FROM FINAL GIRLS TO FILMMAKERS: HOW ROGER CORMAN HELPED GIVE WOMEN A VOICE IN HORROR!

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FROM FINAL GIRLS TO FILMMAKERS: HOW ROGER CORMAN HELPED GIVE WOMEN A VOICE IN HORROR!

(Just click on the movie titles to go to our full length reviews!)

Catching up with some Corman produced 80s horror, I came to realize just how ahead of his time legendary producer Roger Corman was in giving women a voice in horror as filmmakers and not just final girls!…

Roger Corman is legendary for his exploitation flicks and while some may debate the involvement of women in those films as objects of T&A elements and/or final girls in his horror flicks, they may not be aware that Corman was also boundary breaking in giving women opportunities as filmmakers behind the camera, which, especially in the horror genre and at the time…the 80s…was practically unheard of.

Today women have been showing their voice in the horror genre behind the cameras more than ever. With the starkly original works of the Soska Sisters and their American Mary or See No Evil 2, taking the horror world by storm…along with filmmakers like Jennifer (The Babadook) Kent and Leigh (Honeymoon) Janiak…that voice is louder than ever. The boundaries are starting to come down finally in a very male dominated genre and it’s a blessing to horror movie fans to be getting the works and perspectives of a whole new generation of female filmmakers, previously unheard from…but as these talents tear down the walls, is it possible there were already cracks there from an earlier time?

Three decades before this refreshing opening of doors, those doors were unlocked partially by a man that some may unfairly claim made his money exploiting women in movies, Roger Corman. During the 80s, women were just starting to make waves as filmmakers, let alone in the horror genre and Roger Corman not only produced numerous horror flicks with women writing and/or directing, but gave start to the careers of some renown producers too, like Gale Anne Hurd and his own wife, Julie Corman as well!

Corman, under his New World Pictures banner, produced Humanoids From The Deep with Barabara Peeters at the helm in 1981 and a year later gave the directing reigns to Amy Holden Jones on the slasher Slumber Party Massacre, which was also written by Rita Mae Brown. While the 1983 Suburbia, was not a horror flick, Corman gave new filmmaker Penelope (Wayne’s World) Spheeris a chance, producing her unflinching vision of a group of outcast punk rockers. It is now considered a cult classic and she a very successful filmmaker. After selling New World and starting Concorde Pictures, this trend continued. Sorority House Massacre was written and directed by Carol Frank and between 1987 and 1990 there were second and third installments of the Slumber Party Massacre series, helmed by Deborah Brock and Sally Mattison respectively. Corman even gave one of his regular actresses a chance behind the camera. Kat Shea (Barbarian Queen) co-wrote and directed Stripped To Kill for Corman in 1987 after starring in a few of his productions and doing some second unit work and writing for the legendary producer. She made a few more films for Concorde and Corman afterwards, including the immensely underrated vampire romance Dance Of The Damned in 1987. Shea…then Shea-Rubin…went on to a prolific career as a writer/director after striking out on her own. I personally find her to be a highly underrated filmmaker, whose most well-know film is probably the sexy thriller Poison Ivy with Drew Barrymore.

Corman was not the only one shaking the boundaries that are now finally coming down. John Carpenter stood by the late Debra Hill as his producer and she produced a number of his most classic films with him, including the horror masterpiece Halloween and that was only the beginning for this now legendary producer. Kathryn Bigelow burst on the scene with the vampire classic Near Dark in 1987 as did Mary Lambert in 1989 with the Stephen King adaptation, Pet Semetery. Rachel Talalay killed Freddy Krueger in Freddy’s Dead in 1991 and if not for the vision of Mary Harron, we wouldn’t have the modern classic American Psycho, which also showed us what a relatively unknown Christian Bale could do in front of the camera. Corman was not solely responsible, but certainly led the way during the 80s giving women a voice in horror behind the camera as well as in front of it…long before today’s generation of female horror filmmakers are making their presence known.

