Tag: Lynn Lowry
Scream Queens have been adorning our screens ever since the first celluloid was projected at our houses of cinematic holiness, through the wars of Betamax and VHS, DVD to the glory of Blu-Ray and Hi-Def, these girls have graced our screens. From Brigitte Helm in Metropolis as the multiple contrasting roles showing lustful fun loving devil as created by the hands of man through technology and witchcraft. Elsa Lanchester was the Bride of Frankenstein, empowering the female through a role which mutilates the female form, again at the hand of man and technology but one which gives the Bride the choice of groom which she strongly refuses. Both of these characters allow the scream queen to be worshiped and glorified as figures and ultimately, the prime media promotion of the films. Does this undermine the role of the female or exploit sex to sell? The very question suggests that actresses have no choice in the roles which they choose and that they are open to be used and abused at the hands of any such film maker.
A similar role can be seen in Cronenberg’s 75 classic, Shivers(It came from Within) which depicts a biological outbreak in a luxury apartment complex, one which transforms clean cut citizens into sex crazed zombies. Lynn Lowry is our Scream Queen here, a character who owns the film from start to finish, one that oozes sex appeal. But what Cronenberg offers is a character that knows what she wants. Her opening scene suggests she is out to get her man, shows love and desire and true passion whilst those around her are almost emotionally dead until the outbreak. The finale is one of the greatest in cinematic history, as Nurse Forsythe gets her man in an intensely dramatic scene.
Whilst horror and scream queens go hand in hand, it is important to introduce the ultimate grounding of where the modern scream queen was born. Russ Meyer: a name which offers connotations of sexism and exploitation. If these terms come to mind, then go and watch one of his films as you are judging the unknown. Meyer empowers women, both in form and in character. From making films
with casts mainly made up dominantly of female leads, these are strong dramatic characters which emphasis all scales of the spectrum of human emotion, especially at a time in recent history, but even by todays standards, there are very few female dominant films across any genre. Meyer exposes the female as a sexual one, but one of intelligence, power, and danger.
The ‘80’s saw a whole array of Scream Queens grace the screens. Fred Olen Ray continues what Meyer started but bumped the whole concept up a notch by giving his girls chainsaws. Linnea Quigley and Michelle Bauer battled for the Scream Queen crown and both came out with royal accreditation. Quigley, famously remembered for the naked graveyard dance in Return of the Living Dead reinforced her crown with the 88 classic, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers and is still actively making films.
So, whilst all this was going on, a young director was taking a slightly different approach. Wes Craven empowers his leading actresses and has some of the prime Scream Queens of the latter 20th Century, but what differs Craven’s depiction of the female to that of Olen Ray and Meyer is that he took the all American girl-next-door, and allowed her to witness some atrocious moments of horror, to learn, grow and empower to the point of defeating the evil. This all began with ’72, Last House on the Left, although we have a slightly bleaker ending here, he followed up his concept in Hills Have Eyes, Deadly Blessing, Elm Street, and hit gold with Scream. All these films depict the lead female as an empowered champion who will defeat all challenges. Neve Campbell holds the crown here.
Whilst Craven offered us the concept origin in Last House, Tobe Hooper followed this up with a dirty little film, Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Marilyn Burns, the protagonist takes on Leatherface and all other dangers that come her way for the ultimate in female empowerment. Burns will always be my ultimate Scream Queen.
So where are we by today’s standards? Things have changed drastically over the past decade. From a Scream Queen point of view we have them overflowing out of every basic film script that has used the original design which Craven, Hooper and Meyers et al gave us. Super empowered lead females who use every inch of their toned bodies to defeat the threat, but out of this crowded green room of young talent, some Scream Queens stand out a little more than others.
