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Friday, March 18, 2016

Peaches Christ Resurrects Midnight Mass with The Final Girls

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 12:30 PM

click to enlarge Midnight Mass w/ Peaches Christ presents "Final Girls"! With Director, Writers in person takes place Saturday, March 19, at midnight, at the Clay Theater. - COURTESY OF FORTIN AND MILLER
  • Courtesy of Fortin and Miller
  • Midnight Mass w/ Peaches Christ presents "Final Girls"! With Director, Writers in person takes place Saturday, March 19, at midnight, at the Clay Theater.

Since closing Midnight Mass in 2011with '80s horror classic Sleepaway Camp, princess of darkness Peaches Christ has longed to resurrect the popular late-night film series at the Bridge Theatre.  So when she was approached by longtime friends Joshua Miller and Mark Fortin about holding a special Midnight Mass to premiere their homage to horror films like Sleepaway Camp, The Final Girls, about a group of teens literally sucked into an '80s slasher movie, she was axe-cited.

"When the Bridge Theatre closed, it was hard for me to want to revisit Midnight Mass anywhere else, because I had so much emotional nostalgia connected to it," she told SF Weekly this week. "It was hard to connect that name with an experience anywhere else. But I think it's time to bring back the name Midnight Mass, and I think that the Clay Theater is certainly a sister theater to the Bridge in being this random neighborhood movie house that has managed to survive this long, making it the perfect venue. It's in a random neighborhood where our audience would never go. That's why I love bringing it there, because it's like these freaks and horror weirdos descending upon the neighborhood in the middle of the night." Calling all freaks: Midnight Mass w/ Peaches Christ presents "Final Girls"! With Director, Writers in person on Saturday, March 19, at the Clay Theater.

SF Weekly spoke to Peaches Christ (Spice Girls, MOTHERship To Reno, OUTLOUD: An SF Storytelling Series) about the allure of The Final Girls, the challenges of getting a midnight audience in 2016 and potentially bringing Midnight Mass back as a regular series.

How did The Final Girls event come about?

I'm actually friends with the writers, Josh Miller and Mark Fortin. I met them when they came up for my Teen Witch presentation in 2006. Joshua Miller acted in Teen Witch, River's Edge and Near Dark. He's also the son of Jason Miller, who played Father Damien Karras in The Exorcist and  Susan Bernard, the kidnap victim of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. His cousin is Jason Patric of The Lost Boys. So Josh is this completely fascinating cult movie hero in my mind. We stayed friends over the years, so I knew that Josh and Mark were developing and producing The Final Girls. 

I was a little bit frustrated that every time it played, I didn't get to see it, so it became this idea that if I want to see this theatrically in San Francisco, I'm just going to have to help make it happen. So Josh said, "We're thinking of bringing it up." I said, "Let me know if there's anything I can do to help," and he said, "A Midnight Mass would help." And I thought, "Why not? We haven't done a Midnight Mass in years as far as doing a show at midnight and calling it Midnight Mass and bringing out Martiny, my fantastically flawed sidekick and having more of that punk rock midnight show experience, which we all miss a lot.

I love the larger scale presentations that I'm doing at the Castro Theatre, but it cannot be the only thing that I do, because I'm really missing out on introducing stuff to people. Like when I'm doing Sister Act, nobody's being introduced to Sister Act. [Laughs] Everyone's coming because they love it, whereas with The Final Girls, I feel like we, as Midnight Mass, are bringing back that spirit of Peaches is showing this horror movie on Saturday. It's probably good. I love that maybe my reputation as a programmer may be enough to get some people to show up and watch a movie. That's what's really exciting to me about it.

The Final Girls received a lot of critical acclaim but not widespread distribution. Why does this particular horror movie need to be seen?

I think one reason is that it's so good, clever, meta and unique in that it really takes our love of '80s slasher films and instead of just recreating a new version of a slasher film or being meta in the way that movies like Scream were 20 years ago, it really does something new in a way that feels very refreshing. When the genre feels like it's run out of ideas, it's great when a movie like The Final Girls comes along and does something that hasn't been done too much. It literally puts you in the movie.  Imagine The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where  Narnia happens to be an '80s slasher film. Then it makes connections between the actors in the film with their real-life personas. It's so well-crafted that I think it really surprised people, because it was new, exciting, well-written and well-directed. The cast is good, too, and the performances are great.

