Thursday, December 18, 2014


As 2014 winds down and we all reflect on the horror films of the last year, I find myself thinking a lot about spectacular performances in addition to films.  My Top 15 of 2014 is posted over at Icons of Fright, but I wanted to use Day of the Woman to focus on something a little different.  In my opinion, this was an incredibly strong year for female characters in horror.  With audiences rejecting stereotypical and archetypal characters and instead favoring characters with a bit more depth to them, actresses in a majority of the horror films of 2014 were allowed to do more than just get naked and die.  Submitted for your approval, these are my fourteen favorite female horror performances of 2014. 

14) Melanie Papalia in THE DEN
THE DEN is about a woman studying the habits of people who use a "Chat Roulette" like website called "The Den" who witnesses a brutal murder online and is quickly thrown  in a nightmare in which she and her loved ones are targeted for the same grisly fate as the first victim.  Papalia is in every single second on this film, even if she is not the general focus. We as the audience are voyeurs, witnessing Papalia's reactions/motivations/feelings/encounters through a computer screen.  There are moments that feel as if she's looking right at us, and Papalia is in every frame of every second of the film.  Papalia gave an honest and engaging performance that helped prevent this film from being just another throwaway indie film.

13) Allison Egan in HER NAME WAS TORMENT
Allison Egan has become somewhat of an indie darling, appearing in many of the films of director Dustin Mills. An unnamed woman who has a distorted voice and a blurred face in the shown footage was arrested for committing twenty-seven murders, but deemed unfit to stand trial. Oddly, twenty-four of her victims remain unidentified.  It's almost as if, as the psychiatrist interviewing her describes it, "this woman was a ghost killing ghosts."  The psychiatrist interview footage is cut with footage of this woman, usually in some form of undress and wearing a mask, torturing her victims.  Egan is pretty much fully nude in a majority of this film, but it never once feels forced or pornographic.  Her face is never shown, and her real voice is never heard, but Egan still manages to give a strong and captivating performance.

12) Naya Rivera in AT THE DEVIL'S DOOR
I don't know about you, but I love it when a supporting character steals the film.  I've always been a big fan of Naya Rivera's work (SANTANA LOPEZ 4 LYFE), but she really proved her talent as "Vera" in AT THE DEVIL'S DOOR.  She doesn't appear right away, but she completely blew me away.  Her character endures a rollercoaster of emotions, and Rivera performed them all with honesty.

11) Kristi Ray in PIECES OF TALENT
Many disillusioned actresses find themselves in"the opportunity of a lifetime" when they cross paths with an independent filmmaker, but Kristi Ray as "Charlotte" in the indie darling PIECES OF TALENT knocks this character type out of the park.  She delivers a naive innocence that still exists in a post-9/11 world. Her character dreams of something better, and Ray delivers it with an air that feels genuine.  Perhaps most refreshing is that Ray is a true romantic interest, but she doesn't have the over saturated "American Apparel" look that dominates starlets of the box office.

10) Kristina Klebe in PROXY
PROXY is a film that boasts multiple strong performances from female leads, but Kristina Klebe as Anika Barön really nailed what she was given.  Klebe's character was arguably the most stereotypical, but she breathed new life into the "bitter lesbian bully" archetype.  The camera loves Klebe, and I was drawn to her in every moment she was on screen.  Her anger felt pure and her delivery was downright scary at times.  She completely wore her despicability on her sleeve, and her willingness to throw herself into a character so...unlikable and cruel was admirable.  Klebe nailed it.  The other female leads (Alexia Rasmussen and Alexa Havins) were also fantastic to watch, but Klebe (for me) stole the show.

09) Paz de la Huerta in NURSE
I don't know what planet Paz de la Huerta is from, but I want to visit there and come back refreshed and with a new view of the world.  NURSE could easily be excused as a shitty film, but I found it to be hilariously genius.  It walked the line between "campy brilliance" and "bottom-feeder trash," but never fell over to one side.  Whether or not Paz' delivery was intentional is irrelevant, because she was incredible.  The delayed inflection of her voice, the awkward body language, and the huge hair all skyrocketed her into one of the most wonderful female villains in a long while.  I loved it and I loved her.

08) Natalie Jean in THE CEMETERY
Natalie Jean is known in the indie world for her work in Adam Ahlbrandt's films, but she's also an accomplished stunt woman.  She managed to combine both her skills as an actress and her impressive abilities to move her body in Ahlbrandt's flick, THE CEMETERY.  Natalie Jean opens the film as a fully functioning member of society, and despite almost all of the characters being wholly unlikeable, she's the only one that I liked.  Jean is the first to feel the effects of whatever is plaguing this mysterious cemetery, and that's when she really begins to shine.  You actively start to root for her as a villain. The prowess she commands on screen is commendable given she speaks less than 1/4 of her screen time.  Covered in practical effects, she made them work for her and she allowed herself to completely transform into a monster.  In all honesty, I wasn't too hot on this film as a whole, but Natalie Jean's performance made this underground film enjoyable. 

Scarlett Johansson has been smarter and smarter about choosing her roles recently, but her performance in UNDER THE SKIN is perhaps her strongest yet.  She plays an alien stalking men in Scotland, and uses her beautiful human appearance to lure in her prey.  The "siren" story is one that has been done numerous times before, but Johansson's portrayal feels authentically out of this world.  There's definitely a difference between someone acting a character and becoming a character, and Scarlett Johansson definitely became alien in this one.
06) Amy Seimetz in THE SACRAMENT
Amy Seimetz has been one of my favorite performers for quite some time now, and her dedication in THE SACRAMENT is no exception.  She plays "Caroline," our brainwashed point of reference for those living in the commune known as "Eden's Parrish."  Considering the real-life horror roots of THE SACRAMENT, we as the audience quickly realize what is about to take place, and can predict her fate long before it ever happens.  She's such a charming and interesting woman, despite our understanding that she's the catalyst for everything bad that is inevitably coming to our protagonists.  Her final moments are downright devastating to watch and as much as you want to hate her, she's so likeable that you immediately just feel sorry for her.  Seimetz truly is a tour de force.
05) Essie Davis in THE BABADOOK
The success of Jennifer Kent's masterful debut comes in large part from the dynamite performance delivered by Essie Davis as "Amelia."  There is nothing quite as strong as a mother's love for her child, and Davis completely embodied the maternal energy required to make this film as horrifying as possible.  Davis had to be over-worked, tired, obligated, and still showcase a genuine love (and fear) for her child in order for the film to work, and it does.  Mothers aren't always June Cleaver, and Davis presents Amelia the way that most women are...complex.  The relationship Amelia has with her child is one that is impossible for an outsider to truly understand, and her constant conflict between what is expected of her to feel towards her child and what she actually does feel for her child, is painted all over Davis.  Davis has some major acting chops, but her role as Amelia was flawless.

