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Jonathan Weichsel Written by Jonathan Weichsel
Jul. 30, 2013 | 7:55 PM

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2013 Viscera Film Festival Recap

2013 Viscera Film Festival

2013 is my fourth year in a row reviewing The Viscera Film Festival, which features short horror films directed by women. Please indulge me as I start this year’s review with a little anecdote: 

I was telling a friend who is a progressive activist and a self-described feminist about Viscera over drinks a few weeks back, and I was shocked by his knee-jerk negative reaction. First, he tried to argue that it was a frivolous feminist movement because directing movies is a frivolous career path. I told him that regardless of how he feels about what kind of career path directing is, it is a career path, and one that women are more often than not denied. 

He didn’t have an answer to this, so he came back with, “Well, horror movies are inherently misogynistic. Women get tortured, murdered, and raped as entertainment. So Viscera can’t be a feminist movement. It just sounds like a bunch of women supporting a sexist paradigm.

Around the same time, I saw a producer of trendy art house films I know at a film festival and told him about Viscera. He was completely dismissive, saying, “Women direct horror movies because the work is easy to get.” 

Everybody, male or female, who goes into film, is going to have to face people who don’t understand the film industry, and think his or her aspirations are a joke. Everybody, male or female, who is a fan of horror, is going to have to face people who misunderstand the horror genre, and look down on his or her taste in movies. So, an aspiring horror filmmaker starts out with two strikes against him or her, one for going into film, and one for loving horror movies. In other words, if you move to Hollywood to make horror movies, your character is going to be questioned by an awful lot of people regardless of your gender. 

But women who want to go into the film industry and make horror movies have a third strike against them, just by virtue of being women. Many people, both men and women, just can’t wrap their heads around the idea of women directing horror movies. Even within the horror community, there is a vocal online backlash against women in horror.

What is tragic is that the whole thing should really be very simple. As with men, many women like horror movies. As with men, some women love horror movies. Everybody knows this. If you haven’t met a woman who likes or loves horror movies, get out more. Just like some men, some women are blessed, or cursed if you will, with the urge to create and to tell stories. So, if you are a woman who loves horror movies, and has the urge to create, then just like a man in the same predicament, you are going to want to create horror movies, right?

But of course most people don’t see it that way, which is why The Viscera Film Festival, which exists to honor female horror directors, is so vital. 

Here are my favorite movies from the festival, in the order that I liked them:

The Meeting, directed by Karen Lam, was the standout film of the festival. Sometimes hilarious, at other times poignant, and overall creepy as hell, The Meeting depicts a serial killers anonymous meeting, which is the same thing as an AA meeting except it’s for serial killers instead of alcoholics. The film is funny because of how it compares killing to alcoholism, and poignant because of the truthful manner in which addiction is treated, with the former serial killers showing a recovering addict’s forced sense of remorse for their previous deeds.  Of course there is a gruesome, bloody twist, but I won’t give that away here.

If you are into horror, which I assume you are since you are reading this, you really owe it to yourself to check out Karen Lam’s work. The Meeting is a great place to start, and I’m sure it will be playing at a lot of horror festivals this coming October.

Orange County Hill Killers, directed by newcomer Katie Downer, is a terrific campfire tale of a horror film. On the one hand, the film looks and feels completely modern, but on the other, it really does bring you back to a bygone age of horror, when horror was about having fun. The film uses a fractured, story within a story narrative structure, but Downer cleverly uses this to her advantage, never letting the framing device get in the way of the story’s urgency. 

Orange County Hill Killers is about murderous, territorial hillbillies who stalk and kill some young campers who wander into their territory. Hillbilly horror usually doesn’t elicit much of a response from me, but in this case the campers are the kind of very recognizable and barely likable characters that you just can’t wait to see get killed, and the hillbillies are just deranged enough to be scary without sacrificing believably.

Orange County Hill Killers is the kind of fun, gory horror film that most fans crave but doesn’t get made very often anymore.

Slumber Party, directed by Jenn Wexler, is a Daywalt produced short, and has a very Daywalt feel. What I mean by that is that it tells a concise, efficient story with a creepy twist. Slumber Party deals with the ramifications of looking into a mirror and repeating Bloody Mary three times, but it is also about being excluded even as one is trying to fit in. Daywalt shorts are always crowd pleasers, and this one is no exception.

Anniversary Dinner is about a man living in a post-zombie apocalypse world who keeps his zombie wife in hiding even though she is supposed to have been turned in to the authorities. I loved the mannered, dramatic style of acting in this film. When horror gets theatrical, it often comes across as campy, but in this case it comes across as utterly sincere.

My Brother’s Keeper, or How Not to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse, directed by Jen Moss, is a joke heavy horror comedy about a resourceful woman and her idiot brother hiding from zombies. Her brother is gung ho about fighting the zombies, but is, to his sister’s wary exasperation, completely inept at even the most basic survival skills.

Overall The Viscera Organization has given us another amazing festival. If you are a horror fan, The Viscera Film Festival is really one of the best shorts festivals out there. And if you are at all curious about women in horror, come down and check it out. If you don’t live in Hollywood, don’t worry. The festival goes on frequent tours.

Here is the Viscera website:

Here are my reviews from 2012 and 2011:

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