February is Women in Horror Month, and I couldn’t be happier. “The future is female” is a hashtag that is thrown around social media so often that sometimes people forget that it’s not only the future that is female, but also the past and the present. The horror community would not be as exciting and fresh as it is without women in every aspect of it! I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the women that contribute to horror. The actresses, directors, producers, writers, make-up artists, stunt women, and every woman involved in horror has made an important impact on the genre.
Women in Horror Month is a time to recognize that horror would not be as interesting or inclusive, if it wasn’t for the ladies in the scene taking something stale, turning it inside out, and making it amazing! Whether it’s the high concept arthouse horror of BRAID (2018), directed by Mitzi Peirone, or the 1982 slasher classic SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE written by Rita Mae Brown and directed by Amy Holden Jones, this is a time for their work to be recognized and celebrated.
I believe that the female voice is vital to the horror scene. There have been many wonderful female-centric horror films throughout the years. Some of my personal favorites are 2012’s body horror opus AMERICAN MARY directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska, director Mary Lambert’s haunting Stephen King adaptation PET SEMATARY (1989), and one of director Kathryn Bigelow’s first films, 1987’s brutal NEAR DARK. I could keep on going on about all the female-centric horror I love (JENNIFER’S BODY, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, RAW), but I would rather hear what others have to say on the subject. I reached out to various creative professionals to find out what their favorite female-centric horror films are, and why.
BROOKLYN EWING (director, SHE WAS SO PRETTY)
Until I started screening SHE WAS SO PRETTY at film festivals and conventions, I never focused on female-directed films. It did not occur to me that women were not making as many films as men. When the question of “How difficult is it as a woman to make films?” began to pop up over and over at these events, I decided to make sure I was watching women-centric film projects, because in my mind it wasn’t any more difficult than if I were a man making films, but I wanted to make sure I was supporting as many talented women as I could.
The current horror film that stuck out in my mind was Karyn Kusama’s THE INVITATION. THE INVITATION features some of the thickest tension I have ever felt in a movie. The lingering emotional moments drip from the film. Kusama created these high stress moments with finesse. As someone who deals with a high level of empathy, and dread, the movie creates the perfect crescendo of violent emotion, and stress. The film inspired me to focus on character motivations and backstory more in my own work, and Kusama’s struggle in the industry helped me to see that women still have much further to go in the industry, before we can feel comfortable.
As I fell in love with Kusama’s work, I realized she created another one of my favorite films, JENNIFER’S BODY. She has such a highly-tuned ability to capture a wide array of emotion. JENNIFER’S BODY is an overlooked treasure. Watching Kusama go from creating two Hollywood budget type films in AEON FLUX and JENNIFER’S BODY, to making a lower budget film like THE INVITATION makes my love for her abilities grow even fonder. Her passion shines through when challenged with a tighter budget, and a challenging emotion-heavy script. She is a treasure.
ANTHONY BROWNLEE (producer, FREDHEADS: THE DOCUMENTARY)
“I take back every bit energy I gave you — you’re nothing, you’re shit.” that line is the epitome of standing up for one’s self. Nancy Thompson from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, embodies the girl next door, a typical teenager who proves to be extraordinary in her journey of stopping a dream demon named Freddy Krueger. I saw the film at age five, and even at that age I saw her ingenuity; watching this young teenage girl have the shrewdness to figure it all out. Nancy was not the girl who happens to survive by circumstance or someone coming to her rescue, but a girl who takes control herself, using her brain. and is every bit of the word: heroine.
Although A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET is my favorite horror film and Nancy Thompson, played by Heather Langenkamp, is my favorite horror girl, there are many in the genre who are kickass and take control. Kirsty Cotton from HELLRAISER, Sidney Prescott from SCREAM, and even Yvonne from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 5: THE DREAM CHILD, being the first African-American girl to survive in a mainstream horror film. These women exemplified strength and taking charge, having minds of their own and did not give up or give in because it was “their place” to be still and let the man take charge. It’s these women that make horror films interesting and make you want more, to have sequels so we, as the audience, get to see how these women grow as they inevitably… have to keep fighting.
