Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Interview with Filmmaker and Journalist Heidi Martinuzzi

Heidi Martinuzzi is primarily a journalist; she runs Pretty-Scary.net, which covers all aspects of women in the horror genre as news. She’s also lots of other things; a horror fan, pretentious grammar Nazi, believer in social reform and feminism, sexist pig, and filmmaker.

Fatally Yours: How did you fall in love with the horror genre? 

Heidi Martinuzzi: I’d have to say it was when I was a small child, and The Howling (1981) scared the shit out of me. I also was an avid Elvira fan, I watched her show religiously when it was on in Los Angeles, and she was everything I wanted to be and she showed movies I loved to watch.

Fatally Yours: What does “horror” mean to you?

Heidi Martinuzzi: Anything terrifying, I suppose. I mean, on one level, I’d like to say that “horror” to me is terrifying stuff that viscerally gets into your soul… blah blah blah. But that’d just be a load of horseshit. The truth is, horror, to me, means awesome-looking monsters, lots of blood and gore, people dying violently, silly storylines, implausible situations, supernatural fun, and a really good time. That’s all.

Fatally Yours: How and when did become involved in the horror industry?

Heidi Martinuzzi: Well, I guess the things I’ve done that actually qualify me as being ‘involved’ the ‘industry’ of horror are my website, the fact that I’ve actually acted in several low budget horror films, and the fact that I made a short horror film and am now making a documentary. Everything else I do (show up at lame conventions, hang out at parties) is just part of having fun. To actually ‘be’ in the industry, you have to create some legitimate part of it, I think. Otherwise you’re just a groupie.

Fatally Yours: What inspired you to start Pretty-Scary.net?

Heidi Martinuzzi: I started it with a few other chicks who, like me, wanted the freedom of our own site to write what we wanted, when we wanted, and we wanted to post horror-related stuff that was of interest to us, as women. So all the news and stories and reviews are either written about women, or for a female audience, and hopefully usually both. When I started the site in 2003-2004, there really wasn’t anyone else out there trying to celebrate women in horror (can you really count Femme Fatales? Nah), so we wanted to do that.

Fatally Yours: Within the horror genre, what is one thing that totally ticks you off in regards to how females are portrayed?

Heidi Martinuzzi: Well, I can’t say that I get ticked off about anything in regards to how women are portrayed, as actresses and characters, in horror movies. I mean, horror traditionally has really vile and lame stereotypes for both men AND women; but they’re fun and fake. The films that have complex characters and good storylines are usually really great for both females and males.

What does irk me is how female horror directors do not get the same ‘cult’ status that males do, simply because they are female. You can walk into any convention and meet horror directors who are there as ‘guests’, but the fans have almost no interest in meeting the women who have directed stuff. Pet Semetary is a better movie than Diary of the Dead, but when was the last time a horror fan wanted Mary Lambert to sign their DVD? Or, when was the last time Jackie Kong was invited to show Blood Diner at a convention or film festival? The chicks NOT in front of the camera are not appreciated by the fans, and I am not sure why that is. That irks me. Actresses get plenty of attention, though – I don’t think we need to worry about that.

Fatally Yours: Many (though not all) horror films feature violence that’s explicitly shown against women. Why do you think violence against women has usually been shown more explicitly than violence against men?

Heidi Martinuzzi: Because in real life women are usually the victims of sexual and physical assault at the hands of men. Women, let’s face it, are physically weaker than men and therefore it is more of a concern for women to avoid death and abuse at the hands of a man. So women walk fast in dark parking lots, carry mace, learn to scream FIRE instead of RAPE so help will come – and in a horror film, it is far more terrifying for a man to experience fear through the eyes of a female character. It is something they don’t get to do that often. And women can relate better to the fear onscreen too, when it is a female victim.

There are plenty of exceptions to this, though. And let’s not forget – we only have two choices when it comes to a victim: male or female. So, at least half the time it is going to be a chick. There’s not really much else we can do.

Fatally Yours: In reference to the previous question, Dario Argento once said, “I like women, especially beautiful ones. If they have a good face and figure, I would much prefer to watch them being murdered than an ugly girl or man.” Alfred Hitchcock elaborated by saying, “I always believe in following the advice of the playwright Sardou. He said, ‘Torture the women!’ The trouble today is that we don’t torture enough.” What is your reaction when reading those quotes? 

Heidi Martinuzzi: I think those men were both very good filmmakers who had good senses of humor and valued women’s looks and saw them as objects to enhance their films. You know, like most of the men who make films.

