Felissa is most well known for her role as a confused young murderess in Robert Hiltzik's low budget stalk and slash tale "Sleepaway Camp," and we caught up with her in 2003 right before the DVD release of Dante Tomselli's "Horror," a film in which she had a cameo. She would also go on to star in his next film "Satan's Playground."
I don't remember saying that, but I probably did. That's definitely something I would say (laughs). You know hey, I don't even know his name so he'll never be found out.
I'm really interested about your cameo in "Horror," can you tell me a little bit about that?
Ya absolutely, I play that "Art Therapist," in a drug rehab. Dante's the most amazing director, I absolutely adore him, and I love working with him. I'm really looking forward to doing Satan's Playground with him. It (the cameo) is pretty quick, but I can describe it like this, I'm a sweet angel, and then a little devil. So I come in quick and fast, but I get my point across, and it was a lot of fun. I love playing "victim" and "monster".
How did you get involved with Dante and "Horror?"
I had actually heard about Dante on the internet, he had a casting notice out, and I sent him a letter and a headshot. He got in touch with me very quickly and said that he was a fan of "Sleepaway Camp" and he would love to meet with me. And as soon as we met we just hit it off, and I had seen "Desecration" and said that I would love to work with him. I think it ("Horror") had been cast already and I was a bit too old to play any of the teenagers obviously. And he said "well I have this cameo would you like to work with me", and I said absolutely and we took it from there.
That was actually my next question, if you had seen "Desecration" before you were asked to do the cameo.
Ya, I liked it very much.
Did you understand it? (laughs) I loved the movie too but I really couldn't tell what the hell was going on.
You know what, I believe that so much of TV and film these days spoon feeds us, doesn't allow us to think or use our imagination. The beauty of Dante's filmmaking is that his visuals are so beautiful and so striking that you can use your own mind to figure out the story. I mean, he knows what he's saying, but I know in his stories sometimes he has plot and subplot, and I understood it for what I thought it was. You know and I don't think there's anything in art that's really "right" or "wrong." So that's what I loved about it, that it didn't spoon feed me. That I was allowed to use my own mind, my own imagination through his creativity.
I keep seeing this picture of you, doing your cameo in "Horror," in the picture you're making the infamous "face" from the ending of "Sleepaway Camp." Now, that wasn't actually you at the end of the film right?
No, actually the closeups were me. The body was an 18 year old college student, who had to be similar in size to me, have a similar body. He had to be over 18 because there was nudity, and have a slim face because I had a slim face, especially since I was a 13 year old girl. So that was a tough role to fill.
I was listening to the commentary (on the DVD) and I think it might have been you who made a comment about it being "cold outside." I remember thinking "oh that's rough."
(laughs) I don't remember saying that, but I probably did. That's definitely something I would say (laughs). You know hey, I don't even know his name so he'll never be found out. And you know what, I'm just honest (laughs).
Now you do have a much larger role in Dante Tomaselli's next movie "Satan's Playground," could you just tell us a little bit about that role?
I play a woman named Donna, and Danny Lopes who starred in "Horror" will be playing my son who is... I suppose you could say "autistic", or "mentally challenged." It's really about a rough going for a family, through the woods, on vacation. And it's definitely hell. I would say "Hell in the woods," and you know, "terror." It's almost something like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." I will definitely feel a bit like Shelly Duvaal in "The Shining." I love it because it challenged me as an actress, to go through that type of torture.
Do you now where that is right now, as far as production? Is there a set date to start filming?
He's (Dante) in pre-production with it, and he's so incredibly wrapped up right now with the release of "Horror" that he hasn't set an absolute start time. I would say perhaps summer, maybe fall. It's definitely in the very near future. The script is finished, and it's an incredible script, only one that Dante could write. It's sure to be another mindblowing piece. It's much more coherent in story line than "Horror," much more of an absolute story.
Ya, he was saying to me in my interview with him that at his heart he's a surrealist, but he realizes that he makes his living as a filmmaker, so he wants to sort of prove himself to the horror community that he can make what he calls a "popcorn horror movie."
You know, people like to pigeonhole, and say "you have to do this, you have to do that." It's the way the business is set up, so Hollywood. I think it's Dante's version of "mainstream." But it's going to be incredible because you know, it will be his visuals, it will just be more of a coherent story line. It's what I think he thinks that people want to see from him right now.
I know you weren't on the set of horror for that long, but did you get the sense that he was particularly demanding of his actors? Did you get the sense that he's sort of a perfectionist in that way?
He's extraordinarily detail-oriented. He's very compassionate with his actors, he's very accessible, very nurturing, I wouldn't say that he's "heavy-handed" or "demanding" or anything in that sense. But definitely, like you said, so passionate that it really, no pun intended, "bleeds" on to the actors. It really does, like you can't help to want to give everything from your gut and your soul because his energy is just magnetic, it really is.