DAYNA NOFFKE (director, CEMETERY TALES: TALES FROM MORNINGVIEW CEMETERY)
Whenever I think of women in horror, two of my favorite films – THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (1974) and AMERICAN PSYCHO (2000) immediately come to mind. Although the two films are quite different in tone and style, what they have in common is a strong – maybe even extreme – vision, and strong women who worked to bring those visions to life.
THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE was the stuff of childhood lore. Lunchtime discussions about the whereabouts of the ‘REAL Sally Hardesty’ had primed me for my first viewing, which occurred when I was nine or ten years old. I can remember thinking – even after a few years of late night slasher viewing on HBO – that this one was different. This film was REAL. It was gritty and dark and that girl was terrified. So I was terrified. Of course, it would be many years before I would learn her real name: Marilyn Burns. THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE is real because of her performance. I’ve never seen one to rival it. Considering that Marilyn had to make it through real-life on-set injuries and insanely difficult shooting conditions to get there, she qualifies as one of horror’s all-time badass women. I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to meet her and to share a few meals and talks with her in the last few years leading up to her death. My opinion of her, as both an actress and a person, couldn’t be higher.
Mary Harron’s AMERICAN PSYCHO was a daring satirical vision of life in the bubble of Wall Street’s America. It’s twisted, it’s funny and you don’t have to look too closely to see that it has a LOT to say. I have great respect for Mary Harron’s directorial vision and her ability to work with such difficult material. She took a story that is, at face value, an ode to all things materialistic and misogynistic and twisted it into something entirely different. It would have been easy to go the route of softening this story or pulling back on performances but Mary did neither and the result is stunning. I consider this to be a great feat of directing and I love the choices that she made for this film.
RICHARD TANNER (director, FRANKENTHUG)
I was shocked when WONDER WOMAN came out and people were cheering it as if it was the first time a woman was the bad ass hero. I was shocked because I grew up in the horror aisle with heroes like Ripley from ALIEN and Nancy from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET!
I actually found that for the most part the only memorable role men had in horror films was as a monster. The final girl is what it is all about… I knew that before I even knew that phrase.
There is still a disconnect when it comes to women in horror though and I’m glad we still have several talented ladies holding it down! From the likes of Ellie Church to Brooklyn Ewing and everyone in between…Horror has always been a place for women and with a little work, it always will be!
A Western. A new look at vampires, without fangs, covered in dust — totally not goth unlike their great granddaddy Bela. More like a crew of nomad outlaws with histories dating back to the Civil War; the Chicago fires.
When I rewatch NEAR DARK, the world these vampires lived in inspire me. My love for them comes from my Chainsaw Family leanings — punk leanings — a gang that is self-made, a family forged of outsiders in rage and blood. I love Jesse (Lance Henriksen) he’s hard, vicious and striking with years mapped on his face and body. I love Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein): she’s tough, sly and grounded in her love for Jesse and their wicked way of life. Twin flames burning up in the desert asphalt. I love Severen (Bill Paxton): wild like a wild fire — a character I have taken in as persona as legion — in the way I adorn myself in spurs, black and leather-clad and a bad fucking attitude. Lastly Homer (Joshua John Miller): the child trapped forever; reborn into a killer forever ageless — and living with that dichotomy.
My life is better for NEAR DARK — part of my creative life, and dream life flower from this film—without Kathryn Bigelow’s masterpiece my life would be incomplete.
GREG GUNTER (actor, BEAR CITY trilogy)
As a squirt introduced to horror flicks way early by elder cousins, I watched women being victimized, tormented, chased & even eaten! The hey-day of the scream queens is slightly after my early intro, but had a profound impact on my overly sensitive soul. So when Moldavian enchantress, Princess Asa Vajda, from Mario Bava’s LA MASCHERA DEL DEMONIO (BLACK SUNDAY) was entombed in a metal facemask with inward spikes only to rise again 300 years later, I was in rapt!
