Blum's Blunder - The Continued Struggle for Women in Horror
There's been a lot of backlash in the horror community since Blumhouse CEO Jason Blum declared that he's having problems finding women interested in directing horror films. After returning from the Women in Horror Film Festival and meeting some of the most talented women filmmakers currently in the industry, I was infuriated so I went and wrote an open letter to Mr. Blum about the issue. The fact is, we've got an industry and a culture that marginalizes women and makes them work twice as hard to prove their worth in cinema. As a fan of a lot of women in horror, it's hard to see these visionary people locked out where other, frankly less talented voices are given reign.
There are a lot of lists going around now in response to Blum's blunder and, despite an apology for the gaffe, once the genie is out of the bottle you can't put it back in.. Jen Soska summed it up pretty well on Facebook yesterday:
No one wants to be a statistic. No one wants to be further marginalized or viewed as a token hire. And no one wants to be hired as part of some PR stunt or gimmick. It takes the authority out of the director's presence to be seen as a trophy instead of the leader. We need women behind the camera because they're the right choice for the story being told. We need competent directors with bold visions who want to make the best film they can. Reading Blum’s statement one could speculate that, in true “Alpha Male” fashion, after being completely rebuffed by a very specific female director for his project, he’s chosen to make a blanket statement to try and devalue all women in this industry so as to soothe a deflated ego.
In my opinion, this likely has to do with the Halloween remake and, as such, here’s a list of women that would easily have made the movie something beyond a by the numbers slasher.
Director: Among Friends
Best known as an actress and with a career literally launched by the Halloween franchise, Danielle Harris would have made an incredible choice to direct the Halloween sequel. A familiarity with the brand, with the characters, and with the legacy of John Carpenter’s terrifying creation she could have given that story, that legacy, so much more than what we’re likely to see on screen.
Jen & Sylvia Soska
Director(s): American Mary
The Gold Standard, in my opinion, of women in horror cinema the duo of Jen and Sylvia Soska has given us some truly bizarre and unsettling horror in their relatively short career in the industry. Currently in post production on a remake of the David Cronenberg classic Rabid, the sisters have a passion for body horror and know how to capture some raw humanity on film. American Mary is gut wrenching, bloody, and an absolute horror masterpiece.
Vanessa Ionta Wright
Director: Rainy Season
Vanessa Ionta Wright, one of the co-founders and programmers of the Women in Horror Film Festival is brilliant. Her adaptation of a Stephen King story into a short film was masterful, suspenseful, and downright scary. Like most women working in horror cinema right now she stays busy doing everything from sitting in the big chair to writing scripts, producing, and editing on both her own work and on those of other filmmakers. She’s a phenomenal example of what the independent horror and filmmaking communities have to offer the mainstream when given the chance.
Director: What Metal Girls Are Into
An independent filmmaker with a very unique voice on camera, Laurel Vail’s What Metal Girls Are Into was hands down one of my favorite films during Women in Horror Film Festival earlier this month and one that took home a Lizzie as well. The film also generated a lot of conversation with the way it handled a classic horror idea in a completely new and creative way. Vail has an attention to detail and a way of telling a story that can be both gruesome and socially conscious at the same time which is desperately needed in the genre.
I could go on with this list for days. I could literally scroll through my friends page on Facebook and start throwing out names of some beyond incredible directors -women and men alike- who work in independent film, in part, because breaking into the mainstream with fresh ideas and a new voice is a Herculean task. I could run just start throwing out lists of directors’ names from the rosters of Women in Horror Film Festival or Axe Wound Film Festival because, again, these are the places where women in horror are truly being recognized for their astonishing work.
Hiring a woman to direct a film because she’s a woman is just as bad as not hiring her at all. Hiring a director should be based upon the quality of their work and belief that they can take the script and turn it into something legendary. Putting someone in a horror film, in front of or behind the camera, should always be based on their talent, not their sex. Hopefully, Mr. Blum and other mainstream producers and companies will eventually get that figured out.
Dan is an author, editorialist, podcaster, and horror culture & lifestyle correspondent from the Southeast. You can find Dan's stories at Danno of the Dead Blog and through PDI Press.