"Hannah Neurotica is not just the mouthpiece for the Women In Horror movement but she is also the epitome of what young women should aspire to be. She rises to the occasion when challenged yet she can calm the most riotous of storms with her words. Hannah uses her power not to promote herself but to give a voice to all of the women she honors with her work. Hannah changed my life with the amazing network of women she opened me up to, and for that I am forever grateful and humbled." ~ Kristy Jett, Fangoria, The Bloodsprayer
It is only fitting that we conclude our 28 days covering inspirational Women In Horror with the woman who founded the celebrations just one year ago. Hannah Neurotica, of Ax Wound Zine and founder of Women In Horror month, saw the need to celebrate and recognize women and their outstanding contributions to film, horror, and art.
Did everyone just jump on the band wagon and have that be that? Far from it. She was met partially with, as you may guess, support, but also with opposition. Anything from "women have enough" to "February is already _____ month". Well, my dears, please tell me a month that isn't already "taken" in celebration of other months. The month has spawned not only the obvious, women being acknowledge for their work, but also has given way to multiple amazing film festivals, special events, articles, interviews, and charitable events. It has gotten female artists in touch with one another and encouraged us to work together, learn from each other, and strive to be better.
In a single year, the event has grown tremendous proportions. More festivals, more blood donated (fuck yeah!!), more special events, more interviews, more articles, more coverage, and more people taking part! It's a beautiful thing.
So, what does the future hold? What does the woman behind the month have to say? Well, I was lucky enough to score an interview with the wonderful Hannah Neurotica. Standing in the front lines for gender equality, this woman has taken the good with the bad, taken names, and kicked some serious fucking ass.
Without further adieu, my favorite femme fatale, Hannah Neurotica.
Hannah, I know you've been asked this time and time again, but for those who are tuning in a but late, I must ask again. You have been a dedicated feminist for pretty much ever. What drove you to start Women In Horror month?
Hannah: The idea for Women in Horror Recognition Month came to me one day chilling on my parent’s awesome comfy chair in the living room. I was home a lot during this time because my dad (Michael H. Forman) was sick and in the dying process. I was probably in PJs during the afternoon and I remember just saying out loud -probably to myself (or half to whoever wasn’t paying attention to me)- “We need a time to recognize women in horror. We need a Women in Horror Recognition Month.” As a woman with a serious case of Attention Deficit Disorder and being Bipolar I am constantly shitting out ideas that most people close to me have learned to tune out. I mean, really- I will just throw random ideas out all the time and only a tiny fraction ever become a reality. Something was different about this Women in Horror Recognition Month idea though- the moment I had that thought I felt a physical sensation that just took over and I knew it was something I had to at least try and make happen.
My dad was not himself so much anymore – having died January 19th 2010 he missed the inaugural success of WiHM. Actually the last viewing experience he had was me trying to show him (your) Twisted Twins original blood drive video. He was attached to machines and all sorts of tubing everywhere in our house. In fact he died in the same room his mother (my grandmother) had passed away in only a year or two prior. We now call it The Death Room. (Note: that is now the title of a story I'm writing about death and loss). Anyway- I remember him watching your video half alive/half dead and smiling. It makes me cry to think about that but not mentioning my daddy would be goddamn cruel because he is responsible for my love of horror. He never got to see WiHM take place and I want so much to show him it didn't turn out to be another one of my fleeting ideas but something that stuck and is making a difference. When my dad knew he was going to die but was still able to function I remember us sitting on the bench in front of the house. It was just the two of us and the IV port he had to have in permanently was covered by a white gauze sleeve he had to wear to help reduce infection. He had lost the ability to eat and had to get nutrients from an IV directly into to his bloodstream. It was a big process to hook up and we had to be so careful with cleaning it because we were putting something directly into his blood (eventually this would cause him to get e.coli on top of everything). It was pretty traumatic.
