Hannah Neurotica Has a New Slant on Live Free or Die
You have to love Hannah Neurotica. First of all, she has an awesome name. She also writes a ‘zine about horror called Ax Wound. What’s that? Yes a “‘zine.” It’s print. Do you remember that? She’s keeping it alive — or maybe resurrecting it?
Most importantly, she is the brilliant and delicious brain behind Women in Horror Recognition Month. She just claimed February for the scary ladies. Why didn’t I think of that? Better yet, why didn’t you think of that?
Well thankfully someone did and for the past month women (and men) across the world have been celebrating the creepiest women they know. Forget VD! Who needs love when you have gore?
Hannah has a manifesto (manifester?) that outlines her general plan for February horror domination, but I think this excerpt sums it up nicely:
“Why do women have to be celebrated as strictly Tits & Ass & Blood. Why can’t we be recognized as ‘Scream Queens’ who scream out with our artistic and creative abilities; qualities other than how we look. I mean, shit, a lot of Women love horror in very personal and passionate ways and are not wanting to be ‘Horror Babe of the Month.’ We are writers, directors, producers, artists, eery musicians, creepy doll makers, FX artists. We are audience!”
Ghouls On Film agrees wholeheartedly with her (with the exception of a few of us who have a soft spot for the twinkling of “Twilight”), so I sought her out to pay tribute to the woman behind the women. The maven behind the macabre celebration.
Oh and another reason you’ve got to love her: She answered my questions.
Ghouls: What’s the first horror movie that made an impact on you?
For some reason this question makes me think about technology. Is that weird? So the Sony Betamax came out in 1975 (I think), I was born in 1981 and I remember super vividly my parents getting our first VCR. I was young and my dad (who sadly passed away this year) took me to the video store. I remember picking out cartoons and he picked out “Ghostbusters.” That was probably the first movie I watched that freaked me out. It was that fucking library ghost who looks all innocent and purple and quiet and you think aww and then she jumps out really fast at the screen with a skull face and screams. I seriously thought she was going to come out of my closet at night. (Ghouls Note: I had a very similar experience with a VCR and that librarian ghost growing up in upstate NY.)
Previous to that I would get scared super easily. One episode of Burt & Ernie (yes, I really am referring to “Sesame Street” here) scared me because they went to the Museum of Natural History and these statues of themselves started moving. My dad was like “those statues are in our bathroom!” My dad really influenced my love of horror in a huge way. Even though I started out as a scaredy cat it grew into an obsession of pure love. My dad and I watched horror movies together religiously until the day he died.
Now, so back to when I was saying how this question made me think of technology … that is because recently it’s really fucking hit me how fast technology moves. I have always known that intellectually, but it just really hit me … I mean from the time I was a little girl getting our first *gasp* videocassette recorder ’till right now writing this at the age of 29 look how far we have come. It’s insane. I wonder what my kids are going to be watching!? Technology can keep changing but the same movies I found scary on VHS still hold up as my favorite movies. Fucking “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” for life! (Dad intro’d me to that one too).
Ghouls: Give me a little background on your zine, Ax Wound. Why did you start it? Who do you see as the readership?
Back in 2003, I ran a workshop at the Olympia Sex Conference with Marco Rosaire Rossi. I can’t remember the exact title but it was something about gender, sexuality in the modern horror film. I had just started getting really excited about culture/feminist/critical analysis in regards to horror (a genre I have loved deeply for my entire existence) and after the workshop I still wanted to continue this fascinating conversation. So, I took my love of making zines (hand made magazines) and decided to make one about gender and horror. Ax Wound just seemed like the most perfect title ever because it’s a derogatory term for a menstruating woman.
The zine came out in 2003/2004, and I made it alone in my bedroom unsure of who I would share it with. I wasn’t really thinking that far ahead — I was way more focused on the actual process of creating the zine and making it a tanglible thing. Once it was finished, I gave it to a few friends but it wasn’t like my past zines which contained subject matter that a much wider audience would wanna read. It was like wow here is a super niche zine I just made, how many people are gonna care? The first distro to pick it up was Gluestick Distro – I was so excited. Then slowly people started to order copies, and I just haven’t stopped since. That was, what, like eight or nine years ago!
