As it’s both Black History Month and Women in Horror Month, You Die First has decided to focus on black women in horror/speculative fiction. All month, we’ll be spotlighting projects by or featuring black women. If you have any suggestions or submissions, please hit those buttons and let us know!
Women in Horror Month: Celebrating the Maidens of the Macabre
When the somewhat short month of February rolls along, we have many things to celebrate, whether it’s groundhogs, historical black figures, presidents, and even football players. But what about the butt-kicking, blood shielding femme fatales that have fought their way into horror films and the silver screen, as well as the behind the scenes women that help create these films? That’s where Women in Horror Month steps, or better put, slashes in.
Bela Lugosi, the original Dracula, once said “It is women who love horror. Gloat over it. Feed on it. Are nourished by it. Shudder and cling and cry out — and come back for more.” Hannah Neurotica, creator of the feminist horror magazine Ax Wound, decided that the rest of the world (or America at least) should recognize this fact as well. With the goal of raising awareness about the women who write, produce, direct, and enjoy all aspects of the grim genre, Women in Horror Month was born.
For decades, horror has been a male dominated field. In some Asian and European countries women have begun to take a larger part in the horror genre, but the numbers are still shy in comparison to their male counterparts. Out of Fangoria Magazine’s List of Top 300 Horror Movies, only 3 were directed or produced by women. Filmmakers like George A. Romero, Dario Argento, and John Carpenter are more than well known for their contributions to horror. If one were to hear the name Mary Lambert, they may not be familiar. Her film Pet Semetary, though, may spark some memories (and nightmares).
When portrayed in horror films, females are often victimized; frightened and scared as they cower in their empty house and a masked serial killer stalks them with a knife. Lindsay Felton, childhood Nickelodeon star and former contestant on the Vh1 reality show Scream Queens, agrees that being a pretty victim is not empowering. “A lot of times you don’t get taken seriously; its hard to have a career when all you’re known for is screaming and dying,” she says. “Many actresses fall into an oblivion of faded Queens, rather than be remembered for their acting abilities or characters.” Even in her twenties, Felton has begun to fade with the best of them. Needless to say, these actresses are not highly exalted during Women of Horror Month.
Says Neurotica, “we’re not about the Scream Queens. What’s to celebrate in that? WIH month is just about female equality as it is women in horror… recognizing the forms of female empowerment through horror.” She adds, “take the original NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET – Nancy wanted to kick Freddy’s ass!” A female actually being alive by the end of a horror movie is rare, let alone having a strong and independent character. It’s when the strong roles come along that gives women a reason to celebrate.
One of the most famous Women in Horror is Maila Nurmi, who created the campy 1950’s Morticia Addams inspired character of Vampira. Nurmi broke boundaries in the cult film Plan 9 from Outer Space because for the first time, a female lead was acting as the predator, not the prey.
Sybil Danning also played a large part in changing the standards of the way women are portrayed; once offered a role in Amazon Women of the Moon, she refused and demanded the lead instead. “I love playing women who are not ashamed to be strong,” she says. “There are many of us out there, you know, and we would love to see more of us on the screen.” More recently, she was featured in Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS Trailer
Since it’s birth, Women in Horror Month has been advertised and recognized from Fangoria to Facebook, and everywhere in between. The press that it has received would lead one to believe that the celebration is years old in the least, but surprisingly enough is only celebrating its first anniversary. This explains why there isn’t more formal celebration- for now, just the recognition is enough. Says Neurotica, “Women in Horror Month is about setting time aside to grab people’s attention, raise an awareness that women do in fact make horror films and do in fact love horror films…about giving deserved recognition to those women who have worked their asses off.”
Adds Dee, one of two women in the Fangoria office, “We wish each other a Happy February 1st, but that’s it. Even though the month is all about celebrating the women, it doesn’t change the fact that I deal mostly with men on an everyday basis. I believe WIH is about equality in workplace- I already have that and I’m grateful, but there’s no need to shove it down my boss’ throat.”
To a non-horror fan, Women in Horror Month may not seem like much. There are no parades, no grade school essays about an important Woman in Horror History…yet. But to the women who have devoted their lives to a field filled with blood and testosterone, and to the young girls who look up to them, it’s a start.
