Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Horror Chamber's Scream Queen of the Month: November 2016 - Kelsey Zukowski

Welcome to the horror chamber's newest feature Horror Chamber's Scream Queen of the Month. The goal is to focus on the women of horror in the various aspects of the genre. Whether it's on the business or entertainment side of things, this column will focus on the various avenues of horror.

She has appeared in "Axe to Grind", which started Debbie Rochon along with writting the screenplays and starring in "What They Say" with Heather Dorff (Truth or Dare, Scream Queen Stream) and most recently "Within These Walls" which was recently released by Tomcat Releasing. Her modeling work can be found on the pages of Maleviolent Magazine X-treame, Sanctuary Magazine, Gothesque Magazine and Dark Beauty Magazine. The Horror Chamber's Scream Queen of the Month for November 2016 is Kelesy Zukowski.

Age: 27

Where are you from?: Eastlake, OH

What are somethings that you like doing in your spare time?: My life pretty much revolves around stories, both through artistic expression and consumption. Horror is also a massive part of my life and identity. So when I’m not creating I like to spend time reading- I have a particular fondness for YA supernatural fiction, fantasy epics, and the occasional classic horror novel- and getting consumed in incredible television and films.

What made you get into horror acting and modeling?: The Halloween series really set it in motion, at least in making me a lifelong fan. Once I embraced horror and saw it in a new light so to speak, getting passed the fear and realizing the intoxicating fun spirit it could hold, I consumed every horror film I could get my hands on. Some of those, only spoke to me more and awakened what was always a part of me. They ignited something in me and showed what the genre was capable of: profound exploration that could surge through all your senses and resonate deeply. Sure, some are simply goofy fun and I love those too, but horror, for everything it is, it resonated me in such a deep way, that I have never been the same since. It has fueled me with this passion, understanding, and a freeing power to expose, empower, or explore; to have a unique voice in a genre that is very much misunderstood, which perhaps only inspires me more to bring it to its fullest and in a way only makes me connect to it more.

When I was in college, I was writing for a lot of film and horror websites, going to festivals, and reviewing a lot of indie horror films. Through that I started becoming friends with some directors who I shared my passion and insight with. Down the line, I started being asked to be in films and I decided acting in the horror realm was something worth seeing where it could go. There is a wonderful horror community in Chicago, which was a major factor in my growing involvement with acting and indie films. Once I did one film, I quickly immersed myself in the community and became a part of various filmmaking circles. I was lucky to be called on to collaborate and be a part of a lot of great indie films, both as an actress and writer.

Once I started acting more it was necessary for me to have images to represent my look. While the general headshots and more “normal” photos were most needed for acting, I couldn’t restrict myself from the horror, gothic, and more character-based photoshoots that were calling to me. It became a new hobby and passion to immerse myself in this form of tackling a character and story with dark, enticing material. I’ve worked with so many talented individuals whose aspirations in art align with mine and that collaboration brought this new hunger and creative need in me alive. I sort of am feeding my own self-expression and emotions in a metaphorical way, but also am letting myself go and something bigger than me comes out of it. It’s an exhilarating feeling and artistry all its own like no other. Considering I just fell in to both of these things without them being specific ambitions of mine, I am very grateful things happened the way they have.

Favorite Horror Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Halloween might have been my “gateway drug” in to horror, but this is the film that really ignited something in me, that inspired, horrified, and exhilarated me. I really love that this safety net of even the worst nightmares your subconscious can conjure and make you face wasn’t “just a dream”. It was perhaps more real than anything in the waking world and could lead you to your own living nightmare leading to a gruesome end. I really love psychological and surreal horror, especially that shows the overwhelmingly ability for an all-powerful monster to get inside your mind and attack all of your senses and that show the strength of the human spirit. Freddy and Nancy both play their parts to bring each side of this out beautifully.

Favorite Horror Character: Freddy Krueger. I can place great value in the mysterious unknown intrigue of a villain like Michael Myers, but there was something about Freddy that pulled me in more and forever made me a Freddy girl. I really liked the more in your face, psychotic nature he held yet still was this otherworldly monster who was once a vile, demented man whose evil forever transcended through this immortal all powerful shell. Even the sadistic comedic lines (although I do prefer the darker Freddy vs. some of his cheesier one liners) had a way of just making him seem more out of control and unhinged like he was really capable of anything. I also loved that one’s fear was like a power of Freddy’s that made him that much stronger and a part of who he was. There’s this mental and emotional, overpowering trap this lies. One cannot simply deny their emotions and once the seeds are planted and you realize it’s more than “just a dream”, its a surreal slaughter ground. Freddy has your fear and thus you completely, while still enjoying toying with you and the fun of the chase.

Favorite Horror Director: Wes Craven. Are you seeing a pattern here?  Wes Craven and Robert Englund were a total horror dream team and I really view Freddy as their creative love child. He is who he is and became so iconic because of what they created together and putting a bit of both of themselves and their vision of compelling horror in to him. I’ve always greatly admired and aspired to invoke in my own work Wes’ “fighting through the mind” brand of horror that is very much present both through Freddy being such a psychological villain and through Nancy being so “in to survival” and fighting this dream master, determined to beat him at his own game. Films like The Serpent and the Rainbow, The Last House on the Left, and The People Under the Stairs are further examples of how he tackles horror with a purpose, to expose and explore fear, to show the atrocities human kind is capable of, to allow his characters, himself, and even the audience to understand fear and evil and show them that they don’t have to be a prisoner to it.

