BY JILLIAN KRISTINA
The realms of horror are vast, far-reaching, all-encompassing. It’s the genre that contains everything – light and dark, love and grief, loss and reclamation. It doesn’t shy away from the sheer terror of mortality, or better yet, vulnerability. It is here, within these blackened, sickly slick corridors of filth and degradation that we find ourselves renewed, rejuvenated – inspired. We see the face behind the fear. We see ourselves, and we see the final girl within us all. “The horror movies of the 80’s offered up tons of kick ass female protagonists who fought back against the psychos and won (Night of the Comet, Halloween). The female was sometimes the all powerful killer or trickster (April Fool’s Day, Happy Birthday to Me). In each instance – the girl/woman had the POWER. So, when I started making horror movies in the 90’s, it was no accident that I played those same types of strong, supernatural roles.”
Enter Sasha Graham, horror actress and best selling metaphysical author, including her book, Magic of the Tarot, which won a 2022 COVR Visionary Award, and the wildly popular tarot deck, Dark Wood Tarot. A child of the 70’s/80’s, Graham developed a healthy sense of terror as a kid, regularly left to her own devices on remote homesteads in mountainesque rural areas by her free-roaming mother. “Fending for yourself in nature and pattering home after school to a dark, empty house with no one around for miles is terrifying for an eight year old. But, fear opens you in profound ways. The fear state is akin to sacred ritualistic experiences where the goal is to receive a teaching/inspiration experience. Fear puts your entire body on high alert. You learn to pay attention. You ‘see’ deeper. You ‘hear’ deeper. You ‘observe’ deeply and develop wild extraordinary sensory perceptions.” This experience inspired her lifelong journey towards the unknown, the unseen, and the power that resides there. “The day I brought my first Rider Waite deck home at 12 years old, my stepsister’s born-again-Christian friend freaked out, doused them with lighter fluid and burned the cards screaming, ‘Tarot is the devil’s work!’ Talk about power?! I knew I was on to something good!” The fires of curiosity now fully stoked, Graham would go on to develop a love affair with the sultry, sex-laden lines that filled a certain 1994 classic vampire novel. “Anne Rice’s ‘Interview with a Vampire’ turned my world upside down. I craved Rice’s sensual vampiric landscape and wanted to embody archetypal vampire energy.”
And she would do just that. In the 90’s, Graham starred in over 16 SOV (shot on video) films in the 90’s, including “Addicted to Murder,” starring as the vampire, Angie. As a matter of fact, “Addicted to Murder,” as well as all of its sequels, are slated to be re-released through Visual Vengeance over the next few years. But that’s not all – she’s also got two new projects at the helm. “Trivial,” written and directed by James L. Edwards, “is a revenge horror film, like if ‘Saw’ met a female Bob Barker with an ax to grind. I play a deranged, vengeful game show host. I collapsed from exhaustion and lost my voice for a month after making, ‘Trivial.’ It has an exceedingly high body count.” While “Trivial” is currently in post-production, her next project begins production next week, in which she will depict a doctor in ‘Side Effects May Vary,’ a “twisted, goopy, wet, sloppy, bloody, body-horror flick” from James L. Edwards and JR Bookwalter.
On the horror meets tarot front, Graham has taken great personal strides to integrate two different realms that she sees as inseparable. Tarot of the Haunted House was the first tarot deck she authored, merging archetypes from both traditional tarot and horror. “Vincent Price as the Emperor, Dianne Arbus’s ‘The Shining’ twins as Two of Pentacles, and ‘The Exorcist’ as the Hierophant. The Three of Cups is a direct reference to a drowning scene in 1978’s, ‘The Legacy.’”
After sharing that the haunted house, school, anything genre is one of my personal favorites, Graham offers a decadently dark insight. “The Haunted House is a perfect metaphor for the self! Our body is the temporal home of the soul. Past, present and potential futures are stored inside the attic of the mind. Fears roam in the basement of our subconscious. Once again, horror shows us how to step into personal power by facing what scares us.” To go deeper into the subject of tarot and horror being intrinsically linked (and one of the major influences for this column), I asked Graham to delve further into how she saw this natural connection. “Excellent horror reveals something you haven’t seen before. People come to tarot to discover the unseen. Tarot and horror spark the larger part of your imagination. They are addictive and emotional. Each is transcendental and evokes immediate physical reactions. People feel ‘seen’ when their cards are read. They become vulnerable. Horror brings out ultimate vulnerability (fear) which is why horror is also an aphrodisiac. Tarot and horror are continents on the invisible world without and within us. Tarot, horror, and even sex forge spiritual and imaginative channels. Tarot and horror are transformative and unforgivingly delve straight into the impulses, thoughts and fears keeping us awake in the middle of the night.”
This shared vision of marrying the two mediums led Graham to consult with a team who has become my ultimate favorite family of filmmakers – the Adams Family. Enlisted to consult on Toby Poser, John Adams, and Zelda Adams 2019 offering, “The Deeper You Dig,” Graham worked closely with Poser as the matriarch crafted an emotionally jarring and explosive storyline. “Tarot consulting on ‘The Deeper You Dig’ was incredible. The best part was working closely with Toby Poser. We were introduced by a mutual film friend, Warren Etheredge, when he realized the Adams family and my family had houses near each other up in the Catskills. Toby and I met often during the making of the movie. I watched as she developed the story and wove tarot through it. If you’ve seen ‘The Deeper You Dig’ or ‘Hellbender,’ you know how sickly talented the Adams are. When ‘The Deeper You Dig’ had its NYC premiere at Anthology Film Archives, I was hanging on by the edge of my seat and utterly blown away. Toby has a fierce strength, and a ferocious, daring spirit which is endlessly inspiring to me.”
Continuing along in this vein, Graham is one of a dream-team of featured hosts at next week’s Virginia Festival of the Book, wherein she’ll be presenting alongside Grady Hendrix, Paul Tremblay, Sarah Langan, and Stephen Graham Jones for the Horror at Holiday Trails event. “Horror at Holiday Trails is an insane event where they bus everyone out to a real summer camp for ghost stories and food trucks! Grady Hendrix (speaking of haunted houses – his new How to Sell a Haunted House is a must-read, brilliant and spooky) rounded up this ragtag group of horror writers to take part. I host ‘Ghost Stories by the Fire,’ a spooky, live crowd share event in NYC, and they invited me down to read spooky ‘moth-style’ audience slips between author readings. I’ve got a few surprises up my sleeve too! After the event, we will all be signing copies of our books.”
Never before has the marriage of horror and tarot been so seductive, so…right. Both explore the darkness that beckons us, the shadows that lurk in our most guarded chambers, just waiting to reveal the flashes of lightning insight that lie so deeply seeded within us all. Our subconscious is calling, and the question is – will we answer?
To find more of Graham’s writing and upcoming projects, like the upcoming deck, Tarot of the Witch’s Garden, follow her on Instagram @sashatarotdiva, on YouTube, where she digs deep into the Tarot of the Haunted House, and at her website, www.sashagraham.com. To secure your ticket to Horror at Holiday Trails, visit https://www.vabook.org/events/2023/03/horror-at-holiday-trails/