February is Women in Horror Month, a time of year where we recognize and celebrate the ever-growing contributions of women in the horror entertainment industry and in horror culture. Like any industry, horror has largely been a boys club for as long as it has existed, with only a few break-out stars managing to overcome the socially created stigma of sex in order to have their work recognized. But in recent years, there has been a shift in the landscape and women are finally being recognized for all of the incredible work that they do. While most websites and magazines are full of directors and actresses, scream queens and final girls, few still recognize the important work being done by women in making our nightmares a reality in everything horror related.
Let’s start with film. We know about all of our favorite actresses. We can probably list them off the top of our heads. Danielle Harris, Jamie Lee Curtis, Barbara Crampton, Felissa Rose… just a few of the iconic women of horror cinema that we’ve come to know, love and be terrified by. But what about the women who actually make the movies happen? Not the directors or even the writers, but the talented conceptual artists, effects artists, camera, sound and light technicians? What about the editors who piece together the final cut of those nightmare-conjuring scenes? Have you ever stopped and thought about the hard work and dedication from these behind the scenes artists?
Here at ZIMB, we have a fondness for the convention scene and cosplay, and there are phenomenal women creating inspired takes on classic creatures and making entirely new creations every day when it comes to fan art and costuming. This past year, I had a chance to see some of the best cosplayers and costumes in the Southeast at Hypericon and Dragon Con. With designs ranging from the simplest to the most intense and realistic I’ve seen, it was impressive. My favorite was a duo of Scooby Doo baddies who are on the verge of being professionals. Elliot Thomas and Bella Mello didn’t so much create the Space Kook and Witch Doctor as they did pull them right out of the cartoon and parade them through the convention. The designs were contradictory — simple, but astonishingly complex — and that made them stand out like no one else.
Meanwhile, the Nashville Zombie Walk produced dozens of absolutely astonishing, horrific and original concepts by some very talented women with a passion for horror and performance art. And talking about the Nashville horror scene, you have to keep in mind the ladies of Evil Dead: The Musical and the numerous professional haunters living for Halloween in the mid-state. One particularly horrific clown, Nutty McGooferton, sounds like a lot of laughs, but she’s anything but with her eye-gouging fetish and sadistic laughter. Of course, when she’s not terrifying children, she’s entertaining them as a slightly less terrifying party clown who secretly longs for a year-round haunted attraction where she can spend her days traumatizing the young and the young at heart.
Outside of performing arts, though, the tattoo industry is deeply rooted in horror. Inking skin with characters and creatures from your favorite horror films is an astonishing and popular ritual with horror fans. But you have to make sure you find an artist whose talents matches your passion. Artwerks in South Nashville has just such an artist with Maxxwell Kelly. A raver punk, former model and cartoonist, Maxx’s recent exploits on Instagram and social media have blended the soothing comfort of your grandmother’s Precious Moments collection with the nightmarish conjurings of Clive Barker and other horror masters in adorably sadistic original characters and designs.
There’s more to horror than movies and Women in Horror Month is about women in all aspects of horror art and culture. Art, music, pop culture and costumes are all a part of the diverse culture that surrounds the dark, bizarre and macabre world of horror. The only thing better than the continuing evolution of this culture are the contributions being made by women all over the world and right here in our own town. So, this month, as we celebrate Women in Horror, keep in mind that it’s not just the scream queens and giddy girls in slasher films that are making the world a little bit stranger.