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'Quality Scary' film series to bring horror classics and cult favorites to Lansing

logo for Quality Scary parodying the "Quality Dairy" logo with Q and S initials drawn out of tentacles
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Quality Scary

Updated on April 15 at 4:41 p.m. ET

What’s your favorite scary movie?

A new monthly horror film series at the Lansing Public Media Center hopes to help you answer that question.

It’s called Quality Scary, and it launches as part of the Capital City Film Festival this month with 1985's The Return of the Living Dead.

WKAR's Sophia Saliby spoke with comedian Emily Syrja who's hosting the series along with Tricia Chamberlain.

Interview Highlights

On how the idea for the series came from watching dozens of scary movies

The thing I love most about Halloween and spooky season is the community, so very quickly, I started pulling in my friends. We were watching movies on the phone almost every night. So, we watched about 70 movies between October and December, and we really felt connected over it. I had been looking for a project to work on with Tricia since we stopped performing as Comedy Coven in 2018, and this seemed like a really good fit.

On why The Return of The Living Dead is the first movie of the series

It really has a great balance of comedy and horror that we're looking for. It is such a strange movie, and I mean that in the best way. There is so much excellent and bizarre character acting, which Tricia and I as performers really appreciate. And the energy of it is really raucous and silly and exactly what we wanted to introduce.

On their favorite scary movie

Mine has to be Nightmare on Elm Street, which I had not seen before I started, you know, this horror movie project in the fall. I think it just does a really great job of creating an iconic villain, but it also seems, both as a movie and as a franchise, like you can tell people had fun when making it. That's my favorite thing about any of these movies.

Interview Transcript

Sophia Saliby: What’s your favorite scary movie?

A new monthly horror film series in Lansing hopes to help you answer that question. It’s called Quality Scary.

Comedian Emily Syrja is hosting the series with Tricia Chamberlain, and they join me now. Thank you for being here.

Emily Syrja: Thanks for having me.

Saliby: Where did the idea for the film series come from?

Syrja: Well, last fall, when we were coming up on the second Halloween when I wasn't able to go out, party, dress up in the way that I really enjoy, I started watching a lot of horror movies. It was really a relatively untapped genre for me.

Last fall, when we were coming up on the second Halloween when I wasn't able to go out, party, dress up in the way that I really enjoy, I started watching a lot of horror movies.

There were maybe some I had incidentally encountered in college or as a teenager, but I had never seen Halloween or Nightmare on Elm Street or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So, there was really a lot for me to watch and get to experience sort of my own little Halloween in the privacy of my own home.

And the thing I love most about Halloween and spooky season is the community, so very quickly, I started pulling in my friends. We were watching movies on the phone almost every night. So, we watched about 70 movies between October and December, and we really felt connected over it.

I had been looking for a project to work on with Tricia since we stopped performing as Comedy Coven in 2018, and this seemed like a really good fit. And very naturally, we ended up bringing in our friend Dan Hartley, who we've worked with on a number of video projects in the past.

Our friends at Lansing Facts, which is the social media account, had held a party called Quality Scary back in 2019, and it was the last big Halloween event that I got to attend before the pandemic. And when I think about Halloween now and I think about sort of the community that the spooky season brings, that's what I remember. And so we asked our friends at Lansing Facts if we could use the name and sort of continue the spirit of that original event, and luckily they said yes, so that's where Quality Scary was born.

Saliby: The first film you've selected to screen is 1985's The Return of the Living Dead. Why was that the perfect first choice for the series?

Syrja: It really has a great balance of comedy and horror that we're looking for. It is such a strange movie, and I mean that in the best way. There is so much excellent and bizarre character acting, which Tricia and I as performers really appreciate.

And the energy of it is really raucous and silly and exactly what we wanted to introduce. There's so much that is interesting about it too I think for a film festival audience, and we will be debuting as part of the Capital City Film Festival.

Return of the Living Dead's IP comes from the fact that there was a small copyright mistake on one of the title cards for the original Night of the Living Dead. So, there's just a lot of trivia and really a lot to think about amidst the absurdity. And that's exactly the tone that Tricia and I are trying to capture for our show.

Saliby: And from what you're saying, these screenings aren't going to be like, "Let's all silently watch the movie."

It seems like there's going to be a lot of maybe audience participation, a little bit of commentary, kind of riffing on these movies.

Syrja: Yeah, absolutely. We've been lucky enough to work with the film festival before, and most of our work was doing commentary on movies in sort of this Mystery Science Theater style. This is going to be a little bit different, with a little bit more of Elvira-style horror hosting.

We are going to introduce elements to the audience for them to participate and really feel a part of it.

But we are going to introduce elements to the audience for them to participate and really feel a part of it which is what Tricia and I have loved most about the comedy projects we've gotten to do in the past.

Saliby: Are you able to share some of the other movies you're planning on showing? Or is that a surprise?

Syrja: Well, we can say that we are planning to do Scream, and we're putting a really exciting, special appearance together for that, that I can't yet talk about.

But for the show, in general, which will be monthly at the Lansing Public Media Center, we are really covering a range of sort of cult horror movies like The Return of the Living Dead, mainstream pictures that we all know and love like Scream and some really offbeat stuff that we just want to share with people.

Every show is going to be a little bit different, and the way we approach each show is going to be different based on how we feel about the movie and how we want to present it to a community and an audience.

So, every show is going to be a little bit different, and the way we approach each show is going to be different based on how we feel about the movie and how we want to present it to a community and an audience. But it'll cover a wide gamut and we're really excited to get it to switch it up in that way.

Saliby: I'll end by asking the question I started with, a Scream reference, what's your favorite scary movie then?

Syrja: Mine has to be Nightmare on Elm Street, which I had not seen before I started, you know, this horror movie project in the fall. I think it just does a really great job of creating an iconic villain, but it also seems, both as a movie and as a franchise, like you can tell people had fun when making it. That's my favorite thing about any of these movies.

Saliby: Comedian Emily Syrja is one of the hosts of the Quality Scary film series being shown every month at the Lansing Public Media Center. Thank you for joining me.

Syrja: Thank you for having me.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Corrected: April 15, 2022 at 4:41 PM EDT
A previous version of this story used incorrect pronouns to refer to Syrja. Those references have now been corrected.
Sophia Saliby is the local producer and host of All Things Considered, airing 4pm-7pm weekdays on 90.5 FM WKAR.
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