Tuesday, December 2, 2014

WHY IS VICTOR SALVA STILL MAKING MOVIES AND WHY ARE YOU WATCHING THEM?

TRIGGER WARNING!!!
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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

WHY AREN'T WE TALKING ABOUT NIGHT SCHOOL (1981)?

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.


*SPOILER ALERT*
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, August 19, 2014

WHEN THE LOVE OF GREEN RUNS RED: FINANCIAL HORROR FILMS

Actual photo of currency required to pay my bills.
It's been three months since I've updated Day of the Woman. I've never gone that long without updating this site since it's creation back in February of 2009.  Since starting to write for Icons of Fright, I've sort of reserved Day of the Woman for my more "academic" or analytical articles.  However, the brain frying recovery drugs and overwhelming stress of the financial woes caused by my battle with pancreatic cancer has taken its toll on me.  Yesterday I broke down and did something I never thought I would ever do; I signed myself up for a donation page through Paypal.  I have gone approximately six months without any financial assistance but I've reached a breaking point where it was either ask for help, or become the female Frank Abagnale, Jr.  We've all heard the expression "money is the root of all evil," and what artistic medium understands evil better than the horror film?
 (WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS)
Or in my case, throws you into debilitation debt!
There are many, many reasons why people need money and after being put through the financial ringer myself, I'd be lying if I didn't admit I've contemplated doing the absolute unthinkable in order to make ends meet.  Thanks to the current abysmal state of the American economy, our American horror films are beginning to center around financial woes.  One of the major themes in financial horror films is desperation.  It was arguably the story of CHEAP THRILLS that perfectly captured the internal struggle of, "For X amount of money, would you do it?"  The authenticity of Pat Healy's character Craig is what makes this film so magical...and horrific.  A college graduate with a degree (and a passion) in a field that doesn't pay the bills forces him to work a dead-end manual labor job in order to support his new family.  If this doesn't sound like 95% of the world born after 1980, I don't know how else to paint that picture.  Craig is pinned against his old pal Vince in a cruel game of "Do this for X amount of dollars," and with every stake raise, the audience will play right along.  Why? Because for a majority of us, we've all been there.  I've contemplated sacrificing my own fertility by selling my eggs for $10,000 and that's no different than Craig losing a finger for fifteen grand.  This sort of a film is relatable to a wide audience, which is presumably why we continue to see similar storylines like the flick 13 SINS.  But this isn't a new concept.  If we look back to the TWILIGHT ZONE episode "Button, Button," we're still dealing with strapped for cash individuals pushed to the brink.  
Back in my day you could answer a newspaper ad without risk of murder.
These desperate measures may only call for a mild desperate action, like the collegiate Samantha not leaving a screwed up baby-sitting situation in THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL because she needed the money to pay her rent.  In more extreme cases, people allow themselves to question their morals and personal limitations at the possibility of financial assistance.  AJ Bowen's character Ben in RITES OF SPRING resorts to ransoming a child after he's unjustly fired from his job. Mary Mason had resorted to stripping in order to pay for medical school but instead puts her medical license at risk by becoming an extreme body modification surgeon in AMERICAN MARY.  Brittany Snow's character Isis can no longer afford to take care of her sick brother, and reluctantly attempts to make money by playing a twisted game of WOULD YOU RATHER?  
Now Playing: THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BEIGE
Sometimes the terrible acts aren't out of desperation, but rather pure and selfish greed.  There's a reason greed is one of the seven deadly sins, and it's because it makes us do some pretty unforgivable things.  While there are plenty of examples of selfish people doing selfish actions in the name of selfish greed, one of my favorite recent examples is YOU'RE NEXT.  Hailed for it's spin on the slasher genre, the underlying message of the film is "Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen, and Nicholas Tucci are total dicks." I'm kidding.  In reality, YOU'RE NEXT is a story about some entitled brats that were too impatient for their wealthy parents to die off so they could have their inheritances, so they took matters into their own hands. These brothers make for perfect villains, because I don't know who I could hate in real life anymore than affluent kids.  On the flip side, there are also plenty of films about step-parents trying to kill off their children in order to obtain their inheritances.  A personal favorite is BURNING BRIGHT, a film about a father that traps his step children in a house with a wild tiger to escape the blame of their deaths. 
For a millionaire, he sure could afford to hire a maid. Damn, son.
Money also has the power to turn people into certifiable psychopaths.  Look at people like Frederick Loren or Steven Price in THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL films.  Hi, we're millionaires with SOOOO much excess money, we're going to play games with these peasants!  You all need money, so whomever can stay the night in this haunted house wins!  What kind of bullsh- is that? Normal philanthropists donate money to charity, but no. People who are super rich totally have the power to pull dick moves like this and we as the audience completely buy into it.  Look at films like BLOOD DOLLS or THE AGGRESSION SCALE, money makes people nuts!  People kill to protect their money or, because they're super rich, they can afford to have super weird hobbies.  Money may make the world go round, but it also makes people super weird.
This is the closest I'll ever get to examining Larry Fessenden's brain.
For some, committing terrible acts for money is just part of the job description.  Employees in films like in I SELL THE DEAD or REPO! THE GENETIC OPERA make inhumane actions look commonplace, because there really isn't a way to make an "honest" living anymore, is there?  We've all become so desensitized to being forced to work in shit jobs for shit pay, that even when we see it happen on an exaggerated cinematic level, we never once stop and question the moral repercussions of questionable lines of work.  Hit men, gangsters, grave robbers, organ repo men, vampire slayers, and assassins are all just a few examples of horror jobs that pay green for red.

