Category Archives: horror

What do you think horror means for feminism?

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Today my short horror film Red Blob Massacre was screened at a student-organized feminist fair at the University of Michigan. After the screening, there was a question and answer period. One of the questions asked was:

What do you think horror means for feminism?

It was a difficult question to answer. Sometimes I’m not even sure what feminism means. Sometimes I have a hard time answering difficult questions like that on the spot. So, I gave the best answer I could. Thinking about it afterward, of course I always think I could have said something better. Why didn’t I think of this in the moment? Oh damn, I should have said that…

My answer in the moment was, in a somewhat jumbled way, that I think the grotesque of horror allows anyone, male or female, to release something that is pent up inside. it’s an outlet for violence and anger, and also for insecurity. With females portrayed as being such beautiful/pure/perfect people in the media, perhaps horror is the juxtaposition of that. It’s the bloody of the feminine….

What do you think?

Image source:

Terror Cult: The Pains of Being a Gal, Flowering

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The RED BLOB MASSACRE Trailer!!

Hi everyone,

I promise that this will be the last self-promotion post I write in a while :). It’s just, well, I had an earlier post about my MFA Thesis project, “Red Blob Massacre”, which I wrote right in the midst of making with golden promises of more stories to come, which in the end never did because I got lazy (and started a full-time job directly after graduating).

Anyway, to make a long story short, especially considering that it’s almost 3am in the morning and I’ve been editing at my computer since 4pm in the afternoon (and have to work at 9am), I will cut the small talk and just give you the meat of this lovely blog post.

The Trailer for RED BLOB MASSACRE:

Thanks for watching, please tell your friends! This was definitely one of my most spectacular (and grueling) projects yet, and I’m proud of it!

The link to the RED BLOB MASSACRE website: www.redblobmassacre.com

Red Blob Massacre: a silent horror film and live performance

Dear Readers,

Hi. How are you? I’m fine, thanks. Well actually, no I’m in freak-out mode. I’m in total spasm art mode. I’m in the wind-up mode until my graduate thesis project finally explodes in the eyes of the public next Thursday & Friday night, April 5 & 6. And then it will all be over. Well, almost anyways.

It’s interesting to track a project from its beginning all the way through to its current fruition. I say current fruition because even though next week this project will extend its long limbs out into the public sphere, it most certainly will continue to grow and develop into the future- be that at the international film festivals I intend to submit it to, as well as the art shows and live performance events I hope to present it at. In many ways, what’s special about this project is that it can fit into various modes of transmission. That, I hope, will transform the many, many hours that I and many others have put into this project into something greater than itself.

The project is a silent horror film and live performance titled Red Blob Massacre. 

Honestly, I wish I had the time and energy to explain all about the concept and research and inspiration and so on, but even just starting this blog post in the midst of it all makes me feel stressed out about all the things I should be doing to actually MAKE THIS EVENT HAPPEN.

So, for the time being, I’m going to include some screen shots below, and direct you to a few links which will at least introduce you more to the project until I come back in two weeks or so to tell you how it went. I’ve put a LOT into this project. And I’m more excited about it than anything I’ve worked on for a while. And as I mentioned before, so many great people have been involved with it. I hope, if you have the time, that you’ll visit the links I’ve included and tell your friends all about it. Thanks so much for your support.

Synopsis: A silent horror film and live performance. Maddy Blitz is a young woman with horrendous-looking teeth. Maddy’s nightmares of not fitting in clump together to form a giant RED BLOB that confronts her tormenters, eventually growing so big that it……..

Collaborators:

Written & Directed by: Emilia Javanica (me!)
Assistant Directors: Ian MacInnes & Jan Trumbauer
Director of Photography: Jessica Renée Lee
Assistant Director of Photography: Alan Torres
Lighting Design: Matt Infante
Puppet Design & Art Direction: Emilia Javanica
First Assistant Camera: Walter Lin
Grips:Joe Reed & Brett Firlik
Sound Design: Simon Alexander-Adams
Location Sound: Mike Chen, Rolando Palacio, Živan Rosić, Wes Swartz & Eric Lundgard
Green Screen Videographer: Jacques Mersereau
Green Screen Lighting Design: Jeff Alder
Editing & Stop Motion Animation: Emilia Javanica

