By JOSHUA “PROMETHEUS” SCAFIDI
Devanny Pinn is not only an actress and producer but an avid horror geek. With seventy-four acting credits to her name (almost all of them horror-related), she is certainly no stranger to the genre. We had the chance to chat with her about Women in Horror Month as well as her personal and professional connections to the movement and initiative.
Hi Devanny! How have you been?
Good! Been filming a little bit since we last talked, but mostly laying low due to COVID. So, that’s been a blessing and a curse. I’m a little bit bored, but also haven’t got sick yet! How are you?
Can’t complain. I wanted to talk about Women in Horror Month! You’ve done a ton of horror films, and you have been involved in the WiHM since the beginning. Break it down for us. What’s Women in Horror Month all about?
Women in Horror month started with a woman named Hannah Neurotica, she wrote a manifesto explaining what horror meant to her, what the genre had contributed to her life, and that she felt up until that point, it had been a very male-dominated industry. A lot of people were not aware that women were horror fans too, and they had ideas and were working actively [in the genre]. She really wanted to change that. I came into the genre right at that moment. I had just started, so I didn’t know how special it was at the time, that this amazing thing was happening. Her manifesto went viral before viral was really a thing and it spoke to so many people from all walks of life. Men and women. Before she knew what was happening, all these women from all over the world had latched on to this idea. She decided Women in Horror Month was going to be February and she wanted to do things to bring women together, and their voices to the forefront.
Film festivals started forming and websites started giving press to it, and we were all able to find each other in a way that we never could before! More importantly, the world saw how many female voices there were, in all aspects [of horror]. Film, art, writing, fandom, etc. That had never been done before. Then it grew and it grew, and the best part about it is women who had wanted to be involved or loved what was going on started putting together charity events. I did a blood drive the first year and all kinds of people from the genre came out to support it. It turned into another way that horror could contribute to things. It was really bringing people together in the best way. Now there are film festivals showcasing work, charities that will support communities as well as filmmakers. They will help you get your film made, your writing read. It’s just this massive community of resources, acknowledging and promoting females in the genre. We’re now in our twelfth year, and it’s amazing.
Now hold on, you’re saying that you donated blood – from the horror community? I can’t think of anything more fitting!
I did, yes! I love doing charity work. I had been doing a lot in my personal life. We wanted to reach out and do some good in its honor. We got tons of people from the community to come out. Actors, writers, directors. Horror’s always considered taboo, we wanted to change that perception, too. A lot of men were super supportive, and now it’s sort of a collaboration. The genre is really benefitting from it.
Do you feel like women working in horror had a harder time coming together before this?
Oh, yeah. Hands down. For one, we didn’t really know there were others out there. There weren’t a lot of opportunities, especially behind the camera. A lot of people just stayed in their little section. You didn’t know how many other women were already working. People didn’t know that women dug horror, that they wanted it. It wasn’t talked about. With this new opportunity, you got a place for a lot of women to showcase their work for the first time. A way to connect with and support each other. You got a way to discover work for other women. Beyond that, women who always wanted to work in the genre got a place to get involved, and they did.
Women are the backbone of our beloved genre. Why do you think women and horror go so well together?
That’s an awesome question and I think most women will have a unique answer to that. For me, I just love everything about it. I love the thrill, I love the adrenaline rush, I love the endless possibilities and the no rules [mentality]. I’m a rebel and I’m noisy and I’m a rule breaker. All of those things fit into the genre. I love that, for a long time, it was the one place where women really shined in front of the camera. If you think back throughout history, you didn’t see women leading a lot of films. It was usually a guy and then she was the love interest. You didn’t see women being the hero ever. Except in horror. It was not only acceptable in horror, it was kind of the norm. You would have the final girl. There was this ruleset, especially in film, but as usual, horror didn’t [take] the note. I love the opportunity that goes with that. A lot of women do.
Then, who doesn’t want to be scared? Or have some escapism? Even if it’s not your favorite genre, you can appreciate those things. Horror really can be a universal language.
In your opinion, what makes a memorable final girl?
So, this answer changes. For a long time, a memorable final girl was somebody you saw yourself in. Someone who you could identify with. Someone you could reach out to and go on a crazy ride with. Someone you would want to see succeed. If you think about a lot of famous horrors, you really love the villain. You want to root for the villain, you know what I mean? You go to a Nightmare on Elm Street movie for Freddy Krueger. You go to Scream to see Ghostface. They’re the star of the show. So, to be a great final girl you have to be a worthy adversary and you have to make the audience want to go through this entire ride, maybe an entire franchise, with you. There’s also a vulnerability you need to hit, and a strength you need to hit. Final girls really have to be everything, all at once. You couldn’t be too sexy, but you couldn’t be unattractive. You couldn’t be too smart, but you couldn’t be dumb, either. It’s about finding that perfect balance. If you get it right, then horror fans love you for the rest of time and you live in infamy.
These days, it’s changing up. There are so many new voices and opportunities to turn the norm on its head. Even though the genre was abnormal to begin with. Now those rules don’t necessarily apply. Now there are final men. Now the blonde can live. If you have sex, you might be okay. I think being a final girl now is being redefined. We’re seeing new trends and new rules being broken.
