17 Feb

Lizzy Librarian Interviews Alexandra West

Hello again, dear reader. One thing I love about the horror genre is its academic value. When I discover a new resource, I’m thrilled. When I find it is developed by one of my favourite podcasters, I now I have to get my hands on it. Such a discovery happened when Alexandra West, cohost the Faculty of Horror podcast, announced the publication of her book, Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity. I had the distinct privilege of interviewing her for Women in Horror Month. I must admit to a bit of fangirling at this opportunity. Anyway, onto the interview!

LW: I have been a longtime fan of the Faculty of Horror podcast. For those unfamiliar with the podcast, would you mind giving a brief intro to the show and how it came about?

AW: The Faculty of Horror is hosted by myself and my colleague and friend Andrea Subissati. We discuss horror films and themes through an academic lens. Our goal is always to make the conversation accessible and inclusive while having fun. It’s very focused in terms of content but we’ve covered a wide range of topics in four years of episodes.

I approached Andrea about starting a podcast when I was first starting listening to them on a regular basis in 2012. I approached Andrea because we were becoming friends and while we had similar political and taste leanings our interpretations were different from one another so it felt like we could add something to the podcasting landscape. Our first episode went live at the end of December 2012 and we’ve been putting out episodes monthly and refining what we do along the way.

LW: The Faculty of Horror focuses its lens of analysis on horror in such a way that gives the frequently maligned genre the intellectual attention it deserves. This is one of the many reasons it’s one of my favourite podcasts. What does the selection and research process look like for the podcast?

AW: Andrea and I have a Google Doc where we add in topics that either we come up with or our listeners suggest so it’s a pretty long list. Then we look at what we’ve covered in the past and what we want to talk about coming up so we can get in a good variety of films and topics. Initially we’d share our research but as we’ve gotten more comfortable and familiar with our process we research pretty independently from each other and run each other through what we plan to talk about right before we record so we can respond to each other in real time which keeps it fresh for us.

LW: I love the energy and passion for the topics you and Andrea bring to the podcast. How do you keep it up?

AW: For me it’s twofold, we get to curate content that we’re both passionate about and tackle subjects in ways that you don’t always see or hear in mainstream film journalism. And on top of that, I get to hang out with Andrea and we have a lot of fun, recording the Faculty of Horror is always a highlight of my month.

LW: Do you need a librarian for anything? I’ll gladly volunteer.

AW: When all that money comes rolling in we’ll break ground on the Subissati West Library. It will be full of bats, wine and chips. We’ll definitely need some help with the bats.

LW: What was the most interesting aspect that you discovered during your research and writing for Films of the New French Extremity? Was there something you found that particularly surprised or unnerved you, or made you pause for thought?

AW: What unnerved me the most was how tied all these films were to French history. In North America there’s a tendency to glamourize France and French culture, but it can be an incredibly dark and violent place. Film at its best is like an unspoken language or history and the further I got in to researching and writing the book, the darker I realized this particular history was.

LW: I found your research regarding France’s bloody past and present, and your links between that and New French Extremity films to be fascinating. How did you come to this topic?

AW: I had seen High Tension, Martyrs and Inside all of which I loved so anything I could read about them, I did. Through that reading I discovered films like Irreversible, Trouble Every Day and In My Skin among others. They all had so much in common but were being kept in separate schools of thinking. High Tension and the like were grouped as horror proper but films like Irreversible and Twentynine Palms were kept in the art-house group. They told the stories in different ways but were all dealing with the past. I did some more research around French history and came to Kristin Ross’ exceptional book Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French Culture which really opened up a new way of thinking about these films and Ross’ book became one of my main sources.

LW: I have to admit my own naivety of this subgenre, but my interest has been piqued. For those of us new to the New French Extremity, what is the one film you would recommend to start with and why?

AW: If you’re a horror fan, I’d recommend starting with a film like High Tension or Inside, they’re both great in their own ways and speak to different aspects of New French Extremity but play with North American horror expectations so they feel kind of familiar. If you’re not a horror fan per se I’d recommend Baise-Moi, one of the most important and vital films I’ve ever seen.

LW: What struggles did you need to overcome during the writing of your book?

AW: The content of France’s history and the films I discuss in the book were really brutal. Most of the films are just plain hard to watch, not because they’re not well made or worthwhile but because they deal with events that society doesn’t like to talk about and they’re very confrontational. I had to be able to separate myself from the feelings these films brought up within me in order to write about them but I couldn’t discount my feelings, so the hardest part was finding that balance.

LW: Was there anything you wished you could have included in your book that you weren’t able to?

AW: Not currently. I think I gave everything I had to that book and it’s only been out for about 6 months. I may have some more thoughts in a few years but currently, for me, it’s all in there.

LW: The analyses you do on the films you write about are incredibly insightful, and it is clear you put a lot of time and research into each chapter. What external reading materials would you recommend as follow up resources to your book?

AW: Definitely Fast Cars, Clean Bodies. I would also recommend Cinema and Sensation: French Film and the Art of Transgression by Martine Beugnet and Brutal Intimacy: Analyzing Contemporary French Cinema by Tim Palmer. All of those books are well-written and exceedingly well-researched.

LW: Did you come into writing this book with ideas that were challenged through the process?

AW: Not really, I’d sat with the topic for a while, thinking about it and researching it, writing bits and pieces as I went. The writing process for me was getting everything that had been kicking around my brain on the page.

LW: You discuss the downfall of this particular subgenre. Do you think there is any way it can come back, or be resurrected?

AW: As horror fans know, it’s always possible for something to be resurrected. It very well could be. I haven’t seen Raw which was directed by Julia Ducournau but I’m hoping to fix that very soon. For me, New French Extremity came out of policies put forward by the right-wing politician Nicolas Sarkozy (both as an Interior Minister and President of France), after he left office he was replaced by François Hollande a left leaning politician from the Socialist party. But they’ve got an election coming up at the end of April, and if you think Trump is scary, read up on Marine Le Pen.

LW:  Is there any information you want people to know about your book that I haven’t covered?

AW: I don’t think so. But seriously, everyone read up on Marine Le Pen and her father. It’s chilling.

LW: Where can people pick up your book?

AW: You can order it from McFarland Books directly, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target… anywhere that sells intense books with blood-covered women on the cover.

LW: Do you have other book projects in development?

AW: I’m currently working on another book about the teen horror cycle of the 1990s also to be published by McFarland. I also contributed a chapter to the new book from Spectacular Optical entitled Yuletide Terror which should be out in time for the 2017 Holiday season.

LW: In addition to the Faculty of Horror podcast, where can people keep up with you online?

AW: You can follow me on Twitter @ScareAlex.

After reading Films of the New French Extremity and interviewing Alex, I have more resources I’ll be adding to my list. Check out her book. You won’t be disappointed.

Until next time, see you in the stacks….

