Thematically, horror is a woman’s domain. It is a female genre. Most horror movies feature women or girls as their protagonists, and this is something that should be celebrated and revered.
Something that also should be championed about the genre is that horror embraces women and girls of all ages and puts them on the front line, bringing them to the foreground – be they women in their “prime” (the most varied and dynamic of roles), young women and teenage girls (oft-used in slasher fare), little girls (many a time presented as “monster”) and thankfully, women in their more seasoned years.
The latter is what Cinemaniacs are honouring with this festival! Those grand-dames of horror! Those wonderful, more mature, but still as vibrant and as active-as-ever, legendary actresses who reclaimed Hollywood and made it their own in their later years. Superstars and revolutionaries such as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Olivia de Havilland, Ruth Gordon, Ruth Roman, Shelley Winters, Gloria Swanson, Myrna Loy, Piper Laurie, Agnes Moorehead, Yvonne de Carlo and many more, resurrected their careers during the time of their advanced age, having to leave their ingénue days behind in the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Come the early 60s, these versatile and passionate talents re-entered showbiz carrying axes, sporting knives, drinking heavily and were caked up in grotesque make-up all the while screaming and clawing their way onto the silver screen as maniacal movie monsters! These older women that shaped Hollywood and were massive box office draw cards in the 30s and 40s, now got a chance to go crazy on screen, and the results were all gleefully delicious! The “psycho-biddy” sub-genre was fundamentally “born” as soon as Bette and Joan had their “divine feud” in the American Gothic masterpiece WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?, a film that brilliantly dissected the horrors of ageing in the entertainment industry, and ever since after that Warner Bros. freak show, audiences hungered for more!
The beauty of these hag show horrors is that these divine divas really got a chance to cut loose and have fun being psychotic. It’s an honour and a privilege to head this festival and give this unfairly underappreciated subgenre of horror cinema a platform and a voice – I just hope that afterwards, it inspires self-proclaimed horror fans to seek out more of these awesome movies, purchase them, integrate them within their DVD and bluray collections and proudly sit them next to their slasher flicks, Gialli and 80s faves. Remember – all horror matters!
– Lee Gambin (Cinemaniacs director)