By Samantha Fox
Most people would say that the zombie apocalypse is no place for a woman. Fortunately for Women in Horror Recognition Month, THE WALKING DEAD Costume Designer Eulyn Womble shares her personal story of how she carved out a successful career for herself.
I did my first drawings of princess dresses when I was three years old. From an early age, I knew what I was meant to do.
By the time I was in high school my friends and I would go to thrift stores and convert the clothing that we bought into contemporary styles.
My parents discouraged me from becoming a FASHION DESIGNER. I remember my Dad saying that there was too much competition and I that I should choose a ‘safer’ career path. Accounting was my favourite subject at school and I excelled at it, so naturally, I went to University thinking that I would become an accountant.
University was an eye opening experience. I discovered a world of characters. The krishnas, hippies, foreigners, people of all different colours. It was wonderful! I joined a group called, The Minority Music Society and discovered BAUHAUS, NICK CAVE, JOY DIVISION and the world of gothic and punk clothing.
During my vacation from studying, I worked at my grandparents’ clothing factory where they produced school uniforms. My grandmother made clothing her entire life –including my mother’s wedding dress. I often accredit my natural talent for costume design to her.
The sound of sewing machines and the smell of oil from a vintage industrial Singer will always be comforting.
I was scouted as a model. Though I loved modeling, I didn’t see this as a long-term profession. I spoke to the costume designer who was dressing me on a photo shoot and asked if I could shadow her on her next job. She agreed and the following week, I was shadowing on my first television commercial. That meant making coffee, carrying really heavy racks and stacking hangers. I did every little job to the very best of my ability. But more importantly, I knew I’d finally found my niche.
I only shadowed on that one job for that one day. I started getting offers for paid work as a stylist almost immediately. I also did test shoots with models and photographers in between paying jobs. About two years after working in the commercial production world, I was asked to assist in the running of a new COSTUME HOUSE that opened up in CAPE TOWN. Working in a costume house proved to be a very valuable experience in organizational skills and self-discipline -being able to sift through racks and find what you need quickly, is invaluable. If you’re ever presented with the opportunity to work in a costume house, go for it! There is much to be learned within those walls.
My first film experience presented itself in the form of a DISNEY IMAX FILM, which was shot in the harsh yet beautiful desert of NAMIBIA. This meant leaving home for months, which was a new and frightening experience that I welcomed at the time. Leaving home for long periods of time is often a reality for people in the film business. It is never an easy decision when you have a family.
Before long, I was designing on big international commercials, including BBC WORLD NEWS, GERMAN CHILDREN’S MUSEUM, M&M’s RUSSIA - just to name a few. I was very lucky to be able to work with top directors from all over the world.
I met my husband, J. Caleb Womble, while working on an American television mini-series that was being shot in Cape Town, South Africa. He is an American. We got married and I moved to the states where my resume didn’t mean a thing and I had to start from scratch. This was extremely challenging. I took whatever work I could get, including OFFICE PA - I learned so much about paperwork on that job. My frustration at not being able to work in costumes quickly turned to intense focus and study. I sent my resume to various designers, studied the production reports that came out weekly and stayed in contact with Costume Supervisors whose work I admired.
Soon I was back in the costume department and loving it.
I am currently the costume designer on The Walking Dead.
In conclusion, WORK HARD, BE HUMBLE, BE ON TIME and LEARN TO MAKE A GREAT CUP OF COFFEE. Studying BUSINESS and ACCOUNTING is an advantage.
Artists have to be business savvy.
Get your THE WALKING DEAD fix on the show’s official website: http://www.amctv.com/shows/the-walking-dead
For more information about Women in Horror Month, you can also find us on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/WomenInHorrorMonth, Twitter -http://twitter.com/WiHMonth, and visit our website -http://www.womeninhorrormonth.com
Women in Horror Month: Hannah Neurotica Interview
Throughout February FEARnet will be profiling Women Who Make You Scream in celebration of Women in Horror Recognition Month and the gals who bring the gore.
Some of the most iconic characters from the past seventy years of horror movies are female. Whether they are Final Girls, bloodied victims, or ax-wielding mamas, these women have slowly changed the face of the genre and the way we look at the slasher film formula. It follows that if there are so many women on the screen, there should be a ton of women working behind the scenes in the genre, right? Right?
Not so much. Click the link to read the rest of the interview…