09 Feb

WiHM Librarian, Lizzy Walker, Reviews the Graphic Novel Monstress

Happy Women in Horror Month, dear reader! It’s Lizzy, your friendly WiHM Librarian here with another horror resource for you! First, I want to just say it’s amazing that this creature Hannah created is 8 years old. I hope it gets bigger and better every year. Judging by the posts I’ve seen coming from the WiHM Facebook page and Twitter feeds, there is no danger of it disappearing. Keep the great projects coming!

Now, onto this month’s topic for discussion: horror themed comics and graphic novels. These titles have been getting more and more attention in the library world, and I have unearthed some amazing horror genre titles created by women writers and artists.

If you like stories of dark fantasy and horror with strong female characters and monsters, look no further than Monstress written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda, and published by Image Comics. Volume 1 collects issues 1 through 6. Set in an alternate universe matriarchal 1900s Asia, Monstress follows Maika Halfwolf, who begins to discover her mysterious past and connection to an ancient creature. There was a fierce war between the Arcanics, magical creatures, some of who can barely pass for human, and the Cumaea, sorceresses who consume the Arcanics bodies for their power. The tides of war have abated, but a new war between the two factions is on the horizon, and Maika is being pursued by both sides, but to what purpose?

When we first meet Maika, she is chained, her chin raised with the aid of a crop, and she wears a chained collar and nothing more. She is being auctioned off to a room of wealthy buyers. As the auctioneer is preparing to accept bids, Maika and the other Arcanics being offered up for sale are taken by a woman representing the order of the Cumaea. She claims them without pay, preferring to call them donations. When one man objects, she foretells how he will be found dead. He and the others in the room are left in shock and speechless as she and the Arcanics leave the room. This shows the hierarchical power the Cumaea have over the rest of the population; even the most powerful and wealthy in the community are not above reproach by the fierce order of sorceresses.

Upon their arrival at the palatial estate of Lady Sophia, Maika is escorted to be assessed by Atena and Sophia. A brief but bitter verbal exchange between Maika and Sophia introduces us to how savage the war was in carefully crafted writing by Liu. We also see through flashbacks of conversations between Maika and Tuya, her closest friend, and Maika’s briefly worded internal monologs and Takeda’s art what Maika remembers, and what she is struggling to grasp. We also discover her capture by the Cumaea is a part of Maika’s plan of revenge, as well as to garner the answers she desires.

When Maika finds out from the other prisoners that Arcanics who are taken from their cells never come back, she formulates a way to fight and escape. But who should she trust on her journey outside the walls of the Cumaea stronghold? Will she be able to control the monster living insider her? Is Master Ren all that he appears to be? What is the purpose of the raven winged Arcanic lord they meet along the way? She must also be wary of the Mother Superior and her Inquisitrix, three deadly sorceresses who are hunting her.

While Maika is the central character throughout Monstress, there are other noteworthy characters that drive the story. Kippa, the young fox cub Arcanic who follows Maika around, and feels safe around the older Arcanic despite her abrasive personality, is outwardly an annoyance to Maika.Their relationship grows as Kippa’s persistence wears on Maika, and she eventually acts as a protector for the fox girl, albeit somewhat reluctantly.

Commander “Master” Ren Mormorian, Apprentice Nekomancer, is an enigma throughout the first volume. He’s a talking cat that has appeared in Maika’s life before, and he has tracked her down after her bloody escape. As Maika and the other captive Arcanics are being taken into the Cumaean stronghold, we see an elder Cumaean and three children underneath a cage holding a disheveled cat who states “There are few animals more treacherous than the cat. Assume the worst should you encounter one, no matter how untouched it might seem.” To garner more information on the histories and philosophies of these mysterious cats in the Monstress universe, the illustrious Professor Tam Tam provides lessons to the newly initiated reader. Evan Narcisse of Kotaku wrote a great article on the cats in the Monstress series, which I have linked at the end of this post.

Monstess is a very female driven series. Men play very little parts in the story. The only individual at the auction that rebuts the Cumea sorceress’s taking of the Arcanics is a man. A few of Sophia’s guards are male, but the commander, and the roughest and most terrible of the jailers, is a woman. A male Arcanic, demonic in appearance, who is jailed with the others in the Cumaea stronghold is driven to insanity, his hands taken to make lilium, and he bashes his own brains in on the bars while the others are helpless and can only watch. Resak, Atena’s brother, is an Arcanic sympathizer, but not much more is known about him. He seems to be a rather tender character, as Maika is thrown in his direction, he gently embraces her and looks distraught at what his sister and master are doing to the Arcanics. Then there is the poor cyclops boy that is taken away from them, only to be seen later on Sophia’s dissection table when Sophia and Atena are discussing the use of the Arcanics in the formulation of lilium, the fuel that drives their power.

Claire Landsbaum provides more information regarding Monstress and the idea that women are the driving power throughout the series. As mentioned, men do not have large parts in Monstress, and violence in the story is driven by women. Maika is on a quest for vengeance, and she succeeds with each bloody image in the comics. She is driving her own story; she is her own hero, her own judge and jury. Yet, she is not her own as she shares a body with a hungry, vengeful monster. Landsbaum also describes Monstress as a response to series like Game of Thrones where women do not have their own agency and puts it in the hands of Maika to do with it as she will. Doing so makes it “impossible for the violence [against women in Monstress] to be based in misogyny.”

Racism, slavery, and war are just a few of the major themes explored in Monstress. The Arcanics are deemed inferior, and therefore less than human. Throughout the series, we learn the atrocities that are committed against the Arcanics, adults and children alike.

I have been collecting the individual issues of Monstress since it came out. I can’t say enough good things about this series. The story and artwork are breathtaking. I’ve read and reread each issue multiple times, and every time I discover something new. Each issue will leave you wanting more, I promise.

Shameless plug here. Check out my review of Monstress Volume 1 at the Monster Librarian.

See you in the stacks…

Further Resources

Abad-Santos, Alex. (2015). “The Dazzling New Comic Monstress Explores Why We Fear Powerful Women.” Vox: http://www.vox.com/2015/10/15/9539735/monstress-comic-book-review

Alleyne, Lauren K. (2016). “Marjorie Liu: Making a Monstress.” Guernica: https://www.guernicamag.com/making-a-monstress/

Gorman, Kate. (2016). “Q and A with Monstress Artist Sana Takeda.” Paper Droids: http://www.paperdroids.com/2016/05/13/qa-monstress-artist-sana-takeda/

Landsbaum, Claire. (2016). “The Bloody Comic Monstress Is a Response to Game of Thrones, Ex Machina, and The Smurfs”. Vulture.com: www.vulture.com/2016/07/why-the-bloody-comic-monstress-forgoes-men.html

Narcisse, Evan. (2016).”Monstress Has the Best Cats in Comics Right Now.” Kotaku.com: http://kotaku.com/monstress-has-the-best-cat-in-comics-right-now-1771290279

04 Nov

Ax Wound Film Festival 2016 Short Film Selections Spotlight: Part Three (of Three)

A group of friends go on a peaceful trip camping in the woods. What they do not know is something dark and old lives in the woods, and it is now after them.

ax wound film festival the thicket


Meryl has been crushing on Davey for a while now, so when her roommate Leah tells her to go for it, she musters up the courage to tell him how she feels at their party. When the zombie apocalypse breaks out in the middle of the party what seems like a disaster could actually work in Meryl’s favor — if she survives that is.


