ARF: Please tell us about yourself!
I’m a film writer and programmer for Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival living in Toronto. I love animals, horror, sci-fi and genre film and a good exclusive Funko Pop.
ARF: How did you become a horror lover?
My mom was a great influence on my love for horror. I remember her telling my sisters and I stories when we were kids about living in the country in Trinidad, and the creepy stories her mother used to tell her about the ghoulies that lived in the bush. I also had a morbid love for fairy tales, especially the Grimm Brothers. I had a record of Grimm Fairy Tales that I played over and over again and a lot of them scared the crap out of me, but I loved it. I also recall my mom telling me she watched horror films on late night TV when I was a baby and wouldn’t go to sleep. She was a lovely woman who loved scary stories and movies and it rubbed off on me in a big way!
ARF: Tell us about your role with Blood in the Snow.
I joined the festival in 2016 as a programmer and recently became one of the board members. It’s a great festival that is constantly growing and evolving into a real resource for filmmakers and a fun, interactive event for horror fans. The festival director, Kelly Michael Stewart, is always trying to engage our audiences with new ideas and he does a great job with our fantastic team to get things revved up every year. Before I started with the festival, I was always a fan of Canadian genre films from directors like David Cronenberg and more recently Karen Lam and The Soska Twins. I would think to myself, “We can do great horror here too!!”, so an entire film festival featuring Canadian horror got my attention and I started attending and covering the fest for my blog in 2013. I was thrilled when Kelly asked me to join the team and being a programmer allows me revel in all the incredible talent we have right in our own backyard. We have our own sensibility with genre film and you can see it through the films we program for the fest. It’s hard to describe, but the filmmakers can find that Canadian essence, whether it’s the landscape or the way they write scripts that earmark their work as Canadian, which to me, is a very good thing as it solidifies our Canadian identity.
ARF: What is Horror in Toronto, past, present and future, like?
When I think about horror made here in the GTA, I immediately think of David Cronenberg’s library of gore, and films like Pin: A Plastic Nightmare, Black Christmas, Pontypool, Ejecta, Bite and a lot of the other stuff the Black Fawn Films and Distribution puts out. We get an interesting progression of subject matter over the years as well as paying homage to the greats, like the body horror in Bite. In 2016 Blood in the Snow screened a silent film anthology Three Dead Trick or Treaters by Torin Lagen that used no dialogue and it’s become a bit of a sleeper hit, so I think we have a lot of innovation coming up on small budgets. That’s the thing to remember too, is these filmmakers past and present, are creating with very little money and producing fantastic content — it’s only going to get better. I also like the sense of community in Toronto. Everyone knows everyone else and there’s a sense of camaraderie that is really great to see. What I hope for the future is more women coming out with some great genre film. Blood in the Snow has screened a lot of female genre directors like Karen Lam, Tricia Lee and Gigi Saul Guerrero, and I think the numbers are growing.
ARF: What has been your experience navigating the horror world as a Black woman?
Well, it’s been an interesting one. For those of you who have met me I look like I’m a social butterfly, but I’m not a particularly social person, yet I started going to festivals on my own when my friends showed little to no interest in horror films. I love horror so much that I went way out of my comfort zone so I could immerse myself in the one thing that floats my boat, so to speak. That was really difficult because I could see people looking at me like I was at the wrong festival, even though I thought I would be used to that since I went to tons of metal and grunge shows in the‘90s. Horror, as we all know, has been a boys club for so long and there hasn’t been room in the past for women to be respected within the genre as fans and creators, but as someone who has felt like an outsider for a long time, I’ve seen a big change over the years. There are more people of colour and women in lineups to see a horror film. Mind you, I still see the looks like, “What’s she doing here?” every now and again, but I try to ignore it with a hearty “Ha ha ha! I’m here and I’m taking up space even though I want to punch you in your ignorant face!” I actually experienced this recently and I was with my boyfriend who is white. It was a micro-aggression from a dude who was giving goth culture a bad name. I was baffled but at the same time not surprised.
ARF: Do you see any changes regarding visibility in the horror world? How about the mainstream and underground cinema world?
This is the one area that needs more change, especially in Canadian genre film. This country is known for its diversity so we need to see more people of colour in more roles other than background in horror films. There are a handful of actors of colour who I see regularly in indie horror, which is great, but I want to see more. With Black Panther crushing expectations, I hope money talks and filmmakers realize that we are out here, we love the genre and we need to be represented. Blood in the Snow screened Audrey Cummings’ sci-fi film Darken (which has continued as a web series) where she cast 2 female leads, Bea Santos and Olunike Adeliyi, along with a diverse cast — it was fabulous. An indigenous sci-fi film I reviewed on Cinema Axis for the 2016 Imaginativ Festival, The Northlander, was exquisite in its diverse casting and futuristic vision.