04) Rima Te Wiata HOUSEBOUND
Morgana O'Reilly's "Kylie" may have been the lead, but it was Rima Te Wiata's performance as her mother "Miriam" that really stood out in the New Zealand hit HOUSEBOUND.  Miriam was funny, endearing, chatty, and incredibly sincere.  No matter how awful things get, Miriam always tries to look on the bright side.  It's her incessant positivity contrasting with the cynicism of her millennial daughter that kept this storyline feeling fresh and fun.  I lived for whatever unintentionally funny quip was going to come spewing out of her mouth following some bitter side-comment from her daughter. She's so endearing that she almost blends into the background and that's why she's so good. The character could have easily been played over the top, but that would have dominoed the entire film. As absurd as things get in this film, it all feels completely normal for someone like Miriam.

03) Anna Walton in SOULMATE
Anna Walton is absolutely superb as "Audrey" in Axelle Carolyn's SOULMATE. Tom Wisdom played opposite and while he was giving it his all, Walton completely outshined every other performer in the entire film.  That isn’t to say the secondary characters weren’t any good, but Walton was such a pleasure, it made everyone else look mediocre in comparison.  The opening sequence is particularly grim, but Walton handles the extreme subject matter with ease.  Her turmoil feels genuine and she expresses her pain with a rawness that never once feels forced.  As the mood of the film shifts, Walton's progression feels believable and I was with her every step of the way.

Larson is no stranger to playing creepy old women characters, but she broke new ground with her performance as the titular Deborah Logan.  Wearing minimal makeup and without being covered in computer effects, Larson possibly the most convincing possession victim in horror history.  Her dedication to this character is responsible for almost the entire film's creepiness, and the progression of her Alzheimer's stricken character is something of cinematic beauty.  This very collected woman quickly turns into a monstrous creature and every moment is horrifically haunting.  There's a moment towards the end of the film which is easily the scariest thing I've seen all year, and Larson absolutely dominated the scene.

01) Alex Essoe STARRY EYES
My favorite horror film of 2014 was Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer's STARRY EYES and it was due in large part to the stunning performance from Alex Essoe.  Every moment of the film is haunting and harrowing, gorgeous and grotesque, fun and frightening, insightful and irresistible.  Alex Essoe is required to carry the entire film on her shoulders as Sarah, and her ability to shift from vulnerable to vindictive was downright mesmerizing to witness. Sarah is forced to deal with physical demons but the most horrific creatures are the ones that Sarah has residing within herself, that she must face on her own.  The character of Sarah physically and mentally embodies the horrifying and painful lengths that actors are willing to go to secure a place in the limelight, and by doing so, the dedication from actor Alex Essoe guarantees herself a spot as an iconic female horror character. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Admittedly, this is a bit of a soap box post, but it's something that has been on my mind for a while.  Victor Salva is probably the most well known for the JEEPERS CREEPERS films, but he's also a convicted sex offender who videotaped himself molesting the 12-year-old lead of his film CLOWNHOUSE.  Salva was convicted on one count of lewd and lascivious conduct, one count of oral sex with a person under 14, and three counts of procuring child pornography.  Salva was sentenced to only three years, of which he served 15 months.  After he served his time, he has since made four (onto five) movies.  I'm sorry, what?  A convicted child sex offender is still making movies and acquiring distribution while hundreds of extremely talented and non-vile non-pieces of human garbage are struggling through crowd sourcing or going into debt to create their art?  How the hell is this the world we live in?

Right now, Bill Cosby's rape allegations are coming back out of the woodwork and it has completely tarnished his career.  He's lost sponsorships and TV Land has pulled reruns of THE COSBY SHOW from airing.  You know what? Good.  However, people like Victor Salva are STILL making films and the press are STILL covering his films.  A lot of people like to claim that they can "separate the art from the artist," but that pegs the question...should we?

The best example of this sort of "forgiveness" is Roman Polanski.  Polanski is hailed as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and with good reason.  ROSEMARY'S BABY is one of the greatest horror films ever made, and Polanski has proven himself to be a dynamite director.  Here's the thing though, he committed a heinous crime.  He fled to France hours before his sentencing in 1978 and has been essentially "hiding" out in France ever since. I use the word "hiding" loosely, because he's not some hermit, he's just not coming back to America.  I can call ROSEMARY'S BABY a brilliant and iconic film worth seeing, because it's something Polanski created BEFORE he molested a thirteen year old and was convicted. I don't feel good about it, but I won't hold his previous talents against him.  Everything he's done after the fact? It does not exist in my world, and it shouldn't.  I don't care how brilliant of an artist you are, you do not get a free pass on sex crimes because you're a talented artist.

JEEPERS CREEPERS feels a little bit autobiographical, with Salva playing the monster.  Unlike the typical slashers or monster, 'The Creeper" preys on its victims much like a stereotypical pedophile.  The first JEEPERS CREEPERS film shows a brother and a sister being stalked by the creature, in particular, the brother is the one the monster desires.  In JEEPERS CREEPERS 2, as the monster admires his victims (predominately shirtless male boys) from afar, his eyes roll back (much like a male orgasm) when he finally sees the victim he desires.   He then licks the glass of the school bus, and he caresses his victims before he strikes.  I'm sorry, but JEEPERS CREEPERS is a giant metaphor for raping men, and Salva was paid money to essentially "safely" re-enact his guiltiest desires.  That's sick. Seriously, seriously, sick.   And this isn't the only time.  Even his non-horror films like POWDER are littered with weird traces of pedophilia.  One of the JEEPERS CREEPERS 2 producers, Bobby Rock, has even gone on record saying, the original JEEPERS CREEPERS "did very well at the box-office — that's all that matters to us."  "Us" being Rock and his co-producer...Francis Ford Coppola.

The fucked up thing? Salva didn't make JEEPERS CREEPERS until AFTER he had already been convicted and served time.  That means producers willingly handed over a TEN MILLION dollar budget to this guy to make a movie.  He made this film AFTER the media-explosion during his film POWDER when it became known that Disney had financed a film made by a child molester.  People like to claim "he served his time, let him move on" but I disagree, 100%.  People like Victor Salva should not be allowed to continue to make art for the world.  Unfortunately money talks, and since JEEPERS CREEPERS and its sequel did well financially, there's apparently a third installment in the works.  Gross.  Sex crimes against children are unforgivable, and Salva does not deserve to be forgiven so easily.  Victor Salva already made his movie, and it contained pornographic acts on a 12 year old.  That should have been enough, but apparently Hollywood doesn't care.

Monday, November 24, 2014


Cinema Wasteland is my favorite convention in the world, if only for the Sunday Afternoon film screenings.  The closing films of the convention are always some forgotten about drive-in flicks, and I'm always shocked at how much I love them.  From the cult classic HOLLYWOOD KNIGHTS to the underseen biker flick THE NORTH RIDGEVILLE CEMETERY MASSACRE, Sunday screenings tend to expose audiences to films they wouldn't have seen otherwise.  This October I was treated to a "slasher cult classic" titled NIGHT SCHOOL.  Considering my age, there are plenty of films of yesteryear that I've never heard of, but something about NIGHT SCHOOL completely drew me in.  "directed by Ken Hughes and starring Rachel Ward in her feature film debut, the film is centered on a detective trying to discover the perpetrator behind a series of decapitation murders happening to a group of girls all attending the same evening class.  I've seen my fair share of slasher films, but the fact a film about a decapitation murder spree affecting college co-eds is right up my alley.

