Tag Archives: darkness

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)

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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.

Death, hibernation, rebirth and growth

I’ve been meaning to write a post about death for the last couple of days. It just seems that death is everywhere right now. October, is all about death. Which is a good thing to put attention to once in a while, you know? A little ODE to DEATH. A little hello, how are you. A little acknowledgement that- oh yeah, death exists. Everywhere, all the time. Just as life exists, death exists too. And in October in particular this year, it seems to be significantly present.

First and foremost is the way the leaves on all the trees are dying. This is the time when free-spirtited, sunny, hot summer transitions to cold, intense, icy winter. Here are a few recent photos of the trees and dying leaves around my neighborhood:

The amazing thing about this time of year is that even though everything seems to be dying, it’s incredibly beautiful. There’s a change taking place in the environment that is not only visible externally, but also felt internally. I know that this time of year can be hard for a lot of people. It certainly has been for me- a lot of questioning, inner turmoil and struggle taking place. And yet… it seems like it’s a good thing, despite the fact that in moments it can be very challenging. Even though it’s just the beginning of a long, SNOWY winter. BUT- and there is a but- there is always rebirth on the other side. All those leaves will bloom again, things will grow back fresh and new, and we will appreciate it all once more as if discovering it for the first time. And that’s what I appreciate about changing seasons- it’s an opportunity to get in touch with a cycle within our own selves that reflects the environment around us- a cycle of death, hibernation, rebirth, and growth.

Other things about death this month- well obviously Halloween. It’s like suddenly everyone is obsessed with the morbid. Part of Halloween is about dressing up in something completely out of the ordinary, while the other part is about celebrating the imminent death that lurks behind every corner. Our own little ZOMBIE world. As a tribute, I’ve found a lovely zombie animation from vimeo:

zombie! by animation block

And then, of course, we can’t ignore the recent death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Obviously, this is a huge victory for the people of Libya who for 42 years suffered under a man who “warped his country with his idiosyncratic vision of autocratic rule.” (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/oct/20/gadhafi-was-a-brutal-unpredictable-leader-killed-b/ Washington Times). I am very happy for this new (and surely challenging) phase in Libya’s history post-Gadhafi. And yet- is any death a celebration? There’s nothing wrong with fictionalized zombie movies and the imagination of horror, but when the real thing is played over and over on the television screen, no matter how important it is for so many people, there is an element of disturbance that goes with it. What if Gadhafi had lived, and had to pay for his atrocities in another way? Would not that have perhaps been even better? In the same way that the death of Osama Bin Laden was celebrated this past May, there is something fundamentally wrong with celebrating any person’s death, no matter how atrocious they were. I can’t say what is right or wrong in this situation, and I don’t in any way want to undermine the importance to the Libyan people in this moment of rebirth from a very long and dark period in their history. But… I wish there was another way to heal wounds besides death in this situation- it just seems like a never ending cycle.

In the end, it all comes  back to that cycle I described in the beginning of this post. A continuous cycle of death, hibernation, rebirth and growth. Internally, externally, and for people and communities all over the world. We can only hope for the best in every situation, and remember that death, in its essence, is meant to remind us of our own precious lives, and to be thankful for them. Perhaps the best death there is is the imagined death- the death that becomes a means of artistic exploration and acknowledges with a light heart that in the very end, despite everything, we’re all going to die.