Comparing the central librarian character in ‘Grindhouse’ (2003) vs. ‘All About Evil’ (2010)

Both versions gift us with more reel librarians to “love, love to hate, or hate.”

Last month, I analyzed Joshua Grannell’s indie camp horror movie, All About Evil (2010), and in that post, I mentioned that the original inspiration and short film, Grindhouse (2003) was also included in the special edition Blu-Ray. (Please note that the 2003 short film Grindhouse is different than the 2007 feature film of the same name, starring Rose McGowan and Kurt Russell.) I thought it would be fun to continue the scary season in order to analyze the original short film and compare the portrayals of the central reel librarian character, Deborah “Deb” Tennis, in both versions.

If you’re unfamiliar with the central character and premise, the summary on the Blu-Ray edition for All About Evil captures the foundation of both the short film and feature film:

When a mousy librarian takes over her late father’s struggling movie theater, a series of grisly murders caught on camera will transform her into the new queen of indie splatter cinema.

Let’s start by outlining some basic info about each version:

GrindhouseAll About Evil
Year released20032010
Director & screenwriterJoshua GrannellJoshua Grannell
Length14 mins98 mins
Lead actor playing DebJennifer TaherNatasha Lyonne
Additional librarian charactersNoneMink Stole as Evelyn
Library scenesNo library scenes; Deb is referred to one time as a “dirty little librarian” by her motherTwo scenes set and filmed at San Francisco Public Library Presidio Branch library
Character played by Joshua GrannellTV interviewer Richard HunterPeaches Christ, drag queen & horror movie buff
Comparing basic details of Grindhouse and All About Evil versions

Below is a visual comparison between how we first meet Jennifer Taher as Deb in Grindhouse vs. Natasha Lyonne in All About Evil. Both versions showcase Deb reading a book while at the concession stand, dressed in dowdy clothing and a messy bun. Interesting to note that the 2003 Deb wears glasses — a typical prop for the reel librarian! — while the 2010 Deb does not.

Our visual introduction to Deb the reel librarian in Grindhouse (top) and All About Evil (bottom)

The initial transformation of Deb from librarian to a star — after her first kill is caught on the movie theater’s security camera and accidentally shown to the audience in the theater — remains very similar in both versions. Deb embraces her “star quality” after her first kill, and her liberation from librarian to filmmaker begins:

Deb embraces her “star quality” after her first kill, in Grindhouse (left) and All About Evil (right)

The way that Deb’s mother describes her also remains almost identical between both versions (except for an adjective used with “librarian”):

  • 2003: “You are nothing but a dirty little librarian with big, big, big dreams, and hideous little looks. You read too much. You are nothing but a loser.”
  • 2010: “You are nothing but a boring, little librarian with big, big dreams and hideous little looks. Besides, you read too much. You’re a loser.”

In both versions, this is the only time anyone refers to Deb as a librarian.

After this initial “first kill” scene, the rest of the short film then features a TV interview with Deb and interviewer Richard Hunter (Joshua Grannell), during which we flash back to scenes from her real-life slasher films. The TV interview and reporter also pops up in the feature film; the character, a much smaller role, is renamed Peter Gorge (Patrick Bristow). It’s also fun to see how different Deb looks in each incarnation:

Comparing Deb’s interview in Grindhouse (top) and All About Evil (bottom)

Both versions feature tongue-in-(bloody)-cheek references to great literary works, which serve as the inspiration for Deb’s short films:

Film title / literary inspirationGrindhouse (2003)All About Evil (2010)
A Tale of Two Severed Titties / A Tale of Two Cities, a novel by Charles Dickens
(movie poster)

(scene & movie poster)
The Slasher in the Rye / The Catcher in the Rye, a novel by J. D. Salinger
(scene)

(verbal reference)
The Scarlet Leper / The Scarlet Letter, a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne
(scene)

(scene)
The Maiming of the Shrew / The Taming of the Shrew, a play by William Shakespeare
(movie poster)
X
Gore and Peace / War and Peace, a novel by Leo TolstoyX
(movie poster)
The Diary of Anne Frankenstein / a literary mashup from The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank, and Frankenstein, a novel by Mary ShelleyX
(movie poster)
The Satanic Nurses / The Satanic Verses, a novel by Salman RushdieX
(movie poster)
I Know Why the Caged Girl Screams / I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a memoir by Maya AngelouX
(movie poster)
MacDeath / Macbeth, a play by William ShakespeareX
(movie poster)
Comparing literary references in Grindhouse and All About Evil

Beyond the movie titles and posters, Deb’s focus on literature is also highlighted in both versions:

  • In the 2003 short film, Deb states in the interview that “While it’s true my films are filled with gore and violence, if you look past all that, you’ll find the great literary works of all time.”
  • In the 2010 feature film, we see Deb doing research with a copy of A Tale of Two Cities in her hands, and she gets angry at Mr. Twigs when she suspects he hasn’t read the book she gave him.

This literary connection is also why I think it matters that we learn she’s a librarian in the opening scenes. Although Deb soon sheds her librarian persona in favor of being a “directress” (her own words in both versions), she remains true to her librarian and literary roots.

Here’s a visual comparison between the posters for “A Tale of Two Severed Titties” featured in both versions:

Movie poster comparison in Grindhouse (left) and All About Evil (right)

The closeups of Deb portraying “The Scarlet Leper” is also a fun visual comparison, as the bathroom setting for this short film remains similar in both versions.