Cast:

Emilia Javanica, Jan Trumbauer, Skyler Kragt, Taylor Henkin, John Kannenberg, Jeffrey Kaplan, Jeannine Thompson, Ali Amine and the RED BLOB

Red Blob Massacre blog site: http://redblobmassacre.wordpress.com/

Interview about process with Mark Maynard: http://markmaynard.com/2012/03/emilia-javanica-on-the-red-blob-massacre-and-what-its-like-to-shoot-ones-first-independent-film/

Red Blob Massacre on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RED-BLOB-MASSACRE/360836520597395

Red Blob Massacre on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/RedBlobMassacre

And last but not least, the poster for the premiere, which as I mentioned above, is happening NEXT WEEK!!!:

An Ode to Female Horror Directors

So, now that I’m making my first real film, I’ve been watching a lot of movies for inspiration, and reading a lot about the film directing process. One of the first things I realized, that never really stuck in my mind until I started working toward my own film project, is that there is a serious imbalance of attention paid to male and female directors. In the horror film genre, I have yet to watch one horror film while being aware that it was directed by a woman. Through my research, I now know there ARE women horror film directors out there, a few of the well-known female-directed horror films being “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “American Psycho” and “Pet Cemetery”. But most of the film history books reference male filmmakers. Seriously, before doing my research for this blog post, I have read lists and lists of classic and contemporary horror films directed by men, but NONE by women. To quote Rebecca Keegan, who wrote for the L.A. Times on February 1st, 2010:

“A woman is more likely to hold a seat on a Fortune 500 company board (15%), serve as a member of the clergy (15%), or work as an aerospace engineer (10%) than she is to direct a Hollywood movie (7%).”

“In 2010, women were most likely to work in the romantic comedy, documentary and romantic drama genres, and least likely to work in the horror, action and comedy genres, according to (San Diego State’s ‘Celluloid Ceiling’) study.”

With a little bit of research online I learned that there’s a good amount of support for emerging female directors. A few examples include the Birds Eye View organization in the UK (http://www.birds-eye-view.co.uk/2/home/homepage.html), the BleedFest in L.A. (http://bleedfest.com/we-are/), and the Sarah Jacobson Film Grant online (http://sjfilmgrant.wordpress.com/about/). The more I research, the more I discover- which is exciting!! But… women horror film directors? They are out there, but as Rebecca Keegan mentioned, they’re far and in between. An excellent article in the Guardian written by Emine Saner quotes Professor Barbara Creed, author of The Monstrous-Feminine, who examined women’s roles in horror films:

“Horror reflects society. What we probably need are more thoughtful horror films that speak directly to female experiences. There are plenty of bad taste, poorly-made misogynistic horror films around – as with all genres.”

Likewise, the article also quoted Caroline Cooper Charles, who is head of creative development of Darklight, an initiative to encourage female horror directors at the low-budget film studio Warp X:

“I think women have a different take on what people find scary. I love horror films but most I don’t find scary. Some of the ideas the women have come up with are scary, perhaps rooted in their own experiences. A lot of them have female lead characters. What we’re not getting is the standard horror film, where the only appearance girls make is to run around semi-clothed before getting their heads chopped off. The female characters are much more important in the narrative than in most horror films.”

Jennifer Eiss discusses women’s involvement with and contribution to the horror genre in her article “Do Women Prefer Psychological Horror?”:

“Women have been involved in horror since the conception of the genre, back when horror stories only appeared in writing and were given labels such as ‘Gothic fiction’ and ‘ghost stories’. Mary Shelley published her seminal Frankenstein in 1818, and it has become one of the most famous and iconic monster stories of modern times. Women such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Edith Wharton, children’s book author Edith Nesbit and many, many others were heavily involved in and lauded during the modern ghost story boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”

But, you ask, WHO are these women horror filmmakers? And WHAT are they making? Well, I will reply, here are some of my favorite discoveries:

Helene Cattet: “Chambre Jaune”

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Kerry Anne Mullaney: “The Dead Outside”

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Jen & Sylvia Soska: “Dead Hooker in a Trunk”

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Jackie Kong: “Blood Diner”

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Rita Mae Brown: “The Slumber Party Massacre”

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And I can’t not include this awesome trailer for “Zombie Girl”, a documentary about the now 18-year old Emily Hagin’s making of the film “Pathogen” at the age of 12:

Check out Emily’s production website, “Cheesy Nuggets” here: http://www.cheesynuggets.com/cheesynuggets.html

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To discover more, you might start by visiting this link to ghouls on film, which featured a post titled “10 Female Horror Directors You Should Know”: http://ghoulsonfilm.net/?p=331. Also check the comments to the post, which list 10 more.

