Becca Kozak’s Vancouver Video Vixens explores post-modern feminism through interviews with female Canadian horror movie directors. In Carol Clover’s seminal academic paper on feminism in slasher movies (which ended up in her book Men, Women and Chainsaws), she suggested what was original viewed as a misogynistic format was actually a much more subversive feminist arena with final girls emasculating the killer male force in the narratives. Now we get to see how far that path goes deep into the dark genre woods, with a coven of filmmakers that are conjuring up some very sick and terrific s**t, as it’s all murder, guts, and fun with this punk-style documentary.
Vancouver is the Canadian city with the fattest roots in punk culture; it’s where Linda Manz ran away in Dennis Hopper’s masterpiece Out of the Blue. In the city, Linda ends up in a punk club and gets to play the drums with the Pointed Sticks performing “Somebody’s Mum.” Besides its association with bands like D.O.A, Subhumans, and Dayglo Abortions, Vancouver is also the Canadian Hollywood, with most film and television for the North American market produced there over the last several decades. So it fits that a homegrown movement of the most punk rock of all film genres, horror, would spring up with what seems to be an incredibly talented community of women filmmakers.
Made during the “don’t touch” phase of the plague du jour, Vancouver Video Vixens showcases interviews with the following directors, listed in the order they are on the poster: Gigi Saul Gerrero, Dre Boulet, Lisa Ovies, Julie Bruns, Ariel Hansen, Nadine L’Esperance, Karen Lam, Bruna Arbek, Kailey and Sam Spear, Tristan Risk, Heather Perluzzo, and Sharai Rewels. Most of the cold planet Earth has not heard of these women unless you are very lucky or Canadian.
“…explores post-modern feminism through interviews with female Canadian horror movie directors.”
The film provides a lovely sampler of their work while exploring modern feminism through women making horror flicks. The interview footage intermixes horror movie clips, as a badass Alan Horwath style synth soundtrack pounds beneath every scene; this is a very lively hour with no dragging. Nothing fills documentary talking head sandwiches better than footage of balls being ripped off and put into garlic presses. Kozak also employs her signature punk flyer cut-up collage moves with old teenage hygiene films spliced with bondage reels to illustrate the feminist concepts being discussed. It is the kind of documentary you would expect to find in the gatefold of a Dead Kennedy’s record back when.
The fascination point is the organic manner in which the subject of feminism comes into the discussions of how these women are treated in the industry and how horror elements meld with womanhood. Many interviewees describe the sexism they’ve encountered in the motion picture world, but they also point out that they have a supportive sisterhood they work with that allows them to create unsuppressed. Canada is the birthplace of the body horror genre Cronenberg pioneered, and these women are poised to better understand that than filmmakers who have to bleed out every month.
We also see how Rape Revenge and Scream Queen pictures are recontextualized into feminist platforms. This happened mainly thanks to the VHS distribution of these films, which took horror out of inner-city grindhouses and into a million all-girl slumber parties. Women have been the primary consumers of horror products over the last three decades, and with these female directors, they look to become the main producers. Vancouver Video Vixens also needs to be adopted by academics for university study. You would be hard-pressed to find a better examination of the state of feminism in the 21st century, even if you don’t want to be bathed in fake blood, Slashdance style.