On a serious note, this film is well deserving of a watch.

One of the more unique looks into a financial horror film is THE INHERITANCE, a film less about selfishness and more about what is owed to someone. The story follows five cousins set out on a family reunion during the dead of winter. The purpose of the retreat is to secure their inheritance, a fortune that dates back many generations...because they're all descendants of slaves.  What is so interesting about financial horror films is the seemingly infinite possibilities for storytelling.  Everyone regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic standing, gender identity, sexual orientation, or physical ability will have to encounter money at some point in their lives.  It's one of the few constant truths in this world, and it will scare us all for the rest of eternity.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

WHAT SCARES ME: GENDER INEQUALITY AND THE VIOLENCE IT FEEDS IN AMERICAN SLASHER FILMS


-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 wanted...in 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

HOW CAN YOU WATCH HORROR WHEN YOU'RE DYING?

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

WOMEN SHOWING HORROR STREET CRED WITH "THE POP FIX: WORST THINGS I READ ABOUT HORROR MOVIES"

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!


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

IN DEFENSE OF THE DAMSEL IN DISTRESS

(Update: Turns out my tumor WAS malignant and I had to undergo severe abdominal surgery. They removed 40% of my pancreas and my entire spleen. I'm currently in recovery and doing pretty well.  However, in lieu of a traditional article,  I wanted to x-post an article I wrote as a guest for Gorepress last year.  I hope you enjoy it!)

In honor of this year’s annual Women in Horror month celebration, there are going to be countless articles published about the errors in the ways the horror genre has represented women over the years. While the injustices of female filmmakers are greatly apparent and consistently topical, the idea of sexism and degrading roles of women in the horror genre are perhaps the most talked about subjects. It is no secret that the gender bias within the horror genre is prevalent and it is infrequent for a female character to be anything other than a ‘stock character’. I may be disappointing my feminist allies everywhere, because I’m about to play devil’s advocate in a huge way.

I've seen Boy Scouts tie tighter knots.
The “Damsel In Distress” archetype is arguably the first character type for women in popular culture. It has without a doubt been cited as the biggest example of differential treatment of genders in literature, film, and works of art. “Damsels in Distress” are often scoffed at as perpetuating the stereotype that women are the weaker of the sexes and are rendered useless without the assistance of a man. The Damsel in Distress is the grandmother of other incredibly offensive female archetypes like the “princess in the castle,” “missing white woman syndrome,” “Daphne Blakes,” and most recently, “Bella Swans.” Despite their seemingly offensive and stereotypical portrayal of women in cinema, they may be quite possibly the most important stock character to happen to horror films.

Before I continue any further, let it be known that I firmly believe that women can be strong and independent members of society capable of taking care of themselves and making their own decisions. I do not believe women are prizes to be won. My ability to analyze a potentially counterproductive aspect of film criticism does not change my feminist viewpoints.

Why is hair smelling a thing?
 From the earliest examples of horror films, “Damsels in Distress” (or women in peril) were the only roles that actresses would play. From the beautiful Dea in The Man Who Laughs, to the kidnapped Madeline Parker in White Zombie, these women were often the sole conflict of horror films. Although these women were written as nothing more than beautiful prized possessions, it was their existence that propelled the story further than just introductory statements. Film theorist, Budd Boetticher, stated “what counts is what the heroine provokes, or rather what she represents. She is the one, or rather the love or fear she inspires in the hero, or else the concern he feels for her, who makes him act the way he does. In herself the woman has not the slightest importance.” To put it simply, without the simplistic nature of the “Damsel in Distress,” there would be no story. These female characters are absolutely vital to the storytelling.