Favorite Horror Scream Queen: Since Halloween was my gateway drug in to horror let’s go with
Jamie Lee Curtis. Although, currently I have to say Abigail Breslin is probably my favorite young horror starlet. I love how she seems to be clinging to the horror world. Especially in films like Haunter and The Final Girl, she has shown her strength in this genre. I hope she stays in it for a while and dives in to even meatier roles that push her further and give her worthy material to explore her voice in the genre.

Favorite Horror TV or Film Series: TV series- The Originals. Now technically it’s not as pure horror as something like Hannibal, Dexter, or American Horror Story is, which I do love too, but it’s a high paced and even higher emotional journey in to the world of a seemingly sociopathic monster and a supernatural war in gothic New Orleans, focusing on one of the most wonderful dysfunctional families ever who happen to be the first vampires ever created and far more powerful than most. But no one is without their weaknesses, even for an immortal death is still possible, especially when you have century’s worth of enemies out for revenge, blood, and power. The writing is so rich and constantly building to something bigger. A lot of times they are being attacked from all sides, which builds an exhilarating and terrifying tension and suspense.

The characters and what that opens up for the writing is something else that makes this show so strong and really stand out from all others. The characters have such intricate, complex, constantly intriguing layers between this fragile vulnerability they hide deep inside and this alluring, brutal monster that will gladly slaughter the entire room in the blink of an eye, especially if anyone is threatening their family. It’s interesting to see how the past thousand years and their parents deciding they were abominations that needed to be put down, has changed and damaged them differently. Yet it has given them something to fight for, making sure they are no longer vulnerable, but in a position of power, and fighting for each other. Between them we have great intellect, fierce emotion, and ruthlessness, each having their own identities, yet understanding one another as much as they sometimes are literally out for each other’s blood. They really complement each other so well as much as they clash. The complexities of these characters and how many years of stories that we have some background on, but can’t know their whole story adds to just how rich and unlimited possibilities there are with the story, not to mention outstanding character development. You would never guess the main character is capable of a sacrifice of the magnitude we just left him at. Even after being alive so long and being through so much together, the story and world that has been created around this show keeps them constantly being challenged and evolving and us with them by having connected so deeply to this dysfunctional vampire family and on this journey with them. Even if someone isn’t in to vampires, it’s just fantastic storytelling, which doesn’t shy away from brutality, but also doesn’t sacrifice story, drama, or substance for it.

Film Series- A Nightmare on Elm Street series. I think you have a pretty good idea what I love about it at this point 

Current or Upcoming Films: As you know Within These Walls, the gritty psychological paranormal feature, I wrote and star in is now available on DVD:

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the film, it’s a story of coming to terms with loss, finding one’s personal strength even among being so utterly victimized and dominated, and gaining control back when all hope is lost and one is pushed almost past the point of torment and struggle the human mind, body, and spirit is intended to endure. It’s a gritty (yet not particularly gory) and often disturbing psychological and surreal paranormal film that explores the idea of lack of control being the basis of all fears, which is after all just an illusion. It focuses on one concept of there being “strength in suffering” as it means there is still fight left in you, making it impossible to truly be a victim if you don’t concede to that label and reality. Without intending to, I now realize I wrote a lot of the strongest themes in to Within These Walls of my two favorite films- A Nightmare on Elm Street and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1- in them. Like these two films, Within These Walls is very heavy on the theory that fear is the greatest weapon against you even if you have every reason to be dominated by it, and defying hopelessness, by never quitting and always fighting, allowing your spirit never to be killed, can truly be the greatest strength one can show.

I have a few other projects in the works, but still in early stages before I can really talk about them. I will be happy to share more about them in the future.

Advice for people trying to make it in the Horror Business: A lot of people will tell me they wish they could be in indie films or horror and I always tell them just to go for it. Just start looking on Craigslist for indie films needing cast or crew or even to collaborate with someone and make it happen yourself. The more sets you work on and people you work with, the more opportunities will open up. You have to really love it and have this drive and essential need that is as much a part of you as breathing, but if you have that, there is never any question on whether it’s worth it. There are enough other people out there looking to create and needing the right people to understand and believe in their vision. It’s still incredibly hard, but you can start getting involved and creating art together. Never forget the passion or what made you identify with the genre and aspire to be involved in it, make the type of films that really ignited that love in you. Even if the meaning or concept escapes others, just make content that you can look back on and be proud of. That is honestly worth more than anything.

Official Website:

Official Social Media Pages:
Facebook Fanpage:

Within These Walls Trailer:

Photo Credits:

Photo One and Two: Tainted Lust Photography, MUA Taja Davis
Photo Three: JaW Images and MUA Ed Thropp
Photo Four: Gilberto Castro Photography
Photo Five: "Middle of the Night" still

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