If there's a film dying for a remake, it's NIGHT SCHOOL.  It's a solid slasher flick with some downright terrifying and brilliantly executed sequences, but doesn't contain a legendary icon to rustle the feathers of fanboys.  What is perhaps most fascinating about NIGHT SCHOOL, is that it may be a "slasher film" but it feels much more like an Italian giallo film.  Argento's TENEBRAE borrowed heavily from American slasher films, but there were so many elements from NIGHT SCHOOL sticking out in my mind making me convinced that Argento couldn't have possibly NOT been influenced by this film.  The killer is clad in all black and wears sleek, black gloves.  The weapon of choice is a pristine, sharp blade, and the film is riddled with twists and red herrings.  From the get-go, we know that the killer decapitates all of their victims and places their heads in water.  Part of the fun of this film is watching the detectives investigate the following morning and try to guess where the head is going to end up.  There's a sequence in a diner the morning after a waitress is murdered that is so exquisitely crafted, it very well became my absolute favorite dead body reveal of all time.  That's not an exaggeration, the scene is just THAT good.

The diner body reveal isn't the only stand-out, as there is an aquarium kill that is filled with such rage and brutality juxtaposed against the beauty of crystal clear waters that is something out of a fantasy. NIGHT SCHOOL definitely plays with your imagination, pulling from the terror our imaginations can conjure up rather than slapping us in the face with over-the-top gore.  Slasher films are notorious for killing off high school/college aged girls, but NIGHT SCHOOL plays with convention and makes the audience genuinely feel sympathetic towards these students.  All of these girls are being manipulated by those in power, namely, their professors.  It's an ahead of its time look at the lengths students will go for good grades and remaining in the good graces of their teachers.  It's sick, but it really helps make us care about the stacking body count.  Sure, a lot of the film feels like a HALLOWEEN carbon-copy, but it's the moments that are unique that kept my attention.  NIGHT SCHOOL's strength definitely lies in the cinematography, with exquisite lighting and camera angles that feel much more high-budget than what we're accustomed to seeing in low-budget slasher films.

On a more superficial level, I don't understand why NIGHT SCHOOL isn't talked about more frequently for two very important reasons.  First of all, the killer at the end of NIGHT SCHOOL is revealed to be a woman, and considering people are always looking for more films with a female killer, you'd think that such a strange slasher film would be discussed more often.  Not to mention, NIGHT SCHOOL was also written by a woman named Ruth Avergon.  A female written film with a female killer is surely something for the record books (especially for 1981), and I don't understand how this film was completely forgotten.  The film is far from perfect, but there are cinematic moments that were so awesome, it's odd that it took me this long to discover it.  If you ever come across NIGHT SCHOOL, give it a watch.  If you like it half as much as I did, you'll be happy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


-Elliot Rodger

On May 23rd, 2014 (my 24th birthday) I was reminded of why I started writing Day of the Woman in the first place.  After five years, Day of the Woman has matured to something a bit more refined than what I started when I was eighteen, but my message is still the same.  It's scary as hell to be a woman in today's society both on screen and off.  Six people were killed and thirteen were injured before the killer took his own life, and it was all because a man felt that women weren't doing what he wanted.  This was a blatant act of misogyny and it didn't harm only women, it killed four men who were caught in the cross-hairs.  A man was determined to kill women and attacked anyone that could have possibly stopped him.  Sounds a lot like someone else we know...
I need to kill Laurie Strode...and anyone that gets in my way.

Slasher films have come under fire for decades for its portrayals of female archetypes.  Obviously there are exceptions, but the overwhelming majority of these films show male characters attacking female victims, and if a female IS the villain, it's used as a "twist-ending" or isn't revealed until the end of the film.  Why?

Films are a reflection on the society they originate from, so in order to dissect the gender inequality of slasher films it's important to look at the way our society views violent men and women.  This is a PSA that shows what happens when a man abuses a woman in public vs. when a woman abuses a man in public.  If you didn't watch it, the results are exactly what you'd think.  When the man puts his hands on a woman, a gaggle of Good Samaritans immediately run to her aid.  When the roles are reversed, witnesses laugh at the man being beaten by his girlfriend, and no one intervenes.  Why?  It all goes back to the idea that women are the weaker sex.  When women are villains it’s used as a shock tactic because society thinks it's so ridiculous for a woman to be violent that it comes off as humor.  Witnessing the violence in action is laughable, but having the reveal after the violence has ended is horrifying not because it's a woman...but because your preconceived notions were wrong.  On the other hand, men are seen as monsters because they’re asserrting their dominance as the stronger sex and they’re punished for losing control. This isn't a "men's rights issue," this is a human issue.  If we truly saw women as equals to men, we would intervene when men are being abused and take it just as seriously as we do when women are abused.  Equality would help men’s issues just as much as it would help women’s issues.  So where does that leave horror?

What happens when a family lives without any female figureheads?

All of the major slasher killers, arguably the staples of American horror films, were all bred from complicated relationships with men that were violent to women.  Horror puts how screwed up society is under a microscope to show us how all these things (patriarchy, materialism, etc) birth the things of nightmares. Freddy Krueger was "the bastard son of 100 maniacs" when he was conceived from his mother, a nun, who was gang-raped.  Michael Myers (if we follow the Rob Zombie origin story and not the ridiculous cult nonsense of HALLOWEEN 6) was raised in a house with an abusive step-father and was brought to believe his mother was a bad person because of her profession.  Jason Voorhees was raised by a single-mother who was essentially punished for having a career and not living solely as a mother when those she elected to watch her son let him die.  Leatherface was raised in an environment where the patriarchy reigned supreme and his own femininity was the cause for much ridicule from his family.  Many people like to dismiss these slashers as just pure evil, but they're not.  If we focus on the initial introductions of these characters, (and not the one-liners or ridiculous mythos perpetuated in the sequels) it becomes horrifying to realize that any one of us could become a monster.  Forget about the movie magic of Freddy being able to kill us in our dreams, he's still an angry man hell bent on revenge.  They're all products of their environment, their mental state, and the societal experiences they were exposed to during the important stages of development.  These men were all brought out of a world coated with men showcasing violence towards women, and they continued a pattern.  But these horror icons came long before Elliot Rodgers...what does that say about society today?
Billy Loves Stu. Totally.
Elliot Rodger was a millennial, and a child born into the age of technology.  Elliot Rodger was misunderstood and extremely angry young man that found solace in those that agreed with him.  Even after killing six people and his 140 page "manifesto" hit the web, there are still men that completely sympathize with him.  20-30 years ago, Elliot Rodger would have been lucky to find someone that would agree with him but now he has an entire community of fellow angry white men at his finger tips that don't tell him "you're wrong," and instead, encourage "you're right, women suck."  SCREAM was a self-aware slasher film, and featured two killers instead of one.  These weren't mad-men, they were men who were mad.  Where Billy and Stu had similar interests and films, Elliot Rodger had the internet.  Finding someone that shares your love of destruction is a dangerous combination, and we all know nothing brings people together more than a mutual hatred.  People keep blaming Men's Rights Activists or the Pick-Up Artist community for Rodger's actions...but that's like saying Billy and Stu became killers because of horror movies.  Hell, Billy said it himself, "Now Sid, don't you blame the movies. Movies don't create psychos. Movies make psychos more creative!"  Billy was very, very angry about a woman "destroying" his parents' marriage.  Instead of feeling angry towards his own father for stepping out on his mother, he targeted "the other woman" and placed all the blame on her.  Elliot Rodger was mad that women wouldn't have sex with him and instead of trying to improve himself, he placed all the blame on other women.  Are we sensing a pattern here?  Blaming a woman and discovering a like-minded person was a recipe for disaster, and one we unfortunately became witness to happening offscreen and on the streets of Isla Vista, California. 