It’s 1982. Twelve-year old Doug is drawn into the lurid world of VHS horror as he explores the mysterious disappearance of his father.


A creepy and experimental short film from the mind of a 3-year-old director.



Being a teenager is a daily struggle, a daily grind. For seventeen year old Thomas, however, the stakes are higher. Not only is he failing calculus, but he’s worried that he may slit his calculus tutor’s throat at their next study session.



Mindless tells the story of Peter (Nicholas Vince) – a senile, middle-aged man whose house is mysteriously torn apart day after day. Is Peter a risk to himself or is something more sinister about to be unleashed?



Paralysis is a short-length narrative film that tells the story of Jessica Sulloway, a thirtysomething photographer suffering from a severe sleep disorder. Jessica fears falling asleep and must make desperate attempts to protect herself at night. Is she actually losing her mind or is her home haunted?


A short Psychedelic occult horror.



A suffering woman searches for the answers as to who she has become. Faced with rejection & deceit, she struggles to understand the relationship with herself and others. As time will tell, she finds clarity.



Claire is a lonely hairstylist with an unnerving desire to escape her disappointing reality. When her final client of the evening arrives with the request to look perfect, Claire has plans of her own.


A young woman’s journey into lust, love, sexual awakening, and murder.


Be sure to go back and check out Part One and Part Two if you missed them. We look super forward to seeing you at the 2nd Annual Ax Wound Film Festival tomorrow (November 5th!)

28 Oct

Ax Wound Film Festival 2016 Short Film Selections Spotlight: Part Two (of Three)

Mauvaises Têtes (Bad Heads) is a horror film / dark comedy in the spirit of classic MGM and Universal horror from the 1920s/30s. It tells the story of an odd woman, Jenny, who loses her mind in the search for love and decides to create her own lover.


A woman confesses her betrayal to her closest friend, and must endure the vicious consequences.


A woman decorates a box for therapy in order to cope from a nasty break-up. It’s what she does with it in the end that makes it all the more beautiful.



Synesthesia is a short horror film that examines what can happen when we depend on our digital devices too much.When Leslie puts more faith in the smartphone she never puts down than her marriage, she must decide who to trust with deadly consequences.


Two young women arrive at a house cleaning job, but their intent is anything but sanitary – they wander the barren rooms, drinking the wine and digging into the secrets of the owners. But the home is not as empty as it seems, and it’s not long before their innocent fun is destroyed by violence and terror.




Detective Olmstead has arrived on a peculiar crime scene, with a body that has both a bite wound and an egg sac on her back. Her only clue is a photograph of the victim with a strange woman. Olmstead manages to determine that the photograph was taken in Innsmouth and travels there in search of answers, which causes her to cross paths with Alice Marsh.


Marris lives alone in a house left to her by her recently deceased grandmother. She’s a disheartened young woman, battling depression and losing her hair. One day a package arrives at her door by mistake. She opens it to reveal a strange marble bowl. When Marris uses it as a trash can to dispose of her falling hair it leads to an unexpected and bizarre retribution.


When a materialistic man’s perfect skin is ruined by his lover, he takes extreme measures to ensure it never happens again. Declawed is a conceptual horror film about the horrors of cat-declawing.



A fable to horrify the inner child. A dead cat journeys back to the land of the living through trials and tribulations. Based on the graphic novel by Gerard Houarner and GAK.



Blind Eyes is a short animation about sexual identity and personal chaos. Human’s identity crises and the resulting internal chaos are the sources of inspiration for this animation, and I chose sexual identity as an example of one aspect of human identity.


A deranged serial killer in NYC targets dog owners and mauls them to death. Tensions rise at a local dog park with patrons wondering who will be next.


One cold dark night, a woman encounters something strange and terrifying on her walk home. When it asks her a question, her sheer terror causes her to lie… with disastrous consequences.


A young woman struggles to set free from the mental and physical harm of an abusive relationship.


A lonely soul attempts to make a connection with a visiting stranger, but her intentions don’t quite match his interpretations.


Instead of calling out of work sick, Daphne finds that she has demons in her home.

ax wound film festival short film


A Westernized, modern adaptation of an old Japanese ghost story of love and loss, “I Never Can” tells the story of a chronically unfaithful young man who regrets his promise to never leave his girlfriend.


This new micro-short by underground horror filmmaker Nadine L’Esperance sees a young mother going to horrifying (and darkly humorous) extremes in her quest for a little leisure time before her screaming kids and deadbeat husband literally make her crawl out of her skin.



A young mother struggles with her faith and her sanity as she carries a baby destined to leave a terrifying legacy.



A traumatized woman seeks penance and personal transformation through tattooing after surviving a devastating pregnancy. One night, drenched in booze and ink, her deepest fears threaten to consume her.


Stay tuned for Part 3 (of three) and be sure to check out Part One if you missed it. We look forward to seeing you at the 2nd Annual Ax Wound Film Festival on November 5, 2016!

23 Oct

Ax Wound Film Festival 2016 Short Film Selections Spotlight: Part One (of Three)

The Eyes
Written and Directed by Jingchuan Wang
A 2D Digital Narrative Animation Short about a being who starts to grow extra eyes.



The Sweetmeat Boy
Written and Directed by Jahnavi Misra and Apoorva Mundoor
‘‘The Sweetmeat Boy’ is based on an old tale about a young goatherd from a village in South India. One day the goatherd wanders into a deep jungle, where he finds a tree laden with his favourite sweetmeats. A Rakshasi-ajji (demon-grandmother) espies him and conspired to eat his heart.



Directed by Sinead Stoddard
Zombie Lee has an outrageous hunger that won’t be silenced by food alone. With his growing need to feed increasing, misjudgment and disaster arise in the kitchen, until a simple solution is found and his rumbling is quenched.



Written and Directed by Cat Davies
Sweet, optimistic Suzanne is looking for love and hunting high and low for her perfect match. She knows the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but when her internet date, Gary, doesn’t quite ‘live’ up to his profile pictures, she can see why he’s such a fussy eater…will she be on the menu? Free from apocalyptic doom, but fortified with laughs, KEEN-wah offers a fresh, healthy alternative to the zombie movie.



