Throughout the month of February, FEARnet will be profiling Women Who Make You Scream in celebration of Women in Horror Month. Read our first interview with writer and WiHM founder Hannah Neurotica, our second interview with Jovanka Vuckovic, our third interview with filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soska , and our chat with Viscera Film Festivals’ Shannon Lark below.
Former Fangoria Spooksmodel, actress and director Shannon Lark knows what makes a good Scream Queen. She spoke, quite strongly, from past experience.
“By Hollywood's standards, all you have to do is be in a horror remake and BAM! you are the biggest Scream Queen to have ever lived,” she said. “By my personal standard, a Scream Queen is a woman who works her way through the ranks, and takes her acting career completely seriously. She isn't a Facespace addict, and finds validation in her work, not in compliments from men she wouldn't talk to in real life.
"There are too many Prima Donnas in this industry, and the term ‘Scream Queen’ is thrown around like a dirty dishrag, because so many women are ‘acting’ that they are ‘actresses.’ Oh wait, they are more than that: they are ‘Scream Queens.’ It has gotten to the point that being called a Scream Queen isn't actually good for you, especially if that's all you identify with, you're simply putting yourself into a box.”
Lark has managed to side-step what she sees as the pitfalls of Scream Queen-dom by making a name for herself through several industry-related projects.
Her most monstrous creation thus far is the Viscera Film Festival which promotes the work of female directors in the horror industry. The festival was born of a collaborative film Lark worked on with a bunch of friends. She realized how empowering it was when women in the industry supported each other
“I had directed/programmed a few film festivals already and wanted Viscera to take off in a different way, reaching more international areas than a local festival would,” she said.
Viscera really came alive when her long-time friend Heidi Martinuzzi, Pretty-Scary.net (now FanGirlTastic) got involved.
“In 2010, Heidi jumped on board as a co-director, and we did our best at throwing a premiere in Los Angeles,” she said. “Since then, Viscera has really exploded and taken on a new dimension. We have turned into a 501(c)3 non profit with a growing staff of people who actually care, and have put immense amount of time, energy, and capital into ensuring this event promotes and helps the filmmakers, artists, and Special Guests involved.”
In between working on the Viscera Film Festival and founding The Chainsaw Mafia, a network she founded to support indie artists, which, incidentally, has one of the greatest taglines ever, “Bring Your Daughter to the Slaughter,” Lark also spent a few years performing as a feature dancer in the zombie burlesque troop, Living Dead Girlz. Oh, you didn’t know zombies can shake it? Here’s something else you might not know:
“At times (and usually all at once) they have PMS,” lark said. “And when that happens, you better run very, very far away, no matter how much rhythm they have.”
Keep reading to find out more about Lark’s take on the genre, why she wants a tiny tentacled beast to burst out of her stomach and what makes Renee Zellweger the best-worst Final Girl in horror history.
FEARnet: Most horror fans have their thing - Giallo, Hack n' Slash, Satan, Evil Babies, Scarotica. What's yours?
Shannon Lark: I like the twisted shit. The deeper and sicker and more psychologically traumatizing it is, the more I like it. However, it has to have a purpose; otherwise there is no reason to be sick and twisted. I love commentary, symbolism, with grime and sticky stuff holding it all together.
Whether it’s because of the blood or the boobs, there is a popular notion that horror movies belong to men. But you and I know more than a few women who embrace them wholeheartedly. What do you think it is about horror that specifically appeals to women?
Women experience horrors in their lives that men don't. We can have an entirely different take on what scares us to the core -- such as the affects of how society and media view the female gender, childbirth/child loss, rape, and weight issues. The genre is a great place for open minded women to explore and delve into their fears and exploit their darkest thoughts, even if it's from the comfort of their couch. Women should take that voyeuristic opportunity and run with it!
Do you feel like it’s necessary to balance the "gore" and the "whore" in your work? If so, how do you go about doing that?
There is definitely a balance that has to happen, and women walk a fine line all the time, especially in the genre. The point is to make a statement with your work, and delve deep into what it actually means to you. If you have sexuality in your work, basic T & A will thrill a prepubescent boy (or those with prepubescent minds) but that's about it. Make the sexuality mean something, make the violence mean something. At least, that's what I tell myself.
Historically, women have carved out a space for themselves in the genre through playing the victim. Have you seen a change in that over the last few years and how do you view your place in the annals of horror?
Well, when the female gender was kicked out of the film industry in the 1920's, that's all we were allowed to do, was play victims. And man, did we play it well. We are still playing victims, but [thanks to] the recent growth of digital technology and the Internet, women play a series of different roles.
The wonderful thing about good actresses who takes on the antagonist roles is that they can still show they are victimized by their situation, which causes them to be ruthless.
I hope to see myself nestled in a comfy spot to dissect my own issues and fears, and show them to the world (kind of like a slimy, tentacled beast bursting out of my stomach). I hope to inspire and be inspired, and help as many people I can to have the courage and determination to do what they want to do.
If you could cast a spell and change one thing about the genre right now, what would it be?
If I could cast a spell it would be that more people would make movies, instead of talking about how they are going to make movies, and then try to become popular with that notion without doing anything. Validation comes from you inspiring YOU, not from other people.
If more people made movies, there would be more work for everyone. We all win!
Who do you see as the up-and-coming woman to watch in horror?
Marichelle Daywalt of Daywalt Horror. Not only is she a mother of two, she finds the time to hang out with her husband, an adorable pug, AND make great horror films. She is simply AWESOME.
Laurie Strode, Ellen Ripley, Jennifer Hills, Jennifer Corvino, or Rhoda Penmark?
Jennifer Corvino. She gets to swim in a bath full of corpses. I am totally jealous.
What's the all-time greatest Final Girl moment?
The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Renee Zellweger plays the Final Girl, and her performance is just awful. She obviously has no idea what the symbolism is presented in horror, or why she even accepted the part in the movie. She keeps squealing and shaking her hands in the air when trouble arises. I love it. I think we should all do that the next time danger pops its head up in the form of a mask wearing maniac wielding a phallic chain saw.
Speaking as a fan, what horror film is a must-see?
If we are talking recent releases, I would have to say The Crazies really did a number on me. I'm generally not a fan of remakes, and I loved Romero's 1973 version, but director Breck Eisner really blew my socks off. I loved the way woman [were] represented, and the two main characters of the story were older, intelligent people who cared about others. A serious horror film isn't going to be good unless you care about the characters, unless you know, it's a stupid funny horror film, then it’s just fun to see them die.
I also loved Inside, Martyrs, and High Tension."I'm a sucker for girl dramas.:)
Lark recently stepped down as CEO of The Chainsaw Mafia and is due to act in several features. She is also in the midst of the second draft of Castle in the Sky, a film she’s hoping to direct this year. Find out more about the Viscera Film Festival happening in July and The Chainsaw Mafia.