By ROCCO THOMPSON
Stan the Mechanic isn’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill, cobwebs and corny jokes horror host. Played by John A. Hernandez, the character is a large, in charge, queer AF agent of Satan with a love for lubricated carburetors and double entendres. In the lead up to his debut hosting Here TV’s Halloween Night screening of Paul Etheredge’s HELLBENT, Rue Morgue sat down with Hernandez to discuss how his favorite genre treats queer characters, what it means to be a hairy, bear-y horror host in a world comfortable with neither, and why Etheredge’s cult classic gay slasher is the perfect film to introduce Stan to fright fans.
Tell us a bit about the conception of this character and how you got involved with this project?
Stan has been rattling around in my head for years! It’s always been a dream of mine to be a horror host. As a kid of the ’80s and ’90s I grew up watching some of the greats and it always seemed like such fun! I knew Stan would be a mechanic very early on. My all-time favorite horror movie is John Carpenter’s Halloween, and my favorite horror villain is, of course, Michael Myers. The mechanic coveralls were always intended to be a nod to that. The harder part was conceptualizing a ‘spooky’ mechanic character. That came about after a few drinks at a horror convention a year and a half ago. My husband and I were riffing on the idea and we remembered the lyrics to ‘Sweet Transvestite’ from The Rocky Horror Picture Show where Frank N Furter offers to get Brad and Janet a ‘Satanic Mechanic’. It was a lightning bolt moment from there, and soon after, Stan came into focus for me.
Stan is the one and only Satanic Mechanic commissioned by the Devil to enact supernatural torture against mankind by way of their automobiles since at one time or another every living person will need to use one. So, for instance, when you are stuck in rush hour traffic caused by a vehicle breakdown in the center lane, Stan likely had a hand in that. Perhaps you are on a long-distance drive on a horrifically hot August day and your air conditioning fails; Stan is guilty as charged. Maybe you are trying to escape from a psychotic masked serial killer and your car, which was working just fine a minute ago, no longer wants to start – it was definitely Stan. That’s his favorite! Stan runs his workshop in Brooklyn, New York. He, along with a revolving cast of assistants, service the cars of the supernatural community when he’s not out causing mischief. In his downtime, he unwinds by watching horror movies with his friends.
The show was built around this concept, and when we pitched the idea to HereTV they loved it and gave Stan a home!
Who are some of your favorite horror hosts from decades past?
Let me start by saying there hasn’t been a horror host yet that I haven’t seen and loved! Thanks to the internet, we are given access to hosts all around the world so no one is limited to their local markets anymore, which is fantastic. I grew up watching Elvira and Joe Bob Briggs. Elvira’s sass and sarcasm always crack me up. The segments with ‘The Breather’ are comedy gold. She is an icon and that character will live forever. Joe Bob’s encyclopedic knowledge of film continues to bowl me over to this day. Plus, who doesn’t love those drive-in totals?!
I also grew up obsessed with the Crypt Keeper and Rod Serling. I can still watch Tales From the Crypt and The Twilight Zone for hours on end. I have come to adore Vampira. Maila Nurmi gave her all to that character and it saddens me so much that there is such little footage of her show that survived from the ’50s. Zacherley is the granddaddy of horror hosting who basically solidified the format that we all use to this day.
I could go on forever. Stan is an amalgamation of all the great horror hosts that came before him.
What about the horror genre appeals to you as a queer person?
It’s the sense of otherness. I hit puberty in the early ’90s in the midst of the AIDS crisis. There wasn’t much in the way of positive messaging about being gay. I was scared of my desires and felt very different and alone. Most horror villains were outcasts and shunned by the mainstream, so I took some sort of inspiration in that. It made me feel less alone. I remember really connecting with vampire stories back then because they could only live freely at night and had to keep their identities a secret. That has always stayed with me.
What are some of your favorite queer or queer-coded horror films?
