Last night, the Women Texas Film Festival teamed up with Alamo Drafthouse to present a special screening of the female-helmed horror anthology, XX, followed by a panel discussion of the female perspective on horror from local filmmakers, personalities, and a journalist, moderated by WTxFF Artistic Director, and filmmaker, Justina Walford. The event kicked off a series of scheduled screenings to celebrate Women’s History Month (those screenings will include THE BABADOOK (3.15), A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (3/22), SELMA (3/15), and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (3/29).
Participants in the panel discussion, included (in alphabetical order) Cierra Caballero (writer and star of Pop Nerd TV, host of Jump Scare), Rachel Gibson (writer and director of ABOUT MOM AND DAD and TRAVELING), Jamie Laughlin (entertainment journalist and critic, The Dallas Observer), Niki Pence (Filmmaker with BETTY, KLEPTOMANIA, THAT’S MY BOY among her credits), and Farah White (Producer and star of THE LADIES OF THE HOUSE, Producer of DAYLIGHT’S END). Walford kept the conversation light and took a survey from the women of their influences in the horror genre world, discussed their thoughts on the films that comprised XX, as well as their perspective on why women (in their opinion) seem to have an affinity for getting to the heart of what frightens us or creeps us out.
Here are some highlights:
Each of the panelists were asked to name the first horror film that they remembered or that made a major impression of them and then their favorite horror film. The breakdown went down like this…
(Her first) THE FLY (Cronenberg style)
(Her favs) THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, EYES WITHOUT A FACE, THE HAUNTING (original recipe version)
(Her first) TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE
(Her fav) ROSEMARY’S BABY
(Her first) NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (Old School)
(Her fav) SUSPIRIA, THE FLY (Cronenberg again)
(Her first) THE GRUDGE
(Her fav) THE BABADOOK
(Her first) THE EXORCIST
(Her favs) THE BROOD, THE SHINING
(Her first) MAGIC
(Her fav) THE HAUNTING (the original, of course)
While discussing the films in XX, praise was evenly distributed among THE BOX, BIRTHDAY PARTY, and HER ONLY LIVING SON for various reasons, but the biggest laugh of the night came from the diminutive Niki Pence, when she explained her preference of DON’T FALL by explaining that the film connected with her since throughout her life, she has been “full of rage.”
On the subject of why they believed women had an affinity for horror or a fearlessness in dealing with directing gore, Gibson said, “I’ve had two people come out of my body. I’ve been turned down for jobs because of a fear I would get pregnant.” Caballero added that the “female gaze” when it comes to nudity is less constrained to sexual attraction than a male’s, citing Ana Lily Amirpour’s A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT, “There’s a scene in the bathtub where the main character, a woman is naked, but there’s nothing sexual about it. She’s thinking about life.” When talking about what is always scary, White said, “Any time someone is leaning over to look under the bed. We always expect it, and it’s always scary. Always.” Walford got a laugh when she brought up the lifelong affect the “Talky Tina” episode from the “Twilight Zone” series had on her, “I’m scared of children because they’re horror films.”
Walford finished the discussion by asking each of the women (many of whom were writers) to describe a horror or genre film scene they would love to film. Laughlin said she is always fascinated by the application of social norms in genre films, “Walking down a street and you hear the steps of someone is walking behind you. You decide to cross the street, but after a moment, the steps are behind you again.” Pence and White both described short film ideas that got approval from the crowd, with Pence discussing an idea her twin sister Natalie has about a mysterious hole in the ground that compels people to jump into its void, and White brought the panel to an enthusiastic finish by recounting a short she had pitched for her EX-TERMINATORS cast member Jennifer Coolidge to star in, which was a mashup of the Hansel & Gretel story with a Fountain of Youth element thrown in for good measure. Someone needs to give her some funding and remind her of Coolidge’s phone number immediately.