Comparing “The Scarlet Leper” closeup of Deb in Grindhouse (left) and All About Evil (right)

The original short film doesn’t delve into WHY Deb kills people, beyond her first kill when she stabs her cruel, domineering mother. Grannell fleshes this out in the feature film version, and here’s how I described it in my post last month:

But in her mind, she doesn’t just murder people for fun… she murders them for a reason, because they break “the rules,” her rules. Yet in killing them, she becomes the ultimate rule-breaker herself.

Interestingly, in the 2003 short film, the interviewer also references rule-breaking when describing Deb:

I must say, Deborah, you truly are an original. Never one to play by the rules, you’ve carved out your own Hollywood-type niche.

Ultimately, when comparing the original 2003 short film with the 2010 feature film version, the broad strokes remain the same: Deb’s liberation from librarian to serial killer, her focus on literary works, her murderous method of making her short films, her evolving sense of style, as well as her growing self-confidence and ego. Grannell took the kernel of the idea and reel librarian character from the short film and expanded it, including adding another (epic!) reel librarian character (Evelyn, played by Mink Stole). The more expansive structure and additional characters makes sense, in order to turn a short film into a feature-length film, and it’s gratifying to realize that the foundation for both is similar and solid. Both versions gift us with more reel librarians to be able — as the reporter in Grindhouse puts it — to “love, love to hate, or hate.”

You can read about the tale of Deb and Evelyn, the two reel librarian characters in the feature film version, here in this post, “All about the reel librarians in ‘All About Evil’ (2010).”

Sources used

All about the reel librarians in ‘All About Evil’ (2010)

A tale of two reel librarians in this indie horror cult classic

Continuing the scary season during the month of October, this is a time when I focus on analyzing reel librarian portrayals in horror movies, thrillers, etc. And I have a super-scary, super-sized analysis post this week about the reel librarians in the 2010 cult classic, All About Evil.

If this title sounds familiar to you already, it’s probably because I’ve mentioned it already on this blog before: “Killer librarians” post from 2012, “Librarians in horror films” post from 2014, and “Serial killer librarians” post from 2018. Last year, on my second guest post on the Maddwolf Fright Club podcast with Hope Madden & George Wolf, I also expressed how much I wanted to get a copy of All About Evil:

Me: I haven’t seen this film [yet], but I want to see it. I couldn’t find a copy of it, but I’m intrigued by the 2010 … indie horror film called All About Evil. And Natasha Lyonne stars as a librarian who inherits a movie house, and she then — from what I’ve read about the description, because I haven’t been able to track it down — she then starts making snuff films… Do y’all know this film?

Hope: We’ve heard of it as well. It is impossible to get. I’ve been trying. I mean, how delightful does that movie sound? If you watch the trailer, it really looks like a hoot! It looks like so much fun, and yeah, I’ve been trying for years to track it down… We’re dying to watch it!

Thank goodness we didn’t have to wait that long! This past summer, Hope let me know that All About Evil was getting a special Blu-ray release! I promptly pre-ordered myself a copy, and the timing was perfect to analyze it for this scary season!

Here’s the summary from the back of the special edition Blu-Ray:

When a mousy librarian takes over her late father’s struggling movie theater, a series of grisly murders caught on camera will transform her into the new queen of indie splatter cinema.

Here’s the original teaser trailer from 2010:

The All About Evil Teaser Trailer” by Peaches Christ, Standard YouTube license

*MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*

Since Natasha Lyonne, the star of the movie, is present throughout the entire film, I really cannot analyze this movie without divulging MAJOR plot spoilers, including the ending.

Also a spoiler? What Hope and I both hoped about this cult classic is TRUE: This film overall is delightful. It is a hoot. If you love horror and camp — and classic cinema in general — you will very likely lovelovelove this movie.

However, I do feel I need to point out that there is a shocking and abrupt scene of violence against an older Asian woman in the film. While this scene is used to demonstrate the depravity of a specific character, this kind of violent act is even more sensitive today due to the rise of anti-Asian violence. This scene also stands out more in this film because of the relatively little racial diversity in its cast, as all of the leads are White (or White-presenting) actors. I felt compelled to include this as both as a spoiler and as a trigger warning.

And if you are a real-life librarian, you are probably going to feel alllllllll the emotions with this one… because, well, this movie does NOT hold back with what happens to librarians who break the rules. And both librarians break the rules in this movie, in different ways.

And yes, there are TWO major reel librarian characters in this movie. More to analyze! In fact, I am going to structure this analysis post by exploring the journeys of these two reel librarians: Deborah “Deb” Tennis and Evelyn.

Let’s get to the killing, shall we?

The tale of Deborah Tennis || The tale of Evelyn || Tales of classic lit + movie posters || Tales of trivia + Easter eggs

The tale of Deborah Tennis (from stage fright to stage star)

The lead character in this movie is reel librarian Deborah Tennis, played by Natasha Lyonne. Her “origin” story begins the film, as we start with an external view of the Victoria Theatre in 1984, showing The Wizard of Oz. Debbie’s father owns the theater and is seen as supportive, telling Debbie she has “star quality,” while her mother, Tammy (dressed as the Wicked Witch of the West) is cruel and taunting. Debbie, dressed as Dorothy, starts singing nervously to the theater full of children and accompanied on the piano by her father. When taunted by the children – and her mother – her bladder lets go and drips onto the cord of the microphone. Debbie electrocutes herself, which causes the streak of grey in her reddish hair. 

