YouTube is a platform that I find myself spending time on quite regularly. Lately, I think I even watch more YouTube videos than I do TV and film combined. Whether it is listening to a podcast, checking out the latest movie trailers, or watching hour-long video essays on a multitude of topics, YouTube is a space that I visit at least once a day, which is why it is the first place I thought about when I heard about this series. YouTube is home to a large horror community that includes both creators and viewers. There is a little something for everyone on HorrorTube and, although the community has had it’s fair share of drama as all YouTube communities seem to do, the vibe is positive and it is home to some of the most interesting and creative content creators out there.
One of those content creators is Spookyastronauts, otherwise known as Emma, an Australian horror YouTuber and professional video editor who is one of the most talented and hardest working in the genre. Emma has been uploading videos since 2015 and recently surpassed 30,000 subscribers, a milestone that she celebrated by releasing limited-edition merch that sold out in just 14 hours. With a passionate fan-base and her knack for engaging with her viewers, her channel has grown steadily over the past four years. Recently, I sat down with Emma (over Skype, of course) to chat with her about her channel, her thoughts on the horror genre, and what it is like being a woman on such a public platform.
Stephanie: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today! The first question I have for you is why horror? Did you always plan for your channel to be 100% horror focused or did that come as you went on?
Emma: I think it is the opposite, actually. I planned on it being horror and I started off just doing horror reviews, which is because I love horror and I’ve always loved horror. But it turned into me also, though the channel, discovering my differences in what I love in film. I found a lot of other horror channels focused on slashers or the slasher sequels and franchises where I went the other way and spoke about a lot of international films and film that, I guess, are classified as thrillers, as well as disturbing films. Now I talk about different TV shows and movies that aren’t even considered horror, like the TV show The Act that came out recently. I think people who follow me really understand that I’m into that weird, awkward feeling you get when watching something and not necessarily full-blown horror.
S: You mention how your channel has changed over the years, but do you think horror has changed throughout the four years that you’ve been doing YouTube?
E: So much! And in such an exciting way, as well. I guess it was always on this track from the early 2000s up until about 2012 when there was such a teen horror kind of cliche where everyone would go to the cinema and yell at the screen, jump scares and all that stuff. Now there is such an art behind it and it is so inspiring seeing movies like Hereditary and It Comes At Night, all those films that really try and make it artful. It’s such a work of art now and that’s why modern horror is so cool. It is a bit awkward though because you do have a lot of people who are still stuck in the 80s but horror is so diverse, there are so many different styles of horror films now, which makes it a genre that inspires lots of great conversation.
S: I feel like it is almost bigger than just its own genre now, there are horrific aspects to so many different genres these days. I feel like horror used to be its own pocket but now something is a family drama and a horror or a comedy and a horror. I think in a way it’s always been like this but lately it has been picking up. The last couple of years my “Best Of” lists have been almost all horror movies and not on purpose, but there have always been aspects of horror creeping into other genres more and more.
E: Definitely, they play around with that a lot. And I do think it is a hard question because the thing everyone talks about is “what is horror?” and “what is defined as horror?” and it is so interesting because some things have certain aspects of horror and then other things have full-blown stereotypical horror, but does that mean one is better than the other? It’s a weird time because you go back to the Universal monsters and those movies aren’t scary, but I love those movies, and then new movies come out that people don’t find scary so people assume that they aren’t horror, yet you would never say that about a Universal monster. It’s really a personal choice whether something is horror or not unless the director defines it as horror, which sometimes even then we are still against that.
S: Speaking of horror throughout the decades, you are a big supporter of the 90s being a great decade of horror.
E: I love the 90s obviously because I was born in the 90s. I was born in 1990 and I think any decade you are born in you really have that nostalgia factor attached to the horror movies that you grew up watching. But I also think that people neglect the 90s a lot and they don’t think about all of the masterpieces that came out like the IT miniseries, Misery, apparently I’m just going to name Stephen King films (laughs). But there are some really cool films that came out in the 90s that people just kinda glide over because the 80s is such a huge aspect of horror that people are so attached to. It’s sad that there is this us vs. them situation depending on what decade you grew up in and people won’t say it out loud but it is really frowned upon to like newer films, which is so sad because they are some of the best.