Ghouls: What can women find empowering about slasher films?
Slasher films first and foremost are just a flat out good time when done well. When you become a die hard fan like myself you will watch any slasher film no matter how many negative reviews it gets or how small a budget. You know the formula and will probably bitch about the movie after, but no matter what as a genre fan you will take the time to watch it. It’s a true dedication.
Aside from that enjoyment of watching the films, there is the added layer that horror is the only genre that consistently has strong roles for women. Stress on the word consistently! Don’t get me wrong, this is no fucking utopia of feminist film making. There are plenty of people who make films that suck and contribute nothing new or special. However, one of the most consistent themes in the slasher formula is a female defeating the killer at the end. (Or a female being the one who makes the biggest effort to fight back.) Whether the intention began as showing strong women I cannot say, but that is how it grew and that is what it became and continues to be.
Horror is always called this misogynistic genre yet look at the most commonly accepted genre films for women and men: romantic comedies and actions flicks. Can you think of a worse genre than romantic and action to represent positive roles for men and women? Seriously? Women are supposed to be sappy love-longing losers and men are supposed to be muscle men heros? Horror is not afraid to be more honest — to deal with real issues like sexuality,war, torture, loss, pain, disease, family, mental illness … horror films become a metaphor for all the issues that matter, packaged in a fun,gory, creepy and (sometimes) completely psychological package that has more artistic merit then most give it credit for.
Ghouls: The genre is so broad, but who would you say is the most underrated “Final Girl” in horror history.
I am seriously shitty at answering questions like who is “the best” or who is the “the most” of something, but I will tell you some of my favorites. The most popular, who always get mentioned, are the obvious – Laurie Strode in “Halloween” and Nancy in “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
Underrated though … let’s get silly. How about Paula in “Cutting Class,” or on a more serious note, how about little Jaime at the end of “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers.” Does Alison count from “Cheerleader Camp?” (Ghouls: of course!) I fucking loved that movie.
Oh. Here you go. The best: Ginny from “Happy Birthday To Me.” She is a tragic one because she survives but then you are left to wonder if the police will believe that she is in fact the final girl and not the killer. Good stuff!
Ghouls: What do you think about the new wave of french horror, where the woman is the killer and the victim?
It’s interesting how you ask this question “where the woman is the killer and the victim.” Let me think about that for a second. Are the women of the French new wave more killer/victim than in any other horror film? I think women being killer/victim is a common theme throughout horror in general and not a new phenomenon in French horror films.
A very basic example: Mrs. Vorheees can be seen as a victim and a killer. She lost her son but wants revenge. Most women who kill in any horror film are usually victims and that is what brings out their monstrosity — Carrie White is another good example. So, I don’t see this as a new thing at all. That being said I think the films labeled as “French new wave horror” are really great for the most part. “Martyrs” was probably one of the creepiest/disturbing movies to come out in a long fucking time. It truly made me feel icky which just doesn’t happen very often. “Inside” was fantastic too. These are great horror films, very female driven, yet they do not present a new concept of killer/victim. That is as old as horror itself.
Ghouls: How has the horror genre grown for women in the last 10 years?
I started Ax Wound under ten years ago but not by much. Since then I have noticed a jump in the visibility of women in the genre but it’s not a leap, it’s just a jump. We have more distance to travel before we are where we need to be in the horror industry and the creative world in general. Right now we are building a space for ourselves. We still have a long way to go though.
My hope is that Women in Horror Recognition Month will help raise awareness about all the women working in the genre and help to carve a space for ourselves out in the industry in a big way. I want women to network with each other! The horror genre has gone stale in many ways and women are the future of revitalizing it with our perspectives and fresh ways of storytelling. Also, to recognize all the horror films of the past we love that women directed and don’t get recognized as contributors to the genre…..
Ghouls: What is the one film that all fans of horror must watch?
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (the original)
Find out more about Hannah here and Women in Horror Recognition Month here.