Search online for “horror films directed by women” and you either get attempts at ‘complete’ lists or ’10 Best’ showcases. These latter tend to celebrate contemporary styles of horror and focus on more defiantly feminist films. But I just love a creature feature and if the church of queer inclusivity has taught me anything, it’s to avoid setting narrow boundaries of opportunity or expectation… So, whilst this mixtape project will search out mainstream hits (hello TWILIGHT!) and much-loved classics (NEAR DARK), it will also give horror-hugs to overlooked gigs that came late in the franchise (CRITTERS 3, UNDERWORLD 5, and HOWLING VI).
Let me know what you love @tokenhomo & check back for updates.
A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (d. Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014 USA/101min)
There are many reasons to love this modern hybrid of a vampire movie – often billed as “The first Iranian Vampire Western” – but director Amirpour warns against putting too much into feminist readings of her film: ”If there’s one political thing, it’s not the chador, it’s Rockabilly, because it’s not okay to be gay in Iran”. Rockabilly is a silent observer we see only a handful of times in the movie, a character who could be read in many ways but has been described by Amirpour as a “gay man in drag”. In the book Women Make Horror, Lindsey Decker describes Rockabilly’s surreal dance with a ballon as “a moment of unpoliced gay joy”.
CRITTERS 3 (d. Kristine Peterson, 1991 USA/86min)
The one best known for giving Leonardo DiCaprio his first feature role (after a string of TV appearances) but what’s less well celebrated is that it was directed by a woman who had previous for Roger Corman and a brace of erotic thrillers: Kristine Peterson. Peterson’s directing credits include DEADLY DREAMS (1988) and BODY CHEMISTRY (1990), leading to Sundance acclaim for SLAVES TO THE UNDERGROUND (1997). Her career as an AD/Second Unit Director is stellar, including: CHOPPING MALL (1986), BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989), A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET: THE DREAM CHILD (1989), and TREMORS (1990). CRITTERS 3 has a disconcertingly wholesome early 90s family movie vibe (think HOME ALONE with added aliens) but there’s fun to be had in its ‘tenement overrun by furballs’ plot. And yes, the Crites do engage in an extended food fight and farting scene… which may or may not light your fires.
GOOD MANNERS (d. Marco Dutra & Juliana Rojas, 2017 Brazil/France/135min)
One of those films you catch at a festival not knowing anything about & get completely blown away by. BFI London Film Festival almost let the creature out of the bag with some hastily erected content warning signs (an audience member had taken a turn at an earlier screening…), but the international posters completely fuck the surprise… I’d go in knowing as little as possible if you at all can (don’t even google it!), because the shocks are sensational.
HOWLING VI: THE FREAKS (d. Hope Perello, 1991 USA/100min)
Adding vamps to the HOWLING mythos, this carny-set horror show lacks teeth in its central performances but conjures up sufficient atmosphere to perform above its pay grade (cf Tobe Hooper’s THE FUNHOUSE). The nomadic menagerie features Deep Roy as a queer Kuato and Antonio Fargas going the full geek to bite heads off chickens and commune with the cockroaches… Sadly, the werewolf FX have descended to ‘goth on a bad hair day’ levels but the vampire design is compelling (which is why it appears on more images from the film). Alligator Boy (aka Winston) steals the sideshow, Sean Sullivan giving real pathos to the film’s community of freaks on the far fringes of society. After all, “You can’t deny your true nature.”
Hope Perello has directed three features, including the animatronic mayhem of Full Moon’s PET SHOP (1994) and Piper Laurie vehicle ST. PATRICK’S DAY (1997), which she also wrote. She worked her way up through the ranks of film production with production co-ordinator roles on TROLL, CRAWLSPACE, FROM BEYOND and DOLLS (all 1986 for Empire Pictures) and production manager roles on DEADLY WEAPON and ROBOT JOX (1989 also for Empire), often alongside Stuart Gordon. Perello currently works as a screenwriter for hire.
HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP aka Monster (d. Barbara Peeters, 1980 USA/80min)
80 minutes of ‘schlock & awe’ from Roger Corman’s New World Pictures and director Barbara Peeters (well, for some of the time…). HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP is an environmentally aware monster movie that tells of how attempts to modify the local salmon stock to supercharge a new fish cannery have gone horribly wrong…
Stories differ, but Barbara Peeters’ footage for HUMANOIDS… did not match producer Roger Corman’s vision of a film where “the monsters kill the men and rape the women”, and she was sacked from post production. Her request to remove her name from the finished film was also declined. After an early career in various behind the scenes roles in the (s)exploitation business, Peeters directed 4 other feature films before HUMANOIDS… (all of which she also wrote or co-wrote). After HUMANOIDS…, the rest of her IMDb credited career was spent directing for TV, including episodes of CAGNEY & LACEY (1983), REMINGTON STEELE (1984), and 7 episodes of FALCON CREST (1984-5).
THE VELVET VAMPIRE (d. Stephanie Rothman, 1971 USA/80min)
A young swinging couple (Michael Blodgett and Sherry E. DeBoer) get seduced in the desert lair of a mind-warping lady vamp (Celeste Yarnall), mourning the loss of her long-deceased husband whilst playing the game from both ends.
Stephanie Rothman specialised in (s)exploitation films in the 60s and 70s, with THE VELVET VAMPIRE sitting in the middle of her directorial output which ranged from BLOOD BATH (1966) to THE WORKING GIRLS (1974). She wrote all of her directorial efforts as well as STARHOPS (credited as ‘Dallas Meredith’) which was directed by Barbara Peeters of HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP fame. In an interesting footnote, Rothman took her name off STARHOPS (1978) because she didn’t like how it turned out, a fate Corman notoriously denied Peeters on HUMANOIDS….