I’m glad you brought that up! There is no single formula, right? From Laurie Strode to Ellen Ripley to Nancy Thompson, they are all very different. Did you have a favorite final girl growing up?
I loved Buffy [The Vampire Slayer] when I was younger. Nancy and Ripley, I really liked it. They were strong female characters but then you take Sarah Michelle Gellar, Buffy, who was gentle and feminine and fragile. She was this tiny little blonde cheerleader who didn’t fit any of those tropes. She was visually someone you saw in high school. Someone you didn’t expect to kick ass and then…she would! She could hang in there with the best of them. She was able to balance being feminine with badassery. Before her, I didn’t know that those two things could go together. I thought you had to pick. Between those few influences, I realized that you can just be you, and be badass. Whatever that means.
Make it believable and it will be embraced. As tough as Ripley was, and she was super tough, you believed it. You believed Ripley would kick your ass.
A lot of times it was men writing for women, and women didn’t speak up about who they were their complexities. So, you had guys guessing. Even the best writers have to guess, to a degree. So, it gets written as a man, and they let the woman bring her elements into it. I think that’s why it worked, why it was so powerful. Nobody questioned it.
You mentioned that if you do it right, the horror fans will love you forever.
Look at Jamie Lee Curtis. She comes back for Halloween 2018, and I don’t think anyone doubted her, she’s Jamie Lee Curtis, but we were all lined up!
That’s a good point! We’re seeing a lot of nostalgia, so a lot of classic franchises, movies, and actors are coming back now and not everything’s hitting. Just because it was beloved doesn’t mean people are going to get behind you on it, but the genre [fans] totally [are]. They’re there for it! Jamie Lee comes out of retirement for another movie, and we are lined up and can’t wait. There’s loyalty there that’s so special.
What got you into horror? When did you know it was what you wanted to do?
Day one of my first film, I knew. It was like lightning. There was just an electricity. You can hear it when you start to talk to me about it. I get, like, stupid giddy. I just love every aspect of it. I’ve been creative my entire life. I was in ballet, I did musical theatre, I went to college for opera, I was in plays. I loved all of it, but it wasn’t until I got on set my first day and it was a horror film…it just made sense to me.
After that, I did a couple of other projects that weren’t necessarily horror and realized it wasn’t just film that I loved. It was horror films. Dark material. There’s just so much more you can do. I love the freedom that comes with the horror genre, and independent horror. Most people in the indie horror scene are there because they love it.
You’re no stranger to tough scenes. People don’t realize how draining it can be when you have to shoot these brutal scenes over and over. Does it ever weigh on you, or can you just turn it off?
You know, when I first started it was hard. You absolutely nailed it on the head. You don’t realize how physical, how emotional it is to do some of those movies. You don’t get a lot of credit as an actor in a horror film, it kind of gets dismissed. I have really come to respect a lot of people who work in our industry because of how intense it is. Film is hard, anyways. Long days, long hours, but if you’re doing a love story or a comedy, you can go [home] at the end of the day and usually just be fine.
Yeah, but get killed eight times in the same day…
Yeah! You’re being tortured to death for fifteen-hour days, for a week. If you have to think about the last moments of your life emotionally and be in that space for hours and hours, and you have to do it in extreme pain – the intensity that goes with that is a lot. It takes so much out of you. The last moments of a person’s life, when that’s your business, it can come home with you. It can be taxing on you and take a toll. When I was starting out, I didn’t really know how to separate those things. I was very much a method actor. I had to create these moments, or recall some bad moments of my own, and then stay there and I didn’t know how to switch it off. It was very difficult. Eventually, because I did it so much, I was able to develop the skills to turn it off and on as I needed it.
Now, I know exactly what I need to do. I can pretty much cry on cue, I know exactly the moment the emotion is going to need to hit. Because there’s a formula to horror movies. There are ups and downs. If I didn’t do it full time, it would be very hard.
What advice would you give to women trying to make it in the genre?
Well, perfect timing, I would say get involved with Women in Horror Month! I really would, because seeking out other people who are doing what you want to do is the easiest way to learn about it, connect, and potentially start working. The great thing about it is, during Women in Horror Month, a lot of people have committed time and resources to helping and to reaching out. So, if you’re a woman, and even if you’re a man honestly, and you want to get involved, there are websites, there are resources and film festivals and networking events for you to do exactly that!
What do you have coming up? Anything you want to mention?
Yes, Death Count, which has Michael Masden and Costas Mandylor, is coming out later this year. I’m excited for that. Completely opposite, I have a black and white modern noir thriller called Terra Bella, by Hunter Johnson, that I’m really excited about. Then we’re starting on our next one, Frost. That will start shooting in the next few weeks!
Awesome! I appreciate the time, thank you for chatting with us, Devanny!
Thank you so much, I really appreciate it!
Be on the lookout for Death Count and Terra Bella later this year, and don’t forget to stop by the Women in Horror Month website.