I love a female horror villain.
This pre-teen was transfixed by Barbara Steele’s reveal–the spikey holes in her face, her horrific frozen visage, rising when a blood splatter fed her starved dehydrated heart. She was a masterful royal vamp.
Campy horror feeds me like the ichor fed Asa’s atrial husk; if you’ve ever seen Gloria Holden play the sultry Countess Marya Zaleska in cult classic DRACULA’S DAUGHTER or Celeste Yarnall playing Diane LeFanu in THE VELVET VAMPIRE (by Stephanie Rothman–a vanguard in horror directors!)–we need a movie night! These are the pre-curse-ors to gorgeous Catherine Deneuve’s Miriam Blaylock, a much more subtle, though still campy, vampiric lover in THE HUNGER.
While not a bit related, Mrs. Baylock (THE OMEN) Billie Whitelaw’s indelible portrayal of unholy minder is rich & resonant. Billie was a favorite actor of Samuel Beckett and her small role hits so many levels of brilliance, tender to toxic–she is more savage than Satan. Women that turn the masculine on its head are welcome in this normally male-centric genre. Wendy Robie as “Mommy” Robeson (THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS) hits every note as well. While her husband (brother? son?) is ghastly, Mommy holds the sado-masochistic cards. Eihi Shiina’s sweet, shy, utterly sociopathic Asami Yamazaki in AUDITION provokes utter tongue-stealing shock. And more recently, the subtly maniacal, inhuman, Catherine Keener as Missy Armitage in Jordan Peele’s tour-de-ferocious, GET OUT–and 2 performances on the villain side I won’t give away in case you haven’t seen it…seal the film as eternal classic. SEE IT!
The sinister women I adore turn the tide on male counterparts, transform the normally masculine incarnation into a wicked new villainous celebration of madness & mephitic mayhem, and remind us, the Devil, SHE wears many guises.
DEBORAH VOORHEES (director, 13 FANBOY)
My all-time favorite horror film is THE BAD SEED starring Patty McCormack, the pig-tailed blonde little girl, who at first glance is the most unlikely serial killer. This black-and-white suspense horror film, released in 1956, delves into the question of nature vs. nurture. Are psychopaths created or born? Rhoda Penmark lives in a well-to-do family with two loving parents. She seems to have everything by most standards, but her first kill shows her sinister mind. When Claude beats Rhoda and his other classmates in a penmanship competition, she murders the boy and steals the penmanship metal. To her, this murderous act is justified because Claude didn’t deserve it. Rhoda lacks any feelings of remorse and manipulates and kills to gain what she wants no matter how trivial. The film brilliantly unfolds with stunning performances from Rhoda’s mother performed by Nancy Kelly and Claude’s mother performed by Eileen Heckart.
The film’s original ending followed William March’s book, but the Hollywood Production Code didn’t allow for evil wrongdoers to escape justice, so the filmmakers went for a biblical-style ending. Rather than ruin it for those who are uninitiated, I suggest picking up a copy and seeing it for yourself.
MIKE VAUGHN (author, THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO STRANGE CINEMA)
First off, I feel like every month is women in horror for me. It’s awesome that we writers for this were given free rein on what to write about and of course my mind went to a thousand different places where to go. Should I talk about incredibly talented up-and-coming directors like Izzy Lee and Jenn Wexler? Or legendary scream queens and final girls? Or how about the unsung women writers and producers? So many possibilities because women are a major part of horror despite on the surface seeming like a testosterone fueled genre. I decided that I would focus on three women in horror that I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with at various conventions. Betsy Palmer, Julie Adams, and Caroline Munro.
Ms. Julie Adams sadly passed away Sunday, Feb. 3rd at 92 years old. I first met Julie along with Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning. They were of course the remaining main cast from the legendary Universal horror film CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. This was fairly early in my convention-going days (Monster Mania 2 or 3) and what struck me was how utterly warm and sharp she was. You could tell she loved engaging with her fans and that while some talked about her other films like BEND OF THE RIVER starring opposite Jimmy Stewart, most people wanted to talk about her time as the heroine from the Lagoon. And she was incredibly proud of the film and didn’t mind fans asking things I am sure she has been asked countless times before. When it came my turn, she happily took my poster and signed it and posed with me and we struck up a nice chat about some of her lesser talked about roles, which I could tell she really enjoyed. She may be forever remembered for her role in an iconic horror movie, and fans that were lucky enough to meet her will recall how sweet she was to each and every person.
