Michael Varrati talks new Midnight Mass podcast with Peaches Christ

Genre creative Michael Varrati (What’s Left Inside and Unusual Attachment) is back with a brand new podcast; Midnight Mass with the renowned drag queen Peaches Christ where they discuss their favourite cult movies.

Bloody Flicks got the chance to quiz Michael all about the podcast, and here is what he had to say –

When did you first become involved with Midnight Mass?

As a podcast, from the inception. But, for those who don’t know, Midnight Mass began as a live cult movie show created and curated by Peaches Christ in the San Francisco area in 1998. I first became aware of Peaches and her world in the mid-00s when I was working on an (unfortunately defunct) book project about the history of late-night horror hosts. I had been looking to see who was out there that was carrying on that tradition or expanding upon it in new, fresh ways…and happened upon the website of this drag impresario in San Francisco. I reached out to chat with her, and we ended up becoming fast friends. It was clear even from that first conversation all those years ago that we were kindred spirits and that our interests were forged out of the same, weird cinematic fire. In 2010, after Peaches made her movie All About Evil, she did a tour in support of the film that brought a little “Midnight Mass” magic to different cities…and I joined her on the road for a lot of that adventure. Not only was I there to document the whole trip, but along the way I got thrown into the mix, so to speak. Some cities I’d merely be there to write, others I’d help with stage stuff, and in a few I was even IN the show (I have distinct memories of being dressed as a Frankenstein monster in Baltimore and then having Mink Stole tell me I still had green make-up on my ears at dinner after). It was truly an adventure of a lifetime…and from there we stayed close. As the years went on and I continued to branch out on my own in entertainment, Peaches and I kept finding our way back to one another. We co-produced the 25th Anniversary of drag cult classic Vegas in Space for the Frameline Film Festival together, and eventually started writing together. Not only have we written several feature film projects together (investors, call us), but we’ve created a docuseries, and co-wrote a live show, Femlins (a drag parody of Gremlins starring Detox, Miz Cracker, and Phi Phi O’Hara), that premiered in December of 2019. Although we’re distinctly our own personalities, Peaches and I found that our styles really mesh well and compliment each other…and our friendship naturally evolved into truly one of the best collaborative relationships. So, when Peaches proposed the idea of reviving Midnight Mass for the audio space, it felt like a no-brainer to join her on that journey.

Was this always a collaboration between yourself and Peaches Christ?

As you know, I previously had a long running podcast called Dead for Filth, which was all about the intersection of queer identity and the horror genre. After that went on hiatus, I felt that if I was going to return to a regular podcast gig, it would have to be something that excited me. On Peaches’ end, I know that a lot of folks had been requesting she do a podcast for years. During the pandemic, Peaches and I were in regular contact because we were writing a film together…and the topic sort of naturally came up. We have a great rapport, and it just…made sense. The Midnight Mass brand is something that I know Peaches has lovingly cultivated over a long time, and this is an opportunity for that legacy to carry onward. It’s also a chance to bring those raucous live celebrations to a new audience and help people around the world join “the cult,” so to speak. So, when she proposed the idea, how could I refuse? This is the kind of adventure we live for.

Can you give us a taste of the sort of genre films you will be covering?

Well, I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but I will say that if you listened to our series trailer, it does contain a lot of hints about what cult movies and figures we’ll be highlighting over the course of our first season. I will point out that the show will alternate between focusing on movies and cult icons. So, one week, we may be discussing the teen dream killing majesty of Jawbreaker…and another we may be focused on the career of Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. There’s going to be a lot of celebratory goodness to sink your teeth into. And yes, those are two actual episodes we’re doing. Surprise!

Can you tell us a bit more about the format of Midnight Mass, how will this differ from Dead for Filth?

Sure. Dead for Filth was always constructed to be a long form interview series that focused on one subject per episode and allowing them, in their words, to present their history. In many ways, I consider Dead for Filth an oral history project of queer horror, presented by the people who made it and were there. While Midnight Mass will retain an element of the in-depth interviews that I did on DFF, I like to think of this show more as a weekly “audio documentary.” The real drive of Midnight Mass isn’t just celebrating the movie or figure in question, but exploring the culture of the cult around them. As such, we not only interview, when possible, people directly connected to the subject (film directors, actors, icons, etc), but also include subsequent interviews with super fans and other artists who were influenced by the work. Every episode of Midnight Mass contains two to three interviews that paint a larger picture of the subject’s place in the world. It often takes us several days to complete one episode, but, for me, it makes it an even more satisfying listening experience…because we’re taking you on a true journey with this thing you love.

