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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Grave Questions: Jessica Cameron

February is "Women in Horror Month"- a month in which to celebrate the impact that women have had on the genre and the industry- from writing, to acting, to directing and producing.

Jessica Cameron has experienced the industry in all those capacity- making her a perfect choice for me to ask some "Grave Questions" of in order to raise awareness of the great women in Horror.

Please not that this article SHOULD'VE been posted in February, but due to technical difficulties, we're putting it up now.  Thank you.

TCoT:  Which female horror stars helped to inspire you to not only enjoy the genre- but to get involved in bringing scary movies to the world?

Jessica:  I literally said to my "Truth or Dare" producer, "If the Soska sisters can make "Dead Hooker in a Trunk" with nothing, then I can make "Truth or Dare".  So needless to say that those girls have been a huge inspiration in everything I do behind the camera.

Jamie Lee Curtis is also a huge inspiration to me- her ability to work in a variety of genres is impressive and to me, she is the original scream queen.

There are also a bunch of wonderful women writers as of late whose written work has impressed me, including but not limited to Tiffany Villalpando, Heather Buckley, and April Snellings.  There are many more too!

TCoT:  How did you first get involved in the horror industry- and how you compare the genre's atmosphere today compared to then?

Jessica:  I just wanted to act, and I was living in Ohio at the time.  I just submitted for any characters that I thought sounded cool, and many of them turned out to be genre films.  Genre films are a big thing in the mid west.  You can film them on a reasonable and attainable budget without a name star.  So it kinda just worked out that way.  I am thankful that it did though since horror is my favorite genre to watch and the greatest challenge to act in, and I love a challenge!

TCoT:  Do you think that the horror genere's been ahead of, or lagging behind the others (drama, action, comedy) in terms of depicting strong, independent, capable female characters in general, and female leads in specific?

Jessica:  I think it's been behind the others genres until these last few years.  There's been a drastic increase in female and young film makers in the horror genre in the last few years, and as such we are getting new/original/strong and well written female characters.  The horror fans are also demanding it which is great. :)

TCoT:  Would you say that horror movies often reflect the social atmosphere of the times- and how would you say it reflects the issue of equal rights from a woman's perspective?

Jessica:  Horror films absolutely reflect the social atmosphere of the times.  In fact that was a huge impact on me when I wrote "Truth or Dare" with Jon Scott Higgins.  We were so moved by what was going on in today's world with instant celebrities, view counts, YouTube stars and this idealistic concept of fame, we incorporated it into the film.

TCoT:  Where do you see female characters and female actors heading in terms of the horror genre?

Jessica:  The characters are being written stronger with more character arcs, thanfully!  The horror genre fans are wanting to see strong women in front of the camera.  I think the era of the pretty girl running helplessly through the woods is over.  We want to see more.  More intelligence, more fight, more depth.  MORE!

As far as female actors, with the decreasing cost of technology, you are seeing more and more people trying to be a full time actor and I personally notice more women then men.  Only time will tell if this is a good thing or a bad thing...

TCoT:  As a Scream Queen yourself, how would you describe what it means to be one?  What sort of responsibilities, duties, benefits, and drawbacks are there to being one?

Jessica:  For me, the term "Scream Queen" is used to describe an actress who specializes in the art of horror (and yes, I consider it an art form).  I personally believe that it should only be bestowed upon actress by the fans and press, and not by actors themselves.

I think the responsibility is to represent horror to the best of the actor's ability, to pay attention when selecting roles and films in the genre.

The biggest benefits to me are the fans- they are hands down the best out of any genre.

I think some of my colleagues would argue that as a Scream Queen, you can get typecast, and that can be a draw back.  However, I have not found that to be the case with my career.  I still can work in other genres when I choose.

TCoT:  Do you think women have better opportunities within the horror genre than others in terms of character, story, directing or producing?

Jessica:  I think we are able to push down the doors a LITTLE bit more easily in the horror genre because the men know they have to have women involved in the process somewhere. :)  Women are such a crucial part of any horror film in front of the camera, it's only natural that we would have such a great influence behind the camera too.

Also in the past few years, the fans have really started to demand it- which is great!

TCoT:  If you had the chance to work any three female horror icons in a film project, which threw would you choose, what sort of character would each play, and why?

Jessica:  Mary Harron to direct.  I loved "American Psycho" more than words can ever say.  Jamie Lee Curtis to star- she could play a crazed mom who eats men or something equally fun.  And Sherri Moon could play my older sister.

Now that would be a dream!

TCoT:  In the 2004 remake of Rutger Hauer's classic "The Hitcher", they switched the protagonist from the male character to the female one.  If you were to do a remake of a classic horror movie, and swap the genders of the main lead from male to female which one would you do?  And what classic would you remake the gender of the main character from female to male?

Jessica:  "The Shining".  Now, I am not saying I would remake this film, BUT I would be interested to see it with the roles reversed.  I think it would give a different level of intensity and fear- with the right case, the fear level could be maintained and I would argue even intensified.  I would also make their child a daughter to incorporate the strong father/daughter bond.

TCoT:  Finally, what sort of advice would you offer to women interested in starting a career in movies- either in front of the camera, or behind it?

Jessica:  I actually get asked this a lot, and I always first explain that to pursue a career in the entertainment industry (either behind or in front of a camera) it will be the most difficult career path that they could choose to take.   You will work harder than you ever thought possible, work longer hours than you ever imagined and for less money than you would ever want to (even free when you first start out), and that is regardless of your sex.  If you can not imagine being happy doing anything else with your life, then and only then is a career in the entertainment industry something you should pursue.