We sat on the bench and I said to him "I am going to have a hard time when you die. I won't be able to share my accomplishments with you. Or call you and tell you funny things that happen." He reminded me that a lot of people don't want to lose loved ones for selfish reasons like that. "When I die you will just say things like 'dad would have laughed at this' or 'dad would have loved that'. " He had this amazing way for a while at the end of his life embracing buddhism and trying to accept suffering and impermanence as the essence of life. Because only then can you really find happiness. I remember when he was in the hospital bed before he came to this mindset and the team of doctors came in to explain to us for the first time that my father would never be able to eat again; that he had a disease so rare that his odds of living very long were slim to none, that there was no cure and no clinical trials he could qualify for because the version of this disease he had was so fucking rare nobody had a clue what to do with him. To this day he is one of if not the only case of this illness at that hospital. He burst into tears (as we all did) and fucking the first thing he said was "Hannah, this is going to be the hardest on you. Who will you watch movies and hangout with?" He said "I'm not ready to leave you guys. I'll never get to see grandchildren" My dad was pretty much the person I called every day and my favorite movie watching buddy ever on planet earth. Nobody could ever fucking replace that.
Those reading this will notice my answer to this question is very long and very different then previous answers. I get asked all the time why I started WiHM and my answers are always pretty much the same. I wanted to dig deeper and my dad also taught me this: I asked him once "how do I answer the same question multiple times and not bore the hell out of people?" He gave me this nugget which I am utilizing right now- he told me something along the lines of "You don't have to answer the question exactly- you can respond however you want and mold the question to fit whatever answer you want to give."
Those who are not aware of how close we are- Jen & Sylv are family to me. You got to know my dad. My dad loved when you called yourselves my Guardian Devils. He even actually said how it made him feel better knowing he was leaving the world but that I had met the two of you. And I love knowing that you both were friends with him on Facebook. He was so excited the first time he spoke with Jen and made a joke out of it like "I talked to Jen Soska today." In a teasing voice of nah nah nah nah nah. And I asked "what was said!!?!" and he wouldn't tell me "its between us Hannah. Not your business." He was so funny.
My dad taught me everything I know about writing, he taught me to think critically, and was an avid fucking feminist. Lots of my Ax Wound work was bounced off him because he was very knowledgeable about philosophy and ethics. His last career was a college professor. Unlike other people in my life he would sit and discuss horror movies in an academic fashion with me all the time. This is why I feel it important to talk about my father and his death in relation to the birth of WiHM. I had taken the month of December and January off work to spend with my dad as the reality of his dying unfolded. Needless to say there was a lot of time I would be sitting with my laptop while he was sleeping or out of it on morphine. This was when I did the bulk of the work to get Women in Horror Recognition Month off the ground. I had all this free time and all this fucked up shit going on in my life- I needed something that I could dive head first into as some sort of healthy distraction from the intense pain my whole family was experiencing.
For a more specific answer and the answer I usually give: WiHM was triggered by being a panel member during a CBC Radio segment about women and horror fandom. The amazing Jovanka Vuckavic was the only panelist in Toronto so she was actually in the studio. Myself and Aviva Briefel (Bowdoin University Professor and horror writer/theorist) were calling in from different states. Jovanka is a beautiful woman and she has gorgeous tattoos and bright colored hair. The segment for our interview was only 30 mins and when you take sound bites and movie clips into account that is very little time. Half way through the interview the interviewer began to comment on how Jovanka looked for “those not in the studio.” She literally took fucking time away from a potentially fascinating conversation to condescend and belittle female horror fans and artists in a passive aggressive way. She basically made up in her mind that female horror fans were really a small niche of weirdo women who didn't fit the mold of what a girl was suppose to like. And she made it seem like only body modified girls were fans and a "normal" girl couldn't possibly be one of us!
