Saturday, February 10, 2018

WOMEN DIRECT HORROR: LET'S GET BLOODY


Cheers to all from a snowy, ice-covered Pittsburgh:

We’ve been talking a lot about writing lately in the Madhouse, which is obviously one of our favorite things to do, but something I’ve taken a shine to lately—over the past two years or so, I’d say—is film. I’ve been stretching my wings and getting more involved in the film industry, as well as writing about it and watching more of it, which my god do I have a lot of catching up to do! But I digress.
Right now, I want to talk about some of my favorite horror movies directed by women. I’ve been reading a lot about women working in film, about feminist criticism of film, and my personal favorite, how our bodies are portrayed on screen. I’m working on a couple non-fiction projects now, which thankfully to the HWA Rocky Wood Scholarship, I’ve really been blessed to be able to get my hands on some fantastic research, so again, my continued thanks and appreciation for that. 

But now, let’s get bloody. 

First up is one of my absolute favorite films: American Psycho (2000) directed by Mary Harron. Christian Bale is already one of my favorite actors (I loved his work in The Machinist), and his portrayal of Bret Easton Ellis’ character Patrick Batemen is superb. The entire movie is shot beautifully, and right now, I’m specifically thinking about the scene in the beginning when Batemen is getting ready for work and we get a peek behind the mask at the routines and rituals he does in order to try to be more human. Ah! Chilling. And if that’s not enough to keep viewers glued to the screen, the movie’s black humor and catchy one-liners certainly will. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.


The second movie on my list is near and dear to my heart: Pet Sematary, directed by Mary Lambert. Now Pet Sematary (1989) was the first Stephen King book I read, and I remember reading it in the middle of the night in my childhood bedroom, all the while sneaking quick looks outside to make sure that my recently departed rabbit (Fluffy) didn’t decide to come back to life and murder me in my sleep. The movie itself scared/continues to scare the living hell out of me, and I don’t think I’ve ever quite gotten over seeing Gage’s lone bloody shoe tumbling across the road. And the Zelda scenes? Christ, I’m still not ready to talk about those. 


Next up on the list is Near Dark (1987), directed by Kathryn Bigelow. I only watched this movie for the first time recently (shameful, I know), and I remember telling my mom, who first introduced to me The Lost Boys, that if I would have seen this film first, it would have trumped David and his gang. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a greased up saxophone player as much as the next gal, but Near Dark had the grit and blood transfusions that I apparently so desperately craved. Plus, the burn scenes in this movie were beautiful and I love the scene where they’re in their van with black spray paint and blankets to shield themselves from the sun. That horror-western vibe actually made me think of the scene in Devil’s Rejects at the end when they are in the car, guns blazing. 



Speaking a vampire films, Kiss of the Damned (2012) by Xan Cassavetes is another favorite, and not just because I saw a lot of similarities to Only Lovers Left Alive, which is my all-time favorite vampire film. In this film, there’s love, sex, bloodlust, and an interesting commentary on sisterhood, which is a plot point that I’m always interested in talking about because I’ll be forever interested in how women treat each other, especially when it comes to family and the need to honor blood ties (no pun intended) over everything. Watching it, I fell head over heels with the fashion choices, sense of community, and the notion of monsters in heat, so if you’re a vampire fan, this is an absolute can’t miss.

Raw (2017) by Julia Ducournau was my second favorite movie of 2017, and I loved how beautifully grotesque it was. Cannibalism movies are a brand of horror that I either love or hate, i.e. not a fan of Wrong Turn but I adored We Are What We Are, so the slow-burn, art film tends to work better for me in these cases. But here, Ducournau worked her skills with suspense and foreshadowing to create a storyline that is not only a coming of age story, but a deliciously meaty one at that. If you can stand the sight of blood, I’d highly recommend this one, and for all of those who are saying this movie is disgustingly unwatchable, I strongly have to disagree, but hey, maybe I just have a stronger stomach?


And finally, I can’t have a women in film post without talking about Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook (2014). To put it frankly, this movie scared the hell out of me when I watched it, and I can remember it vividly because I was taking breaks throughout the movie to bake gingerbread cookies in my very well-lit, no-shadows-allowed kitchen. Boogeyman stories have always freaked me out, and as someone who has battled insomnia for years and has a strong penchant for nightmares, psychological films where creatures lurk under beds, in closets, or live in basements have always got under my skin. What I especially love about this movie, aside from the creepy book and nursey rhyme, is the social commentary is makes about a widowed mother who’s not only dealing with the loss of her husband, but with her son’s fears as well. Motherhood isn’t a walk in the park, and this movie makes a lot of great points in regard to strength, mental illness, and survival. Definitely add this one to your list if you haven’t watched it already.