Written and Directed by Cat Davies
Wannabe stand-up Dolly Diggs suffers from stage fright. To overcome her fear, she plans to become a ventriloquist and thinks she’s found just the puppet in Connie. Little does she know, Connie is no ordinary puppet…



Bunny Bizness
by Irisa Hou
A dark coming of age tale of a gothy preteen’s quest to purchase a taxidermy raven for his 13th birthday, despite the fact that it’s not quite dead yet.



The Tell-Tale-Heart Sisters
Written and Directed by Christine Parker
A sister’s jealousy takes a sinister turn. Inspired by Poe and influenced by Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, you will love this creepy classic tale.



Stay tuned for Part 2 (of three) and don’t miss the chance to see all of these incredible short horror films made by women at the 2nd Annual Ax Wound Film Festival on Saturday November 5th in Brattleboro, Vermont!

02 Sep

Heidi “The Director Lady” Moore Talks about Her Debut Feature Film DOLLY DEADLY!

Five minutes into Dolly Deadly, Heidi Moore’s debut feature, I was time-warped back to the early 90s; A time when I felt awakened and awed by the cherry-popping experience of watching Pink Flamingos on VHS.

I hadn’t even finished the opening credits of Dolly Deadly yet, when a phantom plastic video-tape smell wafted under my nose, transporting me back to my high school bedroom when I would rewind/re-watch/repeat the apocalyptic color feasts of Gregg Araki. Yet, Dolly Deadly manages to do something incredibly rare: capture the influences of the filmmaker without, even for a second, coming across as anything other then unique and specific to the mind of Heidi Moore.

Conducting this interview left me feeling empowered and inspired. After-all, Heidi “The Director Lady” Moore has a lot of wisdom that any artist can appreciate.

Hannah Neurotica: When did you start experimenting with film making as an art-form? Did you attend film school or are you self taught?

Heidi Moore:  I’ve always wanted to make movies. In high school I would carry a notebook around and write my ideas in it, but I wasn’t in a creative environment; I had no clue how to actually make anything happen. When I was 21 I moved to Florida and became a fetish photographer and through that I met so many talented artists. I got my first film job at an adult modeling agency shooting porn. Not very glamorous, but it was something right?  Shortly after, I met my friend Kevin Smith who was a film instructor at the Art Institute at the time. He really paved the way for me to become a director.  I wrote a feature length script about zombie strippers called “R.I.P. Tease” that was heavily influenced by Troma movies, and Kevin helped me shoot a teaser for it.  Unfortunately the actual movie never saw the light of day, but I still have the script somewhere….maybe one day.  But writing that script and shooting the teaser taught me so much.

Hannah: So, what were some of those lessons R.I.P Tease taught you?

Heidi: Writing R.I.P. Tease really taught me how to write a script. It was the first thing I had ever written, and it was feature length. Following through with a project and having crew who were helping me create was really empowering.

The biggest thing I learned while filming was that my husband wasn’t supportive when it came down to it. I remember the day we shot the zombie scene, he was supposed to be watching the kids who were 3 and 4 at the time. He showed up on set and dropped them off saying he decided not to take the day off work because that wouldn’t help his career (He couldn’t take one fucking day off from the tattoo shop?).

I had to have the boys sit down and behave as best as possible while we finished. It felt humiliating, and it planted a seed in my mind…..divorce. A month or so later he spent the money I had saved to film the feature, and told me it was better spent on his career because I was never actually going to make a movie.


Anyhow, I honestly believe if him and I would have stayed together I would have never gotten to follow any kind of dreams. So I am lucky I figured it out when I did.


Hannah: Did you find people treated you with respect when you were working in adult entertainment? Did that experience inform your art today?

Heidi: No one cared when I shot porn. I was a pretty popular fetish photographer at the time and all my friends did porn of some kind. One issue I’ve had though is men on my crew thinking I was in porn and looking me up trying to find it. I’ve heard conversations, “dude, she used to do porn”….Kinda gross.  As far as impacting my work now, it doesn’t really. Although I do have stories and gross facts that I can write about now.

Hannah: Dolly Deadly is so uniquely Heidi Moore while clearly inspired by the aesthetic of visionaries like John Waters and David Lynch. I also got an old-school Harmony Korine vibe in some scenes. Yet­ it never feels even remotely like anyone else’s voice but your own. It’s a rare & very genuine convergence that reads in a very honest/raw way.   What artists/filmmakers had the biggest impact on you? In one scene there are pink flamingos on the lawn. Was the a purposeful ode to Waters? (I love it!)


Heidi:  In the beginning I was just trying to figure out a movie idea that I could film for $5,000. I teamed up with my crazy talented friend Cassandra Sechler and we got going on “Dolly Deadly”. She came up with the dreams and I worked on the parts about Benji’s life.  It started getting pretty detailed and…expensive.

After filming a concept teaser and preparing to get started on the film, I had a major break up, and then a four month mental break down (not over the break up, but life in general). I actually decided to quit film making all together.

After I finished boo hooing, I peeled myself off my mom’s couch and made some plans. First, I reworked the Dolly Deadly script; cutting out a ton of characters, locations, etc. to make it more doable. I made it more about Benji and his little world because the actor who plays Benji is my son, and he was available any time I needed him. Plus he works for candy and soda…and the opportunity to use knives and stabbing weapons (Cassandra Sechler can vouch for that).

I am influenced by everything I see, everything people say to me…just everything. So all of that goes into my writing. I’m even influenced by faint memories of weird commercials and PSA’s I’d see on tv in the 80’s. With all that floating around in my brain, it’s impossible to stick to one genre or style. John Waters, Lloyd Kaufman, Gregg Araki, David Lynch and so many other directors have made a big impression on me. You mentioned you noticed a Harmony Korine vibe at times, and I’ve heard that before…I am so intrigued by the fucked up lives and actions of other people; the weird shit they do. I always think about the part in Gummo when the little boy is lifting makeshift weights and his mom is tap dancing around with a gun. It seems far fetched, but people are fucking weird and stuff like that can absolutely happen. I like to get into that. The pink flamingo in the yard was just a happy accident, but John Waters did influence my fascination with trashy people, hence the creation of Grandma Mitzi and her boyfriend Donald.

Hannah: You were talking about struggling with a mental breakdown (among other difficult things). You pushed through and so many people are unable to do that. What would you say to those who are feeling like giving up?

Heidi: Take a little break, and don’t do anything damaging to your career or project. For example, don’t announce to the public that you quit. Just give yourself some time and get back to work once your depression(or whatever you’re dealing with) passes. Your future sane self will appreciate it so much if they don’t have to pick up the pieces. Obviously most of us artists don’t get to be fully sane, but you know, some days are better than others.

Sometimes you have to go on autopilot and just work. You’ll be happy you did once you’re feeling better. And honestly it’s a good distraction. If you have too much downtime, you give your mind a chance to start fucking with you. Even with distractions, my mind still likes to be a total bitch to me. Sometimes I’ll be writing and I’ll think “Don’t bother finishing this, you suck and noone’s going to pay attention anyway.” But I have to tell myself to shut up and just keep going. Because even if I don’t make movies, someone else will, and these people aren’t necessarily more skilled than me. So….I keep going.

