The Final Girls is a film collective exploring the intersection between horror film and feminism, led by Anna Bogutskaya and Olivia Howe. Anna and Olivia share with us how they are making anew inclusive space for horror cinema fans and how an early morning Whatsapp conversation has taken them all the way to self-distribution.
The origin of The Final Girls couldn’t be less glamorous if we tried making it up. As WhatsApp is our main form of communication, it makes sense then that The Final Girls was born out of a manic 7am chat. Wed bonded over years of marathoning horror films and being really frustrated with some of the horror-themed events going on. We were fans, and hungry to see endless slashers, supernatural spookers and gorefests. Yet it felt like we weren’t ‘the right audience’ for these events, or made to feel like we were imposters for liking films that were not traditionally associated with a female audience. We love the community aspect of horror, but didn’t always feel we could participate in that community.
Within the span of minutes of rapid fire chatting, we had the name of the collective (The Final Girls), the film we wanted to play (Trouble Every Day),the date (Friday 13th May) and the general mission statement for what we wanted to do. This last point was important to us: to define what it is that we wanted to achieve outside of putting on a screening: exploring the intersections of horror film and feminism.
Between May 2016 until January 2017, we programmed, produced and hosted ten events including: a rare 35mm screening of Cindy Shermans only feature film OfficeKiller; a shorts screening and panel discussion on the final girl trope at Film4 Summer Screen; an all-nighter dedicated to scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis; a preview of Prevengein Manchester; an anniversary screening of Carrie followed by a panel discussion and a bloody prom party at the ICA. That’s probably still our favourite event (chiefly because it included a specially made yarn blood bucket and we covered the ICA floor in red glitter to simulate Carries prom massacre).
We probably did too much during those hectic first months. Aside from the preview of Prevenge, we had focused on repertory programming. We wanted to reclaim and re-contextualise genre films that been maligned or forgotten. We manouvered between arthouse horror like Trouble Every Day and Office Killer to full-blown slasher glory Inside. One of main approaches is to create an event, something that would make it more than a screening. The films were only half the job. We wanted for the audience to takeaway something from the screening. For SingleWhite Female, we created Hedy/Ally face mask; for Carrie we commissioned a fortieth anniversary poster that we gave away to attendees and got Stephen Kings novel as giveaways from Hodder & Stoughton. From the very first screening, we have created dedicated zines that we give to all attendees. These are the place where we explore the film,explain what it is about it that drew us in, and play around with the films imagery, reappropriating and remixing it.
We’re not going to pretend like all of the events were raving successes. We’ve had to face the empty cinema as much as every programmer has. However, every single event was a learning curve. We were building up steam for our next, and biggest project (so far): The Love Witch.
Aside from reappraising repertory cinema, our ambition with The Final Girls was always to build a supportive platform for new talent within the genre. With this in mind, our next logical step was to venture into the world of new releases. Before even seeing The Love Witch, we knew it was the film for us. Anna Biller is one of the most unique filmmakers out there today (and certainly one of the most hard-working). The Love Witch is a product of seven years of work from Biller, where she not only served as the director, but she also had a part in the writing, editing, costume design, musical composition and much, much more. A film like this doesn’t come around often and for something so special, we knew it needed championing.
After speaking with Anna, we discovered the title had been picked up for UK distribution by Icon Distribution. Determined to not let this one go, we pitched our ideas to the distributor and reached an agreement. The collaboration with the distributor, Icon, was incredibly important. Without their support, this would not have been possible.
We organised a preview tour of the film, liaising directly with regional venues to pitch our ideas to them. Every single screening had to be an event. We travelled with the film to present it at the venues, and even though Anna was not able to travel for the UK release, we organised Skype Q&As with her, which we hosted. At Sheffield Showroom, we recreated the uber pink afternoon tea scene from the film in their cafe bar, serving scones and cocktails to the attendees of the screening. We created a special version of our usual zines for the tour which doubled as a foldout poster and commissioned an artist (also working under the name Final Girls!) to create a set of tarot card-inspired postcards to promote the tour.
The Love Witch tour was bookended by two London screenings: the first one, at the Prince Charles Cinema, was sold out weeks in advance; and ended as part of Picturehouse’s Discover Tuesdays strand, which started off in a small screen and kept getting bumped up until we had 300 people in their biggest screen, and welcomed one of the actresses from the film, Laura Waddell, for an introduction. After The Love Witch tour was over, and with the film in cinemas, on Blu-ray/DVD and VOD, the interest in Anna’s work was bigger than ever. As a result, we put on an event in the newly opened The Castle Cinema screening her early short films on her own 16mm prints. We put on the event in partnership with MUBI, an online platform that has been hugely supportive of our mad ideas since the beginning, and at the time were playing Anna’s first featureViva.
And now we’re back at it again. Part of our vision for The Final Girls is championing new voices in genre filmmaking, so for Halloween this year we’ve planned a showcase tour of some of our favourite new horror shorts, all of which are directed by women. We opened a call for submissions in May, received over 1,000 short films from all over the world. From that process, and actively scouring festival programmes and the web for intriguing shorts, have curated a selection of ten short films that we’ve (quite tellingly) named: WE ARE THE WEIRDOS.
This programme is our first venture into self-distributing the work of filmmakers we love. It’s a mission statement, as we’re working to create a space for feminist horror, show the films were passionate about, and attempt to eliminate some of the arthouse snobbery around genre cinema.
The Final Girls programme of the most exciting new female voices in genre cinema We Are the Weirdos is coming to cinemas for Halloween. If you would like to screen We Are the Weirdos in your local cinema, get in touch with The Final Girls on firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about the project, click here.