Cut to present day, outside of the San Francisco Public Library’s Presidio Branch Library, and we learn about Deb’s commitment to the movie theater and her father’s legacy as she locks up the library and chats with Evelyn, another librarian. [More details about this conversation in Evelyn’s tale, below]

External view of the San Francisco Public Library's Presidio Branch Library
External view of the San Francisco Public Library’s Presidio Branch Library

First kill

Deb then opens up the theater, and we meet the projectionist, Mr. Twigs (played by Jack Donner). Deb reads a book while staffing the concession stand. Her hair is in a messy bun, and her outfit is drab, with an olive skirt, brown button-down shirt, and tan cardigan. 

(Click the photos in the gallery below to view in a larger window.)

At 11:44 minutes, her mother (played by Julie Caitlin Brown) confronts her about wanting to sell the movie theater, demands that Deb sign the papers, and insults her AND her profession.

Tammy: Now you listen to me. You are nothing but a boring, little librarian with big, big dreams and hideous little looks. Besides, you read too much. You’re a loser, just like your fat ass father was.

Tammy then assaults Deb by holding Deb’s hand by the hot popcorn maker. Deb takes the pen and holds it like a weapon. Her mom scoffs at her.

Tammy: Face it. Your father knew deep down inside that you were useless. You’re one of those plain girls living in the world of the bland. You lack any sort of star quality.

Deb: Fuck you, Mother! [stabs her in the neck with the pen]

First kill!

The camera then cuts over to grainy security footage. (Is it odd that the concession stand counter kind of reminded me a library’s front desk counter?) And then we witness Deb’s transformation in self-confidence (and serial killing) begin as we see her shake out her hair from its messy bun – an interesting play off the Naughty Librarian’s signature move. 

Deb [now laughing]: Blood! The wicked bitch is dead! [unbuttons her blouse] Star quality. 

(Click the photos in the gallery below to view in a larger window.)

What an introduction and transformation to this central librarian character! 

The audience starts shouting at them to start the movie, and Deb rushes upstairs to project the movie. She accidentally starts playing the security footage onto the movie screen. Mr. Twigs, who had briefly gone out to the corner store, quickly dons a red blazer and announces on stage that this was an original short film. Deb then helps Mr. Twigs stash her mom’s body in the movie theater’s attic.

Deb revels in the praise for her “short film,” including after Steven, a high schooler and movie horror fan (played by Thomas Dekker), compliments  her “surveillance slaughter.”

Second kill

At 20:42, we see Deb back at the concession stand, but this time dressed in a trendier lace-trimmed top, and her hair down in waves. This is when Peaches Christ (a drag queen persona created by the film director Joshua Grannell) makes a cameo. Steven explains how major it is that Peaches, “the queen of the midnight movie scene here in San Francisco,” has come to the movie theater. 

I immediately said out loud, “No one better harm Peaches!”

Deb then encounters Veronica (Kat Turner), a Goth girl, who is talking on the phone while she orders a soda. An annoyed Deb, a quick thinker herself, puts a sleeping powder into Veronica’s soda. We are witnessing more of Deb’s transformation as she clearly sees opportunities (for murder) and takes risks. This is also the first time that Deb introduces herself as “De-BOR-ah,” an affectation that continues throughout. 

Veronica wakes up in a deserted theater. Deb and Mr. Twigs lure her down to the theater’s basement, where she runs into Deb, dressed up like Marie Antoinette and knitting. Deb recites the immortal first line of A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” There is a guillotine in the corner of the room. However, Mr. Twigs cannot fit the girl’s head through the hole.

Even in the midst of murder, Deb reveals her inner librarian.

Deb: You idiot! Fool! I said a proper guillotine. I gave you the book… Did you even read the book?

Did you even read the book?
Did you even read the book?

Deb then has an idea, and we cut to a movie poster, “A Tale of Two Severed Titties” and a long line outside the theater. Deb – looking glamorous with straight-ironed hair, eyeliner, and lipstick and outfitted in a 1940’s style black dress, similar to Joan Crawford or Bette Davis – introduces her new short film as a reminder for the audience to silence their cell phones during the movie. “Or else.”

Killer research

Evelyn then comes to the movie theater to find Deb and leaves a note for her. [There are more details of this scene in Evelyn’s tale below] Mr. Twigs brings the note to Deb, who’s sitting in the movie theater and reading another book (The Scarlet Letter) and taking notes. My librarian spidey senses lit up – she’s doing more research! 

Deb complains that Evelyn is too loud. Deb also reveals that she never went back to the library and that she’s not a librarian anymore. Rather, she’s an actress and a filmmaker. 

Just so we’re clear: According to Deb, talking in a movie theater is rude, but ditching your job without an explanation is not. Ok, then.

I'm not a librarian anymore
I’m not a librarian anymore.

Deb then reveals that they need more help. The camera then pans to a closeup of a newspaper with a front-page story of “Killer Twins Prepare for Release: Diabolical duo slaughtered entire family at age 7” and another article entitled “Trampsylvania” about how homelessness is up 12% from last year. A copy of A Tale of Two Cities is also visible. Next, we see a copy of a police report about the “killer twins” (played with almost-silent relish by real-life twin sisters, Jade Ramsey and Nikita Ramsey).

