Halfway through the Midsummer Scream Screaming Room (presented by HorrorBuzz!) Award Ceremony a few weeks ago, the lights darkened, and a music video began to play. As a sort of “half time show,” it was for the song Zombie Boy, an incredibly catchy tune by MR. HE, one of the co-hosts for the evening. MR. HE took center stage, and proceeded to over the music track, living out her full Rocky Horror fantasy in front of the audience.
For those few minutes, nothing else existed but this queen, with a blue face and mustache, telling her story. With the video playing behind her, she played it up and the audience was enthralled. Though I had met MR. HE earlier in the evening, this was different. This was her in full-on performance mode, and let me tell you, it left an impression on me. After it was over, and the awards continue, I knew I had to find out more about just who this incredible creature was.
MR. HE is the brainchild and alter ego of Parker Allen Stanley, a longtime lover of all things spooky. I already knew that MR. HE had a background in horror, but I didn’t know the extent!
“I grew up with it,” said MR. HE. “From Goosebumps to Casper, it was my childhood. My favorite movie was The Nightmare Before Christmas. I couldn’t figure out why I always identified with the monster.” Like many readers to the site, that love of horror as a child lead to other things. In MR. HE’s case, it was building home haunts.
“My father and I (would build) home haunts for my birthday parties, ever since my 13th birthday. After that I would go to Knott’s Scary Farm, Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights, and any other (home) haunts I could get my hands on.” A dedicated fan of haunts, despite living across the country these days, MR. HE still flies back to California every year for a week to visit all the haunted attractions.
To further the spooky connection, MR. HE’s birthday is October 27th, so Halloween has always been very big at her home.
“My dad and I have been building home haunts in our garage and front yard for about 10 years now. A few years ago, we started to make it queer.” The clown props would start wearing her wigs, the clown mouth entrance was painted to look like MR. HE, and of course, MR. HE was in full drag hosting the event.
Much like other home haunts, when the pandemic struck, MR. HE had to get creative. Instead of their traditional haunt, they went for a drive-in experience, allowing people to pull their cars right up into a private screening of the Zombie Boy music video.
“We had movie theater doors, a ticket booth, and me in full drag, handing out concessions!” MR. HE laughed. She also gives credit to her father, Dexter, for allowing her to turn their home haunt into a queer friendly space, long before others were doing so.
Despite the blood and gore of horror, MR. HE, much like many others, find that it’s a very welcoming community.
“There’s just coming so communal about horror,” MR. HE said. “It truly brings people together. Even during the pandemic, I’d watch horror movies online with a group of people every Tuesday and Friday thanks to Horror Host, Unkle Spooky. It’s nice to have a community and a support system that focuses on strength, survival, overcoming fear, and adversity. I needed that when I was growing up in extremely religious environment that made me feel disposable. I’d keep thinking… If you think I’m a monster now, just you wait! Because I know monsters! and I’ll become your worst nightmare! *CUE MR. HE* the blue cross dressing, drag queen monster of my wildest dream!”
When asked about the genesis of MR. HE, she laughed that that was a very long story, one that will be revealed in the future. But she did give me an abridged answer.
“I like to call MR. HE the ghost underneath my sheets,” she said. “To me, a sheet ghosts represents a spirit searching for closure. That’s what MR. HE allows me as Parker to do. She gives me the ability to publicly be vulnerable in an abstraction persona.”
What is interesting is that she also has some poignant views on society overall, which directly relate into MR. HE, and how she is presented.
“We, as a species, have completely lost touch with humanity,” she said. “People don’t care about each other. Parker crying at a piano is such an eye roll. But MR. HE (doing so) allows you to escape into a world of fantasy, while simultaneously allowing myself to search for human connection. It’s in those moments I can get closure with the horrors around me.”
I also love how she described how MR. HE in general is supposed to be a commentary on gender overall. With her blue face and mustache, it drives that point home even further.
“I wanted you to be so confused about the being in front of you that you have no choice but to just accept it. MR. HE also a play on the word mystery because you never know what you’re going to get.”
MR. HE considers the realm she works in to be queer cult horror.