But wait, women always survive in these horror movies!  Yeah, but...
Sweaters in summer? Get out of here.
Women survive in horror movies if they act in a very particular way.  Elliot Rodger was angry at "stuck-up, blonde sluts."  Who usually dies early in a slasher film?  The Lynda Van Der Klok types in HALLOWEEN, and the Tina Gray types of A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET are always the first to go.  If you're blonde and sexually fluid, you're going to die.  What keeps you safe?  Being a virgin. The responsibility of survival is placed solely on the woman and her sexuality, which is exactly what we do to rape victims and what a lot of defenders of Elliot Rodger are trying to claim.  While #YesAllWomen gains momentum, there are still people saying that it's a woman's fault for not giving Rodger what he the same way that we say "if you wouldn't have had sex, you would have survived" to women in slasher films.

One-liners aside, Freddy is a total creep.
Are slasher films responsible for mass murders and misogyny? Absolutely not.  Horror movies are not the problem, but they're a hell of a way to reflect the ideals of society on a more dramatic level.  Successful movies have attributes that audiences can relate to, and if we're accepting reality in films where men will kill everyone in their path to punish one woman...what does that say about our society? Even more terrifying, after a few installments in a slasher franchise, we're almost viewing these villains as an anti-hero and somewhat defending their actions.  Jason Voorhees is just listening to his mommy, Freddy is seeking revenge for his own death, Michael Myers had a rough childhood, Leatherface's family taught him violence at a very young age, and the Ghostface killers all really, really hate Sidney Prescott.  Instead of saying "kill these monsters," were asking for 10 sequels and the bloodshed of innocent victims. If films glorify killers and we want more of these films, does that mean we'll get more of these killers? No, not until we first address the culture and society that these films reflect.

Friday, May 2, 2014


I should probably get the Human Centipede drawing tattooed on this bad boy.

The last few months have arguably been the most difficult months in my life. I apologize in advance for seemingly abandoning this site, but I've been a little bit...preoccupied. I wasn't sure if I was ever going to write about this, but if I allow illness to overtake all the things in my life that I love, then I'll never truly be cured.  Here's the truth of it all: I have/had pancreatic cancer. To save you some googling, pancreatic cancer has a 4-6% survival rate in the United States and a 3% survival rate in the United Kingdom.  A team of doctors removed a tennis ball sized pancreatic tumor, 40% of my pancreas, my entire spleen, and 20+ lymph nodes.  I spent some time in the hospital and I'm still going through recovery.  There's a 40% chance of the cancer coming back and considering I'm only 23, that's an arbitrary number because the statistics are based on a majority of people suffering from the disease being 25+ years my senior.  As of right now, I'm cancer free.  However, I have to wait 5 years to be determined truly out of the woods.  I don't want to sound like a John Green novel, but I really am a ticking time bomb. I've had to accept that there is a very distinct possibility that I'll show up at a doctor's office to find out I'm going to die.

It's been really horrifying and I'll be the first to admit I've avoided blogging on here or on Icons of Fright because I always leave a little piece of myself in everything that I write.  Knowing that I could very well be gone in a flash, I've been selfishly holding on to each piece I have left.  I've always prided myself on being a strong woman, but god damn if cancer doesn't make you feel the most vulnerable you ever will.  I've always watched a large amount of horror movies, but since being diagnosed I've found myself almost exclusively watching horror.  From my initial emergency room visit to the entire hospital stay and now in recovery, my media consumption has been dominated by horror movies (Well, and Monday night viewings of RuPaul's Drag Race).  It's one thing to explain away watching some of the depraved stuff you see in horror movies when you're healthy, but how can you watch horror when you're dying?

You should have seen my nurse's faces when they came in my room and saw this on the TV

One of the more obvious answers is "Because I like horror movies, damn it."  Horror is a huge part of my personality and it's where I find the most enjoyment.  I'm not stupid, I know how "strange" it is for people to accept the fact I'm a bonafide horror junkie.  Considering I don't stereotypically "look" like a horror fan, the general public usually sees my love of horror as something "quirky" or "interesting" that makes me unique.  When you're in a hospital, you don't want to be just a number.  I was lucky that while I was staying in the hospital, I was the youngest patient on my floor by about 30 years.  The nursing staff loved me because I didn't need someone to clean up my bowel movements and because I'd crack jokes with them at all hours of the day.  The fact I loved horror movies was something very unique to me and gave my nurses a reason to talk to me about things other than my illness and allowed them to really see me as a person, and not as a diagnosis.  Maybe that's an incredibly vain reason for watching SyFy for hours on end in a hospital and possibly horrifying the other floormates when there's nothing but screaming heard from my television, but it made a genuine difference in the quality of my hospital stay.
The TV edit of THE RUINS is garbage, by the way.
Horror was also the ultimate tool of escapism.  I needed the distraction.  Everyone around me was either crying or filled with a forced positive attitude.  Doctors and nurses were constantly telling me what to do to survive, how lucky I was and bringing me flowers and stuffed animals from people I haven't seen since high school. My parents and boyfriend were painfully retelling the story over and over and over to anyone that called and I had more social media notifications than on my birthday.  Being the center of attention like that is exhausting.  If I had to hear "how are you feeling?" one more time, I was going to rip out my IV and stab someone with it.  All I wanted to do was scream or blow everyone's heads off and since I couldn't do that...I watched it on TV.  There was something incredibly therapeutic about watching other people literally tear off their skin when all I wanted to do was live inside someone else's.  It's a lot easier to forget you're dying when you're watching other people do it in front of your eyes.  There's a safe distance because you're watching someone other than you suffer, but the reality is that no one is actually getting hurt. For me, it helped to see the pain and terror I was feeling personified on film. It permitted my anxiety to come out, be acknowledged, and socially comforted.