One of the missions for WiHM is to fight the notion that all women are is a set of bloody tits and we are more then hot horror babes of the month. And here this lady was now objectifying us and making assumptions about how we must look as fans! So no matter which way you look at things in this situation women are being judged physically. This is a very deep wound in our culture that won’t end quick. When the anger was building up from the CBC experience I wanted to do something about it with immediacy I can’t get from making Ax Wound. Ax Wound is print and doesn’t reach as many people. I got so pissed the only way I knew how to handle it was picking up the fucking bullhorn, tapping into my Riot Grrrl/DIY roots, and saying it is time for a serious fucking change here! I should not have to keep explaining that women like horror after almost a decade of making a feminist horror magazine. Something has got to happen and we need some kind of movement; cohesion; networking; joined forces; a goddamn army. And from the looks of things we fucking have one. And it's growing each year. That is pretty spectacular.
Can you tell us what the initial response was last year?
Hannah: Since my initial answer was a novel the rest of my answers here will be short. I promise. The initial response was overwhelmingly positive. I kept expecting someone to say something in opposition, bracing myself for mean comments to my manifesto and they just never came. (that isn't the same for this year though). I think maybe one or two people had issue with the month but it was just something that people got behind really fucking quickly. I believe it is because it isn't about one person or one film or one book or one event. It's about making change, its inclusive on so many levels, it encouraged creativity that not only benefits women but the industry as a whole. So, it gave a chance for lots of people to get involved in something that never existed before and an excuse to create brand new grassroots film festivals, conventions, art shows, blood drives, clothing drives, and an influx of rad blog entries galore all with support and networking behind it from women who never had known of each other before. It was fucking spectacular to witness I must admit.
I will say though that I was worried it would be a one shot deal. I really am overjoyed to see that people wanted to continue this in 2011 and I can only hope the same for 2012 and beyond....beyond until we don't need it anymore.
What has been the response like this year?
Hannah: This year more people knew about it, more media coverage, more opposition regarding it being Black History Month (which btw is a very bizarre argument consider Feb is home to American Heart Awareness, Children's Dental Health Awareness, and a whole laundry list of others). The most god awful ridiculous fucking anti-WiHM response: get ready for it y'all: someone actually complained that February was a bad month because of the weather! How funny is that? Funny because what does the weather have to do with anything? Funny because bad weather makes you wanna stay home and watch horror movies? Funny because clearly this person is incredibly narcissistic to think the whole world is experiences the same weather as herself- I mean, this is not a national holiday. This is fucking international. We had events in US, UK, Canada and today the final event in Scotland!
This year also proves fascinating because more people were joining the conversation which lead to some good and even heated discussions about what WiH Month actually means when put into action by people who might not have even known there was a manifesto written.
It was almost like a weird game of telephone to see the different ways the month was interpreted. I don't mean that as a negative- just an interesting thing to observe.
What has been the proudest moment for you in this process?
Hannah: Actually seeing women (and men) creating there own film festivals and events, giving screening opportunities to female filmmakers. I am proud that I had some sort of hand in helping to get people more exposure and aware of other women working under the radar; allowing for networking. I am proud to see all this blood being donated and money from events going to good causes. My dad needed blood in the ICU and so its a very important cause to me personally. I’m damn proud of you ladies for the release of Dead Hooker in a Trunk on DVD one year after the success of the film launching big time during WiH festivals in 2010. Just goes to show how much power we have when we join forces in a DIY grassroots sort of way.
With the good always comes bad. What have been the challenges you have faced?
Hannah: The bad would be learning had to handle sometimes vicious criticism as mentioned above. I got emotional over some of it and maybe was a bit unprofessional in my venting but women like Debbie Rochon, Jovanka Vuckovic, Shannon Lark, Heidi Martinuzzi, Amy Lynn Best etc gave me nuggets of wisdom along the way about how to handle stuff like this. I am so grateful to be in contact with so many strong, confident, brilliant and influential women. How did I get so lucky?
