Presented by The Final Girls, fast becoming my favourite collective, opening my eyes up to horror in cinema. A genre I've never been fond of but a few events under their guidance and another planned (partnering with Park Circus) they are showing another side to horror I can appreciate. And yes, feminism is involved.
Side note; The Final Girls are actually celebrating their birthday next week on 13th May to discuss why they love horror, more info HERE. Happy Birthday girls!
With the annoucement that The Final Girls were taking auteur Anna Biller's The Love Witch on tour around the UK, it was obvious this collective was going place and not just literally. After showing keen interest in seeing the film online and promptly buying tickets, to my delight, I saw that Empire magazine had given the tour and film a full page ad. Skip ahead to the screening, The Prince Charles, a favourite cinema haunt of mine, the film was sold out (always a good sign) and not only did the attendees get the fantastic zine (doubled as a poster) but there were some weird and wonderful art/promo cards too. Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE art and promo cards.
Elaine (played to perfection by Samantha Robinson), wants to start a fresh in a new town and leave her dead husband behind. She happens to be a beautiful young witch and is desparate to find real love. In fact she craves love. She settles into her new home, an amazingly decorated apartments and makes makes remedies and potions to sell as well as use on unsuspecting men who grab her attention. She ends up with a string of hapless love sick victims behind her. Her desperation to be loved drives her to the brink of insanity and murder. When all she really wanted was her fantasy to come true.
The film has been called many things including kitsch, feminist, fantasy and in a way the film, to me, embodies all this and more. Less horror and more fantasy and all presented on amazing film, making it feel like you've stepped back in time to the 60s/70s. It was like being in a dream where everything is covered in a smokey haze and witches are more like hippies and despite the cruelties and crimes that occur, you aren't disturbed. When the film ended, I did find my self snapping back to reality and had barely constructed my feelings about the film when Anna Biller herself appeared on the big screen for a Q&A skype chat. When she talked about the story and the character of Elaine, it was as if we, the audience, had watched a whole other movie. Anna Biller is inspiring as she researched the film for several years and took a few more to make her vision come to life. She wrote, directed, made the costumes and props and was responsible for much of the production design too. An amazing talented filmmaker.
A few weeks later, The Final Girls, partnering up with Park Circus, presented a very different film saying that you won't want to be near anyone by the time the film ends. Calling it wonderfully creepy was an understatment.
Francisca is brought up in a remote farm house by her elderly parents. Her mother is a skilled surgeon and teaches Francisca how to remove eyes from dead animals. One terrible day a stranger murders her mother in front of her. Her father takes revenge by beating the man to almost death and chains him up in the barn. Francisa uses the skills her mother taught her to silence the murderer who she now refers to as her best friend. Francisca remains isolated over the years, her father barely speaking, eventually dying, presumably from old age. Francisca tries to find ways to become less lonely but doesn't know who to function in normal society. Still missing her mother terribly, Francisca talks to her asking her for guidance.
This black and white horror story is the directoral debut feature from Nicolas Pesce who let The Final Girls screen his own 35mm copy of the film he made himself as the film as I understand was not shot on film. The story does pose the question whether it is nature or nurture that makes a person who they are. In this case I believe it was always in Francisca's nature to become who she was. The horrific incident when she was younger probably made an impact but I think from the start you can see she isn't quite right. The film is disturbing to say the least. The long lasting shots linger in the mind and quite hard to shake off even after the film has long since ended. The unfortunate feeling from the film is that there is no connection between Francisca and the audience, who are left as helpless as some of her victims, just made to watch what happens. The ending brings the film full circle and there is hope that Francisca is punished for her actions but it isn't enough that it happens off screen. Francisca is a serial killer but she unlike other immortalised on screen. She seems like a victim and even takes twisted revenge on her mother's killer but later on her actions contradict this revenge. She is helpless yet deadly in her exiled exsistant. It is a beautifully shot film but the story and characters make it a one time only watch. In Francisca's case it is definitely her nature that tears through the screen.