My biggest tip is to never post these things on social media. You have friends and family that you can talk to privately.  Keep it professional.

We all have our ups and downs, and it’s really not appropriate to blast it all over to people who you don’t even know, and who are fans of yours. That also goes for times when things are going wrong with your projects; it’s really not for the public to know. Plus how can you expect people to be excited about your project if you’re always posting negative things?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to other filmmakers. Even if you just need to talk to someone who understands, it really helps. Realizing you’re not alone and hearing about struggles others have overcome, has a way of restoring hope (at least temporarily).

Hide in your room and watch TV, eat a whole pizza, rub your face on the cat’s belly….whatever you need to do, but don’t let that shit consume you.

Hannah:  So going back to Dolly Deadly- Your film is a mix of horror, psychological thriller, drama, experimental, exploitation, and beyond. Did you set out to work within a certain sub-genre or it just naturally came together?

Heidi:  Originally the movie was meant to be a horror. But once I get writing, it never turns out how I planned. Several scenes were made up as I went. During production I’d be sitting there and an idea would pop in my head, and we’d film it the next day. One in particular was the scene where Benji is baptizing his dolls.  I was thinking about a time I told my kids that if there was a rapture, I’d be left behind. They said they’d stay on earth with me; I thought it was so sweet. They’d rather go to hell then be away from me. Who could ask for more? Anyhow, I quickly added that aspect to a scene we were planning to shoot soon and there you have it. Like I said, there are too many things to be influenced by for me to stick to one genre.

Hannah:  Dolly Deadly is your first feature, correct? How long did it take to shoot?

Heidi: Dolly Deadly took 3 years from concept to completion. 3-Fucking- years!! I had so many setbacks that the years kept going by. I had that breakup and mental breakdown, then I had an editor that disappeared, another editor who was so busy being an alcoholic, that he wasted months of time. Then my apartment burnt down….just a bunch of crummy stuff. But somehow we all pushed through and made it happen. And yes, this was my first feature film, the next one will not take so long!!

Dolly Deadly February ShootHannah: The make­up/beauty products in the film are so outrageous yet totally believable, as we live in a culture that has readily accepted burning, injecting and cutting ourselves for “beauty.”  Had you had an experience that inspired this piece of the story?

Heidi:  I used to work at Clinique and ladies would come buy hundreds of dollars of night creams and all that crap. I would always think to myself, “this shit isn’t going to help, why don’t you take this money and pay an aesthetician to melt your face off?” As a cosmetologist, I’m always thinking of dorky cosmetology humor so naturally I had to put it in the movie.

Melty Face

Like when Grandma Mitzi accidentally melts a part of her client’s face. That’s from times when you’re working in the salon and you fry someone’s hair; then you casually offer a free conditioning treatment “just to be nice”. Or when you tone someone’s blond hair and see it’s green while rinsing it out…then you tell them you’re conditioning it when you’re really doing a bleach wash to get that shit out of there. Hopefully some people will get it. Ha!

Hannah: Your film incorporates stop­motion. Had you done that before?

Heidi:  I hadn’t really worked with stop motion before, but as Lloyd Kaufman says in “Make Your Own Damn Movie”, work with what you have access to. And I have access to amazingly talented friends. It just so happens Josh Funk who is the editor of Dolly Deadly makes his own stop motion movies. So, uh, why wouldn’t I jump on that?? Wormholes by Josh Funk.

Then I met the ever so creative Abbie Louise Alb who does animation and stop motion. I thought she was fantastic so I asked her to make the opening title sequence. I would love to work with her more one of these days. (Note to self, talk to Abbie about working on something together).

Theeeeen I met Pascal Little. He makes some crazy weird and wonderful music videos and stop motion. We were fortunate enough to get him to make some face melting end credits. Thanks Pascal!! Pretty Addicted ­ Mania( Filmed and edited by Pascal Little).

Hannah: Your son plays the lead. Were there ever moments that caused tension working with family?

Heidi: Oh jeez. Let’s just say I lost my shit a few times. Justin(Benji) is a cryer so once he got tired, we had to be so careful not to set him off. But one time when we were running on fumes, Justin wouldn’t stop crying and I was flipping out. That footage got lost and honestly I’m glad. I never want to relive that moment and I will never act like that again. I’m sorry Justin!! Mommy loves you.

Hannah: I learned first hand that working with child actors can be really difficult and even take longer to shoot. Did you run into any setbacks working with younger actors?

Heidi: A lot of times the kids were bigger troopers than the adults, but once they got tired, forget about it. They would get sleepy and grumpy. Then that would lead to crying and falling to the ground; the works. There was a lot of bribing with candy and treats. I started trying to think of ways to get them focused, the main thing that worked was getting them to be silly and “shake it up”. Shake it up!

DanTina Lyn behind the scenes Dolly DeadlyHannah: In the opening scene cigarette smoke is blown into a baby’s face. This is something that happens everyday, yet watching it staged is oddly uncomfortable. Has anyone commented on it?

Heidi: No one has said anything about it yet. We made sure to blow the smoke up and not directly in his face, but it was definitely all around. I’ll have to wait for the movie to get out to the public more before I get shit for that I’m sure.

Hannah: What was a lesson you learned the hard way during the Dolly Deadly shoot? And one what one of the most wonderful moments?

Heidi: Do not work with people who are interested in you romantically. They lose their minds when all you want to do is work and not fuck them. They ruin scenes and cause problems.

I think my favorite part of shooting Dolly Deadly was the night we shot Donald and Mitzi’s death scenes. We were all having so much fun and the scenes were amazing. Then after Jay and Kim (Donald and Mitzi) went home, we were still good to go so we filmed the dream with the large blue doll. It was 3 am and we were all so out of it and silly. So fun!


Hannah: As a woman working in a male dominated field have you ever personally run into any situations/ experience(s) that made you feel like an outsider as result of your gender?

Heidi: Let me start by saying I have gotten a ton of support from men in the industry. Most of the people out there showing the movie and helping to promote are guys. These are good guys who are the model of what everyone should be like (Shout out to Kurt Walsh, Kevin Smith, George James Fraser, and so many more).

Unfortunately it’s not always the case.

I’ve never told this story to the public, so here goes nothin… I had a feature film in the works called “Wurms,” and wanted to shoot the opening scene to use to possibly get funding.

I was introduced to a guy who said he could film and edit it, and being so excited and new to filmmaking, I jumped on the opportunity.

When he got to town and we started getting production underway, he started saying really inappropriate and sexual things to me. I brushed it off because I just really wanted my movie made. Then he started trying to take over and change things. One time he took me location scouting with a few of his friends and once we were in the middle of nowhere and I had no way to leave, he stopped the car and went off on me about how he knows what he’s doing and he knows what sells and that he needs to be in charge, not me.