And with that in mind, I will continue to endeavor on my own horror film, Red Blob Massacre“. Coming SOON, to a theater near you. 🙂


References

http://www.bigvisionemptywallet.com/women-in-horror-month-%E2%80%93-lovers-haters-and-boobs (Women in Horror Month: Lovers, Haters and Boobs)

http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/features/2011/03/28/do-women-prefer-psychological-horror/ (Do Women Prefer Psychological Horror?)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2007/apr/06/2 (Everything But the Ghoul)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-12665443 (Damsels in Distress)

http://bitchmagazine.org/post/horror-show-women-horror-directors-to-watch (The Horror Show: Women Horror Directors to Watch)

http://www.afterellen.com/column/the-weekly-geek/what-if-horror-films-were-made-by-more-women (The Weekly Geek: What if More Horror Films Were Made By Women?)

http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/features/2011/03/07/warped-women-the-emergence-of-female-horror-directors-in-the-uk/ (Warped Women: The Emergence of Female Horror Directors in the UK)

http://wellywoodwoman.blogspot.com/2011/03/horror-stories.html (Horror Stories)

The Art of Spooky Music

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m currently working on my thesis project for grad school, which is a low-fi horror film titled Red Blob Massacre. It will be a silent film, so sound will play a very large role in setting the mood and suspense/quirkiness of the story. In order to give my sound designer the best idea of what I’m going for, I spent some time today exploring music that I think is inspiring and may contribute to the through-line of the piece.

Please enjoy the few below that I’ve included:

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Scuba: “The Upside”

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Tied & Tickled Trio: “Chlebnikov”

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Clark: “Night Knuckles”

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I also love the sound for this video, played by the talented Frank Pahl:

(the video itself is also awesome.)

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And now, your assignment, as an active (or new) reader of my blog. PLEASE! Share at least one song that you find spooky/haunting/suspenseful/quirky/enticing in the comments section below. I appreciate your input, and as much as I love to write this blog and obsess over the site stats, I’d like to get to know you more and what your interests are. AND, it could really help me with my project!

Thanks so much for reading!

Die Tomato, Die!!!

Last night I performed a piece, Die Tomato, Die!!! at the Performance Laboratory, which is a bi-monthly performance event I co-curate at the Contemporary Art Institute Detroit. The theme for this month was Death.

I performed Die Tomato, Die!!! for the first time last April in a seminar in grad school, then titled Tomato Smashing. Here are some pictures from that performance:

It was a successful performance, and I made a lot of discoveries by doing it. One of them was that smashing tomatoes with a hammer was more difficult than I thought (they roll off the table, especially if they’re not ripe enough). Another, that the juice sprays everywhere, including on the audience, who in that particular space space (an empty studio space) was in close proximity. As they were sprayed with squirts of tomato juice, my peers grabbed a plastic sheet on the floor that just happened to be there, and used it to protect themselves from the bursts. There were plenty of  yelps and squeaks as I worked away with my hammer. It was hard to be serious even though I was trying to be- I really didn’t know what would happen, and everything was unfolding in the moment.