Now, as women, we get the added bonus for working for less money than our male counterparts, being treated (often thought not always) as less than our male counterparts and just in general having to spend more time and sweat proving that we are not whatever stereotype that person/company has decided we are.  It's a constant fight- we fight to make sure that our cast is right, we fight to make sure that the script is right, we fight to get the budget we need, we fight to tell the story how we envision, we FIGHT.  Yes, it's a necessary fight, but it's a fight none the less.  That said, you must expect the fight, and learn to thrive while fighting.  That's the secret.  I give bonus points to those fighting in stillettos. :)

Evil Feed (2013)

I was contacted by Louise Rivers, from Maven Publicity about reviewing the 2013 film, "Evil Feed", which was directed by Kimani Ray Smith, and stars Laci J. Mailey, Terry Chen, Alian Chanoine, and Alyson Bath.  The title made me hungry from some possible cannibal horror, so I readily agreed.

And man, am I glad I had a taste of this dish!

Martial arts fighters have been disappearing without a trace.  When she's kidnapped along with her sister and boyfriend, Jenna must find a way to escape.  Her friends are on the trail which leads to "The Long Pig" restaurant... but they may have bitten off more than they could chew...

"Evil Feed" is one heck of a meal.  It's got humour, semi-clad babes, fights, WTF moments, and lots of blood and grue- though heavier on the blood than actual grue.

The premise is pretty simple, but lays a solid foundation for the actual storyline and characters.  All of the elements I listed above are fitted nicely and smoothly into the story, and are well balanced.  I found myself laughing, cringing, oohing and ahhing... and I'm not going to lie, I even felt a touch queasy during a couple of moments.

The characters were great as well- from the tough as nails Jenna and cool Tyrone to the evil Steven and brutal Yuki.  Each character was distinct and enjoyable to watch.  They all had great lines and moments in the storyline.

The characters wouldn't have been as enjoyable if it hadn't been for the performers.  They all brought energy to their roles, and you could tell that they were having fun making the film.  Mailey was believable as Jenna.  Chen really must have enjoyed playing Steven.  He brought so much energy and madness to the role.  Chanoine was also great as Tyrone.  He was tough, and funny at the same time.  Bath seemed to revel is being hosed down in fake blood for her role.  Jaw droppingly sexy and psychotic.  The other actors were fantastic as well.  They were all a well rounded group that made the diverse characters a joy to watch.

The film is a visual buffet.  The sets and lighting created an almost insane, surreal feel to the movie.  This combined with interesting camera angles, and a variety of wide shots and close-ups created a frantic, kinetic pace to the story, with very little slowness.  The fight scenes were fun to watch, as were the scenes where the sweet red blood flows.

Once "Evil Feed" starts, it doesn't stop.  It grabs you and runs with you into the madness.  I would definitely recommend this movie, and watch it again.  It's going into "The Good".

The Shining (1997)

Those of you who read this blog on a semi-regular basis, may be thinking that I've made a mistake in this review's title- especially since I've already done reviews of Stephen King's Novel "The Shining", and the 1980 Stanley Kubrick version.

Well, I'm not wrong, since 1997 saw a TV mini-series based on the novel.  The teleplay was written by Stephen King himself.

After alcoholism leads to the loss of his job, Jack Torrance accepts a job as winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel.  Filled with hope for a fresh start, Jack and his family move into the hotel, and begin the process of healing old wounds.

Soon, however, the snow starts to fly, and the hotel begins to stalk its occupants in the hopes of making their stay permanent...

After watching Kubrick's version years ago, I'd always felt that "The Shining" would've been better told as a mini-series, since it could incorporate more the themes and scary events from the novel.  When I heard that Stephen King had written the teleplay for such a mini-series, I was instantly intrigued, and began hunting for it.

And I found it.

I won't go into great detail about the story- except to say that this version of the novel follows the plots, themes of alcoholism, and the alienation of loved ones as closely as anything.  The story was told in a fairly even and flowing pace as well.  I also loved that he incorporated one of my favorite scenes from the book: the hedge animals stalking Jack and the others.

The acting was good- certainly far better than you'd expect from most TV movies/mini-series.  Each performer brought their characters to life, and was believable in those roles.  Steven Weber was able to be a likable guy- making those moments when his temper gets the better of him all the more impactful.  Rebecca De Mornay as Jack's wife, Wendy was not only gorgeous, but brought strength to the character that was lacking in Shelley Duvall's portrayal.  Courtland Mead was great as the son, Danny.  He was likable, and brought a nice mix of power and vulnerability to the role.  Dick Hallorann was played by Melvin Van Peebles- who made the character more than just a plot device.  You come to care about ALL the characters, which helped draw you into the story deeper and deeper.

There's a nice blend of creepy eeriness and normalcy weaved throughout the story.  This is helped by some excellent camera work and effects.  There isn't any super complicated or flashy, but the simplicity helped to make the building darkness all the more effective.  My only complaint would have to be the final part of the sequences with the hedge animals.  Throughout the movie, it's quick camera editing between shots that gives the impression of the hedge animals creeping up on their prey.  I loved that.  There was one shot with a possible animatronic hedge head moving.  I liked that too.  The part where it was as satisfying was when they show a full hedge animal moving.  You could tell that it was a CGI hedge animal.  It was obvious enough that it bumped me out of the moment.

In the final analysis, I would have to say that the 1997 "The Shining" mini-series was a better adaptation of the novel than Stanley Kubricks.  I'm putting it in 'The Good".