CanFilm Five: Horror Writer and Playwright Alexandra West

“CanFilm Five” is the Canuxploitation blog’s ongoing guest column, which brings together prominent filmmakers, bloggers, critics and programmers to discuss their most loved offbeat Canadian films.

Alexandra West is a freelance horror journalist who lives, works and survives in Toronto. Her work has appeared in the Toronto Star, Rue Morgue and Post City Magazine among others. She is a regular contributor at Famous Monsters of Filmland and you can find more of her horror ramblings and reviews at her blog, Scare Tactic. Aside from her work in horror criticism, Alexandra’s play, FINAL GIRL, is running in Montreal from October 26 to 28th at 11pm.

Taking place at Freestanding Room (3rd floor at 4324 Boulevard Saint-Laurent), FINAL GIRL stems from West’ theatre background and her love of horror. The play uses a slasher film structure to explore the nature of the killers and victims within your typical slice-and-dice film. Using Carol Clover’s writing in Men, Women and Chainsaws as framework and with a childhood spent watching the best horror films Rogers Video would rent to a minor, FINAL GIRL is an intimate look at a beloved genre that’s fun for the whole family, if the family is all over 18 and doesn’t mind some graphic language.

For this seasonally appropriate edition of CanFilm Five, Alexandra takes a look at the five awesomest women in Canadian horror.

From one of the best slashers ever made, Sarah is one cool cucumber. When she and her friends get trapped in a mine during the Valentine’s Day dance with a killer on the loose she is the only one to keep it together and think logically about getting out of there with losing her head, unlike some other people. When you watch more than your fair share of slasher movies involving teenagers doing silly things, it’s so refreshing to see an adult woman, in peril, but keeping it together that it’s hard to go back to over-the-top silliness. She is my slasher role model.

Nola, THE BROOD (1979)
Nola may be a contentious choice, as critic Robin Wood called THE BROOD a reactionary film that shone a negative light on the womens’ liberation movement, but for me it draws attention to furious nature that repression breeds. Nola is both a mother trying to save herself and a dangerous force of nature that attacks all those that would stand in her way. She is the lady version of the Queen Alien and just as bad ass.

Being popular is hard. It’s even harder when there’s a killer on the loose.  Melissa Sue Anderson (yup, the daughter from LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE) is fantastic as Ginny, our Final Girl in this ’80s-tastic slasher, but she’s all the more impressive against the winding plot that would give John Grisham a headache. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME plays out like the best surprise party ever because the ending is such a kicker, and Ginny and is the perfect vessel to discover this horror gem.

Canadians make the best slashers, if evidenced only by this list. Forget affecting, subdued, Egoyan-esque dramas– Canadians defined, broke and remade the slasher genre starting with this classic. BLACK CHRISTMAS is my favourite slasher. It’s creepy, funny and unforgettable. Seriously, I haven’t been able to look at a dry cleaning bag without seeing an instrument for my imminent destruction since I fist saw this movie. For all of the wonder that this film gives me, Barb may be my favourite part. While she’s no Final Girl, she’s one of the most entertaining characters in horror and every time I watch BLACK CHRISTMAS I’ll root for her ’til the end.

Brigitte, GINGER SNAPS (2000)
I love an awesome good girl. And Brigitte is not only an awesome good girl, but an awesome sister. While she fights to save her sister Ginger from turning into a werewolf, she also has to define herself against Ginger’s evolution. Brigitte is an excellent rendering of a young woman trying to find herself and break away from a toxic relationship. It’s a remarkably identifiable movie for any young woman, not just the hairy ones.

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