Jessica Cameron has owned the crown for the past few years with super dominant roles, Hell-O-Ween, Black Dahlia Haunting and Silent Night, but has broken into the industry with her own production company and directed her debut, ‘Truth or Dare’. Cameron has seen an opening and has taken the opportunity to let her Scream Queen persona expand as one of filmmaker. There are numerous bright shining actresses battling for the recognition. Some gain the crown after a debut such as Meghan Chadeayne who looks like she will take the world by storm in her role as Barbara in Naked Zombie Girl, a short by Rickey Bird Jr. Jenny Spain was impressive in Deadgirl but looks to be stunning in American Girls, Lorenza Izzo is the girl of the moment with her amazing screen presence in Hemlock Grove. Eli Roth’s Aftershock and the Green Inferno with catapult this girl’s career and crown her Scream Queen of 2013. I’ve attempted to explain the rational behind the term Scream Queen, to emphasize that empowerment and dominant strength of character can be used alongside female form and even nudity without exposing the actress to gratuitous sexism. Giving the girl a chainsaw and showing some flesh does not account for scream queen status, but emphasis a true strong female character as a lead with a plot that indulges and realistically recognizes a demand for weapon wielding nudity is the epitome of feminism itself.
Long Live the Scream Queen!
Article first published at Invest In Zombies.
Cronenberg has always been one of my favourite directors. I’ve been watching his films since I was 14 and they’ve always captivated me, but as time passes by, I grow wary to revisit some films as they might just disappoint. Was it a time and place which makes a film special and how will they stand up against today’s standards? Has Cronenberg got better with age? After this week, I’m so glad I’ve included a few of his early films in the project as they are perfect beyond belief and I actually think they have had more of an impact on the older version of myself, rather than the innocent teen all those years ago.
Shivers is set in a super modern, state of the art apartment block on a luxury island. As you can expect, the complex has everything from swimming pools to it’s own hospital. It’s this hospital in which scientists are working on experimental procedures. A parasite which can eat and replace a damaged organ, but one scientist has other ideas working on a parasite which will induce a sexual lust sending its host into a frenzy. When his work goes wrong, he attempts to destroy his experiment within his teen girlfriend. It’s not long before the whole apartment are crazy with lust.
This in effect is a zombie film, but once again, Cronenberg focus’ on the human emotion and desires with connotations of social needs and changing climate. Every taboo is touched upon here. From the opening scene, with an old scientist strangling a teenage girl, a brutal scene without music brings the horror and reality to the viewer. Later, a father kisses his daughter with passion, (I just know you’ll like my daughter, Erica!) old and young are crazy fiends, but it’s not a clear cut film. Some characters embrace the change, waiting and watching as their body morphs, notably Allan Kolman as Nicholas (A character later mirrored as Set Brundle by Jeff Goldblum in the Fly). Other characters, Nurse Forsythe (Lynn Lowry) show desire before the outbreak, suggesting a possible early infection, although this is not the case, she just craves the attention of her Doctor, who attempts to keep things professional.
Another shocking point to make is Cronenberg’s repeated signature of involving children as viewers to extreme violence, a trait which I’ve noticed in many of his films. I’m not sure if the children had prior knowledge to what was about to happen before the camera’s role, but he captures a pretty shocking expression every time.
The cast are perfect here too, clinical and dry, solemn and in control as Cronenberg always likes them. His direction is superb, no-one captures emotion at such a stripped down level like Cronenberg. Lynn Lowry, Barbara Steele, Paul Hampton and the brilliant Wally Martin.
Finally, the climax of the movie is such a success. The swimming pool scene is one of the most memorable I’ve ever known. Shot as what should be a bleak ending, this actually celebrates and embraces the infection which has taken over. A love affair of desire and wanting which works as much as a happy ending rather than the expected. The chemistry between Lowry and Hampton is electric and when they kiss, it wrap’s the film to perfection. I must also mention one final note regarding a speech which Lowry makes a little earlier on in the film, she tells Hampton of a dream. This speech is one of the finest moments in any film I’ve ever seen. It’s as memorable as the Long Live the New Flesh one from Videodrome, yet not nearly as recognised.
‘I had a very disturbing dream last night. In this dream I found myself making love to a strange man. Only I’m having trouble you see, because he’s old and dying and he smells bad, and I find him repulsive. But then he tells me that everything is erotic, that everything is sexual. You know what I mean? He tells me that even old flesh is erotic flesh. That disease is the love of two alien kinds of creatures for each other. That even dying is an act of eroticism. That talking is sexual. That breathing is sexual. That even to physically exist is sexual. And I believe him, and we make love beautifully.’