"Werewolves are rapists; vampires are seducers."
This 2009 Canadian documentary, subtitled "The Women of Horror," peers into the lives of women who have supp'd full on a genre which often serves up their sex as victims. Jovanka Vuckovic, editor-in-chief of Rue Morgue, guides us through the magazine's offices in a converted funeral home while discussing her experiences as the rare woman in her role. Debbie Rochon, scream queen and Fangoria Radio hostess, discusses the grisly ways she has died on camera with disturbing jocundity-- an aside has her wondering how having her breasts cut off could possibly cause her instant death. Heidi Martinuzzi, who writes for female-friendly horror-site Pretty Scary, offers her sharp observations. We also hear from several female academics, including Isabel Pinedo, who discusses her past discomfort at liking a genre so often condemned as misogynistic. The film also provides a fascinating, brief look at the late Vampira, the proto-Goth 50s horror host and star of Plan Nine from Outer Space. Her life has already been the subject of a documentary; one hopes a biopic is forthcoming.
Without question, these people can be compelling. It's also fascinating to hear about a Golden Age of Straight to Video, or to see the impact of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Viewers may not realize how much technology has changed low-budget movies. It's easy to forget how revolutionary Joss Whedon's basic premise seemed at the time. We're reminded of horror's influence and diversity, with clips from Ginger Snaps and Brinke Stevens's oeuvre. Pretty Bloody serves as a bloody interesting overview of its topic.
It also attempts to do too much. One suspects the filmmakers slashed a much more extensive movie. As a result, some excellent segments seem off-topic and incomplete. Tanya Huff almost single-handedly represents female writers of horror fiction (Nancy Kilpatrick also appears). She's perceptive and articulate, but her segment feels out of place in a documentary largely devoted to cinema.
The hour-long film inadequately handles some of the genre's darker ideological implications. I found this odd, given its subject matter and cast. Odette Springer's 1998 look at low budget films, The Dark Side of Hollywood, despite its broader focus, turns a more critical eye to this subtopic. Dark Side also (somewhat) more closely examines the line that connects certain kinds of horror and pornography-- a connection which crops up frequently in this film, but is never really examined.1
I don't know of a documentary that has specifically addressed the distaff side of horror before, though horror itself has been covered many times, and many have commented on the growing presence of females in the once male-dominated worlds of SF, fantasy, comic books-- and horror. Pretty Bloody, then, neither breaks new ground nor exhausts its topic. It's worth a view if you enjoy horror-- particular in the mass media-- but I suspect some future auteur will serve up a better film on this topic. In the end, Pretty Bloody merely whets the appetite.
Director: Donna Davies
Appearing as themselves:
Vampira (Maila Nurmi) (archival footage)
1. Neither documentary helps explain why my Amazon search of the horror films mentioned in this documentary recommended that I "also consider" several Three Stooges compilations.
2. The Ginger Snaps writer recalls eerily that film's protagonist.