If you live in the Cleveland area of Ohio then there is a possibility that you may have come across Horror Hotel. What is that you may ask? Well, it’s actually two things: It is a popular film festival and a hosted horror show that can be viewed on Retro Television, the Action Channel, or online. Horror Hotel in the tradition of shows like Elvira’s Movie Macabre and Vampira, screens classic horror films along with skits all while being presented by a supernatural hostess. The hostess of the show is Lamia along with her snake co-host Lilith and together they not only screen classic horror films but conduct interviews, present trivia, and lecture on interesting facts surrounding the movies. I was lucky enough to interview the hostess, Kristina Michelle, who also writes and produces the show. She also produces Horror Hotel, The Indie Gathering, and United Latino film festivals. All of which operate during the summer at the Clarion Inn in Hudson, Ohio.
London: You have quite the repertoire being an actress, stuntwoman, producer, and hostess. Which one of those would you consider to be your biggest passion?
Kristina: Well, initially starting out it was acting and that got me into the industry and why I got into films. When I was a kid, I was theater acting. When I was six or seven years old. Acting was my main passion and what kept drawing me into films. I started working in indie films at around eleven so it was really young when I got into film. I kept acting for a while and somewhere in the last two years I gravitated more towards behind the camera work. A lot of producing and writing sides. I would say that I enjoy doing it all but I would probably say that I enjoy the producing aspect more so than in front of the camera.
L: That’s interesting since most people want to be in front of the camera.
K: Yeah it worked in reverse for me.
L: Speaking of behind the camera, you write as well. Is there anything you have written that you are proud of?
K: Well, I don’t do as much writing as I would like. I do write for the Horror Hotel show. I produce, I write, I edit, and I host so I do a lot of the aspects on that. I really enjoy the writing aspect because there’s a lot of hosting movie shows where they kind of slam the movies. You know the hosted horror shows where they are making fun of the movies and focusing on skits and scenes to keep people entertained in that aspect but for me, a lot of research goes into people behind the movies. So I kinda get to pick and choose what to talk about. I enjoy doing that. I have written articles for blogs and things like that but I can’t really pick any one thing. Nothing specific would stand out to me.
L: Let’s talk about Horror Hotel and congratulations on it being televised. Will there be any changes because of the transition?
K: We are always changing the show but nothing is going to change specifically because of the broadcast. We have been doing the show for about three years now. We broadcast locally and over the air regionally as well. Nationally is the next step. From the get-go, we have always found ways to improve the shows. If you watch any of our early episodes and watch anything now. A lot has changed because we want to make it better. So, we have animated graphics and right now we have more in-between graphics that we are working to have animated. We have a brand new scoring and opening animation, film scoring on our animations and our credits are by a wonderful composer Vaylo Gennoff. We are just always working to improve it. We have new stuff right now. Some people might not have noticed yet if they watched the show. A new thing we are doing in the show is movie trivia. You know horror movie trivia. Now we are starting to put in real Horror Hotels, where we are talking about actual supposed haunted hotels and horror stories. We will also have additional trivia of things that were happening that year that the film was released outside of the movie industry. So we have more things coming but nothing specifically because it is being broadcast nationally. We are just always looking to better the show.
L: Where did the idea for Horror Hotel come from?
K: My executive producer is Ray Szuch and he came up with the concept of the show and his thing was he loved the shows like Ghoulardi’s Shock Theater and Big Chuck and Hoolihan show which were shows that were here in the Cleveland area. He enjoyed hosted horror shows like Elvira and anything like that but again a lot of those shows focused on the skits and we do have skits in the show but it wasn’t really about the movies. We both work in the independent film industry and it kind of gravitated into a more of a generalized horror movie show instead of your typical hosted horror. How could we do it a little bit differently? A lot of ideas of what we do in the show were influenced by other shows like if you watched the show, we have a closing animation that is in the style of Bewitched. Our opening graphic seems to stand out like that. So, it is how can we make things different in the hosted horror movie genre?
L: The Lamia character seems to be a fun character and an interesting choice to make her into a vampire. How did you come up with this idea?
K: As far as Lamia, the idea was just to have a fun female host not so much like you know like Elvira. Elvira was a great hostess and she is cool and a lot of people think of her as an iconic horror host but she was little more… not necessarily ditzy but just not exactly knowledgeable on the horror movies and stuff. So making the character a vampire, you could say that she was around from the beginning of cinema. That’s why it’s a big passion for her because she is so old, has been around for a long time, was around at the birth of cinema, has seen how it’s grown, and it gives more things to talk about in the show. I came up with the name through mythology and things like that. My snake co-host I call her my co-host, my snake Lilith that’s actually her name in reality. Lilith and Lamia were some of the names for the first female vampires but the names themselves came from mythology. The character is not really acting for me because the things I talk about are the things that I want to talk about. Again, making her a vampire is like hey I was there when this happened and this is what’s going on and she makes it a little different.
