Ahead of a month of spooky screenings at the Hollywood cinema in Auckland (which transforms into the ‘Horrorwood’ throughout October), film buff, self-confessed horror fiend and manager of The Hollywood Cameo England explains her love of the genre.
Horror has a reputation for being exploitative towards women. But while its audience does admittedly skew male, the genre at times can have surprisingly feminist subtext when you look a little closer. Horror has always given us the lens to see nuances in the dark, and so too has it provided a space for women to explore the twists, turns and terrors of their experiences.
Women have been vital to horror since the very beginning; it literally wouldn’t exist without them. Modern horror is the direct descendent of Gothic literature, a genre popularised by women like Mary Shelley and Ann Radcliffe, who birthed into existence some of our most memorable ‘monsters’ and ghost stories.
I’ve been a huge horror fan since I was 11, sneaking over to a friend’s house to watch The Blair Witch Project, Final Destination and other such R rated terrors on VHS. I fell in love with horror while watching Wes Craven’s Scream when I was 12, a film that starts out with the usual sexist tropes, but quickly slashes them.
Sidney Prescott, the badass heroine of the franchise refuses to play the victim or the virginal damsel in distress: she outlives the ‘have sex, you die’ slasher curse, demasks the genre’s misogyny and puts on the ‘final girl’ costume to defeat evil.
Scream - and the sequel Scream 2 - will play as a double feature on October 2 during Horrorwood, our month of horror at the Hollywood Cinema.
If you’re a fan of feminist horror, there are a few films you should check out, including The Slumber Party Massacre, an ‘80s slasher directed by Amy Holden Jones which plays out as a mock parody of exploitation movies, as well as a satire of masculinity in the genre.
The month will open Thursday October 1 with some powerful new female voices both in front of and behind the camera, with Saint Maud, Rose Glass’s directorial debut and the breakout performance for up-and-coming actress Morfydd Clark. We are very lucky to be getting Saint Maud ahead of the UK and US, due to COVID release date setbacks.
Morfydd will also be taking part in a Q&A with us after the premiere on October 1. She has received rave reviews for her performance, and we can’t wait to talk to her more about the intriguing character.
"Maud is like Carrie White and her mother Margaret rolled into one unholy holy terror; as played with brilliant, blood-freezing intensity by Morfydd Clark, she’s a genre anti-heroine to cherish, protect and recoil from, sometimes all at once,” wrote Variety of the film.
The future of feminist horror is looking promising, with films like Saint Maud and Nia DiCosta’s Candyman being hot property this year (though Candyman has sadly been delayed until 2021!).
Where horror (and film in general) still lags the most is in meaningful representation of other marginalised people. BIPOC and the LGBTQ+ community are notoriously tokenised within mainstream films, and although we are starting to move away from this, there is still more room that needs to be made for these stories.
Horror film has proven itself to be a space in which feminism can be expressed through abject body horror, the psychological space of the haunted house and the ‘final girl’ - and with the success of Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us), I would like to believe it is on its way to giving a voice to all experiences.
Rebecca Wadey, Ensemble publisher and partnerships director, picks Death Becomes Her
Thursday October 8, 7.30pm
“I remember this as a cautionary tale about the perils of plastic surgery and how females can form incredible friendships that are complex and meaningful when they aren’t pitted against each other by men. Then again, I haven’t seen it since 1992 so it could be far more misogynist than I recall! It will be worth it for the all-star cast - Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis, Isabella Rossellini and Fabio.”
Imogen Temm, graphic designer, picks Scream
Friday October 2, 7.30pm
“Do I like scary movies? Not really. What’s my favourite scary movie? Probably Scream! I have a theory that this film could be why pretty much everyone between the ages of 26-36 hates answering the phone and is definitely the reason I’m cautious AF around garage doors. Plus Gale Weathers’ super cute red jacket and some intentionally funny jokes make it much more than just scene after scene of campy gore.”
"I am so excited to watch The Witches again this Halloween! First watching it as a kid, I was totally mesmerised by Angelica Houston’s glam, of course - that slick bob, the lips and perfect frosty blue eyeshadow! But when that iconic face reveal happens - damn, those prosthetics were scary. I always imagined that this little locked up community hall that I walked past on the way home from primary school might just be where the Witches hung out, LOL. Can’t wait to rewatch it years later to take in all that Angelica glam again.”
Zoe Walker Ahwa, Ensemble editorial director, picks The Hunger
Sunday October 4, 7.30pm
“This is one of ‘those’ films that the fashion industry is utterly obsessed with - whether it be a designer referencing it (Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, Raf Simons at Dior, many many others) or a magazine editorial drawing inspiration from the costumes. But, I still haven’t seen it. The saucy 1983 film from Tony Scott stars Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie as a vampire couple with an outrageously chic NYC life, and an obsession with youth and immortality. So far, so fashion. The glamour Goth costumes - including Deneuve’s sleek wardrobe from Yves Saint Laurent - were by the iconic costume designer Milena Canonero.”
Guy Coombes, photographer, picks Saint Maud
Premiere Thursday October 1, 7.30pm with special guest Morfyyd Clark, other screenings throughout October
“I was lucky enough to photograph actress Morfyyd Clark earlier this year, and on set she showed me the trailer for her new film - which I have been dying to see ever since. I am a huge horror film buff, the more unsettling the better, and by all accounts so far Saint Maud ticks all the boxes. It’s Rose Glass’ directorial debut, so I’m looking forward to an original and fresh perspective, and leaving the cinema feeling at least slightly disturbed."
Ant Timpson, film director, producer and programmer, picks Anguish
Friday October 30, 11pm
"This meta commentary on the slasher film is as close to a work of genius you’re going to find in the genre. Recent highly touted fare can’t compare to this brilliantly conceited and tightly wound psychological thriller. DO NOT read up on it in advance. So no plot reveals here. It’s a film best seen blind and one that must be seen in a cinema for reasons that will become very apparent. Hyperbole aside, this is a virtuoso piece of filmmaking."