Meet the Queen of the Scream, Shriekfest Founder Denise Gossett

(Denise Gossett)

As we stand at the precipice of a new October, and in turn one of my favorite holidays Halloween, that means we are hours away from one of Reel 360’s favorite horror film festivals – Shriekfest International Horror/Sci fi Film Festival. Now in its 21st year, the festival is a mecca for independent horror filmmakers and fans across the country and has been recognized by LA Weekly, MovieMaker Magazine and Dread Central as one of the best horror festivals in the country.

That can directly be attributed to its founder, horror film festivals’ Queen of Scream, Denise Gossett. This curly-haired blonde leader has created a sanctuary at Raleigh Studios, not just for specially-curated horror films, but Denise has also built what she likes to call, “The Shriekfest Family.”

Born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Denise came to Los Angeles after moving from Harrisburg, Illinois to Wassau, Wisconsin, and living for a time in Orlando, Florida, with her parents and younger brother. Although Denise always expressed an interest in acting, it wasn’t until her senior year in high school that her interest truly piqued.

After performing in the Female Odd Couple she auditioned for a scholarship towards schooling at SCC, which she was awarded. Denise immersed herself in theater, working behind the scenes as well as onstage. After receiving her Associate’s Degree, Denise transferred to Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where she received a scholarship towards her studies.

When her career path took her into film and TV, Denise found success. She played the role of Lena Luthor during the fourth season of The Adventures of Superboy. Upon moving to Los Angeles, a year after receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Theater, she immersed herself with Improv (taking classes at the famed Groundlings), acting classes, and auditions, which led to working on commercials for Wal-Mart, Boeing, United Health Care, Secret Deodorant and Quicken Loans.

Denise soon found herself working on TV in a variety of roles, appearing on such shows as The Office, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Samantha Who?, Veronica Mars, and Drake & Josh. Denise also has recurring and series regular roles on television series such as Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101 as Tipper Rivers, HBO/Deadwood Mysteries, The Great Imposter (TV Pilot), Fashion House as well as the M.O.W.’s: The Last Ride (starring with Dennis Hopper) and The Life of Tonya Harding.

After starring in the horror feature Chain of Souls, Denise founded the Shriekfest in Los Angeles. With over two decades of success, the festival has given Denise the opportunity to support numerous filmmakers and screenwriters. Take a look at this year’s trailer below:

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We had a chance to sit with Denise before Shriekfest opens tonight.

Congratulations on being live again! Unlike other fests, you chose not to go virtual last year during a BIG year – the 20th! What did you miss most?  

We didn’t do a fest last year because I didn’t want to go virtual… it’s just not the same.  We never opened our call in 2021, so, these are the films that would’ve played in 2020.  I felt they all deserved a “live” event and they are all so grateful we waited.  

Are there any particular films you’re looking forward to this year? 

All of them!  I know that sounds silly, but, truly, a film does not make it into Shriekfest unless it’s great…I just love watching others “see” them for the first time… it’s really exciting to hear the reactions during the screening and listen to conversations after the screening.

How does an unknown filmmaker compete against so many shorts with known talent? 

We are an indie film festival… yes, sometimes there are recognizable people in a film, but, honestly, that is rarer than not.  And, there are many films with stars in them that don’t make the cut. Our main focus is on indie films, not on what star you can put in your film.

Is there any new technology Shriekfest is using this year?  

Raleigh Studios, where we hold the festival is constantly updating their projection and sound, etc.  So, that alone means my filmmakers are getting the best that is out there.  I love the theaters there… filmmakers come out saying they’ve never seen their film look so good.  And that’s why we stay.

With so many outlets desiring horror content, how needed are horror film festivals?  

I think the right festivals are very beneficial to filmmakers.  Festivals do the “leg work and narrowing down” so to speak…studios and streaming platforms can come to us without having to watch as many films as we do.  

What is the future for a short horror film after its festival run?  

Well, sometimes they can be purchased for anthologies or on streaming services.  That is what I would be shooting for as a short filmmaker.  At the very least, the film can live on the filmmakers’ website and YouTube channel as their calling card to boost them forward to their next projects.

What other festivals do you admire?  

I’m so busy with my festival that I don’t make it out to many festivals, but, I’ve heard great things about New York Horror and The Women In Horror Film Festival.  Please be careful, I’ve been to quite a few as an actress and they are not all run well.  Ask around before you spend your money.  

Denise can most recently be seen in the Tom Hiddleston movie I Saw the Light, the Mel Gibson starring Feature Film Get The Gringo and the Morris Chestnut movie When the Bough Breaks.

Entrance to SHRIEKFEST Film Festival 2021 is $10.00 per block, an All-Fest Pass, good for all four days of the festival, is now available on our website, for just $120.00, this pass includes the opening night party and guaranteed entrance to all films/Q&A’s. Click here for tickets.


Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1