Movie Memories: Glamour ghoul Rogue Aurora on drag, horror and gremlins
Rogue Aurora (She/Her) is a Drag Queen from Dublin who has a love for glamour, alternative fashion and the macabre. Unable to showcase her drag during lockdown, Rogue did what a lot of people did and turned to the internet where she would stream video games in full drag, take part in digital drag shows with other performers from all over the world and eventually start a YouTube channel where she regularly uploads videos of herself doing her makeup while discussing horror movies.
Film In Dublin caught up with Rogue to have a chat about some of her Movie Memories, horror origins, starting a Youtube channel and more.
Film In Dublin: So first of all, can you remember the very first movie you can remember watching in a cinema?
Rogue Aurora: In a cinema – so I didn’t watch it all the way through – but my very earliest memory was at the Second Jurassic Park movie, The Lost World, and I remember being so bloody terrified that my parents literally had to lift me up and take me out of the cinema because I just thought it was so scary. And that’s like the earliest, definitely the earliest. We would have had to see that in the Square, for some reason I remember that detail, which is weird ’cause we lived in Kildare.
FID: That’s interesting about The Lost World, a lot of young kids have that experience where they go to see something that’s maybe a bit too scary for them and hey have to be taken out. Considering the interest that you then developed in horror, afterwards as a kid would you have had a lingering fear there? Or did you kind of have this reaction in hindsight of oh, it was actually kind of interesting to to be scared of something?
Rogue: I don’t know. It’s weird because I think it was literally just the dinosaurs that scared me because I don’t think I was ever scared of going back into an actual cinema. When it came to my interest in horror then it’s strange because at home, in order to get me to shut up, the only thing my parents could put on would be kind of scarier, by you know, a child’s standard of scary. So uhm, not that it’s scary, but like they put me down in front of Beetlejuice or Casper. Just anything that seemed to have like a bit of a spooky element to it, they would. It would shut me up for two hours so they could leave, but I’ll be watching that.
I was scared of Jaws then a few years later when I was still a kid and I think it was just the idea of something in the real world that could hurt you, as opposed to the supernatural style of things or more campy horror. Not that dinosaurs are real anymore.
FID: After your parents showing you the G-rated spooky stuff, do you remember being older then and seeking out the scarier stuff on your own?
Rogue: Sure, so I was mostly just gonna like G or very PG rated stuff, until maybe I was about 11 or 12 you know, that’s the age where you start staying up a little bit later and I think Scream was on telly one time. I think both my parents had just fallen asleep early ’cause they was maybe something on that weekend and they were just exhausted. So I was left unattended in front of the TV just watching Scream and I was like, whoa, what’s this? This is new. I’d never having really seen like a proper “horror movie”
I saw that and then I just got lucky because that week they were showing all three that there would have been at this stage. I stayed up subsequently every night that week, or I think I might have. I think I was able to stay up the first night and then I had to tape the other two, because tapes were a thing back then. I watched all three, absolutely loved them and then started getting more into slashers. I would just look at the telly guide that would come out every Sunday and see if there’s anything in there and there was like Nightmare on Elm Street Part Three and I think at one stage there was a couple of the Friday the 13th movies, Jason X was definitely on so I saw that as well. I was at this stage where I had an awareness of who the horror icons were, so I was just going to track down and watch those wherever I could.
FID: When you when you look at horror films now, is there a particular style of storytelling you’re more drawn to, do you prefer still very bloody slasher stuff. Or do you like the kind of psychological stuff?
Rogue: If you had asked me maybe a couple of years ago, I probably would have said I still love slashers the most. As I’ve started YouTube and as I’m kind of getting involved in different online horror communities I find myself looking at a lot of psychological stuff lately that I’ve been really drawn to. In being a queer person myself and trying to looking at different horror tropes, I guess in a certain way I always find psychological horror, especially of the 80s and 90s, probably a bit dated by today’s standards, and probably not the most PC, but I think that they do have a very interesting, let’s say view on certain issues that are more relevant in today’s society, and that’s what I’m most drawn to at the moment.
FID: Through your own personal experiences as a queer person, can you recall the earliest occasions that you would have been watching a horror and had that moment of oh, I’m recognizing something in this that is not necessarily explicit or very obvious maybe to everyone else, but that you could just see something in that had a kind of coding or subtext?
Rogue: The thing is, I didn’t come into or start participating actively in queer communities until I was a bit older.
It’s probably – and it’s very blatant. It’s not really subtext. There’s a Nightmare on Elm Street; Part 2 Freddy’s Revenge, which is, I think infamously, the gayest horror movie of all time. That was very much like, I think like this story has been told a million times where people can realise, like, oh, uh, a dude is the lead in this one. That’s weird. A male Final Girl, OK? Then obviously there’s the whole fetish aspect that gets introduced, and then the big metaphor being Jesse, the character in the movie being possessed by Freddy and Freddy using his body for stuff that Jesse doesn’t want to do or doesn’t think is normal, that Freddy is more than willing to do, so there’s that kind of two sides, internal struggle. That kind of metaphor, that would be the first one I blatantly noticed.
