Thursday, February 11, 2010
Interview with Horror Critic Nia Edwards-Behi
Nia Edwards-Behi is relatively new to horror, but has been embracing the genre through her blog Cannibal Hollywood as well as writing for Horror-Movies.ca. She has a passion for cinema, evident in her current endeavors to earn her Masters degree in Film Studies at the Aberystwyth University. She’s lived in Wales all her life (and likes it that way), and did half a degree in Celtic Studies before deciding to embrace her passion for film academically. She spends most of her time watching, thinking about, talking about, reading about or writing about films. Horror is her favorite, but she’ll watch almost anything (although she tends to steer clear of hideous teen or romantic comedies). She has a soft-spot for pretentious art cinema, too…and films where stuff blows up.
Fatally Yours: How did you fall in love with the horror genre?
Nia Edwards-Behi: I guess it’s been a bit of a progression. I’m still relatively new to being a proper horror fan, but I’ve always been a bit of a geek, being a fan of Star Trek and Buffy as a teenager (and I’m still a giant X-Files fan!). Being at university cultivated a love for horror, between being taught by horror lovers and being so close to a fabulous horror festival. I’m a film fan anyway, and I think that horror is such a rich genre that it’s difficult not to fall in love with it!
Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?
Nia Edwards-Behi: A whole lot! It allows an exploration of the darker side of life, while simultaneously bringing such joy and fun! Horror is so versatile and so broad, I think it’s a shame it’s not loved and celebrated more widely. There’s always a sense of having to defend horror, and it’s something I’m proud to do. I’ve also met so many fantastic people thanks to horror – be that online or in person – which really makes it all the more special.
Fatally Yours: How and when did you start writing about the horror genre?
Nia Edwards-Behi: Around a year and a half ago, when I started my blog, Cannibal Hollywood. I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the remaking of horror films, which is something that, as a fan, really pisses me off, but as a film academic, really interests me. I thought that starting the blog would be good place to write my less academic thoughts! I’m a bit hopeless at keeping it updated, but it’s a great outlet for whenever I want to write something horror-related! I’ve also written editorials for Horror-Movies.ca, which have most often been on the topic of gender and horror – I wrote a response to a very contentious editorial posted by another user which claimed there was no such thing as feminist horror! I’ve also written a few reviews for FilmSnobbery.com which have usually been horror-related!
Fatally Yours: What is one thing you’ve done within the horror genre that you are most proud of?
Nia Edwards-Behi: Hopefully come February it’ll be the event I’m trying to put on for Women in Horror Recognition Month! So far though, I’d say it’s probably being involved with Abertoir, Wales’ only horror festival. I’ve attended it yearly from day one, and this year I helped out with running the show, just by looking after guests and attendees and generally lending a hand! It’s a great little festival that has a wonderful sense of community, so I’m really proud to be able to say that I’m a part of that.
Fatally Yours: How would you convince people who aren’t horror fans to give the genre a try?
Nia Edwards-Behi: I think I would start by asking them what it is about horror that they think they wouldn’t like, and then point them in the direction of horror films that aren’t like that! I hear so much of “oh, I don’t like gore” so I’d say “go watch The Innocents!” As I’ve said, horror is such a rich genre and I think people who aren’t fans tend to dismiss it based on misconceptions. I mean, of course horror isn’t for everyone, but I think people can miss out on some great, great films if they simply see the label “horror” and choose to pass it by.
Fatally Yours: In your opinion, what constitutes a good horror review? What guidelines do you follow when reviewing something?
Nia Edwards-Behi: I’m quite easy with reviews, as in, sometimes I can just pick out something that really stood out in a film and just focus on that. Of course, it’s good to know a reviewer’s thoughts on the acting, direction, music, editing etc., but I think reviews can get quite dry if that’s all they consist of. I think it’s important to give a film a fair review – for example, dismissing a low-budget indie film solely for bad acting and rubbish lighting, to me, is a little unfair, if it’s otherwise got a nice strong story. I’m not a fan of unnecessarily harsh reviews (although lord knows I’ve been scathing at times!).
Fatally Yours: Do you feel women in horror get the proper recognition when compared to their male counterparts?
Nia Edwards-Behi: I don’t think they do. It’s only as I’ve become a pretty big horror fan that I’ve become more aware of women working in the horror industry. I’m lucky enough to have always known of women who really love horror, so have never felt too much like I was in a boys’ game, but as an industry the male-centricity is very apparent, especially on websites. This focus on women as decorations for horror films is really massively annoying. I’m all for celebrating beautiful women, but when “news” sites report the casting of an actress in a film with a headline that amounts to little else than “check out this hot photo we found an excuse to post!” it gets a little embarrassing. Why not post something about a great new female director instead?
Fatally Yours: As a woman who writes about horror, have you found it harder to be taken seriously in a genre that seems to be dominated by males?
