Tuesday 3 May 2016

Horror & Feminism: The Final Girls

Béatrice Dalle in Trouble Every Day (2001)

We might be reading a lot about the decline of cinema, but the London repertoire/film curating scene is in rude health at least, with some recent collectives such as the Badlands collective and The Bechdel Test Fest to name a few, who have come up with a truly inspired and lively line-up of films over the last few years. And there is a new player on the block, The Final Girls, a collective who is specialising in the horror genre through a feminist prism. I feel that this is a great initiative, as the horror genre often gets a bad press when it comes to its representation of female characters, and they are kicking off in style, with a screening of Trouble Every Day (2001) by Claire Denis, which is a must-see. So I was very keen to interview its creators, Anna Bogutskaya and Olivia Howe.

FilmLand Empire: First of all, can you tell us a bit about Final Girls, who is behind this initiative and how it came about. 

The Final Girls: The Final Girls is a new London-based screening series exploring the intersection between horror film and feminism. Our events will explore the representation of women in horror, both in front of and behind the camera, through a series of screening events and informal discussions.

The Final Girls are Anna Bogutskaya and Olivia Howe - a couple of girls who share a love of gross movies. We met about two years ago, and since then have spent countless hours sharing, discussing and marathoning horror films. We both have a strong interest in the representation of women in film (Anna will be producing this year’s Underwire Film Festival), so the idea seemed to flow naturally from our conversations. It’s a subject matter that we feel needs to be explored further - and we want others to part of that discussion.

F.E.: Where do you think horror stands when it comes to feminism/equality at the moment? Horror films have often been criticised for their lurid, exploitative imagery of women, and yet, they have also often featured some strong leading female characters, i.e. the "final girls". What is your take on this? 

T.F.G: It’s a complex subject - horror is obviously just one aspect of the film industry, where gender representation and equality has been the subject of heated conversation over the last few years. As we develop The Final Girls, we’re educating ourselves more and more on the industry implications of the horror aesthetics aside from the obvious, as well as rediscovering and highlighting the female take on the genre.

F.E: There seems to have been an emergence of female talents making horror/genre films lately, with the Soska Sisters, Axelle Carolyn, Jennifer Kent, Josephine Decker, not to mention XX, the upcoming all-female horror anthology ... Why do you think this is happening now? 

T.F.G: While there are some horror films that flip the genre and its gender stereotypes on its head (CARRIE, ROSMARY'S BABY), there isn’t much getting away from the fact that horror movies are generally told from a male perspective. A recent study showed that 50% of horror audiences are female - we think there is an upsurge of female filmmakers wanting to create roles in a genre they love from a perspective they can relate to. Roles for women within the genre need to diversify and people want to explore that idea more and more, creating a sub-genre of films that women can actually identify with. It’s an exciting time.

F.E.: Do you feel that female horror fans can be ostracised at times? 

T.F.G: We want to create a safe space for female horror fans to enjoy their love of the genre on the big screen, and make everyone feel comfortable discussing their take on the films.

The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
F.E.: What are you favourite horror films directed by women? 

T.F.G.: TROUBLE EVERY DAY is a big favourite of ours and will be screening it as our first event on Friday 13th May at The Prince Charles Cinema. Directed by Claire Denis, who was already an established filmmaker when she made the film, walks the fine between arthouse and horror. It’s a truly haunting story about the extremities of carnal lust, hunger and suppressed desire. We can’t wait to see it on the big screen (and on 35mm!).

Another big favourite is SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, one of the first openly feminist slasher films to challenge the male gaze, is wonderful. It’s such an interesting experiment in how strong the feminist gaze can remain even in the framework of a slasher film.

We don’t want to give away too many of our programming ideas but we hope to show you some more of our favourites over the course of the next few months, with examples of women in-front and behind the camera.

F.E.: And then of course, I have to ask, who are your favourite Final Girls? 

Laurie Strode (played by Jamie Lee Curtis in HALLOWEEN) - the ultimate Final Girl, has to to be top of the list. Laurie presents the image of physically and emotionally strong young woman who is savvy enough to overcome a killer.

Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp in NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) - Nancy not only (almost) defeats Freddy, she makes sure everyone else knows how to defend themselves too. What a girl.

Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell in SCREAM) - Tough, independent and with no-bullshit approach, Sidney Prescott is the definitive Final Girl of the 90s.

To buy tickets for the screening of TROUBLE EVERY DAY at the Prince Charles Cinema, follow this link: https://www.princecharlescinema.com/events/trouble-every-day-presented-by-the-final-girls/

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