Wednesday, January 7, 2015


still from THE BABADOOK
 Dear Alice Robb,

I'm more than positive that you have no idea who I am and until a few hours ago, I didn't know you either.  From what I've gathered from your contributions to The New Republic, you seem to be a woman after my own heart.  We have a lot in common, Alice.  We both like social justice posts, we enjoy psychoanalyzing the media's influence on society, and we like writing about gender equality.  However, you've recently written an article in response to THE BABADOOK titled "What It Says About You If You Enjoy Horror Movies."  My facebook timeline has exploded today with people posting in anger, frustration, and heartbreak about your article.  But, it was my dear friend (and fellow horror enthusiast) John Squires who wrote a heartfelt response to you that compelled me to hop on top of my soap box and do the same.  I'm sure I won't be the last one to do so, and it is with the utmost sincerity that you avoid googling yourself for a few days unless you desire being actively educated in a world you truly know nothing about.

I could very well turn this entire piece about how I am living proof that your article is untrue.  Not only am I a female, but I'm an active philanthropist, a rape survivor social advocate, I work with children for a living, probably one of the most painfully cautious people I know (my idea of "thrill seeking" is not checking the star rating on a Netflix film before clicking play), and I watch approximately 90% of horror films by myself--without the assistance of a male companion.  It would be quick to use my life experiences to disprove everything that you've written, and I could very easily pull hundreds of biographies from horror fans that also don't fit the mold of this picture you've painted. However, I'd much rather talk in a language you speak.  Statistics and numbers.

You first stated that horror fans lack empathy.  In 2013, a tragedy occurred when there was a bombing at the ever-populous Boston Marathon.  I'm sure I don't need to go into the gritty details of how gruesome, gory, bloody, and horrific the day was.  Hell, you've actually written a piece about the "irony" that Boston is the hub of explosion detection.  During your research about the Boston bombing, did you ever once come across an event called BOSTON STRONG hosted by a guy named Adam Green?  Probably not, but I'll educate you.  Adam Green is a prominent horror filmmaker working today and the mind behind the ultra-gory HATCHET franchise, the psychologically terrifying FROZEN (no, not that FROZEN) and the horror comedy show HOLLISTON.  Green is also a Boston native, so the bombings truly hit him close to home.  This horror fanatic should have lacked empathy, as you stated, and with all of this gore and carnage being plastered by the media, you'd think he'd have found this "thrill seeking" as you also claim horror fans to be.  Here's where you're wrong.  Adam Green took it upon himself to try to better the situation the only way he knew how.  Adam Green held a 3-day event of film screenings, celebrity meet & greets, and an auction with items supplied by Dark Sky Films, Blumhouse Productions, 1492 Films, and Anchor Bay Films (all prominent horror film distributors) as well as personal donations from Wes Craven (NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, SCREAM), John Carpenter (HALLOWEEN, THE THING), Eli Roth (HOSTEL, CABIN FEVER), Tyler Mane (ROB ZOMBIE'S HALLOWEEN), Dee Snider (of Twisted Sister fame), Oderus Urungus of GWAR (Rest In Peace), Rob Zombie (HALLOWEEN, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES) & John 5, Zach Galligan (GREMLINS, WAXWORK), artist Alex Pardee, Chris Columbus (HOME ALONE, GREMLINS), Sid Haig (THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, SPIDERBABY) and Mick Garris (HOCUS POCUS, THE STAND).  All of the proceeds went to the One Fund to help those affected by the Boston Bombing.  The BOSTON STRONG event managed to raise $15,000 for the One Fund.  Mind you, this was 100% an event geared towards horror fans and filmmakers.  Talk about lack of empathy.

The second thing you noted about horror fans is that we're more likely to be aggressive or thrill seeking.  First of all, you cited studies that in some cases are almost thirty years old.  Do you remember how the world was 30 years ago?  The 1985 study you used to prove we're "thrill seekers" was published closer to when homosexuality was still considered a mental illness than it is to today.  Here's information from a study conducted in 2012.  Research done by Dr. Mathias Clasen suggests watching horror movies is great for our DNA.  We as humans use memories to help us deal with scary situations, but our day to day environments usually don't put us in a scary situation.  However, watching a horror movie is an emotional stimulator, and it triggers our DNA to respond accordingly.

