Sunday, 21 October 2018

WiHM: Ida Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker

1953 gave us The Hitch-Hiker, the first noir thriller directed by a woman. It tells of two men out for a fishing trip, accosted by a murderous psychopath on the run from the law. In 1998 it was selected for United States National Film Registry.

It was brought to us by Ida Lupino.

Lupino had over one hundred acting credits to her name, and begun directing in 1949. Her earlier works touched on noir, but were mostly dramas, and it wasn't until The Hitch-Hiker did she reach into the heart of the noir movie. The Hitch-Hiker is both stylish, and terrifying. The film's plot follows two men departing for the weekend to go on a fishing trip. Shortly they encounter a hitch hiker, who upon getting in the car draws a gun. He's on the run from the law and needs a ride. He's killed before. He demands the two men drive him to Mexico and there, he will kill them.

The story itself is quite simple. Lupino herself was the co-writer as well as director, but while the film follows a simple pattern, the screenplay is far more sinister. While villain Emmett Myers (William Talman) is both well acted and extremely frightening, the heart of the film comes from the relationship between would be fisherman, Roy Collins and Gilbert Bowen (Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy). The two men's relationship struggles forth from happy go lucky through to sheer torment and to the point of choosing lives over safety.

(A small spoiler) In one scene Myers forces Bowen to shoot a tin can from Collins' hand. With a rifle. Lupino drags tension out in the scene. In this day, I would put hard cash on them being fine. No one kills a main character in the middle of the second act. In this film, I wouldn't have taken that bet. Lupino makes each and every scene taut with tension.

As the two friends become distraught at the situation, Lupino pulls a rough emotion from the two lead actors. Their friendship is pulled to the very limits, and what she does in the director's chair is not only draw out the best possible performance, but as a writer, tear the relationship apart. From act one to three, the two friends are pulled through the ringer.

And it is a stylish ringer.

Lupino manages to make the villain scary, even now, 65 years later. The claustrophobic time in the car - which makes up two thirds of the film. It's a great watch - it drips noir. It oozes appeal. Without the touch of Ida Lupino, it certainly wouldn't be the classic can be regarded as today.

It's a stellar watch, gripping from beginning to end - highly recommended to both horror aficionado's, and those looking to explore the genre. 

Friday, 19 October 2018

WiHM: For Elisa (2012)

Original release: Para Elisa


When a Spanish student needs money for her senior trip, she applies for a babysitting job, unaware of the circumstances. Can she stay alive, save her best friend, and still make her senior trip?


Well, this was a turn up for the books. Ana is short of cash and turns to a babysitting job to fund a grad trip. Her mother is sick of her demands for money - what could be another choice? Still, Ana turns up for the job and is confronted with a very different "baby" to look after.

What sets For Elisa aside is not only the delivery, but also the performance. Ana has a (scum sucking, drug dealing) boyfriend, who, at the start of the film, is close to being the antagonist. He wants her in nothing more than a carnal fashion, which drives the character towards the light - a paid job. Ana is clearly torn between her friends and a more respectable offering. To which she takes a job as a babysitter. When she arrives for the position, the sitee is a grow women, perhaps older than Ana and then the proverbial hits the fan.

The film plays between three parts in large. Ona Casamiquela (Darker Than Night) is Ana, the mother of the child is Luisa Gavasa (Love in Difficult Times), and the child is played by Ana Turpin
(Uma). All three do a wonderful job. Ona plays the part of the torn teen well. Her drive to be with her boyfriend is there, but she is also driven by a desire to succeed. Luisa Gavasa is damn right terrifying in the role of the antagonist, only to be over taken by Ana Turpin.

Man, this gets bloody.

And weird.

As the film progresses, as they say, the body count rises. No spoilers here.

The performance of Ana Turpin is unsurpassed. She is both a victim and an aggressor. And it gets nasty. Nothing can be taken from writer/director Juanra Fernández. Staggeringly good cinematography, meets sharp as nails writing. This is hard horror, with performances to boot. The only thing that lets it down is the runtime - only just over one hour fifteen. But that's not to take anything away from it. It's a hell of a ride.

This one rolls a fantastic horror trail. It starts off as a slow burn, and by the end, it's rampant in Leatherface turf.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

WiHM: The Warning (2011)

Starring Nikki Limo (Smiley), The Warning is a masterclass is short film. Limo gives an outstanding performance in very much of a one actor show. Fantastic stuff.

