Kier-La Janisse is a writer and film programmer based in Montreal, Canada. She is the Founding Director of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies and a film programmer for Fantastic Fest, POP Montreal and SF Indie. She has been a programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, founded the CineMuerte Horror Film Festival in Vancouver and co-founded Montreal’s Blue Sunshine Psychotronic Film Centre. She is the author of A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi (FAB Press, 2007) and House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (FAB Press, 2012).
NYC! Meet the Lady is Back with an Evening of STALKER CINEMA this Friday!Books/Art/Culture,Fango Local,Movies/TV,News Kier-La Janisse
One of New York’s most colorful performance-based events, MEET THE LADY tribute series dedicated to cinema’s leading ladies turns its attention this week to some of the big screen’s most memorable female obssessives with MEET THE LADY IS WATCHING YOU – where a throng of special guests will explore the dark and sometimes campy delights of women who won’t take no for an answer.
“It’s one of those areas where there’s a vast difference between men’s roles and women’s roles,” says Tom Blunt, the series’ creator and host. “Male stalkers are perverts, but women just have A LOT OF FEELINGS, amiright? However, the male obsessive stereotype has changed very little since the 1970s, while the female stereotype has mutated into this whole new wild creature.”
One of the progenitors for the wave of female stalker films that became popular in the late 80s was undoubtedly Jessica Walters’ over-the-top performance in Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut PLAY MISTY FOR ME, which was a direct influence on Adrian Lyne’s genre-busting FATAL ATTRACTION. The latter remains a seminal film of its time in that it reflected the palpable fear of casual sex brought on by the AIDS crisis, but in terms of predatory females, it’s only one of many. “Everyone credits FATAL ATTRACTION with leading the charge,” he says, “but that’s just really the most visible entry from a whole flood of movies that seemed to fret over what women might do (or get away with) thanks to their newfound liberation.”
To illustrate this, the evening will feature clips from a bevy of both obscure and well-loved films that explore how and why stalking continues to proliferate in society, how laws have changed over time to address it, and how people have responded to it – especially in an age of social media, which paradoxically exposes everyone to a world of strangers while simultaneously conditioning them to be hyper-aware of their privacy. To address this, the curriculum includes a number of speakers ranging from Peter J. Cook, field producer for TV’s STALKED: SOMEONE’S WATCHING to an internet stalking tutorial by OUT Magazine managing editor Mike Berlin.
But it’s clear that MEET THE LADY’s curator finds the juicy side of stalker cinema to be equally compelling, as he gives a rundown of some of his favourites: “If we’re talking about fiction, it doesn’t get much pulpier than THE CRUSH or THE HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE. Young or old, women will emote you to death! With bees, if necessary. I also adore any movie in which it seems the perpetrator is a man, but it turns out to be a woman – It’s the oldest and cheapest trick in the book, from FRIDAY THE 13th to THE BODYGUARD.
“It’s also fun to watch the stalkee become a stalker herself. I recently watched EYES OF A STRANGER (1981) and SOMEONE’S WATCHING ME (1978), two very similar movies in which the victim resorts to obsessive behavior in order to confront their assailants. Portraying mental illness as being quasi-contagious is another way for filmmakers to unsettle the audience. It also contributes to the fear that sick people will copy what they see in the movies (which unfortunately does happen from time to time). But thanks to the internet, we barely bat an eye at it anymore – we’re all stalking each other.”
Despite the touchy subject matter, there is a lot of room here for camp, something which the films themselves sometimes gleefully indulge in. “The overwrought gender politics of 80s and 90s stalker movies perfectly lend themselves to camp appreciation,” says Blunt.”SINGLE WHITE FEMALE is a technically a story that could be told today, but without all those painfully sexist 1992 flourishes to snicker at, who would care?”
The pulpy side of the stalker phenomena is also reflected in MEET THE LADY’s roster of guests, including Alana MacNair and Kate Wilkinson (co-creators/stars of the off-Broadway comedy FATAL ATTRACTION: A GREEK TRAGEDY) and burlesque performers Iris Explosion and Dangrrr Doll. As such, the evening’s programming could be seen as fetishizing the behavioral patterns of stalking – after all, is there a way to approach something like this that is “all in good fun”? Of course, this is the age-old question that plagues all subsections of horror cinema, and one that has contributed to the genre’s consistent self-reflexivity.
“I think it’s possible to revel in these movies and make light of the subject without trivializing real-life mental health issues or encouraging people permission to hurt or scare others,” assures Blunt. “That said, we will be giving away authentic voodoo recipes from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab which people can apply toward forcing others to return their affections. What could possibly go wrong?”
But as of this summer, MEET THE LADY will be looking for a new home, as its host venue 92Y Tribeca is forced to close its doors. “I admit it was a nasty shock,” says Blunt of the sad news. “I owe everything to that venue’s reputation and largesse, and to film programmer Cristina Cacioppo’s encouragement. If I can find the right venue, I promise to keep it going. I’d also love to bring the show to other cities. In any case, I welcome people to follow us on Tumblr and/or Facebook for updates.”
MEET THE LADY IS WATCHING YOU
Friday, April 5th, 8pm
92Y Tribeca, 200 Hudson St.
$12 General Seating
After-party with DJ ACCIDENT REPORT