Definitely in more modern horror there’s so many aspects that I don’t think you have to go digging too far below the surface to find, especially toward the end of the noughties, people were getting a bit braver to explore topics like that. So you have movies like Jennifer’s Body as well, where again it’s a bit more blatant and not really subtext, they do kind of explicitly say a few things. That movie is infamous from the way it was marked it as like a quirky comedy, and then when you actually sit down to watch it with the lens we have today, it’s a lot easier to read between the lines and actually see the queer and counterculture aspects. A lot of people I feel might have written it off as like oh, the two hot girls want to kiss or whatever, but looking back at it now, it’s way more complicated than that. It’s actually using horror, which can be used in a lot of ways to explore complicated relationships.
FID: When it comes to drag, the performance of drag can similarly be used to commenting on particular norms or forms of expression and identities. In your own drag, do you see a lot intersection in terms of horror, and do you incorporate how you see horror into the drag of Miss Rogue Aurora?
Rogue: I think of Rogue as an extension of myself and I’m drawn to drag the same way that I’m drawn to horror. It’s very much the things you’re not supposed to do and drag and horror they both put on a show, they’re both big and bombastic and they always make a statement. I think they kind of go hand in hand for me, both in that metaphorical sense, but also in a literal sense where a huge phase of my drag when I got started was I was doing cosplays of horror characters, so I would do like feminine looks of Chucky and Freddy Krueger and I even tried a Jason one time! Now I’m kind of marrying those two things, because literally my YouTube channel now is me doing my drag makeup while I’m talking about horror movies. And I think it’s just because my two favorite things in the world, drag and horror, when I’m doing my makeup I need something to talk about and when I’m talking about movies, I need something to do with my hands, so they’re kind of a match made in heaven.
I think just taking drag more so out of it, just queer identifying people and maybe outcasts in general always relate to horror because it’s always, going back as far as the Universal monsters, it’s telling the story of the outcast and someone who doesn’t really understand the way to be “proper”, if that makes sense, because I feel like a lot of queer people spend a lot of their lives trying to trying to live up to an ideal image. Then when you go and see a horror movie, Frankenstein is literally born yesterday, he doesn’t know what the hell is going on and everyone trying to kill him. So I think I think the two go hand in hand that way.
FID: Are there more modern characters that you would be interested in incorporating as cosplay into your drag? Like, would you want to do the Babadook or similar icons?
Rogue: The Babadook, that would be a fun one! I don’t know because what I was doing before, it was like straight up cosplay where it was very much definitely more of a costume than a drag outfit with subtle stuff incorporated into it, but I would have said if everyone on the planet wasn’t already doing it, this isn’t a movie but Lady Dimitrescu from the new Resident Evil game. Everyone, everyone was doing that cosplay and it’s one that I would have really liked to do, but everyone else was already doing it, so I was like I’m not going to be able to do it as good as those people!
But more modern movies, I would like to do Samara Weaving’s character from Ready Or Not, that would be a fun one, just because a blood soaked wedding dress with a shotgun, that’s really cool…Ohh, I’d love to do some kind of Suspiria inspired look from the 2018 movie, something to do with the red rope and the dance outfits would be really cool. Maybe a Victorian or period costume close to Mia Wasikowska’s character from Crimson Peak, I love old school fashion as well, that would be really interesting.
FID: Can you talk a bit about what kickstarted you to start your YouTube channel, where at the moment you’re going through your makeup talking about different kinds of horror?
Rogue: I started drag shortly before the pandemic hit, so I was kind of getting used to getting started in drag and then I was excited to look into performing and going places and then obviously the world shut down so that never happened! As a result, what I actually started doing originally was a Twitch channel originally where I would live stream and play games in drag and that was an experience itself. I did that for ages, but Twitch is very time consuming and it’s very exhausting in this kind of setup, sitting and having to be on and alert and entertaining and engaging for three or four hours while in full drag and as well as that, you’re constantly keeping an eye on the games, the numbers, the messages, it just gets very exhausting so I got burned out on that. I actually took just a short break from drag in general, but I still wanted to do it.
It’s just I was like okay, Twitch isn’t the thing to do drag for and I realised that there were certain aspects of my drag, be it like hair, makeup, costume that I wasn’t good at then that I wanted to work on. I spent a bit of time away from the Internet in general, just like learning how to style wigs and present myself better as a drag queen. I did that for a little while where I was just making those drag looks and posting them to Instagram and through that time all I was doing was if I’m not working on drag, I’m watching movies with my friends.
