Ah, October, a month when talking obsessively about slashers, vampires, haunted houses, killer aliens, werewolves, and dismemberment is generally socially condoned. I have been enormously enjoying my own spooky season, an extension of my personal exploration of horror over the past year. Though I’ve seen many new-to-me horror films recently, it has been especially heartening to check out a few titles written and/or directed by women, which aren’t exactly common. Two of my favorites so far are the lycanthropy-as-metaphor-for-puberty drama Ginger Snaps, written by Karen Walton, and the body-mod gorefest American Mary, written and directed by the Soska Sisters.
Set in that bygone era when downtown New York was overrun with punks and freaks and strip clubs and boomboxes and graffiti, Times Square follows the adventures of unlikely duo of Pamela Pearl (Trini Alvarado), a shy, lonely, wealthy 13-year-old girl and abrasive, anti-authority 15-year-old punk Nicky Marotta (Robin Johnson). They meet in a hospital where they are undergoing tests for seizure-related issues, but they soon break out together and decide to make it on their own in the streets of New York City. They move into an abandoned warehouse (or train station? or something?) and do well enough for themselves stealing food, taking clothes from some old trunks they found, and dancing (clothed) at a club.
Diagnosed with a debilitating heart condition in her childhood, 22-year-old Chantaly does not leave her house much. Her mother died in childbirth, and her doting father raised her as best he could, but she has always felt the absence of a mother in her life. As an adult she lives quietly, running a small laundry service from their home with the help of her cousin, and playing with her adorable dog Moo. She starts experiencing visual and aural disturbances that might be her dead mother’s ghost, or might be a hallucinatory side-effect of her heart medication. Chanthaly becomes convinced her mother is trying to reach her, trying to tell her the truth about her death, and she gradually comes to distrust and resent her well-meaning but overprotective father.
When quiet, respectable anthropologist Dr Hess Green (Duane Jones) takes on a new assistant, George Meda (Bill Gun), he unwittingly changes the course of their lives. Though amiable and talkative, Meda is neurotic and suicidal, and prone to violent moods. One night, he accidentally attacks Green, stabbing him with an ancient dagger taken from the (fictional) Mythrian tribe. Meda soon after kills himself, while Green is left cursed with a hunger for blood and apparent immortality. Fearful of persecution (he’s the only black person in his wealthy neighborhood), he hides Meda’s body and claims his assistant ran away. But when Meda’s long-suffering wife, Ganja (Marlene Clark) shows up looking for him, Green’s secrets can’t help but tumble out.
Trying their soon-to-be-totally-famous hands at the sexy noir thriller genre, Andy and Lana Wachowski made their directorial debut with Bound in 1996. Gina Gershon stars as Corky, a hardened ex-con recently released from prison, trying to keep her head down as she does some home improvement for an unprejudiced employer. The apartment she’s working happens to be adjacent to that of mob lackey Caesar (Joe Pantoliano) and his girlfriend, Violet (Jennifer Tilly). Feeling an instant mutual attraction, the women soon begin a steamy affair, though Corky doesn’t think it’s anything lasting.