We need more of that. That’s why Graveyard Shift Sisters and Audre’s Revenge is so important because you both focus on POC and QTIPOC who create genre fiction and film to let the world at large know that we exist. I remember going to a screening that you and Monika put on here in Toronto and something she said stuck with me because I felt the same way. She didn’t want to see any more viral videos of black bodies being killed and wanted a different narrative for black and queer people. I felt like shows such as The First 48 and a lot of crime documentary series perpetuates a stereotype that we see too much of — Black people seen as criminals and victims. I also made this connection when I recently watched Through a Lens Darkly, a documentary by Thomas Allen Harris, a gay artist and director. It’s about how black people see themselves through photography and the fact that there weren’t any well-known black photographers for decades even though they existed. What struck me was seeing life through photography by black photographers and seeing us as people, not specimens or criminals or slaves. We need the history of slavery to show how black people have overcome obstacles and how it still exists today, but we also need a new vision of what being black is by black people, not through the veil of the white gaze that continually pigeonholes any person of colour. We need to see our lives as viable; we need to see ourselves as contributors. And for the love of God, please stop casting Will Smith as the black person who is on the other side of bigotry and prejudice in sci-fi! I saw Bright and those stories are transparent and tired. Enough already!
ARF: What current horror projects you are excited about? (movies, writers, fests, etc…)
I need to see what doors Jordan Peele has opened. I feel like since the success of Get Out, there are many incredible projects brewing out there and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us. I want to see what Sharon Lewis, director of Brown Girl Begins has coming up next. What she did on a limited budget makes me think she has much more to offer, so someone give this woman some money. I’m looking forward to what Audre’s Revenge is brewing up. I keep seeing the teasers for Monika’s next project, Bitten - A Tragedy and the buzz around that. I want to see what Canadian genre filmmakers of colour have for us. I know they’re out there and I hope they just go for it and do their thing — and submit to Blood in the Snow!
ARF: What are your top 5 horror movies?
This is always a hard question! I love so many!
Alien Vs. Predator: Sanaa Lathan, first of all. I love her. I know it’s not the greatest movie, but she’s so good in it and I also love that she plays an expert mountain climber and it’s not a thing that a black woman does this for a living in the film.
mother!: Such a true nightmare. There’s so much you can find in this film, but for me, Aronofsky captured the essence of anxiety and the insanity and egotistical side of the creative process so well.
Rosemary’s Baby: It’s my favourite film and it’s near perfect. It makes me nostalgic for when my family lived in Brooklyn. I imagine my parents walking down the streets of New York at that time whenever I watch it.
The Monster Club: it’s a quintessential ‘80s horror anthology film for me, from the acting to the cheesy music.
The Girl with All the Gifts: Sennia Nanua is incredible. My boyfriend gave me the book for my birthday last year so I’m hoping to finish it soon and re-watch the film.
Martyrs: It’s a brutal film and one that represents suffering on so many levels, from mental anguish to physical pain to not wanting to live anymore. Nihilistic to the core, but one that I watch when I’m feeling a sense of loss for some weird reason.
ARF: What other projects have you been involved in? Do you have any projects coming up?
Well, we’re now going through submissions for Blood in the Snow which will happen at the Royal Cinema November 22 to 27th this year, so I’m excited about that. I’ve written a few essays for the upcoming book The Encyclopedia of Racism in American Films (Rowman & Littlefield), and I have several reviews and think pieces on Cinema Axis and Graveyard Shift Sisters. I’ve written a few things for Rue Morgue Magazine and blog, so check that out too. I’m hoping to invade the Changing Reels podcast again to discuss some international horror with my friend Courtney Small and Andrew Hathaway, and I’m actually thinking about relaunching my blog. Although Rosemary’s Baby is my favourite film hands down, I’m now focusing on other writing so things might change a little on that front.
ARF: How can we hear about your projects?
You can follow my blog www.rosemaryspixie.com, my Rosemary’s Pixie page on Facebook and @rmpixie on Twitter.
Audre's Revenge is a collective of creatives, determined to promote visibility of QTIBIPOC in the Sci-Fi and Horror Universe. In 2015, we created this space to network film makers, writers, actors and artists, to inspire timeless and important work.