Pia shares Her Dark Half - Issue #12: Interview with Beth Accomando
Today I have a special treat for you! You might have heard her pleasant voice on TV or Radio, she’s an editor and producer, festival director, member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and she runs Cinema Junkie - a film and entertainment blog. She’s also programmer and organizer for genre film series at the Digital Gym Cinema and Museum of Photographic Arts. Oh, and she’s a freelance reporter at NPR!
Ladies and gentlemen - may I present Beth Accomando! *applause applause*
Beth - between your film critic and reporting gigs for NPR, your Cinema Junkie blog, work with the Film Geeks, Digital Gym and Film School Confidential, countless film screenings and movie marathons around San Diego and even up in LA, you are a busy woman! I have to admit, I’m a bit envious of your job(s) because you are exposed to so much art all the time! And let’s not forget your annual Halloween Haunt and the super fun Secret Morgue coming up soon! If my readers haven’t figured it out by now, you love art in many forms, but you have an especially squishy soft spot in your heart for all things horror. So, let me begin with my first question:
1. What attracts you to the dark side and why?
Beth Accomando: It may stem back to when I was little and my parents took me to see a lot of inappropriate things, specifically I remember The Collector with Terence Stamp as a man who kidnaps women off the street and is never caught or punished, and Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (for years I had nightmares with the image of a dog carrying a severed arm, which I finally realized was from this film). But being scared by that made me want to confront what scared me in order to master my fears. If I can look evil or darkness in the eye in art then I figured I would be better prepared to meet it in the real world. I also used to read my dad’s 26 volume crime encyclopedia all the time, again because I wanted to know the worst that was out there. It fascinated me and I also felt that there is a little darkness in all of us and I wanted to know more about that darkness.
2. How are you letting your own "shadow" side come out and play, meaning how do you express it artistically?
BA: I don’t really consider myself an artist. But I definitely indulge in some fun things that many consider dark. I love making horror themed desserts, generally paired with a film. I love sharing other people’s dark art especially horror films. Perhaps I express myself through the clothes and jewelry I wear, which tend to be geeky and dark. And I guess my home haunts are a creative expressions of my dark side but we will get to that later. I also try to cover art and film for KPBS that look to the dark side. It is easy to do "feel good arts" stories but not a lot of mainstream media covers horror and art that pushes boundaries or makes you uncomfortable. So I may not be an artist but I can support artists who embrace the darkness.
3. What benefits do you get out of embracing your dark half?
BA:Well if you never know darkness then how can you appreciate the light? We need contrasts. I think there is often beauty in horror when you are talking about the arts. The real world has lots of horror but watching a horror film offers escape and sometimes catharsis. Horror also tends to be subversive and transgressive, and those are things I love.
4. What really scares you or creeps you out in movies and in the creative world generally?
BA: The thing I find most terrifying is loss of identity. That is why I am obsessed with zombie films. A zombie is a person who has lost their identity, they may look like themselves but they have lost all connection to who they were, to their humanity. They don't comprehend what they are doing. They are also kind of a metaphor for real things like dementia and Alzheimers, which are absolutely the most terrifying things I can imagine. Films like Fallen, Polanski’s The Tenant, even the comedy Heaven Can Wait – all disturb me because they are about people, who in different ways, either lose control of their actions or have their identity taken away. Picnic at Hanging Rock gave me nightmares because it is about a group of girls who disappear and then one is found but can remember nothing.
5. You’ve previously worked in film/tv as an editor, producer, actor, in the art department and more. Does knowing about the filmmaking process get in the way of actually enjoying a movie or TV show? How does it influence your work as a critic?
BA: Knowing how a film is made, knowing how hard it is, only makes me appreciate good filmmaking more. Once I enter a cinema or turn on a movie, that part of my brain is shut off and I just surrender to the experience of watching a film. But if a film is bad or bland or boring then I do start noticing that cuts don’t match or sets that look shoddy or bad cinematography. If I am not engaged in the storytelling then I am going to start to notice everything that is wrong.