"As the brain senses danger it produces additional energy directed at the activeness of neurotransmitters – glutamate, dopamine and serotonin. As a result, the body remains in a state of combat readiness for some time. Another interesting factor is that a potential threat signal passes through the brain, specifically through the hypothalamus. Since the hypothalamus deals with the glandular system, it initiates the release of  adrenaline which causes the release of opiates which in turn creates an anesthetic type effect. This causes the phobic reaction to shut down and trains the brain to have a similar reaction in real life situations. In a sense, watching a horror movie is almost like a training ground for the body and psyche." --Collective Evolution

You can call it "thrill seeking" all you want, but horror fans are merely just training themselves to be better prepared mentally to deal with the things that happen in our lives that could be, well, scary.

You also claim that most horror fans are men simply because more women reported being afraid.  Just because you're scared of something doesn't mean you're not a fan of it.  I'm a horror fan and I have been for my entire life, but I still jump in the theaters and pretend to be looking at the screen as my heart pounds when I'm really looking directly above the screen to avoid any scary moments.  That doesn't make me any less of a fan.  I watch horror movies because I enjoy that feeling.  I love the adrenaline rush, it's fun. Sorry, there I go getting personal again.  You did cite an article from 2014 showing that women are catching up to men in film attendance, but even're wrong. Here's an article from 2006, showing that women have been attending horror films more than men in the target demographic.  That would mean we've been doing so for almost a decade.  If that isn't enough for you, I'd like to introduce you to Women In Horror Month.  Did we know we have our own month?  Boasting over 12k fans on Facebook and celebrating its 6th year anniversary next month, Women In Horror Month not only celebrates all of the incredible contributions women have made to the genre, but it also hosts a world-wide blood drive.  Horror fans all across the world donating blood to save lives? What was that about lack of empathy again?

Your final statement is that horror fans are most likely men, accompanied by a frightened woman.  Here is where I am going to get personal, and quite frankly, a little stern.  If the statistics I posted above showing that women outnumber men for horror movie ticket sales doesn't disprove your outdated source enough as is, I'd like you to sit back and realize what a backward sense you have on this genre.  The movie that triggered your entire post was a film called THE BABADOOK which, as my friend Johnny already stated for you, was directed by a woman.  This year, in addition to THE BABADOOK, there were films like HONEYMOON and A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT all over horror sites' top 10 lists (usually in the top spots) that were also directed by women.  I don't know about you, but I highly doubt these "frightened women" needed a man by their side to create some of the most genuinely horrifying films of recent memory.  By using your old and dated statistics, you're allowing yourself to be part of the problem that perpetuates the idea that females are weaker and frailer than their male counterparts.  As someone who writes about gender studies in pop cultures as you do, I'm disappointed that you didn't look a little harder to see that you had the chance to champion the gender that still isn't treated in society the same way as our male counterparts.

Ultimately, I'm sure your article was nothing more than click-bait and this angry response means you've done your job.  However, you need to understand that as a mouthpiece for the public, your words have weight.  For the misinformed, people that read your article are going to continue to believe that horror fans are the angry and evil creatures that Fox News wants to believe we are the next time a mentally ill kid kills someone that just so happened to like horror movies.  Don't continue to be part of the problem, educate yourself and be the change we so deserve to see from the media.

Sincerely yours,
BJ Colangelo

Thursday, December 18, 2014


As 2014 winds down and we all reflect on the horror films of the last year, I find myself thinking a lot about spectacular performances in addition to films.  My Top 15 of 2014 is posted over at Icons of Fright, but I wanted to use Day of the Woman to focus on something a little different.  In my opinion, this was an incredibly strong year for female characters in horror.  With audiences rejecting stereotypical and archetypal characters and instead favoring characters with a bit more depth to them, actresses in a majority of the horror films of 2014 were allowed to do more than just get naked and die.  Submitted for your approval, these are my fourteen favorite female horror performances of 2014. 

14) Melanie Papalia in THE DEN
THE DEN is about a woman studying the habits of people who use a "Chat Roulette" like website called "The Den" who witnesses a brutal murder online and is quickly thrown  in a nightmare in which she and her loved ones are targeted for the same grisly fate as the first victim.  Papalia is in every single second on this film, even if she is not the general focus. We as the audience are voyeurs, witnessing Papalia's reactions/motivations/feelings/encounters through a computer screen.  There are moments that feel as if she's looking right at us, and Papalia is in every frame of every second of the film.  Papalia gave an honest and engaging performance that helped prevent this film from being just another throwaway indie film.

