+

Jovanka Vuckovic hates when it happens. But when you're a film director and a woman, it's inevitable: People are going to think you're on set in a different capacity.

"I've been on film sets where the stunt man comes up and says, 'Oh, are you hair and makeup?' Uh, no. 'Are you wardrobe?' No," Vuckovic says. "'Oh, then what are you doing here?' I'm the director. 'You don't look like a director.'"

"Well, what's a director supposed to look like?"


Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

A former horror magazine editor from Toronto, Vuckovic has been a fan of the genre for many years. Working in publishing and later in the male-dominated filmmaking world, it became clear to her how underrepresented women were behind the camera and, thus, how wildly misrepresented they were in front of the camera — particularly when it comes to horror.

"I kept asking people, 'Please, can you just write women characters as actual human beings?'" she explains. "I got tired of asking, so I just decided I'm going to do it myself."

Vuckovic's short film "The Box" is part of a horror anthology, "XX," that's garnering a lot of buzz at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

For many moviegoers, it's both a scary film and an important endeavor.

The trailer for "XX" is pretty damn terrifying. But even cooler, the anthology — which features four short films, including Vuckovic's — is completely women-led, with each film directed by and starring women.

Peyton Kennedy in “The Box," Vuckovic's short film in "XX." Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.

Vuckovic says women made up roughly 80% of the crew for her short. On most sets, that ratio is basically flipped.

Along with "The Box," "XX" features Roxanne Benjamin's "Don't Fall," Karyn Kusama's "Only Living Son," and Annie Clark's "Birthday Party."

If the trailer (embedded below) is any indication, each short appears as scary as the next. There's no shortage of creepy children, torn-off fingernails, and camping trips gone awry between the four dark tales.

"Birthday Party" marks the directorial debut for Clark, who's better known to most as musical artist St. Vincent. Her involvement helped "XX" premiere at Sundance on Jan. 22, 2017, to a sold-out crowd.

Directors (from left) Roxanne Benjamin, Annie Clark, Jovanka Vuckovic, and animator Sofìa Carrillo at Sundance. Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images.

The thrill-seeking audience at Sundance loved the barrier-pushing concept of the film anthology just as much as it loved the blood, guts, and screams — probably in part because of how different "XX" truly is.

Historically, filmmakers in horror have been overwhelmingly male. And that means women on-screen are often portrayed in trope-y, unrealistic roles.

While the male gaze and gender stereotyping run rampant throughout most genres of film, horror may arguably be the worst offender. From the damsel in distress and evil seductress to the sexually liberated woman who must be killed and the vengeful lover, a handful of tropes have largely carved out the types of dehumanizing roles available to women in horror.

Actor Peter Cushing and producer Anthony Nelson Keys on the set of a Hammer Film Productions horror film in 1965. Photo by Terry Fincher/Express/Getty Images.

"The only thing you have to do to make a movie feminist is depict women as actual human beings," Vuckovic says of changing the status quo. But by that standard, many scary flicks fall embarrassingly short.

It should be noted that the genre isn't exactly known for its racial inclusiveness, either, as many films continue to fail at diverse casting: “We primarily see white-washed versions of the world in a lot of movies," Vuckovic says. "Young people need to grow up seeing versions of themselves on screen."

Sadly, there hasn't been as much progress for women in horror (or in Hollywood, more generally) as you might expect.

In fact, as Vuckovic points out, there were actually more women working as writers, producers, and directors during the silent era of film a century ago than in Hollywood today.

Director Dorothy Arzner and screenwriter Sonya Levien in 1930. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Women make up about half of film school graduates at top schools like the University of Southern California and New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, yet they make up just a tiny fraction of actual working directors, MTV News reported. Lack of opportunity outside the academic world plays a big role in that lopsided reality, according to Vuckovic.

Women are "not allowed to fail the same way men are allowed to fail," she says, echoing the same injustice Reese Witherspoon spoke out about in March 2016: Men's movies can flop at the box office and they'll still get a second (or third or fourth) chance at financial redemption. For women, it doesn't work like that.

The good news: Signs are pointing to progress for women in the horror genre. But we all have a part in making that happen.

According to Vuckovic, recent films like "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" and the critically acclaimed "The Babadook" — a film that explores the difficulties of single motherhood through a horror lens — have helped move the genre forward for women behind (and in front of) the camera.

"The Babadook" director Jennifer Kent (left) and star of the film Essie Davis. Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images.

