Hobart – 7 February —Tasmania will host a film festival with a difference this month, with the inaugural Stranger With My Face Horror Film Festival in Hobart from 17 to 19 February.
It will screen dark, subversive and entertaining films by women, from exploitation to art house, gore to ghost stories. It takes its name from the teen horror novel by Lois Duncan, inspired by archetypes like the ‘mad woman in the attic’ and the ‘evil twin.’
Stranger With My Face is the creation of award-winning Tasmanian filmmakers Briony Kidd and Rebecca Thomson and is an official ‘Women in Horror Recognition Month’ event.
It will feature two blocks of short horror films by women on 18 February, including a showcase of films from the Viscera Film Festival, a US-based festival which starts in LA and tours its ‘sick chick flicks’ around the world.
The festival will also screen the outrageous feature film Dead Hooker in a Trunk on 17 February.
Directed by and starring Canadian twin sisters Sylvia and Jen Soska, Dead Hooker has become a low-budget surprise hit on the genre circuit, championed by cult horror director Eli Roth.
The short film selection includes a twisted tale about a female hitchhiker from Canada’s Karen Lam, Doll Parts, and a poignant take on the idea of being haunted by a past relationship in Emily Carmichael’s The Ghost and Us. There’s the moving The Last Post (written and directed by Axelle Carolyn and starring British character actor Jean Marsh) and Tasmanian werewolf chiller Tahune’s Beast (directed by Joshua Llewellyn and produced by Catherine McClintock).
The festival includes a series of talks and workshops on topics as varied as writing suspense for theatre, why spooky music works, Italian ‘giallo’ cinema, true crime literature and creating special effects horror make-up.
Finally, Stranger With My Face boasts a unique scriptwriting competition, the 10 By 10 Horror Script Challenge. Registered participants have 10 days to come up with a bold, brilliant short horror script.
“We have over 60 registered participants for the challenge, which started on 1 February and will conclude on 10 February,” says Rebecca Thomson. “That’s pretty amazing. We didn’t expect that many people to sign up.”
Participants range from professional writers, such as playwrights and poets, to horror fans. The winning script will be given a live reading and feedback from high profile judges.
The judges are horror journalist Heidi Honeycutt, renowned Australian film critic Adrian Martin, filmmakers Donna McRae and Victoria Waghorn, Canadian producer and filmmaker Karen Lam and fantasy novelist Tansy Rayner Roberts.
Contrary to popular belief, women love horror films. This was demonstrated by a string of big budget horror hits last decade driven by female audiences, from The Ring to the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
And yet, for as long as films have been made, female fans of horror have been offered up the cinematic nightmares of almost exclusively male filmmakers.
Troma Entertainments’s Lloyd Kaufman recently commented, “Unfortunately, and counter intuitively, the genre of horror seems, to me, to be the most male chauvinistic area in pop culture.”
But this seems to be changing. More and more women are beginning to make horror films…
“Horror is the genre that most taps into the subconscious of the society, reflecting back to us our concerns, and our deepest nightmares,” says filmmaker and festival organiser Briony Kidd.
“There’s room for incredible diversity in this genre and horror fans really embrace new ideas and new voices. The festival is a celebration of that.”
So what do the horror films of women say about the concerns and fears of women in today’s world? And is there such a thing as a uniquely ‘female’ approach to horror?
These are questions best left for audiences to argue about on the way home…
For the organisers of Stranger With My Face, it’s enough to be able to bring the fresh and exciting work of women genre filmmakers to audiences.
Stranger With My Face Horror Film Festival ~ 17-19 February
Salamanca Arts Centre, 77 Salamanca Place, Hobart
High resolution stills and review screeners are available. For film, program and ticketing information, see www.strangerwithmyface.com or follow the festival on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SWMFHH