It was great fun to attend GHOULS ON FILM yesterday, a Women in Horror Recognition Month event organised by the indefatigable Nia Edwards-Behi (who you can find over at http://cannibalhollywood.blogspot.com as well as manning the decks during my favourite horror fest of the year, Abertoir). Despite the best efforts of the British transport system, we arrived in good time to make our way to the venue. The Mixing Bowl, based in Birmingham’s Digbeth district, is an independent small theatre and cinema in a small hub of eclectic shops and businesses known as the Custard Factory: despite a minor gripe with the venue’s rather lackadaisical attitude to getting going on time, it provided a decent space and a good atmosphere for the event.
First up on a busy schedule was a selection of short films. Pop Art, although not strictly horror, was a diverting, warm and well-made film about a boy who befriends a very strange new boy at school…followed by the tongue-in-cheek Movie Monster Insurance (who doesn’t need peace of mind against attacks by popular monsters?) and then a film that couldn’t be more different in tone, Snuff. Snuff, directed by Maude Michaud, uses a super 8 camera to show the making of a snuff movie – but who will kill whom? A subversion of expectation is also the case in Melanie Light’s film, Switch, where a would-be killer gets more than he bargained for when pursuing a woman (through a gorgeously snowy landscape).
For me, the best in the selection were Faye Jackson’s film Lump and Natalia Andreadis’s Without. Lump shows a young woman undergoing a lumpectomy from her breast. The operation is a success – but another lump seems to form immediately. She tries to take control of her situation, but finds the medical professionals she encounters completely indifferent as they just repeat, ‘the lump was benign…this is very common…nothing to worry about…’ As she undergoes repeat operations her sense of normality begins to disappear and she begins to suspect that her surgeon is far from helping her to get better. This film captures the anxiety and helplessness generated by medical intervention, particularly where, as for many women, that intervention impacts upon your sexuality and autonomy by its very nature – this is a very good short film, which achieves a great deal in just twelve minutes. Without, in just four minutes makes a similar play upon a particularly feminine anxiety – but to describe it would be to kill its punchline!
Next up was a Q&A with Melanie Light, director of Switch; Kate Glover, the director of feature Slaughtered, and of course Ms. Emily Booth: this was fun. The ladies talked about their experiences in filmmaking before inviting a more general discussion about horror films…you’d never normally get the opportunity to talk at length about things like this, and, whilst I didn’t agree with everything that was said (Kate Glover – adding a love story element to your film to make it ‘appealing for women’?) this was definitely a worthwhile addition to the programme!
There was also time to show two full-length features: Slaughtered (2006) and the Soska Sisters’ Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2008). Slaughtered – written, produced and directed by Kate at the tender age of 22 – is a slasher set in a bar in small-town Australia, where the staff and punters are getting dispatched in increasingly bloody ways. Whilst I’m not a huge fan of this genre, the whole film is a testament to determination and enthusiasm, and it’s to Kate Glover’s credit that she was able to create a feature-length film completely under her own steam.
The Soska twins – who directed and starred in the film – manage to channel the spirit of grindhouse and black comedy in this story the morning after the night before (in which you find a dead prostitute in your car!) Although perhaps a little over-long, the film was by turns grisly and hilarious and the two sisters are really watchable. Jen and Sylvia Sosker are definitely two ladies to watch – do check out their official site for more info: http://www.twistedtwinsproductions.net
So, a good time was had – Nia deserves to be very proud for organising a successful and fun event. I’d certainly go again and if this becomes a regular occurrence it’d really be a welcome addition to the horror calendar…