K: Horror Hotel was a film festival before it was a show. It branched off the Indie Film Gathering which is another film festival I run. The Indie Film Gathering has been going on for 22 years now, but Horror Hotel has been going on for six years. I co-founded that festival with Ray Szuch who is the executive producer of the Horror Hotel show as well and because a lot of horror movies that we got for the Indie Film Gathering were these fantastic horror movies and people loved them and most people enjoy horror movies. A lot of people really enjoy horror but at the same time, a lot of the horror filmmakers tend to keep themselves separate from general filmmakers. Meaning that they go to more of the fan conventions and a lot of the genre festivals and things like that instead of the open festivals that are the all types of independent films so there wasn’t really… there are horror conventions in this area but there weren’t any horror film festivals that independent filmmakers can submit their work, screen, attend, meet the fans and things like that.
K: Horror Hotel is more geared toward the film festival side than it is the convention. A lot of people used to horror conventions, they will meet someone from Night of the Living Dead or things like that but there aren’t really a lot of movies going on so we focus a lot more on independent filmmakers. We expanded it now, the events now are for four days so it is Thursday through Sunday. It’s held every June. Before the event, we have submissions open for films, scripts, and music composers as well in our film scoring competition. So, it is a year long process pretty much but at the event, it’s four days: we have film screenings, we have a convention and special guests that come in. We have lectures too, full discussions, a new thing that we started up last year is on the Saturday of the event we actually have a classic car show, outdoor drive-in screenings, and a Scream Queen competition. That’s always a fun one. Ladies compete to be the Horror Hotel Scream Queen. They’re asked all sorts of questions about horror and why they enjoy horror, work in horror, and of course, they are judged by their screams as well. Fx make-up competitions, but an all-encompassing for anyone that works in the film industry specifically in horror or sci-fi but something for everyone fans as well.
K: The Indie Gathering is pretty similar to Horror Hotel, but rather than focusing on horror and sci-fi, and those genres, it’s wide open to all types of films. Ray started the festival twenty-two years ago, I came on board as a producer for the festival six or seven years ago and have been coordinating the event with him since. It’s wide open to everything. We have the same types of competitions like what we have at the Horror Hotel. We got a lot more submissions from a lot of different countries, a lot more international attendance. In 2008, the festival was chosen as one of the top twenty-five festivals in the world by Moviemaker Magazine and our niche is for networking because we really worked to bring together a lot of filmmakers, actors, people from all over, from all aspects of the industry. What makes it different from a lot of festivals is that at a lot of festivals whether it’s a couple of days or a week, you a have a screening at this theater, you might have an after party at this lounge or this bar and different events going on but we have it all at one location, one hotel. Everyone that flies in for the event or comes locally they are there in the hotel with each other and it’s just nonstop networking throughout the four days that’s also a Thursday through Sunday event and it’s every August and we have three screening rooms. We typically screen over one hundred films in the four days. We also have the same type of classic car show and outdoor drive-in screenings. Competitions for actors, stunt people, fx make-up artists, we also have the vendors room and conventions, networking party. So it is just really focused on the film industry, bringing people together, and also screening a lot of really amazing films.
K: This year it is actually going to be a part of the Indie Film Gathering. We market it as a separate identity because there’s a lot of Spanish speaking filmmakers out there and a Hispanic community here in northeast Ohio, so it’s a different market to go to those people and bring them into a festival but it’s going to be running simultaneously with the Indie Film Gathering at the same location. This year (2017), The Indie Gathering is going to be August 10 – 13 and the United Latino Film Festival will be on the August 10 and 11. So it’s different films and filmmakers coming in, but the events will be attached to each other.
L: So all of these events are held at the same location?
K: Yes, all of the events are held at the Clarion Inn in Hudson, OH. It’s about twenty minutes outside of Cleveland and we have been holding the events there for about the last five years or so. Everything is within the hotel. We have the ballroom section and certain rooms set up for screening rooms, lectures and things like that but it’s all in one location so it’s pretty convenient if you want to go back and forth between different films and different areas and so if you wanna go catch a lecture it’s all there within one location and you don’t have to miss out on anything.
L: Do you have any additional comments or plugs that you would like to make?
K: I did mention that Horror Hotel is always changing, but one thing that I did not mention was that on the show, in addition to the classic movies, sometimes we’ll play short films. I try to get a lot of interviews with independent horror filmmakers, actors, and things like that. I do the interviews with indie people and sometimes we’ll show trailers but now the show’s going to be screening more independent shorts, features, and sci-fi films as well so that will make the show a bit different too and we are always looking for guests to interview and films to consider and things like that, so that’s another thing that will be changing with the show is getting a little more indie-centric as well as having the classics as well.
So if you are in the Cleveland area or if you want a reason to visit, then come to the Clarion Inn at Hudson, OH and check out these festivals. If you would like to watch the lovely Lamia and Lilith present classic horror films, you can watch them on Retro Television, the Action Channel or online at horrorhotel.net.