New Queer Visions is a ‘bolt on’ that brings queer short films, documentaries and audio-visual snippets from around the world to film festival audiences. On Thursday 29th June, programmer (for both NewQueerVisions.com and FilmDoo.com) and filmmaker Simon Savory brings a horror themed evening to the Rio Cinema in Dalston as part of the East End Film Festival.
Short films from Rob Savage (Dawn Of The Deaf, pictured above), Jason Bradbury, Claudine Natkin and Yann Gonzalez will be showing with an intermission of 35mm film trailers from the 1970s and 80s. Simon took the time to explain why he thinks imaginative and engaging horror deserves exposure and to extol the joys of watching Charlotte Rampling battling a killer whale!
What draws you to the horror genre and why do you love it?
I’m not a fan of everything horror, there’s a lot of bad horror out there, but anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or disgusted in a beautiful, imaginative and engaging way deserves praise and exposure. Those that have a transgressive undercurrent that subtly comes to the surface such as David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows, or films borne of mythology or a particular social or political climate like Bernard Rose’s Candyman are the ones that intrigue me most. I also have a soft spot for campy stuff like Friday The 13th Part 7 or Drag Me To Hell.
Can you tell me why these particular films made the final cut for your programme of shorts at East End Film Festival?
Pulling the programme together wasn’t easy. Precious few queer horror shorts get made. Some of the shorts in the selection aren’t even horror by many people’s standards. There are no spinning heads or cats jumping out of cupboards. However, if there was a sense of unease or a hint of something transgressive, done in an ambitious, artistic way with a point to make, then it made the grade.
You’ve included films from Mexico, France, Belgium, Canada, USA and the UK. While watching horror films from around the world were there any timely themes from certain countries that became apparent?
Not particularly. With shorts, filmmakers from all over the world are making some brilliant films regardless of where they are from, because there are fewer constraints and there is more freedom to test the boundaries. At the moment with feature films it is still the French and the occasional US Sundance film that are doing some interesting things with the horror genre, with the emphasis being on artistry and experimentation rather than tropes. But those are feature films, which says more about how those films are able to secure financing in those countries than the fascinating ideas that don’t elsewhere. As for queer horror feature films, there’s a serious dearth.
There’s also an intermission of 35mm film trailers from the 1970s and 80s that aren’t queer. What was behind this decision?
No, they’re not queer, but there were three reasons why these were included. One – the two films that follow, The Islands (dir. Yann Gonzalez) and Tomboy (dir. Claudine Natkin), were shot on 35mm and DVCAM respectively, so I thought it would make a good segue into these older formats. Two – it’s a nod to the grindhouse/double-bill spirit, where trailers didn’t necessarily have to share a theme with the two films they were wedged between. Finally, any trailer that has a headscarved Charlotte Rampling battling a killer whale in the Arctic or Nancy Allen in shoulder pads is, by my definition at least, high camp, and so fits well in a queer horror programme. Plus, it’s just cool to watch scratched up old movie trailers in a cinema.
What horror films do you think best explore the gay experience? For example, how do you feel about A Nightmare on Elm Street 2?
When I first watched A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge as a kid, even then I knew it was a queer film about a gay character, it was so obvious! What was interesting though was how it’s only really gotten recognition for that now and entered the zeitgeist, probably because LGBTQ topics have been securing big name actors for Oscar worthy films (Patty Jenkins’ Monster being the best of the bunch) so people are mining the archive to see what came before. I’m itching to see Roman Chimienti, Tyler Jensen and Mark Patton’s Scream, Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street. Dario Argento’s Tenebrae, Tony Scott’s The Hunger and Lucky McKee’s May are the best horror films that have queer themes, but as for those that best explore the gay experience? I don’t think one’s been made yet.
For more details and to purchase tickets for New Queer Visions: They Came From the Shadows: http://www.eastendfilmfestival.com/programme-archive/new-queer-visions-they-came-from-the-shadows/