Betsy Palmer was another person that I had the pleasure of meeting, not once but twice. What impressed me with Palmer was how she treated each fan like a lifelong friend. She ALWAYS stood up for photos (which not a lot of people will do — even much younger people), embraced fans and of course loved talking about her villainous role as Jason’s mother Mrs. Pamela Voorhees. I took my Sideshow figure for her to sign, the exclusive one with her severed head, and she got such a kick out of that. I also found an old head shot of her, and it made her laugh. “I look so butch in that one,” she remarked. I am a huge classic film buff, so we talked about her role with the legendary star Joan Crawford, and she regaled me and some fans around me with stories about working with her on QUEEN BEE. As I said before, I got to meet her once again, and as always, she treated all her fans like her best friends. I really feel sorry for fans that won’t get to meet her, because she really was a true gem — a LEGEND.
Much like Betsy, it’s crystal clear that Caroline Munro enjoys meeting and interacting with her fans. Like Ms. Palmer, I got to meet her twice, and both times I was just awestruck by her. And not just because she is still a knock-out, but it was the way she carries herself and how incredibly kind she is to her fans. The last time I met her, there was a gentleman in front of me. He was obviously a huge fan and totally struck by her. He knocked something off her table (I believe it was something he brought for her to sign). She couldn’t have been sweeter, even picking up the poor guy’s stuff and making him feel at ease. This gesture was really touching, and I have met plenty of convention guests that really don’t warm to their fans, and some sadly that are downright rude.
I met many incredibly wonderful women in horror over the years. Barbara Crampton, Claire Higgins, I could go on and on but I won’t. I hope you enjoyed my brief but warm memories of these three women and continue to remember them and many others like them — because that’s what keeps them alive forever.
SHAYNA CONNELLY (director, QUIVER)
One of the first horror films I saw was LET’S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH, starring Zohra Lampert. The film fed my already full-blown obsession with ghosts, but it is also about gaslighting women and the line between mental illness and supernatural occurrences. I watch it often and I discover something new in her performance every time.
Claire Denis’ TROUBLE EVERY DAY and Julia Ducournau’s RAW deal with female desire through body horror. I don’t usually gravitate toward revulsion in films, but it’s so rare to get films about female appetites shaped by a female director and their use of the grotesque makes sense to me. There’s a point to the physical horror beyond exploitation. THE BABADOOK’s treatment of grief and the idea that we must coexist with what haunts us came at a time when I was similar subject matter in my own films. GARDENING AT NIGHT deals with liminal states caused by grief and QUIVER looks at how desire penetrates the abyss of grief, forcing us to reconfigure space in order to move forward. Motherhood as a haunted state is one of the most important parts of Jennifer Kent’s film and her depiction of the contradictory feelings mothers like me experience is the most authentic I have seen onscreen.
The way Karyn Kusama’s THE INVITATION plays with trauma, claustrophobic spaces and culty-manipulation is superb. The film is important for me on its merits, but Kusama’s career trajectory is real-life horror for female directors. When JENNIFER’S BODY tanked, it took her years to recover and get another chance at big-budget filmmaking. Male directors aren’t held to the same standard and are often allowed to fail upwards. The fact that she persevered and got back to feature filmmaking is encouraging. It helped that she stayed visible by directing episodic TV in-between films.
ADAM MARCUS (director, SECRET SANTA)
In my second year of film school at NYU, I had designed my schedule so that I never had classes on Fridays. Why? Well, because that’s when new movies came out, duh! So every Friday I would find a multiplex, buy a single ticket (I was a student and had NO money after the costs of going to NYU) and go from theatre to theatre all day long, seeing every new film to hit the screen. So on October 2nd, 1987, I stumbled into a theatre on West 23rd street, not expecting that everything I thought about filmmaking was about to be changed. The movie was NEAR DARK and it BLEW MY MIND!
