SFX 's regular horror columnist discusses Women In Horror month and gender in genre generally
Penny Dreadful writes:
Today marks the end of the third annual Women In Horror Month – an initiative kicked-started by journalist and filmmaker Hannah "Neurotica" Forman to raise awareness and recognition of female talent in an industry where women are under-represented. Good. Awesome in fact. Hannah's manifesto is a gorgeous, passionate and furiously intelligent essay on stereotyping, marginalisation and objectification within the horror genre. Hannah also cites Carol J Clover's magnificent Men, Women And Chainsaws – a text I can't recommend highly enough for anyone interested in the gender/genre debate. Brilliant and important and nothing I could expand on with anywhere near the depth or finesse of the original.
So while the wonderful women of WIHM tackle the big issues, I want to celebrate women vaguely, and non-committally, in the general vicinity of horror.
There's a difference between "horror fans" and people who like horror. And regardless of the cold hard truth of exactly what the gender split is, received wisdom is that horror fandom is for blokes, with notable female exceptions. I'd speculate that it could be to do with competitiveness and collector mentality, which maybe less prevalent among women. You can like something, after all, without joining the club. (I like KFC, I don't want to dress as a chicken.)
These casual onlookers aren't the ornate goths in wedding dresses, or the claret mouthed, boobtastic nymphs, provocatively licking the point of a naked blade (both of which are legit choices). They're smart-casual office workers in jeans and trainers, bondage gear strictly for the bedroom, who'll watch The Exorcist , but not Friday The 13th Part 8 , who'll enjoy Vacancy but not Captivity , who'll check out 28 Days Later but not Mother's Day (and not because they're 'fraidy cats, just because they can't be bothered with bad horror).
If horror is seriously going to be gender equalized it'll come down to money. If more women go see horror films, more horror films will be made with, by, and for women (that's my theory anyway). Trouble is, so much of the marketing is targeted at men that it becomes cyclical. Sure, The Awakening and The Woman In Black both have overt chick appeal, but what of Silent House (poster of screaming woman)? Or The Woman (poster of beaten bloody woman)? Both decent, and both arguably of female interest. And what of the indistinguishable landfill horror DVD releases with the dodgy covers?
Here's my contribution to women with a passing interest in horror: a guide to four straight-to-DVDers she-dabblers might otherwise miss (and miss out?).
A Horrible Way To Die
Out: 20 March
Cover: Tied up woman hanging upside down
Plot: Alcoholic Ex-girlfriend of serial killer tries to re-build her life while her psycho prison escapee ex heads her way.
Lady parts: Female protagonist played by Amy Seimetz – neither final girl, nor squealing victim, more a sensitive portrait of a damage addict.
Women's issues: Relationships, addiction, loyalty, love. Murder.
Actually good?: Yep. Slow burn and psychologically interesting, with a bit of murder.
Chick factor: 4
Out: 27 March
Cover: (Dead?) Woman, rigged up like a puppet in dingy blood soaked basement
Plot: Deaf girl visit psychic capital of America where she contacts a medium so she can speak to her dead sister and unwittingly unleashes a vengeful ghost.
Lady parts: Strong female protagonist, scary female ghost.
Women's issues: Sisterhood, grief, the supernatural, relationships, children, err, human puppetry.
Actually good: Not really. But blokes won't like it any more than women.
Chick factor: 3
Out: 3 April
Cover: Two male zombies holding guns.
Plot: Solider dies in combat and comes back to life weeks later as half zombie/half vampire thing, struggles to carry on a normal life with best mate, turns vigilante killer.
Lady parts: Okay, not so much. Shame the two leads couldn't have been female. Then it would have been like zombie Bridesmaids … Get Lionsgate on the line!
Women's issues: Friendship, relationships, morality, vigilante justice.
Actually good?: Hell yeah! Funny, inventive, satirical and a bit like Dead Heads but sharper and frankly less cutesie. Dead Heads is such a bromance …
Chick factor: 4
Out: 1 July
Cover: A woman in a car waving her bra around.
Plot: Nerdy bloke invents a motor which runs on blood, descends into murderous spree to retain the attention of hot girl
Lady parts: The lead's a guy but he's hardly aspirational, far more fun is Katie Rowlett's foul mouthed femme fatale
Women's issues: Errr… vegetarianism? Environmental issues? Satire?
Actually good: Yeah! If you like weird mumblecore pseudo-political grindhouse. Which some women do…
Chick factor: 3