Crypticon Seattle: Growing a Girls’ Club
I went to Crypticon Seattle for the horror and came home hopped up on “grrrl” power! How does that happen at a con for a genre that so often trades on the brutalization and torture of women? Well, with guests like Tristan Risk, Jen and Sylvia Soska, and Jessica Cameron plus panelists like the Horror Honeys, (and many other ladies I’m omitting out of poor note taking), it was inevitable. These women are thoughtful and outspoken. Just what I think this genre needs. It all made the trip to Sea-Tac Hilton well worth it.
Plus, there was Mary Mason cosplay! Wonderful to see American Mary celebrated in this way.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read my comic reviews or con reports that I gravitate to the panels and events about the participation of women in a genre or woman-created media. It’s something I care about deeply. And there I was at Crypticon Seattle taking in short film Call Girl —the directorial debut of Jill Sixx Gevargizian, feature film Truth or Dare —the directorial debut of Jessica Cameron, and attending the “Is Horror Still a Boys’ Club” panel.
Call Girl (2014, 6 minutes)
I interviewed both Tristan Risk and Jill Sixx Gervargizian previously for WatchPlayRead. These talented people, actor and director respectively, team up with actor Laurence Harvey in the short film Call Girl. Call Girl, as you might expect, is about a call girl who finds herself in a precarious situation. What you don’t necessarily expect is the perspective Gevargizian selects for the audience. Harvey is talking to someone though a web chat. You are viewing a room as you are the one on other end of that chat. While a viewer is always a voyeur, here Gevargizian makes you the voyeur in an actual sense. I felt this approach with a fixed frame was very effective in creating tension in the action in the short film. You don’t get to see what happens when an actor moves out of the frame, so Gevargizian gives nothing away until she wants you to see it. The action is sudden and powerful, like a right cross to the kisser. Tristan Risk and Laurence Harvey deliver quality performances too. He is appropriately creepy and giddy in his creepy show for the webcam and Risk completely embraces her role as a cautious and then curious call girl. Risk told the audience after the screening that Call Girl was shot in 12 hours. Truly amazing that those 12 hours of set time producd such a successful short film for Gevargizian’s directorial debut. If you get the chance to see Call Girl at festival or convention, don’t miss it! No spoilers, but you’ll want to find out how this tale ends.
Truth or Dare (2013, 89 minutes)
After Call Girl, we screened Jessica Cameron’s directorial debut Truth or Dare. In Truth or Dare, the Truth or Daredevils find notoriety on the internet with viral videos based on the infamous party game truth or dare and they are pretty good at what they do. The group is invited on talk shows and has a modicum of fame as an internet sensation. But one dedicated, more like obsessed fan, decides to help the Daredevils and improve their videos by making them more realistic. Once Derik, well played by Ryan Kiser, inserts himself into the Daredevils’ lives, the horrible things begin.
This is a movie that my parents would be ashamed of me for watching and I mean that in a good way! Truth of Dare has extreme images of violence and torture for each character. For a first time director on a film she also co-wrote, Cameron does an excellent job of using the set for mood and reeling the viewer in as well as choosing what to show and when to cut away. I also appreciated her choice to keep her actors mostly clothed. It allowed me to relate to the characters instead of being distracted (or frustrated) by superfluous skin. This movie was terrifying enough without adding more potentially triggering imagery. That said, I did squirm in my seat anyway during Truth or Dare. While this movie has a few laughs, I hope the audience laughter at certain horrifying moments was because we were all a bit uncomfortable.
Truth or Dare uses the issue of internet fame as the impetus for the action. In time when anyone can make and produce videos and gain fans, the chance of having “the wrong fan” latch on to you or your show would be a concern. This is especially true when you are most likely unable to afford the security guards or employ other barriers to protect yourself. Truth or Dare uses this potential threat in the extreme with a delusional fan that takes truths and dares very, very seriously.
Truth or Dare is screening at Phoenix Comicon on Saturday, June 7th at 9:30 PM in North 227ab. If you are attending Phoenix Comicon and enjoy maniacs and tortuous horror, then don’t miss it! Cameron told us of people walking out of this film. And I believe it. If you go, be prepared.
“Is Horror Still a Boys’ Club” panel moderated by Kat Morris of The Horror Honeys
I’ve delayed posting this convention report in in great part because l was conflicted about what to say about this panel. I was thrilled to have this subject come up. I appreciated the discussion on nudity, sex, violence, and sexualized violence so prevalent in horror flicks as well as the commentary on how the point of view of the filmmaker in sexual assault and rape scenes can affect viewer interpretation. But I was also very frustrated with certain members of the audience. Specifically, the man in front of me who I felt played the “hey, you’re generalizing all men” card. His comments hijacked the conversation and in a few instances changed the focus of the panelists discussion. This all happened before I knew the details of the shootings in Isla Vista or read anything of the hashtag event of #yesallwomen and #notallmen.
While I was ruminating about what I my own experience was at this panel, Jasen also of WatchPlayRead, sent me link to Anthea Carns blog post about her Crypticon experience. I have to say, her experience at this panel mirrors mine—except she was asking the right questions while I was seething in my seat. (Her post recently spurred Crypticon organizers to create and share a harassment policy.)
I managed a few notes on the panel. Linnie Helpern, the Revenge Honey, talked about how American Mary is the only revenge film to “get it right” since Thelma & Louise and that is a 30-year gap. Lorelei Shannon mentioned the need to get more young women participating and watching horror to help change the marketing images (reduce the appeal of the naked in the tub images in advertising). And Kat Morris discussed how nakedness and vulnerability go hand-in-hand is a cultural thing. Then I have notes about “more boobs,” which I attribute to M Nessk since that was her answer to most questions.
My favorite moment of the panel was the discussion about the lead in Contracted. Linnie spoke of how unreal it seemed that this character did not seek medical help with all these horrific symptoms. That was how I felt watching the film—for sure she or someone in her life would make her get help, like her doctor. But, M Nessk pointed how the stigma of sexually transmitted infection, especially contracted through an assault, would play out this way—not seeking timely medical advice or acting in your won best interest. This is the kind of discussion I enjoy and was happy to see happen at this panel.
And the Rest
A couple other short films that I enjoyed were Service (2014, 8 minutes, Director: Jerry Pyle) and Tasha and Friends (2013, 15 minutes, Director: Greg Kovacs). The main character in Service, Lucy, embodied the many facets of what it means to be a woman: maid, sex object, mother, protector, warrior, and survivor to name a few. It was quite inspiring. Tasha and Friends has puppets gone awry and it’s part funny, part gross. The horror of Jingles was further enhanced by the woman who was wearing bells and jingling out of my eye line!
If you’ve made it this far in this post: thank you. I didn’t expect to have the experience I did at Crypticon but there it is.