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Friday, August 19, 2022

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Arts + CultureA different kind of "femme fatale"

A different kind of “femme fatale”

Roxie terror series "Horrific Women: Female Directors Killin’ It" proves that gore knows no gender.

SCREEN GRABS As Election Day approaches, it is clear that to much of our nation’s citizenry, there is nothing more horrifying than a woman who is smarter than they are. (Not even a sociopathic nitwit with his finger potentially on the nuclear-option button.) Thus it seems an especially apt moment for the Roxie to host “Horrific Women: Female Directors Killin’ It” (Thu/27-Sun/30)a seven-feature retrospective of horror flicks by, and about, the alleged “gentler sex.” it’s programmed by Roxie newcomer (but longtime Bay Area film-scene familiar) Jennifer Junkyard Morris, who notes “Oozing blood and excruciating pain are a monthly experience for most women, so who better to direct horror films?” 

This is an idea whose time is overdue: While horror cinema is usually considered fanboy terrain, where the meeting of knives and boobs is tailored to the meaner sensibilities of the 13-year-old heterosexual boy within every 13-to-93-year-old heterosexual boy, marketing research has proven that girls actually like this stuff too. In fact, they constitute such a significant share of the genre audience that its fallback misogyny would appear to be highly misguided, if not (apparently) unforgivable.

However, the movies in “Horrific Women” are not stock slashers in which “taking a shower” = silicone bloodbath. They are all boundary-pushing exercises in their way, albeit to varying degrees of daring and artistic success. Each will only be shown once on the weekend just pre-Halloween, so get your act together and get down to the Roxie, or there will be sadistic, gory consequences. Well, maybe not. But who knows! 

Because we have no idea how to weave them into a coherent feature, here is a blow-by-blow account of “Horrific Women’s” selections. You can check out the entire schedule here.  

Near Dark
After making the most homoerotic biker movie ever with The Loveless, which nobody saw, future Hurt Locker Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow proved herself a commercial filmmaker after all with this terrific, unique 1987 white-trash take on vampirism. Adrian Pasdar and Bill Paxton are among the rural rubes with a taste for the red stuff in a truly startling mix of supernatural horror, action and road-movie Americana. 

The Babadook
One of the most acclaimed horror movies in recent years, Jennifer Kent’s feature writing-directing debut stars Essie Davis as a widow who increasingly believes her young son’s claims that he’s being terrorized by a monster sprung from a creepy children’s book. 

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears 
Co-written and directed by the Belgian duo of Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani, this cryptic if ravishing feature abandons all substance to giddy celebration of style. It’s a lavish homage to the most fetishistic aesthetics of 1960s/70s giallo cinema, that Italian murder mystery-slash-horror genre which most famously boosted the careers of Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Abandon all hope of coherent narrative logic, ye who enter here—this movie is as extravagant, elegant, and unnecessary as a mink glove. 

Jennifer’s Body
The brief cultural moment that was Megan Fox simultaneously peaked and began its steep decline with this box-office flop written by Juno’s Diablo Cody and directed by Karyn Kusama (who rebounded with clever recent thriller The Invitation). It’s not a good movie — but it is a cheesily entertaining one, as Fox’s high school succubus re-defines “mean girl” for bestie Amanda Seyfried. 

Barely over an hour’s length, Stewart Thorndike’s debut feature (never mind the name, she is not a man) is an intriguing queer spin on Rosemary’s Baby. Former child actor Gaby Hoffman plays a pregnant lesbian who begins to think bad thoughts about her lover (Ingrid Jungermann) and neighbors (Kim Allen, Rebecca Street) when tragedy makes their Manhattan flat seem haunted. This is not a satisfying movie, but it’s good enough to make you wish the filmmakers had taken its concept a few steps further.

Messiah of Evil
The same year that they experienced a huge success with their screenplay for George Lucas’ American Graffitti, creative and marital team Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck made their directorial bow with this extraordinary flop — which was actually shot two years earlier (in 1971), but never given a proper release. It’s still quite striking, a dislocating nightmare with the most memorable collision between hippie-chic supermarket shoppers and flesh-eating zombies ever. 

The late Antonia Bird (who died of thyroid cancer in 2013) was not the original director of this grotesque cannibal-themed black comedy. She was hired to replace Macedonian Oscar nominee Milcho Manchevski (Before the Rain), who was fired three weeks into shooting. She wasn’t happy with the final result, either. This flamboyant tale of merciless frontier hunger would be vastly reduced without Damon Albarn and Michael Nyman’s score. It’s one of the greatest original soundtracks ever composed in service of a film eventually hobbled by its producers.

‘Horrific Women’ plays Thu/27-Sun/30 at the Roxie Theater. Tickets and more info here

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