"I don’t think a lot of the filmmakers making horror now know its worth, or realize the potential of the genre," "The Babadook" director Jennifer Kent told New York Magazine in 2014. "Just because it's a horror film doesn't mean it can't be deep."

It's important we take note of the films that are created by women and make sure to support them at the box office, Vuckovic notes — showing that women-led films can succeed financially is the best way to provide more opportunities for more women down the road.

Through "XX," Vuckovic hopes young girls learn there is a space for them in the horror genre, despite what anyone else says.

"Go, pick up a camera, make some movies, and don't take no for an answer," she advises girls interested in the magic of filmmaking. "You didn't go to film school? Who cares. Get your friends to help you, and just start — start somewhere."

"XX" opens in select theaters and on video on-demand Feb. 17. Watch the trailer below:

Joy

Delivery driver's reaction to snacks left for him shows how a little kindness goes a long way

'Seeing a grown man get so excited about Capri Sun is extra wholesome.'

"Dee" the delivery guy stoked to get some Doritos.

Sometimes the smallest gesture can change someone’s day for the better, especially when that act of kindness lets them know their work is appreciated. Over the last few years, delivery drivers have done a fantastic job keeping people healthy during the pandemic, so Toni Hillison Barnett told News 11 that she and her husband started a tradition of leaving snacks for their drivers on the front porch.

The Barnetts, who live in Louisville, Kentucky, can see the drivers' reactions by recording them on their doorbell cameras. “I live for reactions like this to our snack cart! Thx to all of the delivery drivers out there! We appreciate you!” Toni wrote on an Instagram post.

Recently, one of the Barnetts’ delivery guys, a joyous fellow that we believe is known as Dee, went viral on TikTok because of his positive reaction to receiving some snacks during his deliveries. The snacks are tasty, no doubt. But it’s also wonderful to feel appreciated. After Toni posted the video, it received more than 100,000 views.

“Oh my God, you guys are the best, I gotta take a snapshot of this,” Dee can be heard saying in the video. “Oh, Capri Suns are my favorite, Yes!”

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Pixabay/Pexels

Train tracks leading into Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

Kanye West (who has legally changed his name to Ye) has been making headlines—again—not only for his bizarre public behavior, but for blatantly antisemitic remarks he made in recent interviews.

There's no question that Ye's comments praising Hitler and Nazis and denying that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust are hurtful and dangerous. There's no question that bad actors are using Ye's antisemitic comments to push their white nationalist agenda. The question is whether Ye fans would allow their admiration of his musical talents—or whatever else they like about him—to overshadow the fact that he is now regularly spewing pro-Nazi rhetoric to millions of people.

In at least one corner of the internet, fans are responding in what may be the most effective and meaningful way possible—by countering Ye's commentary with a deluge of Holocaust education and remembrance.

Keep ReadingShow less
Photo by Roméo A. on Unsplash

Cat hilariously rats out owner in front of the landlord.

Maybe it's a right of passage into adulthood or maybe some landlords discriminate against pets because they can't tell people kids are forbidden in their residence. Either way, just about everyone has lived in a rental home that didn't allow pets. Most people just abide by the rules and vow to get a pet when they find a new home.

Some people, on the other hand, get creative. I once came across a post on social media where someone claimed their pit bull puppy was actually a silver Labrador. But one woman on TikTok was harboring a secret cat in her rental that had a no pets policy, and either her cat was unaware or he was aware and was simply being a jerk.

My money is on the latter since cats are known to be jerks for no reason. I mean, have you ever left something on the counter for a few minutes? They make it their mission to knock it on the floor. So I fully believe this fluffy little meow box wanted to make his presence known in an effort to rat out his owner.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

'Princess Bride' star Mandy Patinkin shared a moving detail about the film with a grieving woman

Two souls connecting over the loss of their fathers. (Phew, grab a tissue for this one, folks.)

via Mandy Patinkin / TikTok

This story originally appeared on 08.25.21


There was an emotional exchange on TikTok between two people who lost their fathers to cancer. One was actor Mandy Patinkin, the other was TikTok user Amanda Webb.

Patinkin currently stars on "The Good Fight" but one of his most famous roles is Inigo Montoya in the 1987 classic "The Princess Bride." In the film, Montoya is a swordsman who is obsessed with confronting a six-fingered man who killed his father.

Webb recently lost her father Dan to mantle cell lymphoma. She had heard a rumor that Patinkin used his father's death from cancer as motivation in a pivotal scene where he confronts the six-fingered Count Rugen (Christopher Guest) in a duel.

Keep ReadingShow less