So, we are finally getting to see women make a strong mark as filmmakers in the horror genre. Their emergence was a long time coming, but there were pioneers that paved the way. While Roger Corman was not the only producer to give female filmmakers a chance on the creative end of the horror genre…and there were a handful of female directed horrors before the 80s, too…he did do it at a time where it was practically unheard of and he did it often. Do today’s filmmakers like Jen and Sylvia Soska have Roger Corman to thank for putting cracks in the barriers that they are now tearing down with their unique and talented visions as women in horror?…I’ll let you decide that for yourselves!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HONEYMOON (2014)

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HONEYMOON (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Honeymoon is a creepy and disturbing horror film that has a bit of an art house feel to it and certainly can be seen as a metaphor for the fear of entering a serious relationship with someone and suddenly finding out they are not the person you thought they were. The story finds newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Game Of Thrones’ Rose Leslie) going to a remote cabin for a honeymoon of seclusion and romance. Strange things start to happen almost as soon as they arrive, with a light being shined into their room as they sleep and the lamps blinking on and off. One night Bea disappears and Paul finds her naked and in a trance-like state standing in the middle of the woods. The next morning Bea seems a bit off, forgetting simple things like how to make coffee and French toast. Her odd behavior begins to escalate and Paul starts to become very worried for his wife’s mental health and a bit fearful for his own. What happened to her out in those woods? Was it simple sleepwalking as a result of stress from all the recent activity, as she claims? Was there a traumatic encounter with a local man (Ben Huber) Bea has known since childhood, as Paul suspects?…or is there something more unearthly at work here?

As directed by Leigh Janiak, from a script she co-wrote with Phil Graziadei, this is a very effective and disturbing little horror, despite the fact that we’ve seen the story of the suddenly strange-behaving spouse before, though not quite told in this way. At first, husband Paul seems a bit paranoid, but our time for questioning if he’s overreacting is not long, as Bea’s behavior gets stranger and stranger quite quickly. It is chilling to watch Paul coming apart as he, in turn, watches his new wife get weirder and weirder, all the while being illusive as to what is going on. She insists she is fine, just tired, but we see it in her face and in her mannerisms that she knows far more than she is telling her increasingly frustrated and frightened husband. Her behavior creeps us out, so we can identify with what he is feeling, such as when he catches her in a mirror practicing her excuses for her behavior and writing down their names so she can remember them. Janiak does a good job of drawing us into the couple’s drama and only feeding us enough information to keep us intrigued, but still as in the dark as Paul. She knows how to build tension and knows how to present disturbing scenes for maximum effect…and there are a few gruesome scenes. She also uses the isolation of the cabin to the story’s advantage, as we do share Paul’s feeling of being trapped with someone he barely recognizes anymore…and maybe someone he should also be afraid of. The only thing that really held this back, somewhat, is that we kinda know where this is headed and despite how well it’s all presented, we are not all that surprised when it gets there. We have seen this kind of story before. It still works very well, but it was familiar and can’t escape that familiarity entirely…even with the skill of Janiak’s telling.

The cast are top notch. Rose Leslie really delivers strong work as the young bride who becomes an almost different person the morning after her ‘walk’ in the woods. She effectively creates the persona of someone desperately trying to keep up the facade of normality when she obviously knows far more than she let’s on, that something isn’t right. She really conveys the pain of someone loosing control, the more Paul strips away her excuses and demands answers she is too horrified to give. Treadaway also does fine work, though not quite up to Leslie’s level. His Paul is not quite the alpha-male and is a sensitive guy, so he quickly becomes upset when the honeymoon starts to get weird. Even with what his character is dealing with, Treadaway sometimes gets a bit too bug-eyed and a bit too whiny. Not quite over-the-top, but occasionally drifting close. We still do sympathize with him and obviously feel for him when he becomes frustrated and frightened over his wife’s behavior. His torment feels genuine and that helps make this film work as well as it does, even if he could have toned things down just a bit. The only other cast members are Ben Huber as Bea’s childhood friend Will and Hanna Brown as his wife who appears to be behaving equally odd. Their screen time is very brief, as it is basically Leslie and Treadaway’s show, but they are effective in their small parts.

Honeymoon is a spooky and chilling little movie. The story may be familiar and we may know, ultimately, where it’s headed, but it is a very effective ride under the guidance of first-time director Leigh Janiak and her good cast. There are some very disturbing and unnerving scenes within and Janiak makes good use of the secluded setting. Add in the effective breaking down of a loved one as watched by their helpless significant other and you have an intense and horrifying flick despite the familiarity of the core story.

3 wooden ducks!

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