The Haunted Cinema (THC) – If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a 1000 times, we love Horror Hosts at The Haunted Cinema. That is why Ghastly and I are so happy to have you swing by for a chat, and let’s be honest, you class the place up and we can use all of the class we can get. Before we get into your show, and all of the crazy things you do, tell us about you and your horror background. What are some of your early horror memories?

Marlena Midnite (MM) – I don’t really have a ‘horror background’, I have always liked monster and sci-fi movies and I guess it just grew to encompass horror over time. 

THC – The Monster Craze all started with the release of the Universal Shock Theater package of films for T.V. What’s your favorite Universal Horror film? Why does it get top billing in your list?

MM- Creature from the Black Lagoon, as for why, it has a gillman and tropical scenery.

THC – Horror Hosts have been around since the beginning, and it was a female Horror Host, Vampira, played by the enigmatic Maila Nurmi, that started it all. Is she an inspiration to you and to your character Marlena Midnite? If so, tell us about her and what inspires you about her.

MM- I honestly have seen less that 10 minutes of actual footage of Vampira’s show (I think that is all that exists still?) and what I saw, was amazing for that time, however, I can honestly say I didn’t even see that footage until a year after we had started shooting the show. I was much more influenced by Chuck Acri and Commander USA.

THC – What other Hosts, past and present do you admire? What is it about their shows that inspires you?

MM– As I mentioned above, Commander USA was a huge influence and is my favorite Horror Host of all time, but also Chuck Acri, Penny Dreadful, Uncle Eerie Lee Shivers, Stella Man Eater of Mantiauk, Dr. Gangreene, Elvira, Tarentulla Ghoul. I think mostly, what really inspires me is when hosts aren’t afraid to be unique. There is of course the trope that goes along with horror hosting, but I really enjoy when a host is confident in their abilities and has unique ideas.

THC – Many female horror hosts such as, Vampira, Elvira, Penny Dreadful, and you, Marlena Midnite, blend spooky and sexy in their characterizations. Why is this such a powerful combo?

MM- Of course, everyone has different ideas of what is ‘sexy’ and ‘spooky’ however, it could be that things are views as sexy because that spookiness is perceived as slightly dangerous? Why do film noir movies always have the femme fatale with the men eating out of her hand even though they know she will mean their death?

THC – According to your site, , you have been doing your show since 2009. Tell us about those early days and why you decided to try your hand as Horror Host.

MM- Not much to tell really, it wasn’t really a ‘why’, Blake and I just were talking about how there used to be a horror host in every little broadcast market, and they had all just vanished. We thought it would be a fun thing to try to recreate, little did we know we would still be doing the show 10 years later.

THC – Tell us about those early days, and how you went from idea to show. What were some of the challenges since those early days?? How has the show changed

MM – Aside from the logistics of shooting a show while living in different states 16 hours apart, there weren’t really any challenges or planning stages. We wanted to make a cheesy little show for fun, so we brainstormed out what we needed, built sets, made puppets, figured out wardrobe and shot what we needed to make the first 12 mini-episodes. The show has changed a lot in quality, the quality wasn’t there in the early episodes because we weren’t thinking about the longevity it would have, it was just a fun side project and it was constructed as such. When we realized it would be continuing, we upgraded literally everything except the movies and writing (because the movies are what we can get and the writing could be the best in the universe but I have memory issues and can’t memorize things.)

THC – Maintaining a long running show must be a challenge. How do you manage to keep things fresh and fun? Is it all you, or is there a team that keeps the show going?

MM – It isn’t all me, Blake Is definitely is always working on something too, mostly it is just the two of us though. As far as fun and fresh, promises of delicious food after shooting pretty much can keep anyone going, and, really, it’s just a fun show to do.

THC – It seems that you and I have some things in common. We both have sidekicks that leave much to be desired. I have Ghastly, who is supposed to be the Dead…err…Head Usher and keep things running around here, and you have Wolfred and Franklin. Talk about your cast of characters, not just those two, and what they bring to the show. Were they all there from the beginning?

MM – Wolfred, Franklin, and Dr. Bones have indeed been with us from the beginning. The original puppets were very small, and we’ll say ‘rustic’ since I just made them quickly in one day. There were a few special limited puppets, Cleo the mummy cat, Wolfred’s girlfriend, Archibald the spider, Lady Franklinstein. Again, they were just made for certain episodes but were not quality made puppets. When the show was resurrected for MyTV 8-3, we made new Wolfred and Franklin puppets and also a wise cracking pitcher plant named Creepy Charlie and his family. Also some of the early episodes had Grimms who was a grim reaper keeping an eye on Marlena. Robyn was the Mail Girl for the later part of the old episodes and some of the newer MyTV 8-3. Now we have Cat and Elizadeath who are on the newest season and will be on the next season.

THC – As a Horror Host, you are the audience’s guide to the wonderful, and sometimes not so wonderful world of B grade (and below) horror films. I assume many of the films that you show are in the Public Domain. Talk about how you select the films that are going to be featured on the show.

MM – Some are public domain, some we license. Generally, I will watch the movies and if they won’t require too much editing/ censoring and they at least KIND OF have some redeeming quality, they will usually get used. It is different if the station gets the movies, in that case we don’t have a choice.

THC – What are some of the best, and worst films that you have shown on your show? Which ones have been the audience’s favorites? Have any of the audience’s favorites surprised you?

MM- My personal least favorite movie we have shown is Devil Times Five. I HATE that movie, but most people actually liked it. Also, people loved Death smiles at murder which I liked but I didn’t know how people would react to.

THC – Let’s talk about the actual production of your show. How much work goes into getting a show ready for production? What advice can you give to a budding ghoul or ghoulette that wants try their hand at Horror Hosting?

MM – A lot, WAY MORE than actual shooting. So much goes on behind the scenes. Brain storming, watching the movies at least a couple times, taking notes, coming up with skit ideas, making any props we might need, buying props we might need, social media accounts, editing the show, editing movies if needed, captioning the show, putting on makeup, picking wardrobe… the list goes on and on. I’d say for every hour of filming, there is 10-15 hours of behind the scenes work to go with it. The only advice I can give is be unique, and be prepared to work your ass off unless you are miraculously lucky.

THC – How Horror Hosts have managed to stay relevant all of these years, especially in the age of cable T.V. and the internet, is always something I am interested in understanding. I ask this question of all my Horror Host friends, so now it’s your turn. How do you find, and grow, an audience? How do you reach a younger crowd such as millennials?

MM – Uh, we are on TV. Most of crowd growth is organic. If you are in a bar and the show is on you are a captive audience. People of all ages like our show, included families who watch together. It’s pretty cool.

THC – How would you describe your show to someone who has not seen an episode?

MM – We show old horror and sci-fi movies and it’s me and a couple of other girls and some puppets and we pop in with skits a few times per movie to help break up the monotony of the bad movie pacing. There isn’t any continuity, so you can pretty much just watch based on the movie.

THC – You were recently inducted into the Horror Host Hall of Fame. What does that honor mean to you? Where do you go from here?

MM – It was a massive honor to be inducted into a hall of fame with so many iconic hosts/hostesses. We will just continue on making the show most likely.  Winning a piece of paper in a frame is an honor but it won’t really change much.

THC – How can people find your show?  

MM – In the quad cities and surrounding areas we can be found Friday on WQAD tv8 at 1:30am and Saturday on MyTV 8-3 at 10:30pm. If not in the area,  we occasionally stream an episode on Facebook and around 80 or so are on DVD at .

A cartoon drawing of a zombie in cinema staff attire