One of the movie's strongest selling points is the strong, feminist female characters. 

For a lot of queer men, growing up, a lot of our attraction to horror surprises people, because it's seen as sort of a macho, heavy metal, violent genre, so when I get asked specifically as someone who's been really openly queer and is part of the horror genre, why there are so many openly queer horror fans, I always make that connection to the feminist final girl scream queens who end up defeating the monster. For a lot of us queer boys, we identify with the strength of the female up against the world, up against a boogeyman, up against a bully, so I know, for me, growing up, I really loved these women, 'cause I identified with them and saw myself as being more of a girl than a boy at the time.

I think that feminism has been overlooked in a lot of ways, so what's oftentimes dismissed as these titty films where these girls are being slaughtered — there's actually a deeper thing going on when you look at the final girl character and her strength, and I think this film really brings that out and talks about who's that going to be in this movie. They get to have a conversation about it, because it's their link to survival. So it's their understanding of the genre and the importance and strength of the final girl that actually is quite feminist, because it's a woman who has to go up against this man and defeat him. It is a genre trope. But for gay men to write this movie, it brings that out in ways we haven't seen before in the genre. 

Why is the Midnight Mass experience still important in the "Netflix and chill" age?

Everything's now on DVD and the Internet, so people are now essentially buying movie tickets online and watching them from their own computer. What's a bummer for me as someone who loves cinema and the theatrical experience of watching something with a group of strangers — that's just being removed for so many indie or even bigger movies that don't get the chance. Movies like The Final Girls demand to be seen with an audience, but because of the nature of distribution nowadays don't play at the movie theater. So this is where presentations like Midnight Mass are almost more important than they've ever been before, because we're providing an opportunity for an audience to come together and see a movie on the big screen. I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to experience a funny, campy movie with an audience, rather than sitting in my house watching it alone. 

What are the challenges of putting on Peaches Christ presentations in 2016 San Francisco? 

Smaller, more interesting, unique events used to be easier to produce and sell in San Francisco, but nowadays they get lost in the shuffle and don't generate as much interest as they did in the past. When I started Midnight Mass, there were people who were willing to go out to a midnight movie on the weekend, and that's just not the case anymore. I think part of that is the City is obviously gentrifying at a rapid pace, which means that the routines and lifestyles of its residents en mass have changed. It's just a different demographic across the board, which I like to be blind to, to some degree, because it's almost painful to realize what we've lost. But as a businessperson, if you're blind to it, then you're gonna lose money and not succeed, so you have to face facts at some point.

Would or could you bring Midnight Mass back?

No, I think only in this sort of way, when there's a movie title that I really want to promote. From 1998-2010, we did eight to nine shows week after week after week, is not a model we will bring back, because it's a model for the young and it was something I loved doing, but I don't think I can sustain it now. What I'd like to do is bring it back sporadically when there are movies or events that I really believe in that will not sell the 800 tickets needed to pay for a Castro Theatre event. I am also talking to other cinemas, including the Alamo Drafthouse, about going in and programming more obscure stuff — queer, historically camp repertory stuff — that I think is very important, but we're not going to get the numbers to justify the movie palace experience.

But I'm less worried about the Heklinas, Peaches, Juanita MORE!s and Sister Romas, because we got to enjoy a thriving city that nurtured us and allowed us to do and create and supported us for two decades. We're fairly established and know how to produce entertainment, but I do worry about the face of the city. If we don't have young queens doing the punk rock, next cool thing — that's the shit I want to go to when I'm not producing my own events. I wanna see that stuff, and I think that's where we're going to see the shift.  But we have to talk about it, more than just complain about it.

Midnight Mass w/ Peaches Christ presents "Final Girls"! With Director, Writers in person, March 19, at The Clay Theater, $10, 2261 Filmore St., 415-561-9921 or

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Joshua Rotter


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