Fatally Yours: Why do you think sex and violence are so intertwined in the horror genre? How often would you say that nudity and sex scenes are actually relevant to the story in a horror film? 

Heidi Martinuzzi: Nudity and sex are relevant to any storyline that involves people having sex or getting nude. I think most men are perverts, and most horror movies are terrible, so to get more people watching them they provide jack-off nudity. Men want to see nude females, not nude males. That’s why they’re chicks taking their clothes off.

Look, we all have sex in real life. I don’t mind sex. I wish there was more sex in comedies, dramas, and other less interesting genres of film. Having sex and nudity in a film is not going to make it bad, and taking the sex and nudity out of a bad film isn’t going to make it a good film.

When nudity seems forced and really stupid, I find it is usually when the entire film is pretty stupid. As in, the Friday the 13th remake, for instance.

Fatally Yours: Though the horror genre (and filmmaking in general) has primarily been a “boy’s club”, it seems that more and more women filmmakers are getting involved. What is your personal opinion on why there are less female filmmakers than males?

Heidi Martinuzzi: There are less female filmmakers than males because it is really hard to do anything in this world, and doubly hard for a woman to do it. I mean, people, we have to remember that women haven’t even been able to vote for a full century. Are we really going to insist that public response and economic status are equal between men and women only 90 years later? Come on. Give us a few hundred years and I think we will be. But not now. There’s too much residual sexist gunk to sift through and women are still finding their place in western society as free people. Same with African Americans and blacks in other western countries – what are we at, 150 years of freedom? Not that long. Just a few generations. It takes a lot longer than that for shit to change.

That said, I think men hire their friends for filmmaking jobs, and they are mostly friends with other men. Hence, more men get the jobs. It isn’t direct sexism, it is the result of a really complicated social structure that disapproves of women taking traditional roles of power, and that approves of women staying home with their kids instead of pursuing crazy dreams. Some women are now playing around with directing and producing, just in the latter half of the 20th century and this first decade of the 21st. But that’s really not that long a time. I think we’ve come a long long way in these few short years and we should be applauding the women who are taking risks and being creative and following their hearts. The numbers will only increase from here.

Fatally Yours: Have you faced any challenges because of your gender while working in the horror community? 

Heidi Martinuzzi: Nope. The biggest challenge I have faced is that no one in the ‘horror industry’ makes any fucking money, so everyone is broke all the time and just talks about their bullshit script that’s never going to get made. Unless you happen to be Eli Roth, Robert Hall, or the dude that runs one of the two or three major, huge horror websites, you’ve got a shitty day job and really don’t have any level of success. That’s a bummer. You can’t make a living being a horror fan, so you’ve got to either be a successful filmmaker or a lucky writer, and boy, there’s about 4 of those for every 1000 people.

The ‘horror’ industry is still the entertainment industry – it sucks, there are no jobs, and only people who ‘know’ someone have any level of success. There’s a lot of self-promotion, ass-kissing, and various other horrible Hollywood clich├ęs that sometimes makes me want to just sit down and tell everyone to shut up so we can watch the goddamned movies. Isn’t that why we all came here in the first place?

Fatally Yours: What are the greatest challenges in running Pretty-Scary? What makes the challenges and obstacles worthwhile?

Heidi Martinuzzi: Challenges? Time. Money. Server fees. Learning new code so I can run it myself. Coming up with the stories, writing the interviews, organizing the content, recruiting reliable writers who stick around. Tough. Very tough. I’m getting my master’s degree and working as a web designer and running pretty scary, not to mention I watch an ungodly amount of television. So I have zero free time.

But I wouldn’t give it up. Because it is the only thing I’ve done that feels like it really means anything to anyone else. Even if it is a stupid small niche of people or seems obscure and retarded to someone else – I love my site and what it represents, and I love having the freedom to decide what is ‘news’ on my site and what isn’t.

Fatally Yours: Besides being the co-creator and editor-in-chief of Pretty/Scary, you’ve also wrote, produced and co-directed a short film called Wretched. What drew you to create this film? 

Heidi Martinuzzi: Wretched is about my struggles with bulimia, and it was a very personal story I wanted to tell. I also wanted to try my hand at filmmaking, and some things are ‘now’ or ‘never’. This was one of those things. You have to just ‘do’ something that you feel strongly about. You can’t sit on your ass and keep waiting for the right moment because there will never be a right moment. If you have a desire to make a movie, you should do it. Because look at all those other assholes out there making bad movies? Chances are, worst case scenario, it really couldn’t turn out any worse than, let’s say, a Jim Haggerty film.

Those were the things that motivated me. And also, I really wanted to explore the horror behind the psychological pain of bulimia. I think I did that.