I just want you to know that you don't have to explain yourself to me.
Now, Ellen Sandweiss from "Evil Dead" is also going to be in the movie ("Satan's Playground"), have you met her yet?
I have, I've met her a couple of times and I absolutely adore her. We hit it off immediately, we felt like sisters. We've been emailing, and we talk personally now. We're into each others lives. It's sort of like we met knowing we were going to play sisters, so it's like, which came first. I think we look similar, and we have similar personalities, and I think she's just an incredible woman. I think she's hilarious as hell. She's just so real, and so down to earth, and that's hard to find in this business. Unfortunately the entertainment field kind of lends itself to people putting on facades and doing things that they think other people want. She's just really cool.
That's cool, I'd like to go back to Sleepaway Camp for a minute.
(laughs) Oh you mean the movie that you love?
(laughs) I was wondering if you had read the review or not. You know what it was with that movie...
Hey, I just want you to know that you don't have to explain yourself to me.
You know, I picked that movie up and for whatever reason it just really bored me. I was really hostile after watching it and I always write my reviews right after I watch the movie so I can accurately capture my mood.
That's totally cool. Listen, it's art, and everybody's entitled to their opinion. It's not science where it comes out to something exact, and we're all entitled to what we feel.
I did have nice things to say about you though, I did want you to know that.
Thank you, that's sweet. I really appreciate that, I've heard everything from "I absolutely hated it," to "I absolutely loved it" and everything in between. I'm comfortable in my skin and who I am so I just try to do my work. If people love it great, but if they don't that's cool too. I don't have an ego the size of you now, fucking New York City or anything.
(laughs) That's cool. Um, you were 13 on the set of the original "Sleepaway Camp." Because you were so young, was there anything that they had to shield you from? Were your parents on the set at all?
My mom was on the set. They didn't want me to use my hands for the murders, although I was on the set for every murder so I don't even know why.
Did you see the naked dude at the end of the movie?
You know, that's such a funny question. I think you're the first person to ever ask me that. I think I was...no I think it was a closed set. I can tell you when they were doing the skinny dipping scene I was in a cabin and I kept peeking. I don't think I was on the set for the last shot though, probably not.
That was another thing that bothered me about the movie, there was waaaay too many male asses I think.
There are a lot of homo-erotic tones to that film. There really is, and I think for some reason, and correct me if I'm wrong, I think that sometimes there are some films that really lend itself to the homosexual kind of spiel in the horror genre.
I think that with horror films you're right, there's so much subtext and so much going on under the surface that it does sort of lend itself to hidden messages like that. Now, you didn't take the role in the sequel in 1988 because you were going to college, looking back in hindsight, do you regret not taking that role?
I love what Pamela Springsteen did, I think she was great. I think the sequels were terrific and I hate when people compare the movies because I think it's so unfair. They're three completely different films. It's so funny that people want to get on a soap-box, even with "Friday the 13th" or "Halloween." Everybody wants to compare and debate you know, each movie stands on it's own. I have a little regret just because it would have been cool now to say that I had done all three.
Do you consider yourself a Scream Queen?
I don't consider myself a scream queen. I just worked on a documentary called "Something to Scream About," all about Scream Queens and they asked me that question. And I think I said that if a Scream Queen were "A", than I'd be "B." I'm not like the Debbie Rochon or the Linnea Quigley. I'm in a whole different category. That was 20 years ago and I really just came back to it recently. No one has seen me yet really run and scream. So no, I don't really consider myself a scream queen.
Back in 1983 on the set of "Sleepaway Camp," you were 13 years old, did you have any idea that we would be in 2003, still talking about Angela?
Oh absolutely not, even I had pretty much forgotten about it after 1988. I had never spoken about it, I was married, I've been divorced and my ex husband never even saw it and we never even spoke about it. It just wasn't a part of my life. I think the internet, and how big DVD and video have become have really contributed to sort of bringing it back. It's so strange, I would have never believed it if someone had told me back then how big it would be. I still talk to the whole cast and we love it, it's so sweet and we're really thankful. It's just really strange.
Alright I just have one more question, have you ever had a strange or freaky experience with an overzealous fan?
You know at the conventions I haven't had any "creepy" experience, or anything in a bad way. It's just such goodness, such positivity. Like people bringing me flowers, buying me gifts, that's so odd to me you know? And my big thing is that when I go to the conventions I don't even like to sell my picture, I think that's absurd, I hate it. I did it at one convention because they told me I had to because everybody else was and it was making people look bad. I just think it's really cool to go and meet people who think that it was a cool movie.