Part horror movie, part Western, part romance, part action flick! Directed by the remarkable Kathryn Bigelow, I had never seen a mash-up of genre done this effectively. It was passionately told but never held back on delivering the horror goods! The movie almost felt angry, which made it so exciting. It was BADLANDS but with more heart and heart-stopping set pieces. Now, 1987 was a good year for vampires — I mean THE LOST BOYS came out in ’87! But this put those boys to shame. This was vampires for adults. Not one fang is seen in the film’s tight 94 minutes. Using almost half of the ALIENS troupe (Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein), but centering the plot on the tragic romance between Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright, the movie was a masterclass on storytelling through performance.
At 19, I had never been exposed to Horror Movies directed by women. Because, let’s face it, very few movies were even made by women at that point. So Kathryn Bigelow became my instant hero. She also became my director crush! But most importantly she made me want to be as good a storyteller as her. I had a lot of heroes that were women, but this was my first female filmmaking hero.
Over the years there have been a slew of female directors that I admire — Penny Marshall, Amy Heckerling, Jane Campion, Jennifer Lynch, my NYU classmate, Karyn Kusama, and my good friends and collaborators Jen and Sylvia Soska, to name but a few. But it was Kathryn Bigelow who got me to see the world of film through a brighter lens. To throw away stereotypes regarding who can direct what. Kathryn Bigelow showed me that being a great storyteller defies gender the same way it defies race, religion or sexual orientation. Being a human being who can articulate the human condition is all that’s needed. That and a crapload of talent.
KIERSTEN VAN HORNE (producer, South of Hell)
I remember reading the pilot script for South of Hell several years ago — written by the exquisitely talented Matthew Lambert, now a good friend — and thinking: what a brilliant fucking concept. A story about a woman, Maria Absacal, tortured by her own demons — literally & figuratively — who must use them to help other people.
This wasn’t just a female Jekyll and Hyde story, set against the backdrop of a dirty, bluesy South. Not just a reimagined Buffy, who had graduated high school & moved into a double-wide. It was a story about a woman dealing with her own past & fears, her fucked-up family, her co-dependent brother, doomed relationships & a questionable-at-best priest. She was struggling to get through life. Because demons are a bitch, and life is hard.
And then there was Maria’s inner demon, Abigail. The id to Maria’s ego, the extrovert, the sexpot, the one who could fuck it all up at a moment’s notice. What better foil for Maria than someone who looked just like her, was everything that Maria hated, but was the only one who could save her & was, soup-to-nuts, a part of her, whether she liked it or not? Like a living, breathing, “told you so” staring back at her in the mirror.
Maria Abascal will always be, for me, one of the most dynamic & well-conceived anti-heroines of modern horror. Here’s to more of them.
BILLY PON (director, CIRCUS OF THE DEAD)
I’m a sucker for old-school 1970s/ early 1980s cinema. You know, Lucas, Hooper, Carpenter, Spielberg, Zemeckis? I think that’s why I’ve always loved Penny Marshal’s directing style. It’s like directing with “feeling” in mind, larger than life, so to say. The scene in BIG where the main character interacts with Zoltar the Fortune Teller Machine has stuck with me my whole life. Like gravy to my ribs. Maybe because she grew up in the business, or maybe because she was an actress herself, she brought the best out of her actors.
Now, more modern female directors: I LOVE Jennifer Kent because of THE BABADOOK! In a sea of cheese these days she made something brilliant and inspiring to me. Jen & Sylvia Soska are also big inspirations for me. I mean to get your name out there and your foot in the door in this biz, it’s hard! They had so much great advice and warnings for green directors like myself and were very approachable in person. I’ll never forget that!