Did you know they let extra-terrestrials get medical degrees?
The ultimate and universal appeal of horror is the desire to survive despite tremendous odds and uncertainty. How could sick people not enjoy that?  The other part is the need to realize it could be worse. I may have cancer, but they can cut that out of me and I can (hopefully) move on with my life.  I just watched a chick get arrowed to death by some indigenous people on her spring break.  I may have staples down my stomach, but those will get removed and this other girl just took a nail gun TO THE FACE.  Okay, so I can't have sex for a month or two, but this guy was just killed while he was IN his girlfriend.  As ridiculous as some horror movie deaths are, there's a reason 1000 WAYS TO DIE had 4 seasons.  Luckily, we have people like Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton (SAW IV, V, VI, 3D, THE COLLECTOR, THE COLLECTION) that profit off of this idea and write stories with inconceivable death traps that the victims cannot escape.  The flip side to that is even if it can be worse, you become a rock star in your own mind - Hollywood's got nothing on me.  I beat THE deadliest cancer on the planet, I'm pretty sure the Jigsaw killer can kiss my ass.
Avoid husband bulges and you'll be just fine.

At the end of the day, horror makes me feel better about myself because it rewards all the virtues of living a healthy lifestyle.  Don't drink, don't smoke, don't fornicate, don't do drugs, and you'll survive.  I'm a non-smoker, I don't do drugs, I'm a responsible drinker, and I don't have mindless sex.  My doctors were baffled that they even found my cancer because of how healthy I was and the fact I showed zero symptoms.  Hell, I volunteer with the homeless and used to run a tri-city Halloween food drive for the less fortunate and I STILL got cancer before I was old enough to legally rent a car.  That's some straight up bullshit. It was so frustrating to sit in a hospital with cancer after living a healthy life while I watched people on social media brag about cheating on their girlfriends and stealing from their bosses.  I'm not one to knock people's lifestyles, but I got cancer and I'm sort of a goody two shoes! What kind of shit is that?!  Horror movies let me see the poetic justice I was craving.  I spent the first two weeks screaming "It's not fair!" at the sky, and I wasn't wrong.  Life isn't fair, but horror movies...usually are.  People like me survive, and when you're actually dying, that sort of ideal shown in the media makes a world of difference. We shouldn't need a masked slasher to improve healthcare but one certainly would help.

Hospital stays on Halloween night? Aw, hell naw.
Cancer changed my life, but it did not change who I am.  Horror movies have always been my go-to in terms of making me feel better, and that includes coming face to face with your own mortality.  I'm not looking for sympathy, and frankly, I don't want it.  Sometimes things happen in life that are uglier and more horrific than anything we can imagine, and while some people may crave hope and Nicholas Sparks movies, I want something to scare me that isn't coming out of a biopsy.  I want something to take me out of the terror that is very, very real and allow me to feel sad, scared, and angry at something other than myself.  I don't want to watch my mom cry in my hospital room because she can't save her baby girl, I want to watch Katherine Thorn struggle with raising the Anti-Christ in THE OMEN.  I don't want to look at the hideous scar on my stomach, I want to watch James Woods pull a gun out of his in VIDEODROME.  Call it shallow, but I needed a prescription for some high-quality schadenfraude.  How can you watch horror when you're dying? Honestly? How could you not?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


I've found myself growing increasingly obsessed with film/pop culture personality Clarke Wolfe.  I was first introduced to her through the awesome podcast The Bloodcast, but I've recently found myself addicted to the Youtube group she's with, THE POP FIX.  THE POP FIX covers just about every corner of of the pop culture world, but Clarke is the one I can depend on to bring up some awesome reviews and opinions on what's going on with horror.  A popular feature of THE POP FIX is a segment called "Worst Things I Read" or WTIR for short.  The host (or hosts depending on the topic) cite reviews, tweets, articles, and whatever else they can get their hands on that all discuss the topic at hand in a negative manner.  Clarke, in true form has finally put out a "Worst Things I Read" about horror!  Clarke isn't alone with this edition of WTIR and paired up with writer/director/producer/host/Youtuber/model/fashionista Jill Kill.  These two women give an entertaining and educational look at horror classics and discuss the topic with well researched arguments.  Think women can't talk about horror?  Think again.

Check out the video below!

Monday, March 3, 2014


(Editor's Note: February has been a very strange month. After enduring some unexplainable chest pains, doctors found a cancerous tumor on my pancreas.  I will undergo surgery in the near future and will be rid of this monster inside me. After spending some time in the hospital and feeling my body turn on me, I felt compelled to write something inspired about the experience. As this piece deals with rape, there is a TRIGGER WARNING for this article.)

Body Horror is undoubtedly one of the most complex horror movie subgenres.  Rooted in the innate fear of meeting our demise, body horror films have played a prominent role in the expansion of practical effects and social commentary within the horror genre.  Body Horror can also be called "biological horror," "organic horror," or "venereal horror," classified as a work of horror fiction where the horror is predominately extracted from the graphic destruction or degeneration of the body.  The subgenre includes disease, decay, parasitism, mutilation, mutation, anatomically incorrect limb placement, unnatural movements, and fantastical expansion.  The fear of the unknown is one thing but when that fear lives inside of you, there's no escaping or hiding from ones own mortality.
Poster for 1958's THE FLY

1958's THE FLY is arguably the film that pushed body horror into the threshold of the horror pantheon, and the films have only gotten more unsettling and graphic with its successors.  Advertising with a slogan of "100 pounds to the first person who can prove it can't happen!" THE FLY took away the fear of "other" and instead rooted horror in the realm of possibility. What separates body horror from the other subgenres is perhaps the irrefutable future of destruction.  Afraid of sharks in the sea? Don't swim. Afraid of Jason Voorhees? Don't have anything to do with Crystal Lake.  Afraid of ghosts in the house? Call a priest or move.  Afraid of the monster growing within you?  Pray that medical science can assist you or enjoy feeling yourself crumble to pieces.  In body horror, there are no "rules" for survival.  Body horror forces us into the world of the unknown and there would appear to be no way out.  In fact, most people will look to other unknowns to help with their own unknown.  Religion, theoretical science, voodoo, ancient texts, astrology, and many others have all been cited as resources for those struggling with some sort of internal ailment.
Rick Baker's phenomenal make-up work for THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of body horror is that the line between victim and hero is very much often blurred. Those suffering are literally the ones to blame for their predicament.  Sure, Dr. Brundle in THE FLY should have double checked his Telepods before experimenting upon himself and perhaps the kids from CABIN FEVER should have been a little more careful about how they dealt with the infected drifter, but do they deserve the horror inflicted upon their bodies for not being overly cautious?  The idea of "coulda, shoulda, woulda, didn't" in regards to the source of most body horror films is very reminiscent of the way we as a society deal with victims/survivors of rape.  Why is it that people immediately feel bad for MacReady and the boys when they're attacked by THE THING without ever telling them they were "asking for it" by playing with a stray animal but at the same time are still seeing news reporters and politicians try and discredit rape victims and assume it was the victim's fault?  Body horror is very closely related to rape culture because it puts a mask on the violence of rape by putting it in the context of an "other worldly invasion" and makes it permissible to revel in the other person's destruction. If we see a person raped in a film, we immediately feel a sense of sympathy, but when we see someone invaded by an alien pod or even a tree, we are filled with extreme delight.  The over-exaggerated and graphic nature of body horror presents a safe distance for the audience to feel a great sense of schadenfreude.
Ripley 7 in ALIEN: RESURRECTION looking a lot like Brother Fred in MONSTER MAN