S: When I was watching your earlier videos, you mention Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer and those are the movies that I grew up with too and that introduced me to horror. But when I tell people I like them, especially I Know What You Did Last Summer, they look at me funny.
E: How can you not like Jennifer Love Hewitt, are you kidding me! And especially The Blair Witch Project, that’s definitely a tell with people because some people are completely against it but it did so much for the genre and I just don’t understand people (laughs).
S: What is your favourite video that you’ve made or one that you’re really proud of?
E: Definitely any of my Deep Dive interviews that I did with Damien Leone and David Howard Thornton from Terrifier, I love doing those videos. I did one with Laurence R. Harvey this year from The Human Centipede. They take forever to produce but to do an interview and then dig around and make it into a story is something I really like. Unfortunately, people don’t watch those videos as much. When you’re on YouTube sometimes you just want a quick watch and you don’t want to think too much, I find, which is too bad because so much work goes into these Deep Dive videos and there’s so much cool information in them. But I still really enjoy those videos and watching them back is really fun.
S: Were you nervous going into those interviews?
E: I was probably excited-nervous. I do have a background in interviewing, I was a video journalist for a while, but I never interviewed anyone I was particularly a fan of so doing these videos I get super excited, especially with the Harvey one. I was sweating because I didn’t know what he was going to be like and he has such a distinct look to him and to just see him talking to me on Skype was crazy. But everyone’s been so nice and you find that people who are part of the horror community are the nicest, most warm and welcoming people. I guess the pair from Terrifier I didn’t really know their faces much. Obviously Art the Clown has a mask on, but they were awesome to talk to. I recommend watching the Terrifier Deep Dive because the director was kinda drunk, which he admits in the interview, so he is giving me all of this information he shouldn’t be (laughs). Hopefully, as I grow there will be more people willing to give me a shot and let me promote their stuff.
S: You have some other really great series on your channel that foster collaboration between the horror YouTube community. Can you talk a bit about your ideas behind those series?
E: The first one would be 31 Days of Horror, which I was doing before I was even on YouTube. Every single year, just by myself, I would watch 31 horror movies in October and when I started my channel that was just something that felt natural to include. People really liked it and started watching along and I guess that happens organically when you engage with your subscribers. The Does This Offend You series I just thought was a funny idea because I always talk about things being offensive, so I started that with Nightmare Maven. I guess I just think about what I would like to watch and that’s how I see my viewers. I see them all as people who have the same interests as me so I just go with what I would get value out of watching and that is how I came up with the That Scene series. I don’t really talk too much about classic horror so I thought a cool way of paying tribute would be if we could all discuss together a scene that impacted you when you watched it. I do think a lot about the people who are watching and I know it might sound like I make things just for me but I make things for people like me and it’s just really cool having such an engaged audience. It’s awesome.
S: On the subject of audience, how do you feel about the horror community that you’ve fostered on Patreon? What does it mean to you to have that community and to be the reason for so many horror-loving folks to find community with each other in a time where it’s getting harder and harder to feel like you belong and to find people who have the same interests as you?
E: I started the Patreon in 2015 and the reason I started it was not to get monetary support, because at the time I was still working full-time and only making small amounts on YouTube. I started it because I was getting excited about YouTube and I was getting worried about flooding everyone’s feed and I thought that if people wanted to become part of a club and I could give them all the extra content that I didn’t want flooding peoples’ subscription boxes I could do that on Patreon. And then everyone who joined just started showing up all the time and I have this chat open on Skype and we talk 24/7 and there are people from all over the world. It’s so interesting, people just talk non-stop and they get into constant conversations and you start to bond over other things and we’ve really grown to know each other. It’s become a support network I didn’t expect, I really didn’t expect it to end up the way it has.