One of my favorite indie directors is Brooklyn Ewing (SHE WAS SO PRETTY)…she’s way out of the box on what she does. She’s a hell of a photographer and it shows in her visions. If you didn’t know better you’d think she was abducted from the 1980s and put in the now. The world she creates is very, very unique and I haven’t seen anything else that has that look/feel.
Another indie director is a good friend, Jill Gevargizian (CALL GIRL, THE STYLIST). Like Brooklyn she brings her very own unique style to the table. She might even be darker than myself! She pulls no punches and the sky’s the limit!
Also another director whose style I really dig is Gigi Guerrero. Her Latina roots hit home for this Texas boy. I think she’s smart and like myself surrounds herself with some really talented people with really good skills. The first thing of hers that I remember seeing was EL GIGANTE. I loved it, big-time. Great idea, great execution made for a great experience.
ANNA CALI (special effects & make-up artist, LOVECRAFT COUNTRY)
The first horror movie I ever saw was THE EXORCIST. I was six years old. I sat alone in the living room while my mom did the dishes in the kitchen, not giving a care in the world that I was watching a young Linda Blair projectile vomit on a priest while being possessed by the devil. As terrified as I was of that movie, I later would do what any girl my age would do, and force all of my unwilling friends to watch it at my sleepovers. That was the birth of my life’s obsession with horror, and what a start! Thank you, Linda Blair.
Linda Blair was the first woman in a long list of iconic women in horror that clearly caught my attention, but it obviously didn’t end with her. From HALLOWEEN’s Jamie Lee Curtis to her mother Janet Leigh in PSYCHO, and scream queen royalty like Felissa Rose, Linnea Quigley, Barbara Crampton, Danielle Harris, and Tiffany Shepis. The list of these ass-kicking, blood-soaked heroines of horror is endless. The titles of women in horror of course aren’t limited to actors. I’d be remiss not to mention the horror hostess with the mostest, the queen Elvira who followed none other than the stunning Vampira.
I cannot choose just one woman that has left an impression on me. The fact is that all the women in this genre we are addicted to influence me every single day. Not only the women that grace our screens, so many of which I have been fortunate enough to meet, but also all the women behind the scenes. Directors, writers, artists and the women that inspire me the most, the monster making ladies of an industry I am proud to say I am a part of, the women of special effects. Bringing some of the most nightmarish of visions and our favorite monsters to life. Like Milicent Patrick, the first and only woman responsible in the creation of a classic monster, The Gill Man from CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.
In a genre seemingly dominated by men, both professionally and in fandom, it is important we continue to acknowledge and celebrate the women that are at the forefront of horror. The women that lead the charge for all other women and say it is 100% okay that you want to watch the latest slasher over the latest rom-com. Boys are not the only ones who have dreamt that the monsters in the movies were their friends. Most important of all… only a woman, can be the final girl.
NICK SIMON (director, TRUTH OR DARE)
I love dark comedies, and I wish people spoke about Antonia Bird’s RAVENOUS more. It’s as funny of a take on the Donner party you can get. I remember seeing this in the theater and walking out, wondering what the hell I just saw, and why I was enjoying watching these people do these awful things to each other. The performances Antonia Bird got out of her cast and hitting that specific tone on the head was amazing. It’s one of the most bizarro-original films I’ve ever seen, and one that literally left me leaving the theatre wishing I hadn’t eaten an entire bucket of popcorn while watching it. RAVENOUS is an ironic, irreverent picture with subtle feminism in its core, thanks to Antonia Bird. Rest in peace.
While her horror contributions are rather anemic, I think Doris Wishman would be the person I would like to single out for this month. She was so far ahead of her time. She made a very sincere, non-exploitive documentary LET ME DIE A WOMAN in 1977. This doc follows various human stories of people who are going through the process of switching their sex to reflect who they are inside. This film included a graphic sex-reassignment surgery in progress. Think of how powerful a documentary taking on this subject matter really was in the 70s. Doris had balls. She was born a New Yorker and never had a problem taking anyone on.
