MLUNGU WAM (GOOD MADAM) (TIFF2021) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

A horror film about the way the legacy of apartheid continues to be internalized on a personal and professional level in contemporary South Africa, Mlungu Wam follows single mother Tsidi who, after the death of her beloved grandmother, is forced to move with her daughter Winnie into the house of a rich white woman Diane where Tsidi grew up, and where her mother Mavis still works as a housekeeper. Mlungu Wam is a masterclass in how horror can speak to race and inequality, set in a world of servitude presented as a terrifying, powerful and unrelentingly enduring mode of postcolonial possession – both literally and metaphorically – whose presence can be felt long after the official era of apartheid has supposedly ended.

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WOMEN AT MONTREAL’S 2021 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL – Report by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Mixing on demand and in-person screenings, the 25th edition of Fantasia International Film Festival (August 5 to 25) offers a smorgasbord of genre film treats, particularly for those of us with an interest in women-made and women-centred cinema. North America’s largest genre fest has been called “the most important and prestigious genre film festival on this continent” by Quentin Tarantino, while Guillermo del Toro has called it “a shrine”. The women’s names associated with this year’s festival may not be as big as these cult film rock stars, don’t let that fool you – women are out here in full force, both in front and behind the camera.

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I AM FEAR – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Through its unapologetic visceral thrills, I Am Fear invites us to experience recent history “through the gut” in what is effectively a supernatural horror film combined with the political thriller subgenre of the terrorism movie. The film seeks to use genre as a tool to answer a very simple question, but one almost overwhelming in its scale: why is the world such a terrible place? It sure as hell gets points for trying to say something meaningful about the world at a time when so many others are pretending it’s business as usual.

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HOMEWRECKER – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

there is something about Homewrecker on a fundamental level that echoes Karyn Kusama’s superb 2015 film The Invitation; these are horror films built around the reality that most of us would err to good manners over gut instinct on almost all occasions, no matter how strongly the latter screams at us to act differently to how courtesy dictates. Both films are nightmares, but tonally they couldn’t be more different; Homewrecker is a horror-comedy of manners that places the myth of the assumed sisterhood and our feeble submission to politeness under a hilariously critical microscope.

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SPOTLIGHT November 2019: Jen and Sylvia Soska, Canadian Twin Filmmakers, RABID

For far too long, women horror film directors have been considered an oddity. Key figures in the contemporary ‘women in horror’ movement, Canadian filmmaking twins Jen and Sylvia Soska established themselves as noteworthy directors and screenwriters with their 2009 debut feature Dead Hooker in a Trunk. The film’s cult status has changed the horror genre landscape and perceptions about female horror directors. The Soska effect continues with this year’s Rabid.

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SPOTLIGHT October 2019: Issa Lopez, Filmmaker, TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID

Writer/director Issa López is an exciting new voice in genre film, although she’s been a successful figure in the Mexican film industry since the early part of the 21st century. Her aesthetic is anchored in a blend of magical realism and the grittiness and stark reality of the real world, all seen from a horror-drenched version of the female gaze. She found success early in her career writing rom-coms and comedies that broke box office records, but left that all behind to focus on creating genre films true to her own creative inclinations, most recently resulting in the brilliant Tigers Are Not Afraid.

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Women horror filmmakers at TIFF 2019 – Report by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

As powerfully demonstrated at Toronto International Film Festival 2018 with movies including Emma Tammi’s crowd-pleaser The Wind and Carolina Hellsgård’s feminist zombie film Endzeit – Ever After, assumptions that horror is strictly a boys club are notably passé. This year’s iteration of TIFF (5 – 15 September) presents further proof that women filmmakers are a force to be reckoned with when it comes things that go bump in the night.

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3O MILES FROM NOWHERE – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

30 Miles from Nowhere is the perfect combination of familiar, comfortable genre codes and conventions given a fun twist, resulting in thoroughly enjoyable viewing experience. It is the perfect popcorn-friendly horror movie – fun, full of energy, self-aware but never smug, and fresh enough to keep its audience wondering.

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