Oh man there are so many! With respect to explicitly queer horror some of my favorites are: Hellbent (which we will discuss further in a minute) The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Knife + Heart, Death Drop Gorgeous. These are all movies with characters that just happen to be queer. The villains are not villains because of their queerness and no justification is given for the sexuality of the characters. It’s good old-fashioned positive representation and I am 1000% here for it!
In terms of queer coded horror we have: Interview with the Vampire, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, Scream, Hellraiser, Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein. These tales of horror have a lot of queer subtext mainly because the writers/creators/directors were queer themselves. Give me anything Anne Rice, Kevin WIlliamson, Clive Barker, or James Whale and I am a happy boy!
“It goes beyond being big boned or chunky. I am, dare I say, fat. That’s probably the most controversial thing about me and Stan.”
There’s lots of talk about the need for representation today, do you feel that you’re doing something of importance in presenting a gay horror host of a different body type than we typically see?
I absolutely do. I myself am a plus-sized, gay, biracial man and so Stan is too. Well, he’s also a demon, but you know what I mean! Let’s face it, as much as I adore the horror genre, it has a rocky history with respect to accurate and flattering representations of queer people and people of color. Thankfully the tide is starting to turn thanks to the movies cited above and the work of directors like Jordan Peele and Nia DaCosta. We have a long way to go but we’ve taken those first steps.
Latinx people, I feel, are still largely under-represented in horror, at least in front of the screen. That’s why I was so thrilled with the Netflix movie Vampires vs the Bronx. The lead character is a Dominican boy. Danny Trejo is the only genre regular I can think of that works in front of the cameras. Of course, Guillermo del Torro, Robert Rodriguez and George Romero are/were legends behind the camera as well. I am happy that Stan will help bolster Latino representation as I, myself am Puerto Rican and Italian.
All that aside I am also a plus-sized person. It goes beyond being big boned or chunky. I am, dare I say, fat. That’s probably the most controversial thing about me and Stan. Hollywood has come around somewhat to providing queer and ethnic diversity in their storytelling but they really have not gotten there with respect to body types. Big people are still the butt of the joke and stereotyped if they are even included in the story at all. It’s still something universally frowned upon in our culture. The amount of self-loathing I am witness to by looking at people’s social media and hearing people talk is both frustrating ad heartbreaking. I encourage everyone to let themselves be. If you are happy and healthy then so what?! Rock those extra pounds! It’s my sincere hope that people watching will see me doing my thing and let fatness or largeness be somewhat normalized for them.
The first film you’re hosting is HELLBENT, why did you pick that film specifically? Any hints as to what we’ll be seeing coming down the pike?
The great thing about HereTV is that they opened up their library and let me have at it. Hellbent has always been one of my favorite slasher films. It’s so much fun! Plus the action takes place on Halloween which we of course wanted to be the launching time for Stan. It was kismet.
Unfortunately, COVID really had a huge impact on production. We were able to fast track the Hellbent episode for a Halloween premiere but additional episodes will not be ready until towards the end of November. There are definitely more episodes coming!
I don’t want to give away too much but we will be covering a David DeCoteau film later in the season. He, of course, is the out and proud director of the 1313 series and cult classic Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. He also directed a lot of HereTV original homoerotic skinimax type movies in the early 2000s. Stan is also going to have a mini queer short film festival where we are going to cover a trio of great horror shorts which is going to be a lot of fun.
After Stan’s run on HereTV, we will launch the Stan the Mechanic Roku channel for more devilish delights. That will come about late in 2020, or early 2021, but we will be sure to keep everyone updated.
Stan has such sights to show you!!!
What do you hope viewers take away from the series?
Mainly I hope people walk away from it having had a good time. It’s been a tough year and I just want to make people laugh. There are bigger take–aways, such as representation with respect to ethnicity, queerness, and body type, but that all falls flat if the audience isn’t enjoying themselves. I am super proud of this project. I wrote it all myself and I packed it full of easter eggs, double entendre, and sometimes no entendre! We also have Stan pop up with quick one-liners throughout the movie to keep the audience engaged. Stan, tells it like it is so there is some adult language and adult situations happening; but that’s what makes horror such fun!