Her exchanges with the opposite sex are now classic. Doris appeared on Conan O’Brien’s show in 2002 promoting her film DILDO HEAVEN. By the end of the interview she was telling Conan how to end the episode. And he did it her way. She was fun, strong, didn’t take crap from anyone and her films continue to entertain to this day. She has directed probably more films than any other female director. Her forte was ‘exploitation’ but you couldn’t tell her that. She looked at her films as love stories. Subject matter was based on what she could get made with little or no money and often it centered around sexual situations. Her movies are neatly folded into the sexploitation folder of film history but that’s not what she would have wanted.
The bottom line for Doris was simply she loved making movies and therefore she made movies. No other female was doing what she was doing during that era. She said what she wanted, she created what she wanted and she wasn’t afraid to challenge anyone in any aspect of her life. I can’t count the amount of times I have watched A NIGHT TO DISMEMBER. I laugh every time I watch it. It’s crazy, strange, genuinely silly and made with the type of sincerity only matched by Ed Wood. Her spunk, dogged determination and ability to push the envelope right out of the box sets her apart and in her own category. Believable dubbing be damned, this lady deserves a star in the walk of fame. Even if her entries are subpar, they shine as a bright light in the history of female filmmakers. In her own unique way she opened doors for many woman. In every genre. The quality of her films are not in question here. Her body of work during a time when she shouldn’t have existed in the boy’s terrain of exploitation smashes more glass ceilings than most would be willing to give her credit for.
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO AUNT ALICE? Geraldine Page stars as Mrs. Marrable, a Chicago widow whose well-to-do existence dries up after her husband passes and leaves her penniless. Relocating to Tucson, Arizona, to be near her rich nephew and his glamorous wife, Mrs. Marrable has devised a financial scheme to keep herself living graciously: murdering a succession of housekeeper-companions, whose life savings she purloins, luring them with promises of a robust return on investment with her stockbroker before bludgeoning them as they assist her in planting the towering pines in her lovely garden that will mark each grave. Enter Ruth Gordon, who has arrived in Tucson as an applicant to succeed Mrs. Marrable’s last companion victim.
This 1969 suspense film from Robert Aldrich, who’d had previous successes with WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? and HUSH…HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE, borders on black comedy, but it’s the inestimable Geraldine Page, who returns a kind of Grand Guignol performance as a study in the horror of human depravity, greed, and entitlement, that makes this ladylike film so deliciously chilling.
ANGUS MAPLE (adult film star, SWINEY’S PRO-AM)
Believe it or not, but when I was an early teen, I wouldn’t go near a fucking horror film. I had a vivid imagination untempered by experience and control. Thusly every dark cobwebbed corner of the attic had a monster lurking in it. Something just beyond my vision waited eagerly to jump out and eat my face. The IDEA of the little clawed baby mutant from IT’S ALIVE was enough to get my heart racing in not a good way. I was a kid that was terrified of the cover of Queen’s “News of the world” because of that goddamn robot with bloody fingers holding a clearly punctured Freddie Mercury. So imagine my surprise when my best friend somehow convinced me to watch A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET one day (and it HAD to be day) and it got my heart racing in a good way!
A big part of that was Nancy Thompson, but not necessarily how you think. Sure, Heather Langenkamp was cute but that wasn’t it (Annie Lennox got my heart racing in that way). Here we had this character that was facing absolute horror hunting her and her friends in their dreams, and she’s figuring out a way to capture the bastard! Using information she had gathered from her experiences, she devised a plan to drag Krueger out of the dream world and stop him for good. That worked for me. Her being a girl almost came secondary to the fact that she was proactive, smart and brave. The concept of the final girl, as coined by Carol Clover, wasn’t even in my lexicon of film language… My first image of a woman in horror wasn’t a tattered, near hysterical target, my first horror movie experience was a female being the hero. To a teen boy’s heart racing from experiencing a horror movie for the first time that left an indelible imprint in a good way.
I would like to say a huge thank you to all of our esteemed guests who contributed with their thoughts and feelings on Women in Horror Month. I appreciate your participation in this article. Thank you!
–Jeremy Lowe (@Rottengerm77)
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