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February 17, 2011

Interview: Chainsaw Sally in Honour of Women in Horror Month

In honour of Women in Horror month, I took it upon myself to interview some of the most important women currently working in the business. April Monique Burril plays one of the feistiest and foxiest villainous' in modern horror. Conservative sexy librarian by day, scantily clad chainsaw-wielding freak by night...It's CHAINSAW SALLY!

Lacey Paige: Who are you and what role do you play in the horror biz?

April Burril: My name is April Monique Burril. I am primarily an actress, sometimes a prop mistress, sometimes a set dresser. Like many in the world of micro-budget filmmaking, I pitch in and help wherever is needed at the time. I guess if I'm "known" for anything right now, it would be for the character I portray more than any other—Chainsaw Sally.

Find April Burril on

LP: What drew you into the genre and at what age to you remember it first having an impact on you?

AB: I have always loved horror… as well as fantasy, sci-fi, action and comedy—and more recently, westerns. However, I'd have to say horror takes first place.
The first real impact of the genre on my life took place when I was about five or six years old. "The Blob" was running on T.V.... I watched it and it scared the crap out of me… Mostly that scene towards the beginning when the old guy gets it on his hand and is just screaming from the pain. Eek. That night, every time I closed my eyes, I thought I felt the weight of it (when it was just bowling ball size) on the foot of my bed. I kept getting out of bed—even attempting to trick my parents into thinking I was sleepwalking. Eventually I got in a good amount of trouble for it.
Scared though I was, I think I also sort of fell in love with the drama of being "safely scared”—what many horror fans compare to the "safe scare" of a roller coaster ride. It's the rush of fear with the underlying knowledge that everything's going to be okay (unless of course, you are foolish enough to watch any Final Destination film right before going to the amusement park...)

LP: Name some females that you think had a significant impact on the evolution of the horror genre and why they had such an impact.

AB: The Wicked Queen in Snow White—yes, Snow White…The Disney film. Not a horror film. However, one of the earliest films made with sound and color, and a truly delightful and superbly diabolical villainess. I will say that for Disney—at least in the early films—they have some fantastic evil ladies. Exuding power and beauty with every word and gesture.
Camille Keaton as Jennifer Hills in I Spit On Your Grave (1978). She may begin the film as the victim, but certainly turns it around. Her revenge is so thorough that she surpasses justice completely. Not to mention her performance in general is just intense and fantastic.
Debbie Rochon in American Nightmare—she portrays a truly twisted, completely insane serial killer in a way that is almost always reserved for men. Yet she does it without sacrificing her deliciously female nature, really a fine performance. It didn't get much attention media-wise, but it had [a huge] impact on me.

LP: How do you feel about the role reversal of women in horror—going from victims in classic or "old-school" horror to often being the predator in modern genre films?

AB: I think it's great, of course. What I really prefer to see, more than "woman as victim" or "woman as predator" or "woman as—whatever" is to see us evolve to the point where gender is no longer the sole reason for recognition. No more little pats on the head and "good for you, being a female and doing that!" Very much a "not bad… for a girl" mentality.
I do believe we are evolving to that. Men are growing up more often with an ingrained respect for women and women are growing up more often being encouraged towards empowerment. Of course there's still inequality (especially in areas of the world that are full of strife). As long as we aren't all cardboard cutout, genderless clones, there will be inequalities to some degree. [It’s] just part of our human nature.
I love that there are more women in predatory, "bad guy" roles in film. Women have often been revered as having a real gift for evil on the screen. Certainly we can use our reputations of mystery and complexity to our advantage both in life and film. I also like to see the continuation of women in hero roles, but, as with anything, it's good to see a mix. There could be a male protagonist… or female. There could be a diabolical woman... or man. A girl could twist her ankle and fall while running away, or a guy could stumble over his own shoelaces in a panicky retreat.

LP: Why do you think horror is often arguably considered a genre for guys?

AB.: You know... I really don't know. I grew up loving horror movies, and sci-fi and fantasy, and... oh I don't know... toilet humor in general. Stuff that is usually considered "guy stuff". But I've still remained feminine... not in the wimpy delicate way the Victorian mentality defines as being feminine, but in the primal, sexual, goddess kind of way. I've never really understood why horror was considered a "guy thing". And more and more these days, I see lots of women getting interested in the genre as well. It could be that in the past, horror was marketed as being nothing but blood and boobs, but as more attention is drawn to the intense storytelling and drama, women can find more to grab their attention. Then again, lots of ladies—myself included—love the occasional mindless gorefest.

LP: Why do you think more women are getting involved?

AB: Because we can! As girls are raised with fewer preconceptions on what our gender is "supposed" to like, the creatives among us sometimes find a good source of inspiration in horror—whether through writing, directing, producing, acting, etc… There's some serious fun to be had in pushing at the borders of stereotypes... finding new ways to express the female presence in horror.

LP: How are you celebrating Women in Horror month?

AB: Same as last year, I'll be joining in a performance of the Vagina Monologues at Harford Community College in Bel Air, Maryland on February 11th and 12th. Proceeds go to benefit SARC.

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