I actually said okay and told him to go ahead and write a scene. I wish I still had what he wrote; it was two girls wrestling each other and pulling each others clothes off. That made me come to my senses and tell him that I’m still in charge. He got mad, but pretended to be okay and we filmed the scene I decided on.

He touched my butt on set and sent several texts implying he wanted more from me, so I quit being so nice and told him to basically stay away from me. Well…since he was editing and I wasn’t smart enough (yet) to have my own copy of the footage, he stole it and sent this email out to everyone on crew:

“While I am fully aware of the impact and affect this decision has on others who volunteered their time, talents and efforts toward the production and creation of the movie WURMS, I am greatly dissatisfied with the standard in which you have conducted yourself pertaining to this project, and moreover in this field of film making, and more specifically in the business we have engaged in.  You have misrepresented yourself in retaining my participation and talents, withheld crucial information regarding the production and goals therein, displayed blatant disregard for your partners, their investments and the agreements therein, created financial penalties for your partners and their associates, and have continuously shown and created insurmountable obstacles due to your lack of clarity, cooperation, good faith and professionalism throughout this journey.  As I weigh the good against the bad, I return to the same point…  I WILL NOT in any way contribute my talents, moneys, time and efforts toward your career. The simple truth is that my work and talents pertained in the footage and edit of Wurms has the potential to open new doors for you, of which I am certain you are undeserving at this juncture.  Therefore, my position is to withhold my creations (image and edits), and to prevent you from capitalizing on my talents and furthering any progress toward circles which will definitely hold you to much higher standards than you have proven yourself capable of.

He did everything he could to drag my name through the mud and even showed a trailer of it at an event. He gave the event coordinator specific instructions not to give it to me. And even wrote it on the DVD. But guess what, I got it!! Fucker.

After a year of us all trying to figure out what to do, my good friend stepped in with all the emails and texts this guy had sent sexually harassing me and told him to either give us back the footage or we’re going to sue. He gave it back!! But he didn’t give us the audio. I edited the movie and had someone clean up the camera audio best as possible. We had gone too far to give up over shitty audio.

I learned so much from that experience so I try to look on the bright side, but holy shit, it was so discouraging. Some advice my mom gave me during this whole fiasco that I will always look to:

“Even though you want something so bad, you can’t let people screw you over and treat you like shit. That’s not how to get what you’re after.

Hannah: I want to talk about Crowdfunding. You raised money for your film via a crowd funding campaign. Had you done that before? For those thinking of doing that do you have any tips or advice?

Heidi: I had never done any crowd funding before, but Cassandra had and she helped out with it a lot. We got $3,000 and the rest of the $10,000 came out of my pocket. It was really stressful for me to post about it all the time and ask people for money. I won’t do it again, the main reason being once the movie is done there is absolutely no money left. But then you still have to get all those perks you promised during your campaign. You better hope you didn’t offer t­shirts and all that expensive shit. Another reason is that micro budget movies tend to take a long time to make and people start getting upset wondering if it’s ever going to get finished and think they threw their money away. It’s all too much for me; I’m an anxious person. lol.

Dream Dolls

Hannah: For those who are broke but want to jump into DIY filmmaking what would be your first couple tips or words of wisdom?

Heidi:  Listen, we’re all broke. I’m a single mom of two, I get it. But I worked a day job and funded “Dolly Deadly” paycheck to paycheck. It’s your dream and if you really want it, you’ll make it happen. You can’t expect other people to do it for you. So until you get producers interested in funding your films, you better be ready to live in tweaker apartments, eat top ramen, and work a shitty day job.

Hannah: Now that your film is out what are you working on next?

wretched-productionsHeidi:  I’ve been working on a few side projects like a short documentary about an awesome drag king named Tucker Noir, and an audio book for my friend Margaret Elysia Garcia. I have a few scrips out to producers and I’m anxiously waiting for at least one of them to be picked up. In the meantime I’ve been co-writing a script for the upcoming feature film “Driller Queen” by Kurt Dirt, promoting “Dolly Deadly” and planning the theater tour.

It’s a crazy amount of work so it’s good I’ve had some time to work on it all.

Check out the trailer, rent, and buy your copy of the film today!



26 Aug

Lizzy the Librarian Reviews Guignol: A Tale of Escalating Horror by Brett Schwaner and Keith Hogan

Women in Horror Month Librarian, Lizzy Walker, has returned with a review of Guignol: A Tale of Escalating Horror by Brett Schwaner and Keith Hogan.



Shy artistic Maelynn Maghee is a new student at the art academy of Sainte Jeanne d’Arc. She hasn’t made any friends, and with her constantly exhausted mother, an overworked nursing administrator, being absent or passed out on the couch, she’s left to her own devices most of the time.

Mysterious strong-willed Lilly Langtree befriends her in their art class, and they become practically inseparable. Lilly brings a few other girls into their circle: the twins Aubree and Marcella, Fiona, and Monet. With Lilly’s encouragement, Mae and the rest try out for Madame Jeanette’s self-professed masterpiece, Guignol.

Lilly reveals a dark secret to her friends, and she offers each of them their own gifts. As they accept her gifts, they discover there are benefits as well as detriments to what she has given them.

They go through excruciating transformations, each experiencing physical pain and hunger they must slake before they suffer any further. Lilly opens a whole new world for her new friends; new talents, late night adventures, and the most memorable night of their entire lives.

maebatsThe countdown to opening night of the play is underway and, after a series of unpleasant events, Maelynn realizes Lilly is not the person she once thought.

The closer to opening night, the less stable and more powerful Lilly becomes. Can her friends survive their gifts and Lilly’s power in the meantime?

There are a few criticisms I have of the book. There are times the text becomes repetitious, specifically when the focus of the scene is the play rehearsal. Madame Jeanette often makes the characters run through lines multiple times, and this is made quite clear in the text itself.

It does illustrate the frustrations that cast members go through when they are preparing for the production, and Madame Jeanette’s perfectionist tendencies, but it could have perhaps been trimmed down just a bit. I also found the way the characters spoke to each other could be too formal at times, using tightly worded sentences with each other.

Despite my criticisms, I enjoyed this book thoroughly. Two things I enjoy more than anything in the horror genre are interesting female characters and creepy children.  Guignol-A Tale of Escalating Horror delivers on both accounts.

Maelynn, after all, is only ten years old, and the other girls aren’t much older. That being said, while the main characters are children, this definitely isn’t a children’s book. There are some gruesome elements to the story that would not be acceptable for some kids.

Each of the girls has a distinct personality, and Maelynn in particular developed as the story progressed. Her character growth was both because of and spite of Lilly’s influence. I could identify with her in particular.



The full colour illustrations provided by Keith Hogan lend to the text very well. They really grab the reader’s attention and help emphasize specifics from the text. Additionally, if Schwaner wanted to change from a novel to a graphic novel format, he has a great illustrator in Hogan. There are some rich watercolours by Laura McCombs that also added some atmosphere and are very well executed.