Women: capable of continuing on the species.
 Here’s the thing. Here is the thing that no one ever cares to admit: we care more about the well being of women than we do men. Don’t believe me? As Major West said in 28 Days Later… “Because women mean a future.” When there is a disaster or a terrible event occurring, people scream “women and children first” or violent criminals are more willing to spare them. This concept has absolutely nothing to do with the idea of women and children being weaker than adult males, this has everything to do with the fact that without women, there is no existence. Men cannot bare children, therefore, they cannot continue on the species. Women are the most important attribute to survival and therefore, are the most valuable creatures to mankind.  When we look at it historically, the reason that “Damsels in Distress” were popular are due to the fact that up until the last forty or so years, there wasn’t any insight to the female psyche. Women were seen as inferior beings and the “Damsel in Distress” is merely a product of its time. Yes, the “damsel in distress” still makes its appearance into films today, but the impact this character type made on horror far surpasses its offensive nature.

*Plays Destiny's Child's "Survivor" in the background*

Without the “damsel in distress,” we wouldn’t have a character to be offended and angry towards. That may sound silly, but it’s true. If we weren’t so intensely offended by this archetype, we wouldn’t have rebelled and tried so hard to disprove it. Strangely enough, horror movies showcase some of the greatest female protagonists in film history regardless of genre. The rebellion against the damsel in distress introduced entirely new archetypes into the horror genre. Badass women like Alice in Resident Evil or the ladies in The Descent, intellectual anti-heroes like May, women who learned to use their gender against men like Ginger in Ginger Snaps, victims turned champions like Jennifer in I Spit On Your Grave, and brutal killers like Asami in Audition. All of these women (whether for the ‘good’ or ‘evil’) are the complete and utter opposite of a damsel in distress. While many of them do follow stereotypically sexist ideals (they’re all conventionally attractive and they’re ‘crazy bitches’) these women would not exist if it weren’t for the “damsel in distress.” In an attempt to create characters so opposite of the damsels audiences had become accustomed to, it forced storytellers and filmmakers to think outside the box and come up with different ways to explore the female character.

Just, you know, avoid that boat...
Witness: The Final Girl. The slasher film has arguably the biggest fanbase and brought more iconic characters to the horror world than any other subgenre. Although a bit formulaic at times, they all contain the all mighty Final Girl. Final girls are the virginal, usually brunette, woman who remains as the sole survivor of the slasher film for exemplifying intellect, morals, and strength. The Final Girl is the polar opposite of the damsel in distress and showcases one of the most radical ways to view female characters in the horror genre. Although it is nearly impossible for a filmmaker to write a totally non-offensive female character, the final girl is the closest thing we’re going to get. Hell, even Sidney survived in SCREAM after throwing her virginity to her mother’s killer. Female characters are evolving with every film, and it all goes back to the damsel in distress. Whether you choose to agree with me or not, damsels in distress were inadvertently the most important thing to happen to female characters in horror movies and potentially, all forms of cinema.

Monday, March 3, 2014

THE "BLURRED LINES" OF BODY HORROR AND RAPE CULTURE

(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.)
Still from JOHN CARPENTER'S THE THING

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

REVIEW: KEITH TEN EYCK'S LOCK-OUT/TAG-OUT

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

HELP CHRIS SEAVER MAKE "THE WEIRDSIES!"

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

TRANS* WOMEN AND THE HORROR OF MISREPRESENTATION

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 trans* woman 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 trans* woman/psycho killer" is one we should really stop using. (NOTE: The asterisk at the end of "trans" 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 trans*women 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 trans*woman.  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 trans*woman.  Buffalo Bill in THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS wanted to be a woman, I'd consider him a trans*woman, while The Bride in Black from INSIDIOUS & 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 trans*women, 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 trans*women 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 trans* women as people and start seeing them as monsters. In the fictional world of movies it may be the trans* women who are frightening and menacing killers, but in real life, those trans* women 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 trans*women in a positive light, and even then the film showcases drag queens...not trans*women.  (Pro-tip, not all drag queens are trans*women and not all trans*women 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 trans*women 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 trans*women, 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 trans*women 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 trans*women 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.  Trans*women deserve proper representation in horror, and it's about time someone does something about it.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

13-YEAR-OLD EMILY DI PRIMIO IS MAKING A SLASHER FILM

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?

Emily Hagins of PATHOGEN, MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE, and GROW UP, TONY PHILLIPS
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.

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