I was right – more research by this killer librarian! Deb may say she’s no longer a librarian, but she’s obviously still using her librarian skillz. There’s a saying in the library world that I think applies here: Once a librarian, ALWAYS a librarian.

A Tale of Two Cities and a newspaper, research for a serial killer librarian
Research for a serial killer librarian!

Deb then poses as the twins’ aunt as she and Mr. Twigs bring the twins back to the movie theater. On the way back to the movie theater, they spy Adrian, a violent man who is homeless, and their murder crew is complete. 

At 39 minutes into the movie, Deb lays down the rules to the crew at a diner, further cementing her transformation:

Deb: There’s magic in movies. I learned that from my father. You are entering into a code of conduct here, an artist’s secret society, and there are rules. I am in charge. You will do as I say, and in return, I will give you a life most people, they only dream about. This is the business we call show. And I’m your manager, your publicist, your agent, and your directress. Otherwise, you’re on your own.

Just a reminder that even though Deb no longer considers herself a librarian, she is still fixated on RULES. You can take the lady out of the library…

Third kill

The next scene, at 42 minutes into the movie,  involves the crew walking up to the San Francisco Public Library’s Presidio Branch Library at closing time. Their next victim for their next short film? Evelyn, the noisy librarian! [I go into more detail about the ensuing chase in the library in Evelyn’s tale below.]

The murder crew arrives at the Presidio Branch Library
The murder crew arrives at the Presidio Branch Library

In the next scene, the high schooler Steven is talking with his mom (played by Cassandra Peterson, who plays the iconic Elvira!!!) and reveals that he thinks he’s in love with “an older woman.” In a cheeky Easter Egg, his mom looks up to a poster of Elvira on his wall, but we know that he’s talking about Deb.

We next see Deb introducing her new short film, as a way to convey the movie theater etiquette of not talking during the movie – these moral lessons come at a deadly price, y’all. 

Fourth kill

Before the short film premiere, Steven’s date, mean girl Claire (Lyndsy Kail), is rude about Deb and drag queens. Claire also interrupts Deb’s introduction of the new short film by announcing that she has to go to the bathroom. Ever the opportunist, Deb dispatches Claire forthwith – and we get to see the shot that made it to the special edition’s Blu-ray cover! We also get another fun literary allusion – the clapboard reads “The Scarlet Leper” (The Scarlet Letter, a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne).

Deb closes in for another kill
Deb closes in for another kill

We then revisit Evelyn, who’s tied up in the movie theater attic – and again, those details are in Evelyn’s tale, below.

At just over an hour into the film, we next hear about another literature-inspired short film, as Deb and Mr. Twigs review footage in the projection room. They reference “The Slasher in the Rye” (The Catcher in the Rye, a novel by J. D. Salinger). Deb is feeling and sounding more self-confident… arguably over-confident by this point.

Because by this time, the high schooler Steven is getting suspicious by Claire’s sudden disappearance, and his friend Judy (Ariel Hart) pretends to be a reporter who wants to interview Deb. I’ll just say that we don’t hear from Judy again until the end of the movie, and her disappearance convinces Steven that “something is rotten” at the Victoria Theatre….

Meanwhile, Deb metamorphoses again, this time with a Clara Bow-type pout. A local reporter, Peter, interviews her, and Deb is referred to as a film director. Deb’s celebrity continues to rise, along with her ego.

Deborah Tennis, film director
Deborah Tennis, film director

At 1 hour and 12 minutes into the movie, the movie theater is advertising a “Soup Kitchen Matinee,” and we quickly see how this event is a cover for Deb to scout out potential victims for upcoming films.

Steven arrives with a police officer, Detective Woods (Nicholas Bearde), to ask to search the theater for Judy. Deb refuses and accuses Steven of being an “obsessed fan.” Detective Woods leaves to get a warrant (“We gotta do this by the book”… just a different book than Deb uses for inspiration, hah! 😉 ), and Deb confronts Steve outside the theater. 

Final kill

This conversation sets the scene for the finale and the premiere of Deb’s first feature-length film, “Gore and Peace.” They hand out complimentary beverages to the audience members – including Peaches Christ! Again, nothing better harm Peaches!!! – and tell them to wait until directed to drink it. Steven’s mom shows up, in an effort to better understand Steven’s interest in Deb and in horror movies, so Steven feels he has to stay to protect his mom and to find out what happened to Claire and Judy. 

Deb is dressed in her most avant-garde outfit yet, with her highest hair. Her ego has risen in tandem with her hair volume.

Deb's highest hairstyle
Deb’s highest hairstyle

Deb announces that they’re going “to make film history tonight” by premiering “the debut of a brand new type of cinema.” No one pays attention at first to Steven’s pleas to not drink the complimentary beverages (which are poisonous)… and then all hell breaks loose. The audience realizes they are locked into the theater, and the decomposing victims start dropping out of the attic through a blood-soaked grate. [Yes, Evelyn’s body is one of them… but again, more details about that in Evelyn’s tale below.]

Finally, at 1 hour and 30 minutes into the movie, Deb, Steven, and his mom end up on the roof, with Deb threatening Steven’s mom with a knife. Deb has a wild look in her eyes, and you can tell Natasha Lyonne relished every over-the-top facial expression she got to give during this climactic scene.

