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By Emily Booth, Thursday 30th October 2014 The horror industry is witnessing an exciting albeit overdue shift, not just in the kinds of films and characters on screen, but the kinds of people behind the scenes too. I’m talking about the refreshing insurgence of female film makers. I’m not saying we’ve never seen good female directors before; Kathryrn Bigelow, Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola etc but it was this year’s FrightFest that saw the highest number of female directed horror with 25% of the short films (including my own!) being directed by women. And the films themselves? Well let’s just say they’re making front page news.
The Babadook, the debut from Australian Jennifer Kent is such a film being heralded as one of the most exciting films of 2014 and is definitely my Halloween top pick. Controversially about a less than healthy mother/son relationship this is film that blends horror, drama and emotion and makes for one of the most powerful lead performances in a horror since The Shining, in fact the film has been compared to the Kubrick classic on many levels. So, we’ve got more female directed horror, stronger more three dimensional female characters, and as the Frightfest organizers confirmed a distinctive shift it the audience gender split. When the festival started it was an audience of 20% female, now its about 40% .
Horror Channel was quick to pick up on this change in the industry and have put together a short piece titled Women In Horror currently airing on the channel. Here we interview Total Film editor and fellow SCTH judge Rosie Fletcher, Jessica Cameron (Truth Or Dare) and of course those irresistible unstoppable Twisted Twins Jen and Sylvia Soska who produced and directed American Mary.
As writer and producer of Selkie I was honoured to be part of this piece too – not as a Scream Queen, but as a creative driving force behind a horror film. Collectively we are saying that for many reasons the horror industry is finally catching up. While the 70’s and 80’s Grindhouse/slasher era is often remembered fondly and nostalgically by most, there’s no doubt women were often shown only as 2 dimensional characters; either the innocent final girl, the slutty victim or a sexed up killer/avenging angel. Now don’t get me wrong – these films are still often fun to watch and have their place, we simply can’t keep doing the same lowest common denominator horror that many women just cannot relate to. We now want provocative intelligent stories and characters. Unlike some, I don’t think – in the UK at least the Horror industry itself has been particularly anti-woman, but rather women themselves are slowly growing to love the genre and want to be a part of it., especially as the genre itself has proven to have incredible potential for exciting subversive and intelligent discourse. In fact in my experience, as a woman in the industry I have been welcomed with open arms; being a woman gave me an edge.
Jessica Cameron says, “We’ve had to work really hard to get where we are to get our films made and be as successful so we bring that passion, drive and dedication to everything that we do.” While Rosie Fletcher rather ominously states, “There is a part of the female psyche - the female dark side that I think is very difficult for a man to tap into and to truly understand”
Food for thought indeed, I feel exciting times are ahead in the horror industry, and it’s the ‘Ghouls’ leading the way!
Catch Women In Horror throughout the month on Horror.
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