Are you brave enough to experience Guignol-A Tale of Escalating Horror?

See you in the stacks….

Lizzy, WiHM Librarian 

26 Feb

WiHM Spotlight: Gothic Tales by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Elizabeth_GaskellMy Spotify harpsichord music playlist was a constant companion while reading through Gaskell’s Gothic Tales. It was eerily appropriate. If you enjoy setting your books to music, I can’t recommend anything better than the London Harpsichord Ensemble.

Sometimes short stories can have the same, if not better, effect with the Gothic themed stories—looming houses or manors, fantastic villains, romance, yet with fewer pages to convey fear and the sublime.

Elizabeth Gaskell, friend and biographer of Charlotte Bronte, was a master when it comes to these short stories. Gothic Tales, published by Penguin Classics, was edited by Laura Kranzer who holds a doctorate in philosophy on Gothic Fiction from Hertfod College, Oxford. She includes an introduction, further reading suggestions, and notes on the text.

One warning about the introduction: it includes material from the stories that might be considered spoilers. If you want to remain surprised by the stories, read the introduction last. The collection includes nine stories, each published in in whole or in part in Victorian magazines.

I’ve selected what I think are the best of the collection to discuss.


In “The Old Nurse’s Story,” Hester relates a story to the child of Miss Rosamond, whose parents died when she was very young. Hester and Miss Rosamond move to the Furnivall manor house soon after.

Several mysterious happenings occur that the household seems to be used to: an organ built into the house is heard despite the fact, when Hester investigates, the inside of the organ is in shambles, a ghostly child continually beckons the young Miss Rosamond outside.

One snowy day, the nurse returns from church only to find that Miss Rosamond is nowhere to be found. After much searching, another member of the household brings her in from the cold, and, after warming her by the fire, the child tells an extraordinary story about being beckoned outside by a little girl and led to the Fells where the mysterious child’s mother was waiting. After hearing of this, the mistress of the house is adamant that Miss Rosamond should not be allowed near the other child, for it would lead to her death. Hester couldn’t believe it…until she saw the child for herself.

This one is probably one of my favourite short stories from this collection. Part of the reason for this is the old time radio program I listened to that adapted this story. There are a few radio plays that invoke strong emotions from me. I wish I could remember the production—it was so well done. If I manage to find it I will post it in the blog comments. I’m hoping I may come across it again.


The second excellent story in this book, set in 1691, is “Lois the Witch.” Lois Barclay travels to New England to live with an estranged uncle and his family after he own parents die, only to discover her uncle is bedridden and close to death himself.

Her aunt, a very strict Puritan woman, is not pleased with the arrangement, but lives with it. Lois meets her cousins, Faith and Prudence, who do not meet up to their names. Lois befriends Natte, the Native American servant who spends much of her time in the kitchen. She also meets Cousin Manasseh, who becomes obsessed with marrying his newly arrived relative.He insists he hears a voice demanding that they marry.

Lois, as she has a beau back in London, refuses him at every turn. Religious zealousness reaches a fever pitch when one of the daughters of a prominent townsperson is afflicted with fits, determined to be witchcraft.

The Salem witch hysteria, with special appearance by Cotton Mather, combined with Faith’s misunderstanding of a scene involving the man she loves and Lois, and her calling Lois a witch in front of the malicious Prudence, lead to the accusation of Lois being a witch.

This is a truly terrifying story. Kranzer, in her introduction, mentions that Gaskell researched the Salem witch trials and “Lois the Witch” was based on the persecution of a New England woman, Rebecca Nurse, whose ordeal, and death, came from Lectures on Witchcraft, written by Charles Upham, a Unitarian minister in Salem in the 1830s.

Knowing that numerous innocent women, and men, were fasley accused of witchcraft, and the ordeals they went through, makes this story that much more tragic. The way Gaskell writes this shows sympathy for what all of those people faced at the hands of powerful, superstitious people.


Much like Frankenstein and The Italian, the bulk of “The Grey Woman” tale is delivered in manuscript form. The story is introduced by a German server at a café who offers to give a manuscript telling the story of the Grey Woman to two women who visit the café and see a painting of an unusual looking woman hanging in the palour.

It turns out Anna Scherer, the woman in the painting, wrote the manuscript. It describes a fateful visit to her friend Sophie, and the meeting of Monsieur de la Tourelle at a social engagement. At first she is smitten beyond words, but then quickly changes her mind when she becomes familiar with his less than masculine behavior.

Sophie’s mother, obsessed with social class and prestige, insists they make their acquaintance better. This ultimately leads to their marriage and Anna’s separation from friends and family.

At his estate, she is given her own apartment and spends much of her time alone in her rooms, and she hears nothing from back home. Her husband hires Amante as a maid. Anna found her kind, and assertive without being rude to others. She actually, in her own way, stands up for Anna against her husband and his favourite servant, who is found to treat Anna rudely.

One night, when the master of the house is out, Amante finds what she thinks might be a letter to Anna from her family, but is prevented from taking it by another servant faithful to his master. Anna and Amante steal into her husband’s apartments to retrieve the letter, and others that might be hidden from her. Anna becomes trapped in one of the rooms and witnesses a grim scene which changes her life forever.

I recommend Gothic Tales if you enjoy your Gothic stories in short story form.


See you in the stacks,

Lizzy Walker, WiHM Librarian 

Further resources

The Elizabeth Gaskell Society was formed in 1985 by Joan Leach. The Society’s aims include such things as promote and encourage the study and appreciation of the work and life of Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell; to record sources of information about the work of Elizabeth Gaskell and any other material relating to her life, family, work and memory; to arrange visits to places associated with her or her books; and more. I encourage you to check out the Society’s website for more information.


14 Feb

Mai Nakanishi Talks Scream Queen Filmfest Tokyo!


After attending the Viscera Film Festival (RIP) in 2012,  Mai Nakanishi felt deeply moved by the experience. This post-show excitement lead to a sense of empowerment, hope, and action.

The following year, Nakanishi decided to submit her short zombie film, which she co-wrote and produced, No Place Like Home. The film went on to win the award for Best Cinematography.

A few years later,  Mai continued on her mission and successfully launched The Scream Queen Filmfest in Tokyo!

Now in it’s 3rd year, SQFF has become a much coveted stop on the festival circuit for women genre filmmakers. With the loss of Viscera, Mai has made sure to keep the spirit alive – providing women genre filmmakers from around the world opportunities that wouldn’t exist otherwise.

We are beyond grateful to Mai for taking the time to answer our questions and, as you will read, provide advice to other people looking to launch events in their communities as well. Mai is a perfect example of the power we all have, if passionate enough, to mobilize and build new opportunities for women in the industry.

Hannah Neurotica: What sparked the idea to launch the Screen Queen Film Festival? and Can you tell us a bit about the mission behind it? 