Monday, 15 October 2018

WiHM: An Interview with Zandashé Brown

Continuing our month of Women in Horror, Dead Celluloid is very proud to present our interview with Zandashé Brown - story teller and film maker.

Film. It’s what you really seem to love. Tell us how you got to the place you’re at now. 

I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller first and foremost. When I was in middle school, I would write these short dramas on notebook paper, draw a front and back cover on printer paper, staple it together and pass it around as a book to other students. It became a “thing” and I would keep dishing out these stories to other middle school students who would wait on sequels and other stories. It was a fun thing to do but it was also a passion of mine.

Another girl started doing it too and the snobby middle-school writer that was me hated her “work” and decided to stop writing for other people because I felt like the quality of writing in our middle school had somehow been diminished. It’s hilarious to look back and see how seriously I took this stuff but it also reminds me that storytelling and entertaining or moving people has always been important to me. I wanted to have written my first novel by age fifteen.

I read a lot of books but I also watched a lot of movies. I joined the film club in high school and decided to try to put on of my stories on the screen just for fun. It took my until I had to declare a major for college to realize that I wasn’t doing it for fun anymore.

How are your connections with your home still with you?

Well I still live in Louisiana so they aren’t very far. That said, I’m a country girl at heart, born and raised in Rosedale, Louisiana - a literal village. I didn’t know I was a country girl for a very long time because I adapted quickly moving into the capitol city, Baton Rouge, and now in New Orleans. But I’ve always been obsessed with the southern Louisiana aesthetic - live oak trees, crumbling plantation homes, open stretches of land, the cypress trees in the bayou and the bright colorful shotgun houses in New Orleans. It’s such a mixture of so many different people and cultures and tragedies that have touched this land. I think the tragedies interest me the most.

I become more and more obsessed with it every time I travel and remember how unique and valuable it is. I don’t only reference home in my work, I source it.

When you’re taking someone else’s work, as a director, how do you process that story, making it yours, but more so, trying to keep the creators original vision?

Thus far, I’ve only ever directed work that I’ve written. It’s something I know that I’ll be passionate about and I can’t work on something without having passion. That said, there are many incredible writers in the world whose scripts I’d be blessed to pick up.

I think, though, that when a director picks up a script and decides to translate it into an on-screen story, the director’s creative vision is the priority. That’s why it’s so important to be able to collaborate with people who’s visions you trust. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t commit to a script if in directing it into a film I had to stray far away from the writer’s vision. When a script is well written, I think an overarching vision will always be present that all responsible creators would respect.

Horror film – Hollywood in general – is still very much a patriarchal business. Do you think it’s being swayed, finally? Or is there a general apathy toward it?

I think the patriarchy is shaking but there’s still so much more work to be done. We always have to be aware of the culture of the day and the performativity that comes out of wanting to brand yourself as a person (artist, entertainer, etc) who is socially conscious and responsible but not necessarily being accountable of that. So when it seems we’re making steps forward or more room is being made for women or people of color or queer people or disabled people, let’s not forget to question intentionality.

More importantly, I believe people on the margins should put more effort into telling their stories as they are - not always as a reaction to the systems that are oppressing them, although sometimes those two are so tightly crossed that they can be hard to break apart.

BLOOD RUNS DOWN was refreshing to me because it’s a story about a Black mother and daughter that not only centers their experience but is encapsulated by it. There is no reference to masculinity or whiteness or anything other than Black women in the movie. It felt good to make something where these characters and I could just exist as Black women.

And on that note, whitewashing is still prevalent. While those on the ground – the actors and some filmmakers – seem to be starting to recognise and address the problem, those behind the money don’t seem to want to. Do you think that there may be changes on the horizon?  

White producers can be as philanthropic and as welcoming as they’d like to be, but as long as they are the gatekeepers, the problem will persist. White supremacy exists in many forms and this is one of them. Changing that course is going to require big things to happen outside of the film industry as well though, as many other factors in living as a white person contribute to producers being afforded these positions and this sort of status. It’s not that people don’t work hard to get to where they are - although that may be the case for some. It’s that there are some challenges that a white person simply won’t have to face in that obstacle course.