6. Your annual Halloween Haunts are legendary in your neighborhood. It takes a lot of blood, sweat and money to produce them. You and your team put a lot of love into it for several months before the big night. Why do you do it?
BA: I have to confess that there is no sweeter sound than that of a child screaming as he or she runs from your home haunt. Sometimes they drop their candy bag because they are so scared. It is wonderful. Now I am not a complete sadist. Part of this joy comes from knowing how much some of these kids love it. They come back every year. I had two teenage girls volunteer to help once and they were great at terrifying the kids. When I complimented them they said that when they were three years old, they came to the haunt and were terrified; and they vowed to come back and terrify the next generation. I also had one boy come up to me after going through a haunt I did at my son’s elementary school. He pointed out that he was so scared that he peed his pants. Then he told me he had gone through a second time. At some level I think we liked to be scared within the parameters of something we know is safe.
I also do these haunts because I have so many talented friends who share my passions. Each year they keep raising the bar on what they think we can do and so I love being a part of that creative team.
7. How did the idea for the annual Secret Morgue events come about and what are your future plans for it; and how do you pick a subject? Sorry, that’s three questions in one.
BA: When Comic-Con Museum opened I wanted to find a way to make use of their cinema. My friends and I all enjoy what the New Bev does around Halloween with its all-night horror marathon. So the group I work with called Film Geeks (which works under the fiscal sponsorship of the Media Arts Center and we are very grateful for their support) decided to try our hand at an all-night movie marathon. We basically imitated the New Bev in terms of doing six films, providing some food, keeping the titles a secret… but we wanted to add our twist. For one, we serve a lot better food than New Bev; and we try to eventize it. So we have given people an autopsy form to keep track of the films and body count. We also try to set up fun photo opps like making the Stargate for our sci-fi marathon. Since the cinema is kind of down in a lower level it felt a bit like a morgue and then someone suggested Secret Morgue and it stuck. For themes, we just throw ideas around, usually based on a couple titles we want to show and then craft a theme. Or we put it out on social media and asks for suggestions. Of course we had the shutdown during COVID but we came back on Walpurgis Night this past April, so we felt obligated to do a marathon themed around witches.
Since our normal date for Secret Morgue is end of September, we decided to do a second one this year. On September 24 we will host Secret Morgue 3.1: Animals Attack. It is a mini marathon of only 4 films and one meal. But we will have scientists introducing each film and telling us something about the particular animals in each film. We always like to have fun but we also like to give the films a context and hopefully also have people gain a little knowledge about something.
You can buy your tickets to Secret Morgue 3.1: Animals Attack here: https://bit.ly/SecretMorgueAnimalsAttack
8. You’ve interviewed a lot of people over the years. Is there a question you wish YOU were asked? And then please answer that question.
BA: What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?
African or European? Actually it probably doesn’t matter. It would be somewhere between 20 and 25 mph.
9. What is currently your favorite indulgence in the horror world? (film/tv show, book, comic, music)
BA: Film Geeks will be hosting a screening of the new Danish horror film Speak No Evil on Sept. 17 at Digital Gym Cinema. It is a deliciously uncomfortable and diabolical slow burn horror film. I can’t wait to watch people squirm.
10. How can people find you or your work? Websites, social media links?
Cinema Junkie and Geeky Gourmet:https://www.kpbs.org/podcasts/cinema-junkie
Twitter, Instagram and TikTok: @cinebeth
Letterboxd: The CinemaJunkie
Thank you, Beth for taking the time for this interview! I know you have a lot of work ahead of you!
That’s it for today - now go and buy a Secret Morgue: When Animals Attack ticket if you’re in the San Diego area! You won’t regret it…much!
As always, have a creative weekend!
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Dark Greetings…. ‘see’ you in two weeks and stay frosty!
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