13) Allison Egan in HER NAME WAS TORMENT
Allison Egan has become somewhat of an indie darling, appearing in many of the films of director Dustin Mills. An unnamed woman who has a distorted voice and a blurred face in the shown footage was arrested for committing twenty-seven murders, but deemed unfit to stand trial. Oddly, twenty-four of her victims remain unidentified.  It's almost as if, as the psychiatrist interviewing her describes it, "this woman was a ghost killing ghosts."  The psychiatrist interview footage is cut with footage of this woman, usually in some form of undress and wearing a mask, torturing her victims.  Egan is pretty much fully nude in a majority of this film, but it never once feels forced or pornographic.  Her face is never shown, and her real voice is never heard, but Egan still manages to give a strong and captivating performance.

12) Naya Rivera in AT THE DEVIL'S DOOR
I don't know about you, but I love it when a supporting character steals the film.  I've always been a big fan of Naya Rivera's work (SANTANA LOPEZ 4 LYFE), but she really proved her talent as "Vera" in AT THE DEVIL'S DOOR.  She doesn't appear right away, but she completely blew me away.  Her character endures a rollercoaster of emotions, and Rivera performed them all with honesty.

11) Kristi Ray in PIECES OF TALENT
Many disillusioned actresses find themselves in"the opportunity of a lifetime" when they cross paths with an independent filmmaker, but Kristi Ray as "Charlotte" in the indie darling PIECES OF TALENT knocks this character type out of the park.  She delivers a naive innocence that still exists in a post-9/11 world. Her character dreams of something better, and Ray delivers it with an air that feels genuine.  Perhaps most refreshing is that Ray is a true romantic interest, but she doesn't have the over saturated "American Apparel" look that dominates starlets of the box office.

10) Kristina Klebe in PROXY
PROXY is a film that boasts multiple strong performances from female leads, but Kristina Klebe as Anika Barön really nailed what she was given.  Klebe's character was arguably the most stereotypical, but she breathed new life into the "bitter lesbian bully" archetype.  The camera loves Klebe, and I was drawn to her in every moment she was on screen.  Her anger felt pure and her delivery was downright scary at times.  She completely wore her despicability on her sleeve, and her willingness to throw herself into a character so...unlikable and cruel was admirable.  Klebe nailed it.  The other female leads (Alexia Rasmussen and Alexa Havins) were also fantastic to watch, but Klebe (for me) stole the show.

09) Paz de la Huerta in NURSE
I don't know what planet Paz de la Huerta is from, but I want to visit there and come back refreshed and with a new view of the world.  NURSE could easily be excused as a shitty film, but I found it to be hilariously genius.  It walked the line between "campy brilliance" and "bottom-feeder trash," but never fell over to one side.  Whether or not Paz' delivery was intentional is irrelevant, because she was incredible.  The delayed inflection of her voice, the awkward body language, and the huge hair all skyrocketed her into one of the most wonderful female villains in a long while.  I loved it and I loved her.

08) Natalie Jean in THE CEMETERY
Natalie Jean is known in the indie world for her work in Adam Ahlbrandt's films, but she's also an accomplished stunt woman.  She managed to combine both her skills as an actress and her impressive abilities to move her body in Ahlbrandt's flick, THE CEMETERY.  Natalie Jean opens the film as a fully functioning member of society, and despite almost all of the characters being wholly unlikeable, she's the only one that I liked.  Jean is the first to feel the effects of whatever is plaguing this mysterious cemetery, and that's when she really begins to shine.  You actively start to root for her as a villain. The prowess she commands on screen is commendable given she speaks less than 1/4 of her screen time.  Covered in practical effects, she made them work for her and she allowed herself to completely transform into a monster.  In all honesty, I wasn't too hot on this film as a whole, but Natalie Jean's performance made this underground film enjoyable. 

