim Kaylor) film?
of Horror is that it is whatever you want it to be," Rose says. "Very
much like David Lynch, Dante does not like to spoon-feed his viewers.
He's about allowing you to keep yourself open and enjoy the ride,
and whatever you come out with is your own individual experience. I found
the script to be exciting, because it was so original. We' ve spoken about
other horror films that are formulaic, and do what everyone else
does. What I love about Dante is that whether you like it or you don't,
or you get the story or you don't, it's completely it own kind."
The actress hopes
to reteam with Tomaselli on Satan's Playground, in which she and The Evil
Dead's Ellen Sandweiss would play sisters. In the meantime, she trekked
to Florida last year to take another small gig in Jose Prendes' Corpses
Are Forever, opposite a whole group of fellow genre actresses---Debbie
Rocho, Brinke Stevens and Linnea Quigley, along with Richard Lynch
and Prendes himself . Of her femme co-stars, Rose raves, "I grew
up watching them and loving them and being inspired by them, and
I can't even believe I've gotten the chance to work with them, So
that was a great trip."
With a title like
Corpses are Forever, you'd expect a spoof, but Rose notes, "No, it's played
straight. It's based on a short Jose called Nerve that's been showing
at film festivals, and this feature uses Nerve as a flashback. It's incredibly
creative. He threw so many ideas at me when we were just driving
around during the day, and the film is going to be very exciting and unique."
She faced further
undead travails and a whole slew of B-film veterans in Zombiegeddon, shot
in Kansas City by writer/director Chris Watson. "That was an interesting
cast," Rose says. "Everybody is in that, from Julie Strain to Robert Z
' Dar, Joe Estevez, Lloyd Kaufman, Lienna---it's an interesting cast,"
which also includes Stevens, Tom Savini, Tina Krause, Edwin Neal,
J.R. Bookwalter and Ariauna Albright. "That was a lot of fun; I play a
cheerleader being chased by zombies. And I also did Scary Tales 2 in Florida
with Mike Hoffman. We shot that through the night for a weekend, and that
In the midst of all
this activity, the possibility arose of a Return to Sleepaway Camp
after all these years, with Hiltzik back at the helm and French slinging
the gore once again. "We were actually in pre-production on that a little
over a year ago", Rose reveals. "We had practically everything set, except
that Ed said there was no way the effects could get done in time, and
then 9 /11 [the tragedy of September 11th] happened. That was pretty during
our first week of shooting. So we took the year off,
and tried to regroup. Now we're getting back on track, so
I hope to get word soon that we'll be starting to film again this
Should Rose reprise
the role of Angela, it's not clear whether the characters would
be, let's say, postoperative, as she was in the first pair of sequels.
But the actress will continue a bit of identity-altering of her
own."My real name is Felissa Esposito; Rose is my middle name,"
she reveals . "When I was cast in Sleepaway Camp, my manager said, 'OK,
now that you're an actress, you need a to get rid of the ethnic last name.'
To drop Esposito, which makes me really sad because that's who I am---I'm
Italian-American. That's who I am, that's what I look like. People have
said, 'Why don't you just add it back now?' and I'm thinking about
it. But it has been a while; I' ve been Felissa Rose for so long."
Certainly, her recent
genre roles haven't been ethnic-specific. "In Nikos, I play the all-American
heroine," she says. "And what is all-American? I'll never forget when
I saw a Pepsi commercial with an African-American woman saying 'I am the
American woman,' and she is; we all are. It's a melting pot. Thank God,
you know, that we don't all look the same. I'm so fortunate that I can,
hopefully, not be completely stereotyped, and be given the chance to play
anything. It doesn't matter what the background is."
But if she should
become typecast as a genre heroine, Rose doesn't seem to mind. "I love
horror films," she says. "I'm a fan---I'm here [on the Nikos set] just
to see the gore effects being filmed today. This has been a great ride
for me, and wherever it leads me, I'm happy."