As a woman in horror myself, there’s a specific importance in my life to hear the voices of other women in the genre and allow them to inspire my thoughts and feelings regarding horror. For such a long time it’s felt as if women in horror haven’t been represented as much as they should have, constantly taking the backseat at events, in panels, during Q&As, something which has always felt like a downside to the horror genre. However in recent years there’s been a shift towards championing women in horror and finding ways to raise their voices and their profiles in order to give them the recognition they deserve. Even though this is still something women are fighting for, and still something completely disregarded by many UK and US film festivals, it’s something that came across throughout everything at Nightstream Film Festival, providing an important example of how to be more inclusive and diverse in the horror film industry.
And it wasn’t just female voices that were raised throughout the whole of Nightstream, it was BAME voices, LGBTQ+ voices, it was any one person that has a voice given the opportunity to use it and be heard loud and clearly across a sea of blood. This for me is what made Nightstream stand out as a festival against so many others that are running. The organisers of the festival, Boston Underground Film Festival, Brooklyn Horror Film Festival, North Bend Film Festival, The Overlook Film Festival and Popcorn Frights Film Festival, made an active choice to be inclusive and diverse which really makes all the difference when it comes to festivals, because it allows for everyone to feel included and seen.
For me, seeing these powerful women in horror talk about their love for the genre, their work and art and what influenced them, gave me a sense of feeling proud to be a woman in horror. Even though there were a plethora of incredible panels across the whole weekend, there were three that really stood out to me and spoke to me.
The Future of Female is Horror
Certainly the most perfect title that has ever existed, and one that excited me from the moment I saw it on the line-up list. Hosted by Arrow video, moderated by filmmaker Meredith Alloway and introduced by founder of The Future of Film is Female, Caryn Coleman, this was a panel discussion with women and non-binary filmmakers talking about how the trajectory for the horror industry truly lies in the hands of females. Included in the panel line-up was Laura Casabe (THE RETURNED), Mariama Diallo (HAIR WOLF), Nikyatu Jusu (SUICIDE BY SUNLIGHT), Laura Moss (FRY DAY), Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (1000 Women in Horror) and journalist Jordan Crucchiola, stepping in for Ashlee Blackwell from Graveyard Shift Sisters.
Hearing filmmakers, authors, academics and journalists discuss just how important it is to have stories told by women was awe-inspiring to listen to and helped to reinstate the importance of allowing different people to have their perspectives projected. This fascinating discussion really went in-depth on the creative process behind the amazing films made, some of the influences they had had on their works and also why the horror genre has always been designed for women. There was a particularly interesting discussion around catharsis from trauma in horror films, including a mention of B.J. Colangelo and how she talks about I Spit On Your Grave as her escape from the trauma she went through (which I also recently discussed with B.J. in this podcast episode). An exemplary showcase of powerful voices in the horror genre.
Fireside chat with Nia DaCosta
DaCosta, DaCosta, DaCosta… Just a reminder to everyone that it is Nia DaCosta that directed the upcoming Candyman remake and not Jordan Peele. Journalist Hunter Harris chatted with DaCosta all about her reimagining of a classic horror film, Candyman, which is set to be released at some point soon. They discussed the films that helped to influence DaCosta as a horror film fan herself, and how she took elements from those horror movies to be included in her film. They also discuss the importance of a film like Candyman for Black voices and how it’s more than just a film about a scary myth, it’s actually about social injustice, systematic racism and the problems faced in everyday life. DaCosta also talks about the processes of making the film, the casting and some of the scenes and shots we can expect to see in the film.
20th Anniversary Celebration of American Psycho with Mary Harron
It’s hard to believe that American Psycho was released 20 years ago already, however, the iconic and controversial film is and to celebrate the masterpiece decades later, journalist Katie Rife from A.V. Club spoke to director Mary Harron about her film. Through the talk they discussed how Harron adapted Brett Eaton Ellis’ horrifically brutal serial killer book American Psycho, but used her own interpretation to bring the film to life. Harron talks about Ellis’ involvement in the film, how Christian Bale brought to life the notorious character of Patrick Bateman, and some of the challenges faced when bringing to life such a violent story. They also discussed the irony of those who label American Psycho as a misogynistic book and film, and how the seeping satire in both is something to be marvelled but often gets overlooked by critics. As a fan of American Psycho this chat was a fascinating look into the film and why it’s still talked about to this very day.
With such an outstanding line-up of film industry personas, it’s hard to see how Nightstream could be beaten. Even though these three are my personal highlights from the genre film festival, there were an abundance of others that were just as thought-provoking and insightful. If this is how Nightstream Film Festival introduces their first year of running, then there is no doubt that within years to come this festival is going to be one of the biggest in the US, and hopefully will expand across the pond and further.