Body Horror being a parallel to rape toys with those "infected" with the taboo subject of sometimes enjoying their transformation and again being demonized for it. Rosemary in ROSEMARY'S BABY was actually as excited as she was naive, Ripley enjoyed using her conjoined alien DNA to her advantage in the ALIEN franchise, and Ginger Fitzgerald in GINGER SNAPS greatly enjoyed "snapping" into a werewolf.  When this happens, our sense of compassion is toyed with and often muddled within the story. How could anyone possible be okay after enduring something like this? How could they get better? Wouldn't it be more comfortable for everyone if they just died? --- and that's what's really screwed up.  We champion survivors but they always seem to have that smell of tainted goods from then on.  In the end the "thing" that took over the body is what becomes the defining characteristic of the victim almost to the point of overshadowing the victim.  What do you remember about Dawn in TEETH other than the fact she has vagina dentata?  Do you care about the demised futures of the people sewn up in THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE or are you forever remembering them as the people forced to go ass-to-mouth for eternity? We remember all of the infected folks in NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, but what about their dates? Do you know any of their names? No, because they're not important. The victim is what is important.  Throw that parallel on every rape revenge movie and the picture becomes a little clearer.  This isn't trying to say rape victims "liked" it or anything like that, but rather that there are plenty of rape victims that don't allow the situation to completely destroy and ruin them.  Like Ginger embracing her werewolf transformation and making it her own, there are plenty of survivors of rape that live their lives like something other than a character on LAW & ORDER: SVU.
I'm surprised this shot from SLITHER doesn't have a BRAZZERS logo on it.

Body Horror also offers the most thinly veiled solution to the "invader(s)" - kill them. We kill The BrundleFly, we torch The Thing, we squash the SLITHER slugs, and we kill the "host" of THE BROOD.  This, by proxy, is what also justifies all rape revenge movies.  Based cinematically, rape should be a capital crime. The other Undiscussed side to body horror is once something is "birthed," the person that served as the "host" is crazy or unstable if they want to keep it alive and in their care.  Madeline is seen as insane for wanting to continue to feed human blood to her baby in GRACE when logical people would assume she should just destroy her.  Even after knowing the truth about the child, Rosemary smiles and rocks her baby.  These actions are seen as shocking and terrifying, but if a rape victim with the ability to become with child wants to rid themself* of their rape caused pregnancy...they're monsters.  (*Day of the Woman accepts that not all people with the ability to have children are women or identify as women and are continuing to become more open and educated with identification pronouns.) What degree of ownership and responsibility is attached to Body Horror?  Audiences often spend the film screaming KILL IT! KILL IT! and find people like Blair in THE THING crazy for wanting to keep the parasite alive.  We as humans like to think ourselves as the most valuable creatures in the universe, but to The Thing, we're nothing more than a host.  In the same regard, human children see "Mother" as nothing more than a host and a means of survival. That's why most babies cling to their mother more than their fathers.  It's not a matter of preference, it's a survival tactic.  If someone implanted you with a demon baby, you'd be screaming for it to go, but if someone implants you with a rape caused baby, you're a demon if you don't want to raise it.  With few exceptions, there aren't many body horror movies where society has tried to coexist with the issue.
My junior year prom date, or Three Fingers in WRONG TURN 2

So what about victims/survivors of body horror that continue to walk amongst us?  The most general way to examine these individuals is to look at mutants.  Mutant horror films are just whitewashed body horror.  These individuals cannot control the way that they are but because they live unconventionally and are seen as "damaged," they are treated as lesser thans.  Not exactly horror, but think about the X-Men.  We've got people that can't help what has happened to them and are fighting for the right to coexist with the general public.  Play that card on rape victims and their endless fight for better laws and after treatment, and it becomes clearer that we treat rape victims less like humans and more like mutants.  These are people to feel sorry for and to try and "fix."  These are people who are inspiring simply for existing, or terrifying for being proud of it.
A still of Bob Costas at the Sochi Olympics...I mean Najarra Townsend in CONTRACTED

(IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THE FILM DO NOT READ AHEAD)What happens when we have a film that deals with both body horror and rape culture?  Eric England's CONTRACTED shows a film about quite possibly the most terrifying disease a person can contract from sexual contact.  We only assume at the end of the film she became a zombie, but what if it was something more?  What if that wasn't even her final form?  At the moment of her transformation, she's finally taking control of her life in all aspects - from her mom, her lover, her friend, but because she's now a deteriorating mess, we're meant to see that change as a bad thing.  Much like rooting for the last man on earth in I AM LEGEND even though he's the parasite to the new world, who are we to say that Samantha in CONTRACTED isn't now exactly who she's meant to be?  Sounds a bit like that Justin Bieber, "everything happens for a reason" quote in regards to rape, doesn't it?
THE ACT OF KILLING was Oscar snubbed, but I promise there are reasons to live, BIO-COP!

Rape culture is a complex thing to understand and it will always be interpreted differently by other people.  However, I firmly believe that whether infected by an other worldly creature, contracting a disease, becoming the product of an accident, or simply being born with it, body horror is an exaggerated reflection of rape culture in Western civilizations.  While we may not have to worry about being implanted with pod people, we do have to worry about become a victim of rape.  The only difference is that unlike a Pod Person or an Alien chestburster, we can't teach these creatures to "not chestburst;" but we do have the ability to teach people not to rape.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Cleveland filmmaker Keith Ten Eyck is truly a force to be reckoned with.  Known for his dystopian film A BARGE AND ITS WIND, about a government conspiracy involving a mysterious boat docked in Cleveland's harbor, Keith Ten Eyck is known for blending genres and giving films an entirely different flavor than what the common audience is accustomed to tasting.  A filmmaker completely unique to himself, it's not often that we see an upcoming individual with such a well established style.  A filmmaker, artist, and graphic designer, Keith Ten Eyck utilizes his variety of talents to create films that feel like cinematic performance art.  His pieces ooze of passion, skill, creativity, and his newest short flick LOCK-OUT/TAG-OUT is no exception.