It's an interesting challenge to learn how not take things personally – women in horror month is no longer something I have control over in anyway. I don't mean that I had actual control initially but I was able to keep up with all the events, postings, and answer questions. This year so many more people were in the know that articles would come out having no idea where WiH Month originated from. That feels weird to come up with an idea, put it out in the world, and then have it take on a life of its own. It's not a challenge in it of itself but its an odd thing to experience and watch happen. You do have to let go of some control feelings. I can't go around now to every single person and say "no!!! that isn't what I had in mind, etc" It is what it is now and all I can do is keep making Ax Wound, keep updating the manifesto each year, and keep up with the facebook page and radio shows to build a focal point for people as much as one person is capable.
How do you see this event evolving in the coming years?
Hannah: I can only hope it can keep growing every year to the point that it is no longer needed.
Who are some of the women that you would encourage others to look into or keep an eye out for?
Hannah: I learned this month that naming names gets me into trouble because I ALWAYS forget someone really important and then walk around feeling like a major douche bag. Here is just a couple but this list could go on forever: Jen & Sylvia Soska, Shannon Lark, Elisabeth Fies, Devi Snively, Jovanka Vuckovic, Maude Michaud, Izabel Grondin, Amy Lynn Best, April Monique Burrill, Heidi Martinuzzi, Nurse Hatchet,Lindsey Petersen, ahhh, okay I need to stop because I already know I'm forgetting important people! Just keep up with Ax Wound: Gender & The Horror Genre for my opinion on this subject as I will always highlight women we need to keep an eye out for! Damn you for asking me that question, Soskas!!!! ;)
What was the first horror movie you ever saw? Did you know from that moment that you were hooked for life?
Hannah: Again, I'm gonna go with a non-traditional answer. I actually talked about this in another interview but not sure how many people read it. The first thing to really scare me wasn't a film. It was an episode of Burt and Earnie. If you wanna know that story check out my interview with Geek Girl On The Street.
Actually I don't know if I ever shared this: My grandma (dads mom who passed away right before my dad did in the same damn room in our house) took me when I was a little girl to see the sequel to The Wizard of Oz. It was called Return to Oz and I got so fucking freaked out when the rocks started talking I told my grandma we had to leave. And we did. I got scared wicked easy as a kid and I would have horrendous times trying to sleep-- thinking the purple library ghost from Ghostbusters or the vampire from Salems Lot was in my closet. Its actually funny I grew up to love it so much. My dad actually told me as a kid "if a movie is that scary you should watch it again and maybe again after that- it won't have as much power anymore." Random answer. But there you go !
Tell us about Ax Wound Zine.
Hannah: Ax Wound is a hand made cut n' pasted feminist horror fanzine that I started almost a decade ago. “Ax Wound” is a derogatory term for a menstruating vagina and so seemed like a great title. It is my hope that the zine will and does create a dialogue about gender in the horror/slasher/gore genre — a genre typically thought to reinforce patriarchal values and ignore women as creators and fans. I want the ‘zine, radio show, and website to provide a safe, stimulating environment for feminist horror fans of all backgrounds to discuss the themes of gender, sexuality, and culture in the genre both past and present. Ax Wound also serves as a platform to help promote and bring together women in the horror industry. I am currently working on the SEX AND HORROR theme issue. You can still submit work and the exciting part is soon I will be launching a crowd funding campaign to raise money to publish it in color/glossy and in large numbers for more far reaching distribution and visibility. I am seeking help with this and the zine for those interested.
I am forever in debt to H.G. Lewis, Eli Roth, Jovanka Vuckovic and many others who helped me reach a larger audience. (Damn, did I mention I hate naming names!?!)
Who inspires you?
Hannah: My dad (RIP) my mom and my brother. My sisters Jen & Sylvia. Artists would be Lydia Lunch, John Waters, Gregg Araki, Cindy Sherman, Richard Kern, Courtney Love, Sarah Jacobson, Carol Clover, Kathleen Hanna, Frank Henenlotter, Shannon Lark, and just like with the "who should we keep an eye out for" I will DAMN YOU AGAIN SOSKAS for making me name names! I am so inspired by so many different aspects of life that I cannot give a real answer without feeling the dread of missing something.