(Click the photos in the gallery below to view in a larger window.)

Steven and his mom taunt Deb about her lack of “star quality,” which sends Deb over the edge… literally. Deb falls onto the spotlights outside the movie theater. A star til the very end…

That was indeed a journey with reel librarian Deb, from stage fright to stage star to finally becoming a victim to her own success and ego. And even though she rejected being a librarian, she couldn’t shake her research instincts, which we witnessed her employ in order to find members of her murderous film crew as well as to create short films that played off classic works of literature. 

Deb’s reel librarian role + significance

What role and character type did Deb serve in the movie? She is the lead of the movie, so this movie definitely qualifies as a Class I film, in which librarians are lead characters, and their occupations serve as a catalyst or are otherwise integral to the plot. In a way, you could argue that Deb is a Naughty Librarian, one who is considered unsuccessful in their profession and finds an (illegal or unethical) outlet to express their unfulfilled desires. Deb does embrace her “femme fatale” persona throughout the film.

However, I think Deb is more akin to a Liberated Librarian, as she becomes more confident and assertive through the course of the film… but the twist (of the knife) is that contrary to most Liberated Librarians, who find liberation through being a librarian, Deb finds liberation from the library by killing people. But in her mind, she doesn’t just murder people for fun… she murders them for a reason, because they break “the rules,” her rules. Yet in killing them, she becomes the ultimate rule-breaker herself.

The tale of Evelyn (from cats to (body) cast)

The role of Evelyn is played by actress Mink Stole, who has appeared in every film directed by John Waters.

First sin

Evelyn first appears after the title credits as the screen pans to the San Francisco Public Library, present day. We get our first glimpse of both Evelyn and Deb on the steps outside the front doors. The two reel librarians have clearly just locked up the library for the night and have paused for some introductory exposition. Their conversation reveals Deb’s situation with the movie theater, and we also learn more personal details about Evelyn. Evelyn also criticizes Deb and her interests, casting her first sin — at least in Deb’s eyes.

Evelyn: So how are you really, dear?

Deb: I’m fine.

Evelyn: You know, I’m concerned, Deb. Ever since your father passed, well, you need to talk about it. It just kills me to think of you sitting over there, running all that horror nonsense. Those are not real movies.

Deb: The plan is business as usual.

Evelyn: Honey, I know what it’s like to feel alone. No husband, no children. Just me and the cats.

Evelyn says it's "Just me and the cats"
This should be a meme.

Deb: I’m sorry, Evelyn. I need to get to the theater before the –

Evelyn: Deb, I’m serious. Don’t take on your father’s showbiz debts and burdens. Honey, I know you were close, but, well, there’s no future there.

Deb: My father invested everything he had into the Victoria Theatre. He truly loved the movie experience, and above all else, Daddy was a showman. Years of blood, sweat, and tears went into the business he loved so much, the business of show. He never wanted me to be a librarian. I was to be a great Hollywood actress. Well, I may have disappointed my father in life, but I’m gonna do my absolute best to make him proud, even in death. It’s like Daddy always said, the show must go on. 

Another meme-worthy moment: Here’s how Evelyn reacted when Deb stated that her dad never wanted her to be a librarian. INDEED.

Evelyn's reaction when her colleague Deb says she was never supposed to be a librarian, but a Hollywood actress instead.
Another meme-worthy moment after a fellow librarian says she was never supposed to be a librarian.

Second sin

Half an hour later, at 33 minutes, we see Evelyn walking to the movie theater and knocking loudly at the locked front doors (her second sin is being loud). She is wearing casual clothing, including a straw hat, a floral canvas jacket, and a chunky necklace. 

Evelyn finally leaves a note and card for Deb under the ticket booth window.

Evelyn knocks at the movie theater entrance
Evelyn knocks at the movie theater entrance

Mr. Twigs brings the note to Deb, who is researching. Deb has a negative reaction to Evelyn’s note (and knocking), and we learn more about her dynamic with Evelyn.

Deb: I know. I heard her. Everyone heard her.

Mr. Twigs: She’s old.

Deb: It was Evelyn, the librarian. [She opens the letter.] She’s worried about me. I was scheduled to work at the library and haven’t shown up. I can’t go back there. I’m not a librarian anymore. You know, Evelyn doesn’t know me at all. How dare she come here and bang on the door? I mean, she was banging, right? Not knocking. She’s always so loud. I have work to do, Mr. Twigs. I can no longer sell tickets and shovel popcorn. I am not a concessionnaire. I’m an actress. I am a filmmaker. How dare she.

Uh oh. Watch out, Evelyn! No one likes a loud librarian! Rogue, rule-breaking librarians need to be stopped!

And Evelyn has indeed become the target of Deb’s next movie… and murder. At 42:37 minutes, the new crew is walking up to the library at night. I have a bad feeling about this…

Shushing the librarian

Next we see Evelyn behind the library counter, dressed in a bright print top and chunky necklace. (I admit, I admire Evelyn’s sense of style. She’s not afraid of bold colors and prints!) We can see a cart of books and tied-up newspapers and books behind her. Evelyn then walks through the library and calls out, “Good night, books.” (I found this quite charming! I can neither confirm nor deny that I have done the same thing. 😉 ) We also see a closeup of a row of books with call numbers and barcodes. Those little details reveal how this was filmed at a real-life library. (You can see past photos of the Presidio Branch Library here, and you can tell it’s the same library.)