An intriguing character study about the lives of elevator union workers; the film explores love, work relationships, friendships, and the way death changes them all.  Ten Eyck's cinematography is extremely impressive for such a young filmmaker, and his editing techniques showcase a highly under appreciated skill.  While his writing of the short is very strong, his camera work acts as the strongest character in the entire film.  LOCK-OUT/TAG OUT isn't exactly a fun film to watch, but it's not supposed to be.  This is a film where the drama stands forefront versus the premise.  Although the film is not without its bloody moments, it's a painfully accurate look at how things actually happen in dangerous work environments.  The fact special effects master Maxwell Desotell is an elevator worker himself makes the visions of elevator shaft dropped bodies even more haunting.  For Desotell, he was creating the images of the disasters that he overcomes every day a la 1000 WAYS TO DIE.  Ten Eyck writes very natural dialogue but plot wise, there's a bit more foils to contend with.  However, for a local Cleveland filmmaker, this is a remarkably ambitious piece...especially in acquiring and filming in working elevator shafts alone. Keith Ten Eyck isn't afraid to tackle the harsh realities of the chaos left behind in the lives when someone passes away, and he isn't afraid to do something other than the indie filmmaker staple of "shooting a horror movie in the woods with half naked women."

At just under twenty minutes, LOCK-OUT/TAG-OUT is arguably the most "different" from Keith Ten Eyck's earlier pieces.  There's no fantastical elements. The story is meant to be a cerebral investigation to how guilt and remorse affect the human psyche in the presence of a tragic demise.  It's a more relatable piece, a bit more conventional, and perhaps marketable...but that's how most gateway drugs work.

LOCK-OUT/TAG-OUT premieres FOR FREE at 7 p.m. tonight at Market Garden Brewery. Steve Macadams, another Cleveland filmmaker, will also screen his movie QBCCLE, which will also make its local premiere.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


I love me some Chris Seaver films.  The king of Low Budget Pictures and Warlock Home Video, Chris Seaver has been making independent comedy/horror films longer than I've been alive on this planet.  With 50 films under his belt and 28 of those films in national distribution, Seaver isn't just some schmuck with a camera.  Chris Seaver is the real deal.  Seaver's style is very over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek, and wicked fun.  His films aren't for everyone, but if you like one of his films, there's a good chance you'll love all of his films.  Some of his recent titles include SEXSQUATCH, PHANTOM OF THE GRINDHOUSE, MOIST FURY, GEEK WAR, I SPIT CHEW ON YOUR GRAVE, and DEATHBONE, just to name a few.  Now, Seaver is at it again with his newest flick, THE WEIRDSIES.  He aims to create his version of STAND BY ME but telling the story from the perspective of four 20-something females discovering who they really are over the course of a summer.  Now, I wholeheartedly believe in everything Chris Seaver puts out, and this film is no different.

Help Chris Seaver make this film a reality by supporting his Indiegogo campaign!

Monday, February 3, 2014


HAPPY WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH, EVERYONE!  The major focus for Women In Horror Recognition Month is to shed a light on hard working women in the horror industry, and to start discussions on the representation of women in horror movies.  While women (especially women of color) are constantly misrepresented, the transwoman is without a doubt the most misrepresented minority group in existence.  The horror genre frequently comes under fire for its formulaic uses of tropes and characters, and the "mentally ill transwoman/psycho killer" is one we should really stop using. (NOTE: The asterisk at the end of “trans” in some of this article is an umbrella term to encompass all non-cisgender gender identities including: transgender, transsexual, transvestite, genderqueer, genderfluid, non-binary, genderfuck, genderless, agender, non-gendered, third gender, two-spirit, bigender, and trans man and trans woman.)

Felissa Rose as Angela Baker in SLEEPAWAY CAMP
 The first thing that needs to be addressed is the depressing use of transwomen or cross dressers in horror and the fact filmmakers are treating the two like they're interchangeable.  For example: Norman Bates in PSYCHO may lose his cool and dress like his mother when he kills someone, but that doesn't make him a transwoman.  However, Angela Baker in SLEEPAWAY CAMP is revealed as having male anatomy but then returns years later in the sequels happily living and identifying as a woman.  I'd make the argument that Angela Baker is a transwoman.  Buffalo Bill in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS wanted to be a woman, I'd consider him a transwoman, while The Bride in Black from INSIDIOUS and INSIDIOUS 2 may have been struggling from an identity crisis caused by the years of abuse inflicted on him by his mother.  It's difficult to tell whether The Bride in Black wanted to castrate himself because he truly wanted to be a woman, or if it meant his mother would finally love him.  That's a complex issue and one that could easily constitute its own article.

Origin of The Black Bride in INSIDIOUS 2 (see: boy in a dress)

Mey Valdivia Rude is a trans woman and contributing editor/author to Autostraddle who recently covered this very topic with an incredible article titled Who's Afraid Of The Big, Bad Trans*Woman? On Horror and Transfemininity.  Her article is highly informative, but it is her experiences as a trans person and a horror fan that are truly telling of the impact film has on its audiences.  In describing her theatrical experience watching INSIDIOUS 2 she states,
As the movie was ending, I sank down into my seat, hoping that no one would notice that I was trans*. I was afraid that if someone realized I was trans*, they might make the connection between me and the serial-killer-turned-ghost in the movie. After all, if you don’t know me, you might see me and (incorrectly) think that I’m just some man who is dressed up like a woman. According to the filmmakers behind Insidious Chapter 2, that makes me creepy, insane and dangerous.
When I think of women in horror films that I can identify with, I can respond with characters like the bodacious and brash Elvira, Mary from HOCUS POCUS, and a handful of other sassy, independent women.  For transwomen, they have motel owning serial killers, kidnapping lepidopterists, malicious ghosts, and slashers.  Considering horror films are predominately made by men and the fact Western society heavily values men over women, it's somewhat predictable that we'd have all of these "mentally ill" male characters dressing like women.  Why would a man want to live as a woman? That's just insane! Henry Lee Lucas was forced to dress like a girl when he was a kid, and look how he turned out!  Mey Rude goes on in her article to say, "The same insanity that causes them to be transgender is the thing that causes them to become serial killers, and causes them to be seen as frightening." It's very difficult for the average cis-gendered male to understand what it feels like to misidentify with the gender their anatomy and society tells them they're "supposed" to be.  Film representation is very, very important.  Think of it this way-- if JAWS made people scared of the ocean and IT made people afraid of clowns, what sort of idea are we perpetuating about transwomen if they're frequently shown as psychotic, violent, or perverted?

Buffalo Bill putting on lip makeup in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

A recent study showcased that trans* people across the U.S. experience three times as much police violence as non-transgender individuals.  Even more terrifying, when trans*gender people were the victims of hate crimes, 48% reported receiving mistreatment from the police when they went for help.  These statistics are the true horrors.  Mey Rude sums it up perfectly:
When people look to pop culture and see trans* women portrayed as dangerous impostors that they should be afraid of, they cease to see transwomen as people and start seeing them as monsters. In the fictional world of movies it may be the transwomen who are frightening and menacing killers, but in real life, those transwomen are far, far more likely to be the victims of horrific and violent murders.
To my knowledge, there is really only one horror movie that showcases transwomen in a positive light, and even then the film showcases drag queens...not transwomen.  (Pro-tip, not all drag queens are transwomen and not all transwomen are drag queens.) TICKED OFF TRANNIES WITH KNIVES is a tongue-in-cheek rape revenge film meant to be an entertaining film of empowerment a la I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE.  GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)protested the film at it's original Tribeca screening, but opinions on the film are extremely polarized.  Considering the somewhat cartoonish film is the only real positive representation transwomen have in horror, I can sympathize with the anger from the trans* community.  At the end of the day, I can't hate the player but I will hate the game.  Hollywood (horror in particular) needs a makeover on its portrayal of transwomen, and fast.
Just picture Jamie Clayton as a Final Girl real quick. THAT is a film I want to see.