What do you think are the greatest challenges for women today?
Hannah: I will end up writing a list of all the fucking challenges if I let myself get going so I will just say one thing: The way Planned Parenthood/family planning has potentially just lost its funding- women face so many challenges right now beyond film we are literally fighting for our own bodies. For a large majority of women having the ability to afford screening for cervical cancer, get screened for sexually transmitted infections, and the goddamn bullshit of "re-defining rape" so if you are drugged, etc it doesn't count are the definition of horror.! I'll tell you- if ever there was a time to watch and/or make Rape Revenge films for catharsis now is it.
Horror comes on strong during cultural & political upheaval and right now we are certainly at a crisis point. I will be curious to see how this affects the next wave of horror films. Especially if it will propel more women to make art expressing the fear and concern we all should have about the history of our bodies. We are losing control of them again and so many people are complacent. Please please take the time to sign a petition, write letters, anything- something like signing an online petition takes like less then a minute....time that you probably are spending on farmville! =)
What advice do you have for women that want to try follow in your footsteps?
Hannah: Take your medication as prescribed.
Don't give up when people are shitting on you.
Don't try to please everyone.
Don't be afraid to ask for help and reach out to other people for support/networking/etc.
What do you have to say to say to people who say "what can I do for Women In Horror month"?
Hannah: Attend an event, create an event, write something, make art, give blood, anything your amazing brain can think of!
Where do you see the future of horror going? Do you think we can expect a shitload of remakes in 3D?
Hannah: American Mary! (and I'm totally only saying that because I have a small part in your film). But seriously, I think American Mary is going to inspire a lot of women but also show Hollywood what horror fans really want: some damn intelligence and originality with their fear! Women are the future of horror. We will breed new life into this genre because we have different perspectives that have yet to be explored in a big way. Watch the fuck out!
What has been your favorite "kill" ever in a film?
Hannah: Honestly there are so many badass once but going with the theme of women in horror I had a serious body reaction to the last scene of the original I Spit on Your Grave. I literally fucking got off the couch and did a fist pump in the air. This isn't really a kill scene but one of the coolest fucking scenes was the head between the legs in ReAnimator! Ya know what else? The death by fucking in Bad Biology. That was pretty badass.
What are your favorite horror movies?
Hannah: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Pieces, Halloween, Friday the 13, Motel Hell, Black Christmas (original), Poltergeist, The Orphanage, The Evil Dead, The Doom Generation, Nowhere, Serial Mom (horror comedy), Carnival of Souls...... I could go on forever.
What would you like to say in closing for Women In Horror month?
Hannah: HOLY FUCKING SHIT YOU GUYS!! Look what has fucking happened in the last two years. YOU have made space for all of us! Let's keep this up all year long. February is a month to recognize that we need recognition all year long. Keep fighting! Keep creating! Keep making noise!
Where can people see your work?
Thank you, Hannah. So much. To have been able to do so much under such difficult circumstances. To have persevered and kept going despite overwhelming odds. You are the living personification of strength. We have so much admiration for you and your unyielding dedication to gender equality and the advancement of horror, in all art forms, as a whole. I know that in 2012, Women In Horror Month will continue to grow and evolve. I hope many, like us, are already making plans and schemes for next year's celebrations. But this is not the end. We can continue to celebrate all year 'round and there ain't a damn reason we shouldn't.
Women In Horror month truly is its on living entity now and future generations of women will have their voices and visions seen and heard more than ever. Yes, February is at an end, but that doesn't mean things have to change by any means. We can continue the celebration. We can recognize independent artists who are striving to make horror something more. Now, more than ever before, we live in a "Yes, we can" era. And it's a beautiful thing. The power is in our hands. Anyone can make a film, start a blog, chase their dreams, and make a difference.
In the words of independent film making legend, Carlos Gallardo, I leave you with this.
"Don't just talk about it. Go do it."
Happy Women In Horror Month, everyone!