“I always crave a grand, gay ol’ time, so buckle up because it’s probably going to be something you’ve never seen before.” Everything that she does as MR. HE has a hint of horror to it, whether it’s a haunting visual or even a reference in the lyrics. As for the cult aspect, she explained that means it’s meant to be replicated, reproduced, and regurgitated…so it’s no surprise that her performance of Zombie Boy at the award ceremony had a hint of Rocky Horror Picture Show to it.
“I want to make material that targets a group of people who need it most. Those who’ve been told they are the monsters. I want to help liberate them. I’m not looking to scare you straight…quite the opposite.” According to MR. HE, she thinks that horror is a great way to teach empathy.
When it comes to MR. HE’s musical career, it’s something of a happy accident on how that came to be.
“All of this is a product of Ms. Corona. I don’t’ know if I would’ve ever released music had the shutdown not happened,” MR. HE joked. As a performer, she used to travel and tour with original musicals; cabaret shows where she would sit at a piano and entertain while also telling a story. When the pandemic hit, and the audiences were no longer in their seats, she had to translate her shows into something else. Zombie Boy was test run for her, but she fell in love with the recording process.
One HOLYCHILD, MR. HE’s favorite band, announced they were breaking up, she reached out to Louie Diller, the instrumentalist and producer for the band, to express her condolences. After ‘accidentally’ (her words, not mine!) sending Diller a video of MR. HE cry singing at a piano, one thing lead to another, and now they are seven songs into a musical partnership.
“I’ve had books full of written songs, just waiting on the back burners, and he helped bring them to life,” MR. HE said. “I’ll forever be grateful for his help. His production is top tier and he really listens to all my crazy ideas…ALL of them!” Their process is pretty collaborative, with MR. HE sending clips of herself playing piano, with pages of lyrics, and Diller turns it around into an entire brass section in the studio.
When it comes to Zombie Boy, it’s an idea that’s been kicking around in MR. HE’s head for seven years.
“There’s a video of me singing it from 2014. I’ve always been a very emotional person and the best way for me to achieve some sort of therapeutic release is to write about it. I truly believe that even a catchy pop song can not only change but save someone’s life.”
The song was important to MR. HE, especially in that it was a ballad of a man who was never able to be himself.
“It was my biggest fear at the time, not being able to authentically live the life I desired. I was watching it happen to someone so close to me and I refused for the same to happen to me. I was watching him decay, and he became my best kept secret…my zombie boy.”
Though the song evolved over time to something bigger, the heart of it stayed the same. And when it came time to produce MR. HE’s first single, this was the obvious choice.
“It’s a story of queer horror but also of forgiveness. I mean it when I sing: ‘I hope you found the happiness you were searching for.’ It allowed me to let go.”
Zombie Boy was only the beginning, as MR. HE has released two other songs since then, with more in the works. If Zombie Boy is about forgiveness, then The Bride Of is about acceptance, and Six Feet Deep is all about anger and revenge.
“I think that queer people spend the majority of their formative years pretending to be someone else, and then all of a sudden you can just flip this switch,” MR. HE said. “ (You can) start living the life you want to live and unlearning the life you lived.”
But it’s important to know that, with that liberation comes push back and sacrifice.
“Are you willing to give up toxic environments and relationships to better yourself, even though it’s so familiar to you?” MR. HE said. “That’s why the bridge (of the song) is a Poltergeist reference; the horror isn’t just inside the house, its underneath. It’s built within the foundation (and the pool!).”
At the end of the day, though, it’s clear that walking away is easier said than done.
“That’s why I needed you, as the listener, to know that you can leave. You can go. You can get on a horse and run. Don’t wait for an apology. Sometimes you’ll never get one.”
However, if only one thing is clear, it’s that MR. HE is an incredibly gifted performer, and one that people, not just horror fans, should keep an eye on. From incredibly performances to some pretty amazing songs, I am confident that MR. HE will is well on her way to becoming a household name for horror fans.
Jeff Heimbuch writes. A lot. On a variety of things and in different mediums. He also created the fiction podcasts LIGHT HOUSE and RETURN HOME (of which you can find both on all podcasting platforms), loves all things horror, works in social media, and is probably writing something right now. You can find him on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok at @jeffheimbuch.