If horror were to take a page from the books of dramatic films like DOG DAY AFTERNOON, THE DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, or even the smash hit TV series ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, we can start showcasing transwomen as actual people with feelings and complex thoughts and not just an easy way to tell an audience "this guy is supposed to be a weirdo, so we put him in a dress."  There are amazing transwomen actresses, and they would be amazing additions to the female horror cannon as much more than a punch line or a quick villain.  Laverne Cox, Harmony Santana, Jamie Clayton, and Candis Cayne are just a few working actresses that would completely dominate in the horror world.  Transwomen deserve proper representation in horror, and it's about time someone does something about it.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


Emily DiPrimo: 13-year-old horror director
A thirteen year old girl named Emily is making a feature length horror movie.  After watching her father Ron Di Primio make films and from her own experiences working on horror films since she was 4 years old, Emily Di Primiohas decided to take a seat in the director's chair.  Di Primio will co-write and co-direct (along with her father) the upcoming flick CARVER; a throwback to the heyday of 80s slasher films.  The story follows a group of teenagers who have all kept secret the fact they caused the deaths of several people on Halloween when they were younger.  Years later on the anniversary of those deaths, the teenagers begin receiving terrifying threats in the form of pumpkins.  The film was fully financed through Kickstarter, raising $31,900 of its original $25,000 goal.  Di Primio has promised no CGI gore and her kickstarter video more than proves that this youngster has been raised on a healthy diet of horror.  Di Primio is currently casting CARVER and the film is hopefully projected to begin filming May of 2014.

Sound familiar?

When Emily Hagins was only 12 years old, she directed a feature length zombie film called PATHOGEN and was the subject of the documentary ZOMBIE GIRL.  While many dismissed Hagins' young age (and gender) as nothing more than a gimmick for an independent film, the final product of PATHOGEN proved that Hagins was a filmmaker far beyond her years.  While many could have accepted if Hagins' filmmaking career was going to solely consist of PATHOGEN, Hagins has since directed  three other projects including MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE and the SXSW selection GROW UP, TONY PHILLIPS.  There's nothing gimmick about Emily Hagins, she genuinely makes fun and clever movies.

So what does this say about Emily Di Primio?

Emily Di Primio in her kickstarter promotional video

Women and girls are not these fragile little creatures afraid of blood (you all do know what happens to us every month, right?) and there are plenty of young girls with an appetite for gore and horror.  Emily Di Primio proves that Emily Hagins wasn't a fluke, and she's not not some special exception to the rule of "sugar, spice, and everything nice."  Girls love horror. Plain and simple.  Hagins paved the way for girls like Di Primio, and it's incredibly inspiring to see young girls taken seriously with their desire to make a scary movie.  I'm excited to see that Di Primio is putting CARVER in motion and I look forward to seeing the final product.

Friday, January 24, 2014


"I'm sure there are photos of flowers out there that would blow my mind, but you know, I just haven't seen 'em." -Billy

It feels like every "indie darling" in the last few years have had Joe Swanberg's name attached to it in some way, shape, or form.  The prolific demi-god of "mumblecore" movies, Swanberg's films are commonly adventures into the world of low-budget dramas showcasing relationships, technology, filmmaking, and love.  Films like DRINKING BUDDIES, HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS, ALL THE LIGHT IN THE SKY, and his Sundance hit HAPPY CHRISTMAS would paint Swanberg to be the filmmaker both critics and hipsters would recommend to their pals.

However, with things like his V/H/S segment (The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger), AUTOEROTIC (co-directed with Adam Wingard), and 24 EXPOSURES, it's proven that Swanberg is capable of creating a wide variety of films without ever losing the signature Swanberg touch.  If filmographies were ice cream, Swanberg would be Baskin Robin's 31 flavors.

Wingard personifying the stuff he reblogs on tumblr.
 Swanberg's filmmaking style generates a product very reminiscent of the "slice of life" theatre movements.  His films feel authentic, look natural, and sound completely unrehearsed.  Well, in the case of that last description, it's true.  24 EXPOSURES focuses on Billy (Adam Wingard), a fetish photographer specializing as corpse/crime scene style photography.  Think the death photo project from the Fitzgerald sisters in GINGER SNAPS and you've got an idea of what Billy tries to make sexy.  He lives with his collaborator girlfriend Alex (Caroline White) who has a penchant for picking out models that look like that could be her sisters, and if the model is willing, instigating threeomes.  It seems as if his life of shoot, fuck, repeat is working out well, until a depressed homicide detective named Michael Bamfeaux (Simon Barrett) shows up to ask about the murder of one of his models.

Another addition to the "Making it really hard to find pictures of these two individually," file.

The film plays with the idea of voyeurism, and it's clearly reflected in the filming style.  We see the photos of Billy and Michael's real crime photos and it's really difficult to distinguish which is which.  It forces us to ask a lot of questions regarding artist's integrity, artist's motivation, and the intent of artists working in non-traditional formats. Watching this film feels like intruding into the world of an artist and spying on the downward spiral of a depressed man trained on how to use a gun.  Of all of Swanberg's films, this was one of the more interesting to watch.  It's unsettling and feels like what the Investigation Discovery crime dramatizations want to be when they grow up.  If you came looking for flannel and kitschy situations, you came to the wrong movie.

At least this white van has windows, amirite?

Despite being about a murder, the film focuses on the Swanberg standard of personal relationships.  The way that the lives of these people intertwine and interact are complex, interesting, and perhaps all too familiar...which is exactly how it's supposed to be.  Perhaps the naysayers of Swanberg's films are uncomfortable because his characters are a little too identifiable.  Considering it's another leap into the realm of "directors as actors" style of Swanberg films, the acting isn't great.  When Wingard and Barrett are on screen together, the chemistry spikes up and their performances really shine, but that should be expected coming from the two filmmaking partners.  The story feels very true to life, which may lead this film to very polarizing opinions.  It doesn't feel like a movie, it feels like real life. Sorry, but there's really no escapism in this one. There isn't a cinematic gut-punch, but the film didn't feel unsatisfying.  I may be in the minority when giving this film a thumbs up, but I found 24 EXPOSURES to be a crime drama pretty unique to itself.  Swanberg himself admits in his cameo that this sort of story is "the sort of thing that happens in real life and doesn't make for compelling, commerical books."  It may not be your cup of tea, but I enjoyed my serving.
Related Posts with Thumbnails