Fatally Yours: You are also directing and producing a documentary about women who are married to men who make horror films for a living called Brides of Horror. What inspired you to make this film and who do you have lined up so far?

Heidi Martinuzzi: Well, you never hear about the wives of the men who make horror films for a living. You just don’t. I wanted to know how they lived, whether they hate what their husbands do for a living, or love it; if they are also horror fans, or if they just don’t care; how their lives have been affected by their husband’s chosen career, or if it has. Who is Wes Craven married to? Can anyone tell me? Probably not. You have no idea. How about John Landis? George Romero? See? No one knows.

We’ve got some amazing people in this documentary. Nikki Wall, wife of low budget horror filmmaker Cree P Creepersin; Rileah Vanderbilt, who is engaged to Adam Green; Spooky Dan Walker and his visual-effects artist wife Tammy Sutton; plus Wes Craven, Joe Dante, Elizabeth Stanley, Julie and Roger Corman, Darren Lynn Bousman and his wife Laura, and hopefully Axelle Carolyn and her husband Neil Marshall. I hope to also involve some more people in the industry over the next year, but haven’t solidified those yet.

Fatally Yours: Do you have any other film projects that you’d like to pursue?

Heidi Martinuzzi: Yeah! I’d love to make funny stuff.

Fatally Yours: How is your book on women horror directors coming along? Any word on when we might see it published?

Heidi Martinuzzi: Thanks! Lol. Well, I’d say it’ll be a year or two yet before I have any publishing news for anyone. Had to put it on hold to get my master’s in journalism.

Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you admire?

Heidi Martinuzzi: Elvira, because she’s awesomely funny. Also, Cassandra Peterson for creating her. I also admire Milla Jovovich for doing nudity with almost no boobs and not giving in and getting implants.

Fatally Yours: What are your thoughts on the modern horror climate? 

Heidi Martinuzzi: Remakes are hit or miss, foreign films just retell The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with more gore, and a lot of really shitty stuff gets over-hyped by the horror journalists who want to be friends with the filmmakers. And if I have to see another zombie film I am going to puke.

However, I am really looking forward to seeing Human Centipede when it comes to DVD, because that’s just some sick shit. And I’m a pervo weirdo; I love to see really gross, sick shit in movies. I really do.

But I have to say, I think Paranormal Activity was OK, not great, but I am really happy a small indie film got to play theaters. I think it is indicative of how rapidly the industry really is changing and how willing the theater and studio systems are becoming to that inevitable change.

Fatally Yours: If you could interview one woman, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Heidi Martinuzzi: I’d interview Lucille Ball and ask her what William Holden is REALLY like. No, I’d probably interview Marie Antoinette and ask her why she was such a cunt. See, this opportunity would be totally wasted on me.

Oh! I know! I’d interview Jon Benet Ramsey, and ask her who really killed her. There.

Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you?

Heidi Martinuzzi: Sarcastic, fun senses of humor, intellectual conversations, proper grammar, and making fun out of ordinary everyday crap. I’m influenced by the need to better myself and to stand out for something worthy before I get old and die.

Fatally Yours: What’s the last horror movie that made you think “this is some fucked up shiznit!”? 

Heidi Martinuzzi: If I said ‘shiznit’, it must have been an urban horror film.

I think the last fucked up movie I saw that really got under my skin was probably The Commune, directed by Liz Fies, in which some horrific child abuse goes on! Wow, what a film.

Also, Family Demons by Ursula Dabrowsky has some really good, ‘ahhhh, nooo that’s so effed up!’ moments.

But, like I said, I can hardly wait for Human Centipede. I eagerly await having to hold in my own involuntary vomit as I watch a human being shit into the mouth of another, unwilling human being.

Hey, I didn’t write the damn movie. I’ll just be watching it, so don’t blame me.

Fatally Yours: What has been your best experience while working in the horror community? What’s the worst?

Heidi Martinuzzi: Best experience is getting to meet and know people I have idolized onscreen. Another reason I love this business is all the cool people I’ve met who are amazing filmmakers and artists and who I can really talk to about movies. The WORST is having to put up with undeserved egos, especially from the journalists, including myself. Ugh, I don’t know how we stand ourselves.

Fatally Yours: What advice would you give women who want to become involved in the horror genre?

Heidi Martinuzzi: Go to college, and try to make money. Don’t just fuck around screwing hot guys and going to cool parties, because you’ll end up over 30, broke, alone, and with no future.

Fatally Yours: Where can people read more about you?

Heidi Martinuzzi: At Pretty-Scary.net! Come on by!

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