Between this and the rest of your projects, how do you juggle the workload?

Very carefully! But seriously, I freely acknowledge that I tend to keep a lot of plates spinning. At the time of this interview alone, I’m doing this podcast, I’ve got a new short on the festival circuit, I’m writing a script for a new TV movie, and am in pre-production for a new short I’m shooting next month…as well as potential feature in the fall. I have always been the type to take on a lot, and it certainly can be overwhelming at times, but I love what I do. Growing up, I always admired the cinematic hustlers…the Roger Cormans of the world…who created a career out of equal parts talent and sheer force of will. Whenever I feel tired or don’t want to take that phone call, I remember that I get to do something 10-year-old me could only dream about. So yeah, let’s make a movie.

Is the aim to get this show on the road in a post-COVID world?

In some form, yes. As I’ve mentioned, Midnight Mass was born out of a live show and we’d be nuts to not try to bring it back to that space. Peaches and I have already been discussing the possibilities and potential of how to do this, and all I can say at this point is that it will happen, there will be great guests, and her heels will be higher than mine.

When can we expect the first episode of Midnight Mass to drop?

I’d say look for the first episode in the last week of July or so. Part of our plan all along was to get a good chunk of the season recorded before the first episode even dropped and we’ve not only done so, but we’ve been enjoying just sitting back and seeing how it’s all come together before releasing it to the world. Just taking a moment to appreciate the calm before the storm, as it were. But yeah, late July. In the meantime, Peaches and I are doing so many guest spots on other people’s shows, you definitely have your chance to hear us wax nostalgic on cult cinema before then.

The horror and cult cinema podcast world is extremely over saturated, how do you aim to stand out?

We’ll stand out because this is what we do. I don’t mean that in an egotistical way, but rather, Peaches and I have both, in our way, proven our commitment to the movies that made us. Midnight Mass is a show born out of true love for those late-night cinematic oddities that so many others eschew, but have shaped us into the full-blown weirdos we are. We may be filmmakers, screenwriters, producers, etc…but as Peaches always says, we’re fans first. It’s from that fandom that the show gets its foundation. As I said earlier, the format of Midnight Mass is presented as an audio documentary where we gather a multitude of voices to celebrate and worship the subjects at hand…and the impact they’ve had. I really haven’t heard a show that does quite that yet…and you get us as an added bonus. Grab your popcorn and wigs, I promise it’ll be a good time.

Your most recent short What’s Left Inside just screened in the UK at the virtual Soho Horror Film Fest, what has been the reaction?

Honestly, the reaction has been extremely lovely and affirming. What’s Left Inside was very much an a-typical piece in comparison to the usual film work I do, made during the height of the pandemic and crafted to express some of my frustrations with the world at large. I should point out that the concept for the short actually existed before Covid, but once the lockdown happened, it became undeniable to me that it was a story we needed to tell. But, with that in mind, What’s Left Inside is dark and pondering…and I wasn’t sure if audiences would want to meet me there. The reception at SoHo showed that they were not only willing, but embraced the material. That really means the world. SoHo Horror Film Fest has been so extremely supportive of my work over the last few years, it really was a joy to have What’s Left Inside make its debut there. We have announcements coming soon about more screenings, including its North American premiere at a fairly prestigious festival, and I can only hope that future audiences give it the chance that the kind folks at SoHo did.

We’ve heard the makers of Deathcember teasing a possible follow-up, would you consider being part of another yuletide anthology?

I just heard that as well! Let me say this: I make a lot of horror movies…and I make a lot of holiday movies…and I am always open to bringing the two worlds together again. Doing our segment for Deathcember (“All Sales Fatal”) was a blast and led to a number of memories that I’ll cherish forever. Plus, there’s something delicious about intersecting the candy-colored aesthetic of Christmas with the heightened reality of horror. I suppose in many ways, Christmas is our most giallo of holidays, you know? Anyway, I digress. Long story short: Never say never.

Find out more about Midnight Mass on BuzzSprout.

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