Mai Nakanishi: Scream Queen Filmfest Tokyo was launched in 2013 in Tokyo, Japan but it originally stemmed from another wonderful film festival called Viscera Film Festival which was an annual L.A based horror film festival for women filmmakers. I got to know about visceraViscera Film Festival when I attended their one-night screening event in Vancouver, Canada and was blown away by some of the shorts that were screened there.

It was very refreshing to see genre films made from a female point of view and so many films had strong female characters opposed to stereotypical representations of women in the horror genre, which was terrific.

Being a filmmaker and a lifelong horror fan, Viscera Film Festival made a quite big impact on me and motivated me to submit my zombie short, No Place Like Home (which I produced in 2012) to Viscera Film Festival.

The short then won Best Cinematography the following year and the whole experience has made me realise how important it is to have a genre film festival dedicated to women in horror. And as I got to know more about other female horror filmmakers around the world and other amazing female centric genre film festivals such as “Stranger With My Face Horror Film Festival”, I thought we should make a platform in Asia too. When I reached out to Viscera to organise a screening in Tokyo, Lori Bowen, who was the former tour coordinator at Viscera helped me tremendously with programming.

Despite our domestic lucrative market for J-horror films, there’s always been an unfounded prejudice towards genre films and genre filmmakers in Japan. And needless to say, if you are a women making genre films, people will look at you like you are a crazy person (which I get all the time!).

So, besides showcasing and promoting female genre filmmakers and their works, my other goal from launching the festival was to eliminate bias against women in horror and to raise awareness of the unique visions women can bring to the genre. Sadly, it’s rare to meet genre filmmakers in Asia but I hope Scream Queen Filmfest Tokyo can help bring the Asian female genre filmmakers out in the light!


Hannah: Film Festivals are a huge undertaking!  Women in Horror Month just launched the Ax Wound Film Festival  and it was such a wonderful and intense process it is. Do you have advice for those starting festival/screenings that you wish someone told you when starting out? 

Mai:  Congratulations on the launch of the festival! This is really exciting and it’s so great to see more and more female centric film festivals launching!

Shannon Lark, who’s a founder of Viscera Film Festival (and also a talented actress and a film director) sent me a message just a few days before our very first event. She said that the first time around is always going to be small, so I shouldn’t get disheartened if we have a lower turnout. Her advice certainly took a weight off my mind so I would give the same advice for anyone starting festivals!

As you said, running the festival is hard work. For Scream Queen Filmfest Tokyo, I do almost everything by myself from curating films, putting Japanese subtitles, creating publicity materials, booking venues …etc. So it needed far greater amount of work than I’d imagined. But I think if you have passion for it, everything else just falls into place!!

Hannah: As you pointed out, regardless of the the success of “J-Horror,”  the genre as a whole is still not seen as much more the a low-art form in Japan.  Have have found support in your own community? Have you met with any resistance? 

Mai:  I’m truly thankful for all the support I’ve been getting from the genre film communities around the world. We haven’t met with any resistance yet and all the feedbacks from the audiences have been very positive. We are by far the smallest women-centric film festival but I sincerely hope that the festival can help expand opportunities for the contemporary female genre filmmakers. I think we are slowly building up the recognition, so hopefully more people will join us in celebrating women genre filmmakers!

Hannah: Mai, you are an artist/writer as well. Can you talk about what you do when not curating/running the fest?

Abcs_of_death_2_theatricalMai:  Running the festival is pretty much a year-round work as we organize tour screenings throughout the year but besides running the festival, I help curate Japanese films for foreign film festivals as well as assisting acquisition of films for online video platform and Japanese distribution companies.

I occasionally write scary stories for kids and have been working on a number of film projects. Last fall, I produced a sci-fi horror short, Thorn, with a director I worked with for a horror anthology called “ABCs of Death 2.”

The film is on the festival circuit now and has screened at international genre film festivals including Fantastic Fest and MOTELx – Lisbon International Horror Film Festival. We are developing it into a full-length feature and I’m co-writing it, so hopefully we can get the movie made!



12 Feb

WiHM Spotlight: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

MTE5NTU2MzE2MzY5NjE4NDQzMary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, may be one of the first names that springs to mind regarding women writing horror.

The origin story of her novel has been covered by many sources, including the selected edition of the novel I will mention shortly.

Mary, her stepsister Clair Claremont, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and his physician Dr. John Polidori, vacationed at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva during the rainy summer in 1816.

On a particularly stormy evening, the party read ghost stories to pass the time, when Byron suggested a ghost story writing contest of sorts. Mary was having a difficult time of it for a few days until after a vivid nightmare, she had the germ of a story to frighten the weakest of hearts. While several p9680_p_v8_aaliberties were taken with the film, Gothic (1986) gives one perspective on what happened that night, and is worth watching if only for the late Natasha Richardson’s portrayal of Mary Shelley.

With Percy’s encouragement, she expanded it into a novel which she published anonymously in 1818.

Shelly’s novel, Frankenstein or, The Modern Prometheus is the story of Victor Frankenstein, a student of natural science and anatomist who constructs a living being out of dead tissue in an unusual experiment. His story, more of a confession really, is told by Captain Robert Watson while on a dangerous mission in the seas of the far north. Watson chronicles the details to send to his sister, Margaret. Victor begins with his family history and education at university before he gets to the meat of his problem.

Victor’s drive to create life from the dead becomes an obsession, but his enthusiasm fades when he is faced with his creation. He ultimately abandons it, only to be followed and tormented. After a conversation with his creature, who learned language and further betrayal before he returned to his creator, Victor has to come to terms with what he made, what he wants, and what befalls his family and friends when Victor does not deliver.

51SHWNzYU9L._SX305_BO1,204,203,200_My favorite edition Frankenstein is the second Norton Critical edition, edited by J. Paul Hunter. Among the material he includes with the 1818 text are selected contemporary material related to the Mary’s writing of the novel, her introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, responses to the novel, including early reviews and accounts of later adaptations, and more. He also provides a brief chronology of Mary Shelley. He also took pains to include excellent footnotes and a great introduction. I recommend this for those who want further reading on the creation and reception of the novel, as well as texts regarding feminist readings of Frankenstein.

Hunter is the Barbara E. and Richard J. Franke Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. His name should be familiar to some fellow English majors as he edited the first nine editions of The Norton Introduction to Poetry, as well as being a co-editor of The Norton Introduction to Literature and New Worlds of Literature.

Do you have a favorite version of Frankenstein? Comments? Questions? Feel free to ask!

See you in the stacks,

Lizzy Walker, WiHM Librarian

Further resources

Bodleian Library
The Godwin-Shelley Archive

The Bodleian Library in Oxford purchased Mary and Percy Shelley’s manuscripts for the first three-volume edition in 1818, and Mary Shelley’s copy for her publisher. Check it out if you’re interested in primary source material!