(Click the photos in the gallery below to view in a larger window.)

Evelyn hears a noise and looks around. And Evelyn’s tale here also becomes a tale of shushes, as this reel librarian gets shushed a total of 7 times (!) during this scene.

Evelyn: Hello? Is there anybody there? 

[Deb: Shhhh] 

Evelyn [to herself]: You are really crazy, lady. Now you’re hearing shushes. 

[Deb: Shhhh] 

Evelyn: Hello? I said the library’s closed.

A spotlight flicks on, and Deb runs around to see the camera crew and Deb in her French Revolution wig and costume.

And I told you, Madam Evelyn, to shhh
And I told you, Madam Evelyn, to shhh.

Evelyn [clearly shocked]: I said the library was closed.

Deb: And I told you, Madam Evelyn, to shhh.

Evelyn: Who are you? What is this all about?

Deb: Perhaps my lady does not understand ye olde English. Shhhh means shut the fuck up, bitch! [slaps her]

Reel librarian fight!
Reel librarian fight!

Evelyn runs into a bookcase corner and pulls out a pair of scissors from her tote bag. (I admit, I was impressed by Evelyn’s pluck and resourcefulness.)

Deb grabs Evelyn through a bookcase, still taunting Evelyn.

Deb: So you can be quiet. My lady was quiet as a mouse. 

Evelyn stabs Deb’s hand with the scissors but is confronted by the twins, both of whom shush her!

Evelyn then pushes out a row of books to escape through a bookcase, but she drops the scissors. Deb picks up the scissors, and the lights come up. Evelyn finally recognizes Deb.

Evelyn puts up a good fight

This chase scene in the library ends at 45:30 minutes and last 3 minutes total.

Two minutes later, at 47:46 minutes, we return to the library, where Deb has brought out a sewing kit and prepares to sew Evelyn’s mouth shut. (And probably used Evelyn’s scissors to cut the thread. Oh, the irony.) The camera is rolling as Deb continues to chide Evelyn for being loud.

Deb: As victors of my silence cannot boast, I was not sick of any fear from thence. For I impair not beauty, being mute, when others would give life and bring a tomb.

Evelyn: Oh, Debbie, please. You don’t have to do this. Listen to me, whatever this is all about, we can get you some help.

Deb: All done? Shhhhh.

Deb then proceeds to sew Evelyn’s mouth shut (FYI, they used a prosthetic for this). Switching to grainy black and white, we see Deb turn to the camera.

Deb: You’re getting this in close-up, right?

You're getting this in close up, right?
You’re getting this in close up, right?

Deb then drives home the message to the audience.

Deb: My movie theater shall be silent as a library, a managerial promise made to thee. Silence whilst the movie screens, for if thou speech is deemed undo, you too shall star in “The Maiming of the Shrew.”

My movie theater shall be silent as a library
Library film set

The library scene ends at 49:40 minutes, lasting two minutes. The complete library scene with Evelyn, comprised of both the chase scene and final filming scene, lasts a totality of 5 minutes.

The final insult

About ten minutes later, Deb’s newest short film premieres to a full house. The camera then pans to the movie theater’s attic, where we see that Evelyn is still alive, still tied up and her mouth still sewn shut! She is surrounded by other bodies. While the film plays, she starts screaming and tears open the threads on her mouth. Mr. Twigs realizes what has happened and comes up with an axe.

Evelyn: Somebody! Help me! [sees Mr. Twigs] You motherfucker. You let me out! You hear me, you ignorant old fuck! Let me out of here, you illiterate old fuck!

Mr. Twigs [swinging down the axe]: She told you to shush.

Yes, Evelyn the librarian gets shushed one last time, EVEN AFTER DEATH. The indignity, y’all.

Steven goes out to the lobby and congratulates Deb on her new movie.

Steven: Your new movie’s amazing! Seriously, it’s like they just keep getting bigger and better. Who was that lady? She was rad.

Deb: Thanks, Steven. She’s an old friend.

We know “that lady” and “an old friend” is Evelyn. I’m going to react here by channeling Evelyn’s facial expression from earlier:

Channeling Evelyn's librarian stare
Channeling Evelyn’s librarian stare

There is one more scene featuring [parts of] Evelyn. All hell breaks loose for Deb’s feature film debut. A local reporter describes it as, “Filmmaker Deborah Tennis is conducting a real life movie massacre.” As everyone is screaming and trying to get out of the movie theater they are locked in, the decomposing bodies start dropping out of the attic through the grate. Evelyn’s hand – a very realistic-looking prosthetic, props to the prop department! – drops into Peaches Christ’s popcorn. [That’s a sentence I never thought I’d write!]

Adrian then comes at Peaches with a cleaver, and Evelyn gets her final revenge. Her beheaded body drops from the ceiling… and lands on Adrian’s own head, suffocating and killing him.

DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE LIBRARIANS, Y’ALL. 😉

I did pause and cheer for Evelyn’s final revenge! (I also couldn’t help but laugh because it reminded me of the Thanksgiving episode of Friends when both Joey and Monica wear the turkey on their heads.)

So that is the tale of Evelyn the reel librarian… from cats to (body) cast. 