Scarlett Johansson has been smarter and smarter about choosing her roles recently, but her performance in UNDER THE SKIN is perhaps her strongest yet.  She plays an alien stalking men in Scotland, and uses her beautiful human appearance to lure in her prey.  The "siren" story is one that has been done numerous times before, but Johansson's portrayal feels authentically out of this world.  There's definitely a difference between someone acting a character and becoming a character, and Scarlett Johansson definitely became alien in this one.
06) Amy Seimetz in THE SACRAMENT
Amy Seimetz has been one of my favorite performers for quite some time now, and her dedication in THE SACRAMENT is no exception.  She plays "Caroline," our brainwashed point of reference for those living in the commune known as "Eden's Parrish."  Considering the real-life horror roots of THE SACRAMENT, we as the audience quickly realize what is about to take place, and can predict her fate long before it ever happens.  She's such a charming and interesting woman, despite our understanding that she's the catalyst for everything bad that is inevitably coming to our protagonists.  Her final moments are downright devastating to watch and as much as you want to hate her, she's so likeable that you immediately just feel sorry for her.  Seimetz truly is a tour de force.
05) Essie Davis in THE BABADOOK
The success of Jennifer Kent's masterful debut comes in large part from the dynamite performance delivered by Essie Davis as "Amelia."  There is nothing quite as strong as a mother's love for her child, and Davis completely embodied the maternal energy required to make this film as horrifying as possible.  Davis had to be over-worked, tired, obligated, and still showcase a genuine love (and fear) for her child in order for the film to work, and it does.  Mothers aren't always June Cleaver, and Davis presents Amelia the way that most women are...complex.  The relationship Amelia has with her child is one that is impossible for an outsider to truly understand, and her constant conflict between what is expected of her to feel towards her child and what she actually does feel for her child, is painted all over Davis.  Davis has some major acting chops, but her role as Amelia was flawless.

04) Rima Te Wiata HOUSEBOUND
Morgana O'Reilly's "Kylie" may have been the lead, but it was Rima Te Wiata's performance as her mother "Miriam" that really stood out in the New Zealand hit HOUSEBOUND.  Miriam was funny, endearing, chatty, and incredibly sincere.  No matter how awful things get, Miriam always tries to look on the bright side.  It's her incessant positivity contrasting with the cynicism of her millennial daughter that kept this storyline feeling fresh and fun.  I lived for whatever unintentionally funny quip was going to come spewing out of her mouth following some bitter side-comment from her daughter. She's so endearing that she almost blends into the background and that's why she's so good. The character could have easily been played over the top, but that would have dominoed the entire film. As absurd as things get in this film, it all feels completely normal for someone like Miriam.

03) Anna Walton in SOULMATE
Anna Walton is absolutely superb as "Audrey" in Axelle Carolyn's SOULMATE. Tom Wisdom played opposite and while he was giving it his all, Walton completely outshined every other performer in the entire film.  That isn’t to say the secondary characters weren’t any good, but Walton was such a pleasure, it made everyone else look mediocre in comparison.  The opening sequence is particularly grim, but Walton handles the extreme subject matter with ease.  Her turmoil feels genuine and she expresses her pain with a rawness that never once feels forced.  As the mood of the film shifts, Walton's progression feels believable and I was with her every step of the way.

Larson is no stranger to playing creepy old women characters, but she broke new ground with her performance as the titular Deborah Logan.  Wearing minimal makeup and without being covered in computer effects, Larson possibly the most convincing possession victim in horror history.  Her dedication to this character is responsible for almost the entire film's creepiness, and the progression of her Alzheimer's stricken character is something of cinematic beauty.  This very collected woman quickly turns into a monstrous creature and every moment is horrifically haunting.  There's a moment towards the end of the film which is easily the scariest thing I've seen all year, and Larson absolutely dominated the scene.

01) Alex Essoe STARRY EYES
My favorite horror film of 2014 was Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer's STARRY EYES and it was due in large part to the stunning performance from Alex Essoe.  Every moment of the film is haunting and harrowing, gorgeous and grotesque, fun and frightening, insightful and irresistible.  Alex Essoe is required to carry the entire film on her shoulders as Sarah, and her ability to shift from vulnerable to vindictive was downright mesmerizing to witness. Sarah is forced to deal with physical demons but the most horrific creatures are the ones that Sarah has residing within herself, that she must face on her own.  The character of Sarah physically and mentally embodies the horrifying and painful lengths that actors are willing to go to secure a place in the limelight, and by doing so, the dedication from actor Alex Essoe guarantees herself a spot as an iconic female horror character. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


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


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.

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


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?
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?  
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


-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 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


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


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


(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


(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.)

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.
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