Sometimes it's worth taking a deep breath and remembering what a pleasure it can be to live in Portland, Oregon. This week, the Hollywood Theatre announced that its bimonthly Queer Horror series, programmed and hosted by Carla Rossi, will return in December. It was a prime opportunity for such deep breathing. To live somewhere where a century-old movie palace invites a drag clown behind its doors to do vaudeville before screening The Stepford Wives (and this regularly sells out)? A gift.
The announcement, like all our favorites, came with a free-of-charge bonus announcement: Carla Rossi will now also host her very own Vampira-style anthology web series called Tales from Queer Horror. "I had seen visions in my head of Carla sitting in her dumpster with puppets, hosting a Tales from the Crypt, Elvira kind of throwback," says Anthony Hudson, Carla's out-of-drag alter ego. "This has been probably five years in the making, at least."
Queer Horror began at the Hollywood in 2015, and since 2016, screenings have been preceded by elaborate one-act pre-shows penned by Hudson and populated by Portland's drag and burlesque talent. Knowing there would be value in keeping these on hand, Hudson has had each one recorded, and since 2018, local filmmaker Josh Lunden (an integral part of Tales from Queer Horror) has been capturing them with a multi-cam setup. "They really give you the sense of being in the theater: you see the audience coming in, you see the costumes, you see us backstage getting ready. It's so grand," Hudson says. "It's that thing where it's live performance, but filmed in a way that makes you feel like you're part of it, instead of just watching, like, one camera pointed at Jason Alexander on Great Performances."
For now, these pre-recorded pre-shows will make up the bulk of each Tales from Queer Horror episode, following a theme song by Jacob Summers and bookended by all-new dumpster dispatches from Carla. The first episode, featuring "The Real Queens of Halloween" (which premiered before a 2019 screening of Elvira: Mistress of the Dark), runs 20 minutes and drops October 28 on the Carla Rossi and Queer Horror websites. Two more will follow in November and December, and then Hudson anticipates episodes will come out every other month. (A grant from the First Peoples Fund has helped the first few get off the ground.)
In the near future, Hudson plans to commission and work with filmmakers to produce original short films for the series. "One episode will be a visit to the Hollywood Theatre, and another episode will be a look at what people are making that's cutting-edge and weird and queer and hilarious in short films," they say. "If it's a fully produced production, that's great. If it's something you shot on your phone, that's great. If it's something weird and experimental that can fit in the format, I can't wait to see it. Just make it horrifying."
After a long, slow re-entry into public life—Hudson says they've taken their sweet time in dipping their toes back into in-person projects—they're excited to be back. "I saw the first full edit [of Tales from Queer Horror] and I cried. I was like, 'I made a TV show, how did this happen?'" they say.
At the Hollywood, the return is extremely visible: Carla's likeness is currently plastered all over the walls. Hudson and Double Mountain Brewing have teamed up for their second Carla-themed beer, a Hazy IPA called Carlabelle (inspired by the haunted doll Annabelle from The Conjuring), and it's a Hollywood Theatre on-draft exclusive—the art, which Hudson drew, is on posters that cover the lobby.
You can sip a Carlabelle now or in December, when Queer Horror returns with the ’90s slasher classic I Know What You Did Last Summer. Hudson is cautiously optimistic it will herald a triumphant comeback. "Here's hoping, baby, that the Omega variant does not emerge and Will Smith is not the last man on earth," they say.
Assuming that does not happen, Queer Horror is back to stay.