Then coming into the New Year, I knew I wanted to do something new and so I pondered the idea of starting a YouTube channel I just didn’t know what it would be and then again it became more relevant to me that oh, the two things I spent all of my time doing are talking about movies and doing drag, so maybe I should try that. And my original idea was that I would do like a fucking Elvira style Horror Hostess thing, super camp and on the nose very like, hopefully so bad it’s funny jokes that I tried running, but it was not good…so then I wanted to try something else and it became more like movie reviews and drag. But then I’m not an academic, I don’t know how to criticise movies properly or make it engaging or to give people a properly informed opinion…and I also don’t know what to do with my hands. There’s like a lot of this *waves arms* and I don’t know what to do and I’m just kind of like this *arm waving intensifies*
I watch a lot of drag and makeup stuff where people are doing say, commentary on YouTube drama, or there’s a very famous youtuber by the name of Bailey Sarian, who does her makeup while talking about famous murder mystery cases from the past few decades. I was like that’s cool, so my new focus now is and it’s so I’ve. I’ve only done one video like that at this point, but super fun for me to do and it’s actually something for the first time that I also find entertaining to watch so that kind of gave me the inspiration to sit down and do my makeup on camera while talking about the movies and that’s been really fun.
FID: The channel is still something that’s exciting and new for you in a certain sense, in the films that you’ve looked at for your channel, have there been any exciting new discoveries for you, films you haven’t seen before or something you’ve seen something new in while watching it for your channel?
Rogue: I only recently saw Suspiria 1977 for the first time a month or so ago. It’s one of those movies that just somehow escaped me over the years and everyone was telling me don’t read anything about it, just watch it and tell us what you think. I’m very glad I went in blind because I’m kind of obsessed with that movie. It’s one of the few movies where it’s just so jaw droppingly beautifully shot, the cinematography is mind-blowing, the soundtrack is unbelievable as well. Those two aspects make me forget that it doesn’t really have a plot and that the characters kind of suck. Now that movie, I’m just kind of obsessed with and then that led me to watch the 2018 remake as well, which I which I also really enjoyed.
With the with the queer horror list that I did, taking another look at Jennifer’s Body was one recently as well, where like I had seen that way back when, then I went back to cover it for the channel and then there is commentary about abusive friendships, horror tropes, sexuality. All of that in there that that I never would have picked up on until I went back to watch it through, kind of the lens of the person I’ve developed as now.
The Slumber Party Massacre is a is a really, really interesting movie that I never saw until very recently. I had just kind of seen it in my Prime Video. I was like, oh that looks like a shitty slasher and kept scrolling. I just I never heard anything about it. Then when I actually sat down to watch it and discovered it’s this mind blowingly well thought out satire of the slasher genre written by two very outspoken feminists, and it does a very good job at subverting expectations from the slasher genre, while also kind of being a pseudo slasher almost. Is that the right term? It’s a satire and it also has a lot of commentary on gender stereotypes and even some queer subjects as well. How did I not talk about this earlier? That’s one sticks out in recent memory, and it’s all because of the channel as well.
FID: Horror is one of those genres where the inclination is always to focus on what’s new and there can be an assumption sometimes that the past is inherently kind of hokey or dated. For modern viewers, would you recommend people go digging back through the classics, at slashers and stuff like that.
Rogue: Totally ’cause the horror movies people are watching today like they’re inspired by all those classic horror movies like you’re, you’re going to watch aspects of new horror movies like Ready Or Not, that even has nods to classic horror movies like Rosemary’s Baby. There is this mentality that newer is better, which I think is very weird but if you like even a remake of an older movie, go back and watch the original and then get a taste for that era’s horror and that might lead you to little unexpected gems that you’ve never seen before. Halloween is probably a good example where there are some people who’ve only seen Michael Myers in the 2018 movie. If you go back to the 70s and see the first movie and see how it evolved at that time and then also the few shitty sequels it spawned, definitely think it’s worth going back and doing a deep dive for any horror fan.
FID: Have you ever done any of the kind of like midnight movie with cult classics, would hosting something like that be interesting to you?
I would absolutely love to host something like that first of all! I haven’t gone to any horror ones, but back in like college I was, I was going to see like the Marvel movies at midnight and stuff like that. Not something I would do now, but I’ve gone to a few a few showings in like the Light House where they do like a double feature of Bill and Ted or Alien. It’s a whole different vibe. Gremlins was one I went to shortly before the pandemic started as well. It’s just such a unique experience and it’s something I’m dying to do again. I’m so excited just to go back to the Light House, it’s crazy. But if the opportunity to ever host a movie night like that in full drag came up, I would hands down be so over the moon to do that.
FID: If you had carte blanche, you could pick any movie, you’re introducing it, what would you like to to show people?
Rogue: The first very first thing that came to my mind and it’s very stupid, but I would love to do Gremlins 2 The New Batch. Specifically, because I did a Greta the gremlin look with like massive ears and everything, so that would be amazing, I would be head over heels to do something like that.
For something that maybe isn’t as like as goofy, like if it was like a serious…horror movie I would love to do like an introduction to, uh, maybe Dream Warriors, Nightmare on Elm Street. That could be a very fun one. Still something camp, something with a bit of humor to it, that would be ideal.
You can see reviews, round-ups, horror chat and more from Miss Rogue Aurora over on her Youtube channel.