From getting impaled on a rack of antlers in Silent Night, Deadly Night to dancing on a tombstone in The Return of the Living Dead, Linnea Quigley was at the centre of some of the most memorable scenes in the ’80s horror pantheon. After making a name for herself in B-movies and cementing her status as a “scream queen,” she went on to make one of the most beloved artefacts of horror memorabilia—Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout. She’s also written books about her storied career, including I’m Screaming As Fast As I Can: My Life in B-Movies.
A lifelong horror fan, Quigley continues to star in and produce horror films. Recently, she appeared alongside Bill Oberst Jr. (3 from Hell) and Kane Hodder (Friday the 13th franchise) in writer-director Jess Norvisgaard’s debut feature The Good Things Devils Do, a gory, Halloween-set supernatural horror movie about an ancient vampire.
To celebrate the release of The Good Things Devils Do, we caught up with Quigley to discuss her iconic performances, practical effects, and what it takes to become a legendary scream queen.
SCREAM: Let’s start by going right back to the beginning. When did you first know you wanted to become an actress?
LINNEA QUIGLEY: Oh boy. I think I wanted to be when I was a teenager, but I thought it was totally impossible to ever, ever do that. Well, first I wanted to be a singer and have a band. And then I wanted to be like Barbra Streisand or something, which is a weird analogy, but doing movies and singing and all this stuff.
And you’ve done both! I know you were in a band called The Skirts, and you’re still making music to this day, right?
Yes! Yes, you’re correct.
Not a lot of us can say we achieved all our teenage dreams.
I know, which is something, because I had like $2 accumulated for the band when I was a teenager!
I know that when you got your very first horror role, you were excited because you were already a fan of the genre. As a viewer, what was your gateway into horror?
Oh, I was watching like Vincent Price and Murders in the Rue Morgue and House of Wax, and a lot of the Alfred Hitchcock films and The Twilight Zone (the old one, of course). And the one I really remember—because we would reenact it, my girlfriend and I, on our Saturday night scary movies night—would be Night of the Living Dead.
Which is fitting, because of course you later starred in The Return of the Living Dead, as well as a number of other iconic horror movies that helped shape the next generation of horror fans. Looking back, are you surprised that these films are continuing to thrill and delight audiences all these years later?
Oh, I’m so happy that they are, because we didn’t think they would. We thought they would just show and that’s it. So I am so happy. It’s amazing to me that they are still up to date, kind of—especially with the teenagers. They love them.
Do you think that audience reactions to these films have changed at all over the years?
What I’ve noticed is that people know a lot more about the making of them—like, the effects and things. And more people are embracing horror. I think it was one of those things you didn’t talk about. Like in the States, with Trump and Biden, you don’t talk about who you’re voting for—and you didn’t talk about liking horror, it was under the table. And now, it’s cool to like it. It’s not looked down upon like it was before by some people.
Absolutely, it’s almost mainstream these days. And in terms of people knowing a lot more about films, the internet has had such a big impact. It’s also introduced a whole new generation of horror fans to one of your more famous pieces—Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout. When did you first find out that younger fans were discovering it?
I didn’t find out really until people would come up to me at conventions and be like, “Oh, we love your Horror Workout—do you have a DVD or a cassette?” And I was so shocked that people who were 18 were actually seeing it and enjoying it!
Are you surprised that the original VHS tapes are coveted collector’s items that you can barely find anywhere?
Yes, I’m shocked! Because you have to rewind them and the tape breaks and they’re grainy. And everybody was so happy when DVDs came along, it’s just funny that people are now collecting the VHS.
Speaking of workouts, I know you’ve talked a little in the past about the fact that horror movie sets can be challenging places to work. You’re often outside in the middle of the night getting sprayed with blood and mud and water. Was there ever a moment in your career when you thought, “I should just be doing cosy rom-coms instead”?
Oh yeah. I think it was on Return of the Living Dead when I just was like, “Oh my god, I don’t know how much more I can take. My body’s painted white, I have all these appliances on, it’s raining, it’s cold, it’s night, and I can’t wash it off when I get home.” So yeah, I thought it then. I thought, this is really hard work.
Well, we’re glad that you stuck with it.
I am too! I’m not a quitter. I had to brave it out.
Let’s talk about one of your more recent films, The Good Things Devils Do, which has just come out. You got to work alongside some fellow horror icons like Kane Hodder and Bill Oberst Jr. What was the experience of making that film like?
It was really a good experience. The director Jess [Norvisgaard] was amazing, and he kind of let us do what we wanted to do. The only bad part was I had a lot of blood on me, and it was really cold there in the Carolinas. So it was a lot of being cold again, and appliances and stuff. They weren’t as bad as the Return of the Living Dead or Night of the Demons appliances. But I remember the blood they made stained my hair reddish—I couldn’t get it out for months! I went to the hairdresser and they said, “What’s this red in your hair?” I’m like, “Oh, it’s blood.”
It was certainly a bloody performance. Do you like roles where you get to wear special effects makeup or is it more challenging to act through all the latex?