The performance was aimed to be an exploration of the RED BLOB, which has been a theme I’ve been experimenting with in my work over the past year. I’ve done all kinds of experiments around the idea of what the red blob might represent, without wanting to define it too specifically as one particular thing. In the tomato smashing context, the tomato represents food and cooking (and a female doing it), there is something quite gorey about it as it is smashed, and it has an interesting context in a performance, especially with me, as the performer, smashing it. Usually it’s the audience members who throw the tomato at the performer…

So, with all these things in mind, I recreated this performance last night at the Performance Laboratory for The Death Show. And it went really well! In the context of death and horror (two other themes I’m working a lot with right now), I wanted to continue with the seriousness of the piece, choosing atmospheric ‘scary’ background music. I chose a costume that was a bit more ‘glamorous’ than the previous one, and was a red color just a bit deeper than the tomatoes, but would be partially hidden behind my white apron. I also added a timer, that I set to 10 minutes long, which is the duration limit for each piece at the Performance Lab. I added rubber gloves, which accentuated the horror effect and made a lot of people laugh in nervous anticipation. And lastly, I handed out plastic bags to the audience members in the first row, who were in close proximity to my table. Oh, the anticipation!!!! AND, I waited to enter for added suspense- just the audience staring at those shiny red tomatoes and a hammer with plastic bags on their laps, waiting for something to happen….

Here are pictures from the performance:

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I have to say, this is definitely one of the most satisfying performances I’ve ever done in my entire life. There is something so incredibly liberating about covering an audience in tomato juice. And even though it was a serious piece, there was a lot of laughter, a lot of participation, and a continuous dialogue between me and the audience. This is still a work-in-progress, and I plan on continuing to develop it for more future performances. I feel so thankful to have the Performance Laboratory as a continuous forum to try things out and experiment. I couldn’t have asked for a more willing and accepting audience, one willing to get covered in tomato juice for the sake of good and experimental art. I don’t know if this would happen everywhere… it would certainly have to depend on the context, and the space that I performed it in.

You can read a review of the Performance Laboratory’s Death Show on the Midwest Theater Review: http://midwesttheatre.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/detroits-performance-laboratory-journey-to-the-interdisciplinary-fringe-a-review-by-edmund-lingan/

For more info about the Performance Laboratory, please visit our facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Performance-Laboratory/139602749441643. I co-curate this event with collaborator Carrie Morris. It takes place at the Contemporary Art Institute Detroit (CAID) every other month, featuring short works by artists and performers that explore what performance is, and what it can be.

The Art of Sitting in an Art Gallery (and watching lo-fi horror films)

So I’m doing a workstudy job of sitting for four hours every Tuesday in an art gallery. This is the first time I’ve ever worked in an art gallery, and lemme tell ya- for the most part, it’s pretty damn quiet. In fact, as I’m writing this blog post now, I’m sitting in the gallery. I can see straight outside all the passerby with their paper coffee cups, earphones and college t-shirts. Some of them glance at the gallery, a few stop, and most walk right by. In the two hours that I’ve been here today, ONE person has stopped in for a VERY QUICK glance at a few paintings while trying to avoid eye contact with me before rushing out again. So, for the most part, I have lots of time to do my own work, like writing spontaneous blog posts and watching lo-fi horror films on youtube.

Here’s a preview of some of the films I’ve been devouring:

“The Stuff” (1985), directed by Larry Cohen

“Plan 9 From Outer Space” (1959), directed by Ed Wood

“Robot Monster” (1953), directed by Phil Tucker

“The Horror of Party Beach: (1960s), directed by Del Tenney

Seriously, I could go on and on, but I think I’ll stop there for now. Four hours is a decent amount of time to watch this stuff.

I’ve been on a crazy old-school horror film kick for the past few months. It’s funny, because for the most part I’ve never been much of a horror fan- I was the kid who had nightmares for months in 4th grade because of the birthday slumber party that screened Ghost. I’m also the type who squiggles uncomfortably at the slightest drop of blood, and who in general is fearful of imminent death that looms pretty much everywhere. Which is perhaps why my recent interest in lo-fi, DIY horror films is more appropriate; i.e. films that are obviously fake. Fake = not real = it probably won’t ever happen. Which is more comforting than, say, current-day films about real-life serial killers and how they managed to actually slaughter real people like you and me. Thanks, but not thanks. I’ll go for the fake puppet monsters and ice cream containers that explode…

Anyway, that’s what I’m doing today in the art gallery. And just in case you were worried about the future of art in the gallery, there have been a few more people who have wandered in since I started writing this blog post. Luckily, most of them have been more interested in the art than talking to me, leaving me to bathe in my own lo-fi horror watching glory.