I think producers of color are doing the work to build their own without having to ask permission and dismissing the value that we’ve entrusted on so many different companies and award shows and other things that a primarily white industry has deemed important. That’s going to be a slow journey but it’s a very big step.

We want to bring every underrated, lost, misunderstood film to the forefront. What should we watch? 

I’m actually awful at giving film recommendations. I think there’s still so much room for me to expand my palate, which is exciting! I don’t know if a particular movie comes to mind, but I’ll say that there’s a lot of value in 90s teen dramas. I know that’s a hard left, but alongside Wes Craven, John Carpenter, the occasional action film, and Black biopics and sitcoms, that’s what I grew up on. They tend to be pretty popular films so I won’t say that they’re lost or that there’s much to misunderstand. But the JAWBREAKERs and the CRUEL INTENTIONS of the world made for a bit more mature cinema for teenages I think and really spoke to the time. I’ve been reading some great books on the subject so it’s sort of on my mind right now.

You’ve always been interested in horror – listening to your stories about your childhood – do you have a novel in you?

I’ll never say never but I’ve really enjoyed writing stories for the screen and I feel like if I were to attempt to write a novel I’d find a way to quickly shape it into a screenplay before even finishing. That said, it doesn’t seem completely unrealistic for me to make my way back to my original dream. Maybe I’ll ease back into those notebook middle school paper stories first and see where it goes.

For all your work behind the camera, you have ventured in front of the camera. What was it like being on the other side?

I’m not completely comfortable being on camera yet. It’s already such an adjustment to direct work that I’ve written because it forces me to open myself up to people - an entire crew. It’s terrifying putting a thing together and presenting it to other people, essentially saying “here’s what I think is cool.” Because what if it’s actually really lame? Actors have to tap into their emotions and open themselves up in a completely different way that involves freeing their bodies of restrictions and I’m sooo not there yet. But I’m not opposed to the idea. Maybe one day I’ll actually really enjoying hopping in front of the camera. I believe I’m becoming more and more vulnerable as a director but for now, I don’t think I’m anywhere near vulnerable enough to act in the way I’d like to. It’s all a process.

What is coming next for you?

I’m keeping my next project under wraps but I think it’s going to be a really good one. I’ll say it’s an energetic slasher with a very different energy from BLOOD RUNS DOWN. I’m trying to put all the love, time, and care into it that I can so it can be what I’m envisioning. Because if it is, it’s gonna be pretty badass. I’m speaking that into existence.

Thank you for talking with us, Zandashé.

Find out more here:

Saturday, 13 October 2018

WiHM: An Interview with Stacy Snyder

In Dead Celluloid Towers today we have Stacy Snyder. Stacy is an actor and producer with excellent short horror, Heartless, currently on the circuit.

You’re working a constant schedule – new things all the time, and that seems to be increasing for you. Do you find that life gets in the way? Are you happy working constantly?

I’m my happiest when I’m acting. I come home from set beaming, so for me it works to be busy. It’s so fulfilling to work collaboratively with other creative people. That really is my happy place. So the more, the merrier!

Recently, you’ve been working on Heartless. During the opening scene you are telling yourself to stop it. When acting to yourself in the mirror like that what challenges do you have? Is it different to playing off of someone else’s reactions?

Kevin Sluder, the writer and director of Heartless sent me the script, and the character just clicked for me. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with this opening scene. This scene especially is such a private moment for the character. There’s something we all want to see when we are watching characters, we want to see what people are like when they think no one is looking. It was an amazing moment to explore this character and show the audience her private thoughts before she has to put on a “face” to the rest of the world. It was really amazing to have the opportunity to simply allow the character to process her thoughts. When in a scene with another actor, you’re reacting to their ideas; but with just myself I had complete control over what I wanted to share about her in that moment.

Behind the scenes, the horror genre is still heavily patriarchal. How have you found working within such an environment?

Actually, with Heartless we had 50% of females working above and below the line, meaning we had women represented in all aspects of making this film. The film industry can be very male-dominated, but it’s been so great to see a push for diversity in who is creating these stories.

And on that note – the piggish-ness attitude of the – I think in the review we referred to them as dude-bro-asshats – is that something that you’ve come across behind the camera?

Ahh yes, the dude-bro-asshats. I’ve definitely encountered those types in the real world and I’ve heard stories of other filmmakers coming across them on set. I’m fortunate in that I haven’t really had to deal with that sort on while shooting and I hope it stays that way!