Nia Edwards-Behi: Luckily, no. In terms of my blog, I do think that’s due to it simply not being especially high-profile anyway. My editorials for Horror-Movies.ca were met mostly really well, even by some users who are otherwise very much your typical male horror fan who get excited over Jessica Biel in a tank top. I think it’s great that there are men out there who are supportive of female writers too, but it’s a shame that they still seem to be an exception, rather than the rule.
Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed a change in women’s roles within horror whether it be roles in horror films, women behind the camera or women writers?
Nia Edwards-Behi: In terms of women in horror films, I think there are some amazing examples of truly interesting female-centric horror films: The Descent, Ginger Snaps, Inside, Martyrs, REC, The Orphanage, Grace…and yet these films are all made by men! And I think that’s great, because it goes to show that the men who still insist on making horror films with really embarrassing female characters – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake, Friday the 13th remake, The Unborn – are the ones out of the loop, even if they’re dominant. In terms of women making films, I still think they’re limited to the indie circuit – and within that make great films. It’s interesting that generally speaking, women in film have been getting a lot of attention lately, with the likes of Kathryn Bigelow achieving great success. I think while women in Hollywood are generally, very slowly, garnering bigger profiles, because horror is still marginal in this sense it’ll be a lot longer for women to get the recognition they deserve in the industry. Having said that, a great project like Women in Horror Recognition Month will do a great a deal to help draw attention to the talent that is out there!
Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you admire?
Nia Edwards-Behi: I have a really horrible habit of going for characters rather than real people, you know! Working on Women in Horror Recognition Month is changing that though – Hannah [Neurotica, founder of Ax Wound, a feminist horror zine], who’s started this all off, is a massive inspiration. She’s so energetic and creative, it’s utterly infectious. I’ve also recently got to know a ton of female bloggers and writers who I all admire – I don’t always agree with what they write or how they write it, but it’s great to see a thriving community out there. I also really admire Emily Booth, who does a lot for horror in the UK – she’s an actress, a writer, a presenter! – and she’s been doing it for years, which goes to show not only is it possible for a woman promoting horror to be popular, but to have longevity too.
Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you to keep writing about horror?
Nia Edwards-Behi: Probably all the films I discover, be they new or old! Luckily as someone who’s only become a real fan in the past years, there’s a still a wealth of classics I’ve yet to see. Then there’s all the great new horror that’s being made – which, in my opinion, is mostly coming out of Europe (especially France!) these days – which can be either a hell of a lot of fun, or thoroughly thought-provoking. Feedback and comments on what I write help a lot – I rarely get a ton of comments, but just having one person say “I agree!” or “I disagree!” is enough for me to think to myself “I’ll do this again”. There’s also the stuff around horror – the criticism, the commentary – which I find to be really interesting and food for thought! I recently wrote a piece defending Twilight, of all things, because although I whole-heartedly agree that it’s pretty damn shitty (even though I consider myself a “fan”), I get really pissed off at how a lot of the criticism of the books and films gets aimed at the young girls enjoying it, and that is something I think is a.) thoroughly sexist, and b.) really unfair! I wrote that knowing that most people I know really despise Twilight, so it was really great to see people respond positively to it, because that’s great motivation to keep writing.
Fatally Yours: What are your favorite horror films and books?
Nia Edwards-Behi: Oh, there’s a tough question! I watch far more horror films than I do read books (that’s generally true), as I tend to read books that have been adapted into films! I’d say my favorite horror films are The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (I really love German Expressionist cinema), Eyes Without a Face, The Wicker Man, Suspiria, Profondo Rosso, The Silence of the Lambs (although I could argue all day that those last two aren’t horror films), Halloween, Let the Right One In, Martyrs (and all the recent French ones!), Repo! The Genetic Opera…I could keep going! In terms of books, I do love Stephen King, and I adore the Let the Right One In novel too (the film is such a wonderful adaptation of it). A recent guilty pleasure of mine is the Sookie Stackhouse series of books, on which True Blood is based – they’re so tacky, but so fun!
Fatally Yours: Outside of horror what do you enjoy doing?
Nia Edwards-Behi: Watching films! I’d eat films for breakfast if I could. Luckily, because I’m a film student, I have good reason to watch as many films as possible, and my taste is quite eclectic. I don’t have time for much else, but I do enjoy the usual things – listening to music, reading when I get the chance, going out for a sneaky drink! Film really is my primary passion, though!
Fatally Yours: What are your goals for yourself within the horror genre?
Nia Edwards-Behi: I’d love to one day be writing books on horror films. I’m currently studying for my Masters degree, and I hope to write my PhD after that (which *fingers crossed* will be on horror remakes!). I would really like to get into lecturing and researching film, and horror would definitely be a focus of that! Otherwise, I want to continue to work on events and festivals – and if I can raise the profile of women in horror through that, all the better!
Fatally Yours: Where can people find your reviews/more info on you?
Nia Edwards-Behi: My blog is at http://cannibalhollywood.blogspot.com (and I have a more general film blog at http://nice-chiani.blogspot.com), and my writing can also be found at http://www.horror-movies.ca (as stonecypher) and http://www.filmsnobbery.com. I’m also on Twitter and of course Facebook!