Evelyn’s reel librarian role + significance

What role did Evelyn serve in this movie? Her character held some surprises for me. Sure, they made a point of highlighting that Evelyn was single and had cats – a hallmark of the lonely, Spinster Librarian character type – but she also looked like a woman happy with her life choices. She also cared about Deb and was worried about her — although she expressed this in a nosy, judgmental way (“Those are not real movies”) — and took the time to try and contact Deb in person. Evelyn also showed pluck and resourcefulness in how she fought against the murderous crew in the library, brandishing her scissors and crawling through bookcases. She was also viewed as a rule-breaker (at least by Deb) for being loud.

Because a lot of her role, especially the beginning scene, filled in expository details, I think Evelyn partially serves as an Information Provider. Dressed in brightly colored, patterned clothing and jewelry, I think her characterization also plays against the Spinster Librarian character type (but is still informed by that stereotype). And based on all those shushes and the body-dropping final shot of her time onscreen – which is a hilariously campy and suspension-of-disbelief kind of moment – I would also argue that Evelyn also partially serves as Comic Relief.

Surprisingly (to me!), I would also argue that Evelyn could be seen as an Atypical portrayal, as well. We see her outside the library, when she walks to the movie theater, and we witness her personality and intelligence, like when she fights in the library and when she continues to yell at Mr. Twigs at the very end. She doesn’t have that much screen time, relatively speaking, but Mink Stole soaks up every minute she does get onscreen and has truly created a memorable reel librarian character in Evelyn.

Tales of classic lit + movie posters

The movie credits feature posters of more movies directed by Deborah Tennis, all based on classic literature title puns! Two of the posters, “A Tale of Two Severed Titties” and “Gore and Peace,” were featured in the movie, as I mention above, but the other posters are new. (Interesting that “The Slasher in the Rye” was mentioned in the movie but isn’t featured here.)

  • A Tale of Two Severed Titties (A Tale of Two Cities, a novel by Charles Dickens)
  • Gore and Peace (War and Peace, a novel by Leo Tolstoy)
  • The Diary of Anne Frankenstein (a literary mashup from The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank, and Frankenstein, a novel by Mary Shelley)
  • The Satanic Nurses (The Satanic Verses, a novel by Salman Rushdie)
  • I Know Why the Caged Girl Screams (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a memoir by Maya Angelou)
  • MacDeath (Macbeth, a play by William Shakespeare)

Tales of trivia + Easter eggs

Most of the trivia below comes from the special features and documentaries included in the special edition Blu-ray.

  • The title, All About Evil, comes from the 1950 classic movie, All About Eve, starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter. (I love that this movie references both classic and cult classic cinema!)
  • The director, Joshua Grannell, grew up loving horror movies and studied film production at Penn State. His first short film, “Jizzmopper” also featured the origin of his Peaches Christ drag character. 
  • Grannell moved to San Francisco after college and became a theater manager at a local single-screen movie theater, The Bridge Theatre, and began the “Midnight Mass” stage show in the late 1990s. 
  • Grannell made a short film called “Grindhouse” that All About Evil is based on… and “Grindhouse” was included in the special edition Blu-ray!
  • Mink Stole was the first celebrity guest for the “Midnight Mass” stage show and agreed to be in the movie without reading the script.
  • Cassandra Peterson (the iconic Elvira) was jealous of Mink Stole’s part in All About Evil!
  • Grannell envisioned Deb’s character as similar to Doris Wishman, who was an American film director and screenwriter, particularly in the sexploitation film genre… and Natasha Lyonne, Grannell’s dream choice for the lead, had actually met Doris Wishman in real life!
  • The movie was scheduled to shoot at the Bridge Theatre, but had to find a different location 10 days before shooting began. The Victoria Theatere served as the actual set in the film.
  • Peaches Christ was not originally meant to be in the feature film. Joshua Grannell spent 8 days of filming as Peaches, which he revealed were the hardest days for him, as he had to apply the drag makeup before he came to set. He was known as “Peachua” on those days.
  • The film’s premiere was at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2010, and they did a “Peaches Christ” road show with the movie to introduce it across the U.S.
  • Mink Stole, an indie film pro, started taking charge in the library scene to hurry up production!
  • The “Behind the Evil: 2010 Making of” featurette reveals several behind-the-scenes shots of the library scene and reel librarians!

Continuing the conversation

As I mentioned above, All About Evil is based on Joshua Grannell’s 2003 short film, “Grindhouse.” This original short, which is 13 minutes long, is featured on the Blu-ray special edition, and I watched just enough to find out that the short film’s lead character is still a librarian. The light bulb went off in my head… so I will follow up next time in November with an analysis post about the original short film, “Grindhouse.” Let’s continue the scary season, shall we? 🙂

I also thought it would be interesting to compare the serial killer librarian in Chainsaw Sally with the serial killer librarian Deb in this movie… what do y’all think about that idea for a future post? Cage match between reel librarian serial killers!

Have you seen All About Evil? Is campy horror your thing? Are you intrigued by the two reel librarian characters in this movie? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used

Real-life librarian perspectives about horror movies

It’s scary season again during the month of October! This is a time when I focus on analyzing reel librarian portrayals in horror movies, thrillers, etc. To start us off in (scary) style, I thought it would be fun to explore and learn from some additional real-life librarians sharing their perspectives about horror movies. I’m far from the only librarian interested in movies!

‘An Exploration of the Librarian in Horror’ film festival chat

This video presentation, embedded below, was part of the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival and was shared in July 2022.