Is there any of Shelby in you?

There’s a little Shelby in everyone. There’s a little pushover, a little trying to succeed against all odds, a little bit of fighting back and a little bit of stepping into your power. That’s the beauty of her. We can understand her.

What challenges to find working in horror over other genres?

I find that horror can be challenging in that in regards to the general public, horror isn’t taken tremendously seriously. Some of the most creative, masterful work I’ve seen has been in the horror genre. There are so many flavors, so many stories you can tell, so many truths to be told. However, when I tell people I have a horror film I’d love them to see, many people say “Oh, I don’t like horror movies! I’m sure yours is great though!” I get it, there are many kinds of horror that aren’t for everyone. With films like Heartless though, it really transcends the fixed idea of what many people have in their head when they think of “horror films.”

Long term, do you see yourself in front of the camera, or behind it? Which begs the question, do you want to direct?

My desires have always been around storytelling through acting. There is such a thrill being able to bring life to a character. I have dabbled in producing and I think it would be a wonderful challenge to direct. I love working with other actors, but in terms of coordinating a whole crew… I’d have to ask Kevin for some tips before I dove into that world! ;)

What’s coming next for you – if you can divulge? 

Currently, I have a comedy short on the festival circuit, Consolation Prize, and a dark comedy feature film Sound of Settling that will be making its way to the festival circuit soon.

I am also developing a TV series with two other female filmmakers. This is my first large-scale writing project and it has been incredible creating and refining this world we are building together. The main character is being written with me in mind, and it’s been such an interesting process to see myself in the role but also think of this character as a writer would- to not get attached to how she is now and allow her morph as the story grows. I can’t share additional details about the project at the moment but am very excited to spread the news once I can.

Thank you for talking with us, Stacy.

Find out more here:

Friday, 12 October 2018

WiHM: American Mary (2012)


The allure of easy money sends Mary Mason, a medical student, into the world of underground surgeries which ends up leaving more marks on her than her so called "freakish" clients.


Mary is medical student suffering from a lack of funds. When she applies to work as a stripper, owner, Billy, offers her money to stitch up a colleague who is bleeding out in the basement. This opens the door to Mary to work outside of the law, and after stripper Beatress offers her a substantial sum of cash to perform illegal body modification surgery on her - Mary makes her mark on the scene. When things on the other side of her life skew to the side, Mary's life twists into a cavalcade of revenge and horror.

It would be unfair for me to call this a body modification horror - while there are scenes of that (some extreme) the film is actual a social horror. Like most of David Cronenburg's work, American Mary is tale with a message. And a stinging one.

Written and directed by Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska (Dead Hooker in a Trunk), lightness of touch is given to what - in other people's hands - could have turned the movie to focus on the body modification collective. The film is not about that, it is about the things that Mary endures, and the lengths that she goes to, just to survive. She is the protagonist of the film, but also very much a victim. A victim of circumstance. A victim of misogyny. She is abused throughout. That is the real horror here, and the Soska Sisters do a wonderful job of portraying that. It may have scenes that some may find disturbing - but that is not the horror.

Taking the lead is Katharine Isabelle (Bad Times at the El Royale) who does an outstanding job of running with the character. She has a doe eyed innocence in the beginning - eventually become cold and unforgiving as the event of her life turn on her time and time again. It also boasts an excellent supporting cast from Tristan Risk (Ayla), Paula Lindberg (The Fiddling Horse), and Antonio Cupo (Body of Deceit) - all of whom are stellar.

It's a hard watch - not from the occasional squirm inducing gore but from the situations that Mary ends up in. I highly recommend it to any horror fan who likes a serving of social commentary mixed with their gore. This is one film that delivers both satisfyingly.


Wednesday, 10 October 2018

WiHM: I SEE YOU (2017)

"Social Media. It's advantages are many but have you ever realized that it  can be also dangerous to you and your safety. This very tool can wreck havoc and ur under scrutiny. How do u know if someone is always watching you? What would you do if you come to k ow that you are being stalked?

I see you brings that fear to the fore."

From Cutting Coffee Films comes I See You. Tech based horror. With excellent direction from Shiva varma Saptaraj Chakarborty, and a fantastic turn from star, Urvashi Sharma.

Turn the volume up.