At times when I think maybe I’m giving too much to YouTube and it starts taking up too much of my life and has me making sacrifices, the Patreon is the reason I keep going. It really sounds sappy but it’s so true that I have this support network of people who just want to see me grow and thrive. They also have become friends with each other and they meet up all around the world and send me photos and it’s the most amazing thing, I can’t even explain it. I’ve met a few of my Patreons and I have plans to go see a movie with another one coming up and it just feels like they are my friends. It’s also nice because I have a bigger audience and then a smaller Patreon, so it’s really good to get to know people one-on-one, which I really like.
S: Since a lot of people reading this may have never watched your videos before if you had to recommend a new viewer one video of yours to give them a taste of your channel, which one would you choose?
E: That’s a hard question. I would say my Deep Dive videos because they show what I’m capable of but I don’t do them as often. I really like my “We Need to Talk About A Serbian Film” video because it is super polarizing. I have a lot of thumbs down on that video but I think it’s a good video because I talk about the aspects of the film that are super polarizing but I can talk my way around why other people would like or dislike it and make an argument about art vs film/narrative. It’s interesting to see people tiptoe around those really hard subjects. I also would recommend my reviews, because if you like my reviews then you will like my content because I put out a review every week. I try to give a lot of value to my longer videos but my review videos are just for people to go “hey, I want to watch this movie this weekend and here’s a spoiler-free review.” My reviews are good places where you can gauge whether you would actually enjoy that movie, if it’s for you or if it’s not for you without giving too much away. I just try to be a helpful guide in that respect.
S: Who are your favourite horror YouTubers that you would recommend people check out?
E: Obviously I would recommend Nightmare Maven, she just does so much cool content. I really like Amy’s Crypt; she is an Australian YouTuber and she travels the world and looks at haunted places, which I love, and she’s really sweet. I like Gabby Hernandez, I think she does really cool vlogs of her looking for VHS tapes. I like watching something that is a little bit different to what I do. I like Spooky Rice, which is a huge channel, and they do breakdowns of disturbing movies. I watch a lot of my friends’ reviews but I try to keep away from watching too much horror content because I feel like it could impact my own channel, so a lot of stuff I watch isn’t actually horror.
S: You mentioned a lot of female creators. Have you felt any struggle being a female creator in, not a male-dominated space, but the male-saturated space of horror YouTube? Have there been any issues being a woman trying to come up in that genre of YouTube?
E: Oh yes, there has been. So much tea that I will not spill (laughs), but there have been some people that have definitely made it clear that they do not like women talking about horror movies. It’s also just the strangest thing because horror is about women and I don’t think all men understand that yet. When you think about the final girl, when you think about every great horror movie from the last 60 years, a lot of them are female-focused, females at the front. You think about Hereditary, you think about Psycho, it’s all about women at the front and showing their fears and vulnerability.
I think it’s really interesting when I get comments from men being like “oh my gosh, a girl who talks about horror, let’s get married!” I’m like, do you understand that most women like horror? It’s so weird that people think it’s a male-dominated place because it’s not like that, it’s just that men are very open about what they like and their very much in your face a lot of the time. You don’t always have to be the loudest person in the room to have something to say, but that’s what is cool about YouTube, that you have your own space to talk about stuff and I find that the majority of people I like to listen to are women talking about horror.
There are still male YouTubers I really love, like Dino from The Late Late Horror Show and Bluray Dan, but it’s very interesting that there’s still that connotation and I guess there always has been. The way that horror movies are marketed, it’s very much black and red and masculine colours, but it’s not really like that at all and I like those newer films that are really bringing that to the forefront. Someone’s channel on horror YouTube is called Girly Gore and I love that, you don’t always have to be all about masculine things to enjoy horror. I feel like there are a lot of men in the YouTube horror space and they definitely get their opinions across and are very well-respected because of that, and I have been told before that they don’t want to listen to a girl’s opinion on horror, which is awful. But I guess it is their loss because if you don’t understand the woman’s perspective then you’re not understanding horror at all.