For writer, director, and sometimes actor Tiffany Warren, horror entered her life maybe just a little too early.
When she was three years old, her mom took her cousin to see Aliens, and because mom could not find a sitter, Tiffany went right along with them. At such a young age, they did not expect it to affect her too much.
They were wrong…
Now 38 years old, Warren says there are still parts of that movie she cannot fully remember no matter how many times she has seen the film since.
“I remember Bishop being torn up and I remember throwing up outside the theater,” the filmmaker told me in an interview for Horror Pride Month. “No matter how many times I’ve seen that movie, I can’t remember it. That was the first time I think I was actually affected by a horror movie.”
A year later, her aunt introduced her to Freddy Kreuger with A Nightmare on Elm Street, and while she says she doesn’t really remember how much it scared her at four years old, the two films definitely set her on the path to becoming a horror fan.
“I like getting scared,” she explained. “I think it’s something about being in touch with those feelings that it’s kind of a fun release. Having that fear in a safe way is just something that I tend to enjoy. I like being scared when I can control it. There’s still that little five year old in me yelling, ‘It’s possible!'”
Those films also set Warren on the road to making horror films. Her mother and aunt explained to her that what she was seeing wasn’t real and the idea of acting sparked her interest.
She would find out as she got older, however, that wanting to act and being an actor, especially on camera, are two different things entirely. She found it took her a long time to open up on camera and further that often times the roles she would find offered to her were the worst kind of stereotypes. So, as so many have done in the past, she decided to make her own films.
“At least then, I knew I would have a chance,” she explained. “After making my first movie, which was an entire disaster, I kind of realized I like acting. It’s fun. But I like more crafting the world and the characters that are in the stories as opposed to portraying them.”
That hasn’t stopped her from stepping in front of the camera from time to time, however. In fact, Warren has a new quarantine-made short film titled Angel Food Cake of Doom debuting at the Cyber Shorts Film Festival this weekend.
When I set up these interviews for Pride Month, I’m always curious who members of the LGBTQ community identify with while watching horror movies. For some, it’s the gentle “monsters” like Frankenstein’s creation who feel they are locked away in the darkness. For other, it’s the indomitable spirit of the final girl.
Warren, however, gave one of the most fascinating answers I’ve ever received to this question.
“When I watched movies growing up, I didn’t see anyone who was anything like me,” she said. “So, I would put myself in the story with them when I was little and watching these movies. Like Nancy was my best friend and I was worried about what was going to happen to everyone else in our group. And I didn’t think about how I would be impacted because somehow I was just in this world watching everything happen and being unaffected because you couldn’t see me.”
Do me a favor and read that over again.
As an adult who eventually came out as a lesbian, she found that while she might be there in some aspect, there were really only two identifies for someone like her.
“The things I do recognize if/when lesbians are there, is that we don’t have a normalized relationship,” Warren pointed out. “It’s either hyper-sexualized or we’re alone. They do the same thing for gay men. Gay men have to be campy. He has to have those quips. I’m like, is that the only way that we’re supposed to know he’s gay?”
This speaks beautifully to the point that we’ve tried to make since the inception of Horror Pride Month. No, we don’t want ourselves shoe-horned into movies, but we would like to be present a little more often. And when we are, it wouldn’t hurt to be written as real characters and not just stereotypes.
As for Tiffany Warren’s own work, she has a number of projects in the works at the moment including a film built around an urban legend from her home state of Texas.
Just outside of Denton, Texas, there’s a bridge where, so the story goes, Oscar Washburn was lynched by the KKK. He was a rather successful black businessman and the Klan didn’t take kindly to his accrued wealth. They hanged him from the bridge but when they returned later, his body was gone yet the noose was still swinging in the breeze.
From that time, the enraged spirit of Washburn has supposedly haunted the area seeking revenge.
The Goat Man’s Bridge: A Legacy of Fear builds upon the story wherein a woman comes to stay in a halfway house to reduce her sentence. Little does she know that the house was once owned by Washburn, and a series of events will soon set his spirit free.
It’s exactly the kind of horror I like, and I honestly can’t wait to see it come to life.
For more on Warren and her career, check out her IMDb page.
Feature image by Aoife Haney