The presenter is Dr. Katrin Seyler, who “morphed from a trained historian into a librarian during the 2010s and has always enjoyed digging through archives for dusty and bizarre things. Her fondness for horror was born out of an illicit viewing of Hellraiser sometime in the early 90s.”

In this talk, Dr. Seyler shares insights about reel librarians in horror movies, including Ghostbusters (1984), It (1990), Se7en (1995), Chainsaw Sally (2004), Tale of a Vampire (1992), and more!

“An Exploration of the Librarian in Horror” video uploaded by Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, Standard YouTube license

‘Behind the Couch’ blog

James Gracey, a library assistant and writer, is the writer and voice watching horror movies from “Behind the Couch.” I love the site’s tag line: “Safe fear in a domestic setting.” James shares regular posts and reviews of all types of horror movies, all year round. James is also a published author, and I particularly find the Interviews page interesting, as James includes interviews with several artists, writers, and publishers specializing in all things horror, including Dario Argento, famed director of horror classics, such as Suspiria (1997). Check it out!

Explore the Behind the Couch website & blog

Screenshot of Behind the Couch Interviews page
Screenshot of Behind the Couch Interviews page

‘Haunted Librarian’ blog

The Haunted Librarian blog has reviews of all things haunted, including movies, TV shows, and books. The librarian behind the site is named Brandi, who shares that “I’m obsessed with many different things including but not limited to Halloween, spooky stuff, the occult, music, and the 80s” and that “I am an actual librarian” and “My brain is an actual library.”

I particularly loved the Haunted Librarian’s recent post about the story collection, Thirteen: 13 Tales of Horror by 13 Masters of Horror, which includes short stories by some great YA horror authors, including Christopher Pike, R. L. Stine, Caroline B. Cooney, and more. I have this SAME story collection in my personal library, too (!), and some of those stories in this collection, like Ellen Emerson White’s “The Boy Next Door,” still haunt me to this day.

Explore the Haunted Librarian blog

Screenshot of the Haunted Librarian website logo
Screenshot of the Haunted Librarian website logo

‘The Movie Librarians’ podcast

The Movie Librarians, a podcast that was active in 2020-2021, was hosted by Deepti Limaye and Martin Chandler, two librarians and educators in Canada who reviewed movies and chatted about movie recommendations.

Their final episode in 2021 focused on the horror movie, Us (2019), directed by Jordan Peele and starring Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke.

Listen to “Us (2019)” podcast by The Movie Librarians

Screenshot of The Movie Librarians podcast
Screenshot of The Movie Librarians podcast

‘The Librarian Is In’ podcast

The long-running The Librarian Is In podcast is “the New York Public Library’s podcast about books, culture, and what to read next.”

In the “Terror! Horror! Revulsion!” podcast (Episode 62, aired on Oct. 26, 2017), “adult services librarian Isaiah Pittman horrifies Gwen and Frank with scary book and film recommendations!”

Adult services librarian Isaiah Pittman returned in 2018 for Episode 114, “Between Terror and Humor,” in which he talks more scary books and movies.

‘Fright Club’ podcast

And last — but hopefully, not least — I wanted to share again the 2 times I was lucky enough to be a guest on the Fright Club podcast, hosted by the talented and wickedly funny George and Hope of Maddwolf.com.

Last February, we chatted and laughed about memorable library scenes in horror movies:

And a few months later, in Aug. 2021, I returned to chat about memorable librarians in horror movies:


Hope you enjoyed this round-up of different librarian voices and perspectives on horror movies! I am sure this round-up is only scratching the surface… please share more fun librarian podcasts or blogs about horror movies in the comments. 🙂

Stay tuned for a special analysis post next time to wrap up this scary season!

BONUS! ‘Fright Club’ podcast redux: Librarians in horror films

I re-joined MaddWolf for a follow-up podcast all about librarians in horror movies

More exciting news to share with y’all! Earlier this year, back in February, you may remember that I had been invited by George Wolf and Hope Madden of MaddWolf.com to join them on an episode of their Fright Club podcast, an episode that focused on memorable library moments in horror movies. We had so much fun that Hope and George invited me for a follow-up Fright Club podcast that would dive into memorable portrayals of librarians in horror movies (not just scenes set in libraries).

Well, that time has come. THIS IS NOT A DRILL, Y’ALL. 😉

Head on over to MaddWolf.com to listen to the new “Fright Club: Librarians in Horror” podcast episode, in which I re-join Hope and George to chat about memorable major librarian characters in horror films. I came to the table with my top 5 librarians in horror, and Hope and George shared their personal top 5 — and there was some overlap! We had so much fun chatting and laughing about librarians in horror movies, so check it out… if you dare! 

Here’s a line from the podcast episode:

“You just sum it up in one sentence, and you just want to watch it: It’s a librarian by day, a chainsaw-wielding serial killer by night. I mean, that’s all you need!”

From “Fright Club: Librarians in Horror” podcast, MaddWolf.com, 29 Aug. 2021

There are mannnnnnnny more awesome — or awesomely bad! — major reel librarian characters in horror movies that we didn’t have space for in the podcast. So as a teaser, below are a few additional titles that didn’t make my final list…

… and now go and listen to the Fright Club podcast to see which librarians in horror movies DID make the cut! 😀


Do you have some personal faves in our collective lists? Some additional major librarian roles in horror to add to the list? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used:

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