It's been evident from the start that the horror genre has never been an exclusive boys' club. For one, the female audience for horror films is just as large and just as passionate as the male audience, and the contribution from women behind-the-scenes and especially in front of the camera (notice there are no Scream Kings -- only Queens) is invaluable to the evergreen strength of the genre.

Texas Bloodbath Film Fest allied itself with Pretty-Scary, a blog devoted entirely to women in horror, to celebrate independent filmmakers with the first annual Pretty Scary Bloodbath Film Fest. Festival organizer Andrew Rose and Pretty-Scary founder Heidi Martinuzzi, along with sponsor Damnation Books, scheduled the all-day event in Addison, Texas with a strong showing of low-budget, international horror features and shorts, all from the imaginations of up-and-coming female directors.

The Retelling made its US debut, with writer-director Emily Hagins on hand for a post-film Q & A, as part of a program that included the Canadian shocker Dead Hooker In a Trunk and Australian spookfest Family Demons. Find out more about the films after the jump.


The Mis-Adventures of McT and A: Episode 1
Directed by Michelle Tomlinson & Kim Amato/USA/Short

I'm not sure what this was exactly, but it seemed like some buddies (in this case, actresses Michelle Tomlinson and Kim Amato) just goofing around with a video camera. We see Tomlinson and Amato act out an improvised lesbian fantasy with some fashion dolls and, in another segment, Tomlinson displays her skills at speaking the same gibberish language that Natasha Lyonne and Marisa Tomei use in The Slums of Beverly Hills. Tomlinson was scheduled for a Q and A, but wasn't able to attend, which is a shame because I would've like to known why this was playing the festival.


The Retelling
Directed by Emily Hagins/USA/Feature

I can't really view this film objectively, mainly because I'm in it, but Peter Hall has no such allegiances will be sharing his thoughts soon over on Horror Squad. It's the second film from Emily Hagins, director of Pathogen and subject of the feature documentary Zombie Girl, and in my estimation, she's still proving herself as a talent to be reckoned with. For her sophomore effort, she wrote and directed a ghost story with a bit of a modern Southern Gothic flavor, and the film seemed to go over very well with the crowd in its first public screening.

Death In Charge
Directed by Devi Snively/USA/Short

Devi Snively's short is funny and more than a little twisted, but her star, Brittney Carson as Debbie (aka the Grim Reaper), really makes this into something special with her mannered, oddly appealing performance. A morbid little girl is left home alone with Debbie as her curious surprise babysitter. The two girls bond over violent videogames and bowls of instant mac-and-cheese, and Debbie teaches the little girl a hard lesson before returning to her deadly work. This all could've been too cutesy, but Snively's whimsical piece has a darker edge to it that really surprises, while somehow never detracting from the overall light tone. Good stuff.


Dead Hooker In a Trunk
Directed by The Soska Twins/Canada/Feature

Is Dead Hooker In a Trunk wonderfully terrible or terribly wonderful? The writing/directing/acting duo, the foxy Soska Twins, have delivered a grimy slice of low-budget depravity that's as entertaining as it is completely ridiculous. It suffers from many of the pitfalls of DIY horror, including a surplus amount of profanity in the dialogue, a constant, tinny drone of heavy metal music in the background, and a disjointed plot that seems to throw all logic out the window, but there's some very real moments of inventiveness in it as well.

Twin sisters defined by their characters' non-names, The Geek (Jen Soska) and The Badass (Sylvia Soska), find a dead hooker in the trunk of their car and decide to dispose of it themselves instead of notifying the authorities. They're accompanied by Geek's friend, Goody Two-Shoes (C.J. Wallis), and Badass's friend, Junkie (stuntwoman Rikki Gagne), in a topsy-turvy mini-roadtrip that includes a deranged cowboy pimp, chainsaw-weilding drug dealers, a pug dog in bondage wear, cartoonish bodily harm, and other run-ins too disgusting to mention here.

Dead Hooker In a Trunk may be cheap and rough, too long in the tooth, and noticeably amateur, but, somehow, through all of that, you can tell that the Soskas have talent. They seem to be genuine perverts with a rowdy sense of anything-goes humor, and they're able to corral that (some of the time) with strong comic timing and a good eye for compositions. I really wasn't sure if this would be my cup of tea during the first few minutes, but by the end of the film they'd surprised me enough with likeable characters and genuine laughs, that I have to admit I was won over. It's certainly not for everybody, but I know that's how the Soskas want it.

Side Effect
Directed by Liz Adams/USA/Short

This was like an EC Comics version of an ABC Afterschool Special. A babysitter takes some drug to help her stay up and study, but things go shockingly wrong (of course). It was so outlandish and serious that I couldn't help but laugh, but I wasn't laughing at the film, so much as I was tickled by Adams' audacity. The film has one repugnant gore gag that Adams telegraphs so plainly that I figured she wouldn't actually show it onscreen. She does, and the short is all the better for it.


Family Demons
Directed by Ursula Dabrowsky/Australia/Feature

In Family Demons, a young woman is held as a literal prisoner by her drunken, abusive mother, with Mom haunted by the spirit of her own long-dead mother. It's a heavy-handed look at the cycle of abuse, and the film doesn't waste any time making its intentions completely clear.

The film didn't quite click with me, despite being generally well-crafted, I think due to the lack of characterization. There's not much defining the people in Family Demons other than their situation -- Mom is the broken floozie, daughter longs for a different life, and the bland boyfriend is defined only by the fact that he hasn't tried to rape anyone in a movie where every other male character does.

Regardless of the screenplay's shortcomings, Dabrowsky shows a confident hand at building suspense and directing her actors. Family Demons is an unrelentingly cynical movie, one that I may have had trouble relating to, but I'd still be interested in seeing what else Dabrowsky has to offer in the future.

The Farm
Directed by Holly Reece/USA/Short


Reece locked down a truly great location for her film -- a phony Halloween haunted house -- but none of the other elements really work. A group of potential new hires gather at a Halloween attraction, and if they can go through the farm without chickening out, they get the job. Of course, they're trapped inside with a very real killer. Reece's idea seems like a simple can't-miss, but she's let down by her amateur cast and an unusually talky screenplay (co-written by Davd Parrish) that doesn't trust the audience to use their own brains.

Switch
Directed by Melanie Light/UK/Short


This is a super-short short that turns the tables on the notion of women-as-victims. It's a quick little joke with some amazing snowy scenery and an efficient and memorable blast of violence.

Hollywood Skin
Directed by Maude Michaud/Canada/Short


I really liked Michaud's Hollywood Skin, a film that has something to say, while also being completely horrific. In it, an aspiring actress moves to Los Angeles and struggles with her body image while trying to land a decent role. She's overweight, yet completely desirable, completely sexy in fact, and the pressure to be a certain type leads her to some very dark places. Michaud handles the material with an intimacy that never makes you feel like she's beating you over the head with her pointed message.

Distraught
Directed by Brenda Fies/USA/Short


Distraught feels like little more than a melodramatic gun control PSA created by a film student. I can sort of see what Fies was going for here, but there's not enough time in the format to really emotionally invest in the situation, making the whole thing feel more shallow than the filmmaker probably intended.

Consumed
Directed by Lis Fies/USA/Short


This inexplicable, hilarious short capped off the fest with a love letter to a little dog named Hero, who even has his own unforgettable theme song. Fies uses The Shining-styled title cards to punctuate each scene of Hero's daily doggy activities, and the gag got me every single time, before reaching its sick (and funny) finale.