Oh no, I hate the effects stuff on my face. I hate it. It’s not challenging… I feel like you’re blocked a little bit. I know that people, when they wear a mask, sometimes think that a different part of them comes out or something. But I don’t like it, to tell you the truth. I hate it.
I imagine that it’s at least a lot quicker for them to apply the makeup now than it was back in the ’80s.
Gosh, yes. They were really quick about the makeup on The Good Things Devils Do, as opposed to Return or Night of the Demons—that was hours and hours and hours of it.
One of the effects I remember most vividly from my teenage years of watching your movies is in Night of the Demons when your character pushes the lipstick into her breast. When you read that in the script, what was your first reaction?
I thought it was cool! I like it when things are just not expected and kind of weird. So I thought, “I don’t know how they’re gonna do this, but it sounds like it’s gonna be fun!” I had no idea people would react like that though.
Was that a difficult or time-consuming effect to achieve?
It was fairly easy actually, because they had already made the piece and so they just tied me down and put it over my breast, and then they cut a hole and blended the edges. So it was really pretty fast—as opposed to the others. [Laughs]
Oh for sure, some of the make-up you had in that film was intense.
Oh my gosh, I know.
Staying on your ’80s roles, I recently watched Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama for the first time. I heard they were making a sequel—can you tell us anything about it?
I heard that too… I don’t know about it. I know I’m supposed to be in it, but they haven’t contacted me and it’s been on the slate for like a year now. So I don’t know what’s going to happen—I have no idea!
You’ve already got a resume a lot of actors can only dream of, but are there things you’d still like to achieve in your career or roles you’re dying to play?
Oh, boy. I’m sure there are, there has to be. One film I’m going to do when COVID is done—hopefully soon—is I get to play a witch and I’m excited about that. Not a witch with the nose and stuff like that, but a witch. That’ll be fun because I’m Wiccan. What else? I’d like to do one that has rescuing animals in it—like, be a hero, a Terminator, to go get the animals or something.
That sounds like it would be right up your street. I know you do a lot of work with animal charities.
Exactly. And I have my own rescue now, Moulin Rouge. I have 14 dogs and three cats.
That’s wonderful. And at least you’re surrounded by companions during this weird time we’ve all found ourselves in.
Oh, you’re right. It’s keeping me busy, that’s for sure. Then I found other ways to keep busy: I have a channel called DRagonFLIX, and I produced and directed and was in something about a month ago for a UK company. It’s called Zombie Games, of course. I just sent the footage over to the UK so I would say by October it should be out.
Something to look forward to.
I know, I’m excited. It’s drones and body cams, and Donna Wilkes from Jaws 2 is in it. So it’s gonna be a lot of fun.
Sounds great. With a lot of us staying home and watching horror lately, are there any recent horror films or trends that you’re particularly enjoying?
I liked Penny Dreadful. I liked that show because it incorporated a lot of different monsters in it. I like The Walking Dead. And I like that they’re going back to a lot of the practical effects on some of them. They’re not just going, “Okay, we’re going to CGI that in later.”
Oh yeah. Especially now that many horror fans who grew up watching great practical effects movies are making their own movies. We’re seeing a lot of die-hard fans who want to make things that look and feel like the movie they love.
You’re right about that. That’s true. Jess [Norvisgaard] probably grew up watching horror films, and he did a great job with this script and getting the different people in it. He’s really good.
In a typical year, a lot of horror fans would be going to conventions right about now. You’ve always been a popular guest at horror conventions. What has your experience been like interacting with fans, and has it changed over the years?
Not a whole lot. Horror fans have always been really sweet and nice, and that hasn’t changed. It’s just changed in terms of… I think the age of the people getting into it now are younger, a lot younger. And then the people that are in their 30s and having kids are letting their kids watch it at a younger age, so they’re into it. So I think there’s a lot more of a progression of like, mother, father, child, and then their child.
Whole families of horror fans, I love that. And some of those kids are probably watching your movies and thinking, I want to do that. As America’s Scream Queen, do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring horror movie actors or actresses out there?
Just be prepared that you’re going to be cold and wet and miserable. Just stay with it. And, you know, take acting classes, watch a lot of horror films, read a lot about effects. What’s really important, because I’m doing a documentary about them, is being an extra on sets, so that you learn how to work the set and the terminology and people’s jobs and things like that. Or even work as a PA on a set or something.
That’s good advice. What’s the name of the documentary that you’re working on?
It’s called Extras. I’m just fascinated by them. When I watch movies, a lot of times I’ll be watching them. Everybody wants to get their big break. They’re an interesting lot.
You know, a lot of the people I’ve spoken to over the years began with little background roles, and now they’re the headliner.
I did. I was an extra. And I was so excited—like, oh wow!
Thanks so much for chatting with us, Linnea!
Thank you so much!
The Good Things Devil’s Do is available On Demand and on DVD now.
Words: Samantha McLaren (@themeatispeople)