We hope you're enjoying this Halloween with lots of candy, costumes, and fun! Here's a special On Our Radar round-up of links we love around the web, including zombie history, horror-film heroiens, and a reminder to not be a total racist!
Today's entry marks the first official selection of the horror genre. It isn't my intention to project ill will toward familial bonding the Friday after Thanksgiving, as I'm having a fine time with my partner and parents. However, maybe this post will entertain those waking from food comas or folks heading back home.
I'm a recent convert to horror movies. I started my master's program in media studies four years ago dead against them. Apart from being an easy scare, I was convinced as an avowed feminist that there was nothing salvageable about such a violent genre. I was quickly put in my place by some members of my cohort, whose feminist identity was defined in part because of their horror film fandom. My appreciation began with reading portions of film studies professor Carol J. Clover's Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. I learned a great deal from her theorization of the archetypal Final Girl, a smart, resilient, often androgynous protagonist with feminist potential for whom Halloween's Laurie Strode serves as an exemplar. A smart commenter brought up the Final Girl in my recent post on Catherine Breillat's Fat Girl. The influence of Clover's ground-breaking book continues to be felt in the academy, and insinuates itself in movies like Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof. I continue to be inspired and challenged by commentary from sites like Dark Room and Fangirltastic.
Another important aspect of horror movies that needs more critical inquiry is the foregrounding of female homosocial bonding. Recent releases star groups of women engaging in physically exhausting or extreme activities. British writer-director Neil Marshall's 2005 feature The Descent focuses on six women who go spelunking in an unmapped cave system in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.
Women-directed horror films are finally getting the (blood) red-carpet treatment! The Viscera Film Festival, showcasing women-made horror shorts, is this Saturday, July 17th in Los Angeles. The film festival came about through the team-up of Shannon Lark, who started the Chainsaw Mafia to encourage independent filmmakers to produce (and whose email signature reads, "Never forget, if a woman can go through the process of pushing out a baby, she can make a horror film!") and Heidi Martinuzzi, a film journalist and director, and founder of Pretty-Scary.net which covered women in horror films (behind and in front of the camera). Besides the film festival, Martinuzzi and Lark are combining powers (well, websites) to make Fangirltastic.com (still under construction) to keep the spirit of Viscera alive all year-round. I asked Lark and Martinuzzi about the festival and how feminism and horror overlap.
So Variety has reported that Diablo Cody (Juno, The United States of Tara) is joining forces with Fox Searchlight to develop a film adapation of the upcoming zombie romance novel Breathers: A Zombie's Lament, about a recently undead man who finds love at a zombie support group. Cody won't be writing or directing the film, but she will be producing.
This is the second horror project that Diablo Cody has recently taken on and it makes me wonder: will she make more room for women in the genre?
As a big horror fan, I've been excited to see what My Bloody Valentine 3D would do for the genre, which trades primarily on thrills and spectacle. But even if I wasn't into horror, the film would be worth taking note of because it's one of the first contemporary films shot in 3D that is not a family picture (and not animated, at that). The film's success will no doubt be a benchmark for studios considering shooting other films in 3D. So I'm disappointed to report that, while the film is something of a technological marvel, its (mis)treatment of its female characters is nothing to be excited about.
If you haven't heard about While She Was Out, you're definitely not alone. This low-budget horror/thriller written and directed by Susan Montford opened in just a handful of theaters this weekend, and I was one of the two people who showed up to see it during an opening night showing in NYC. It's a pretty sure bet that this would have gone direct-to-DVD if it didn't have Guillermo del Toro among its ten (!) producers. But I'm glad it did make it to theaters, because despite its shortcomings, While She Was Out is actually worth a look.... (more after the jump).