The Ax Wound Film Festival shines a light on women in horror, while Mixtape Vol 1 showcases some great horror shorts by the genre’s best female talent
The Ax Wound Film Festival, presented by Women In Horror Month, is preparing for its third annual festival celebrating women in horror — and Morbidly Beautiful is honored to be one of the event sponsors.
As a promotional tool, and a way to raise funds to keep the festival going, Ax Wound has released a VHS of recent horror shorts that played at the two previous festivals. Ax Wound Film Festival Mixtape Volume One is a collection of ten horror shorts, all directed by women and hosted by Kaci “Homicidal Homemaker” Hansen.
The spotlight on women creators proves that horror thrives on and needs the voices of women in the genre. While I love the Soska Sisters and believe they are wonderful ambassadors for women in horror, the conversation needs to expand beyond the Soskas. When a horror franchise is opened for a director to move in, we can no longer afford to fall back on the Soskas as the go-to female directors. As fans of horror, we must demand opportunities for other talented women to showcase themselves. It’s time to open up the field and demand that producers allow their voices, as yet unheard, to be heard, and that we fans will stand with women creators.
In that vein, the Ax Wound Film Festival Mixtape Volume One gives fans a look at a handful of talented women. It’s up to us to spread the word, help get their names known and acknowledge that horror is better with women, like these creators, influencing the genre.
1. BEAUTY SHOT (Leticia De Bortoli)
In this story, Rebecca is an attractive woman who is unhappy with her appearance. She peers into a mirror pulling at the skin at her face, twisting it, trying to find some beauty in what she views as ugliness. On her television, a commercial plays advertising a beauty tool kit that allows a person to redesign their own face with the tools in the kit. Mostly dialogue free, BEAUTY SHOT is a critique on society’s value on looks and the businesses that prey on people’s worst fears for money. A truly horrifying segment opens this collection as Rebecca discovers that beauty is more than skin deep. As the credits roll, an actual plastic surgery procedure is shown, at an escalated speed, which is incredibly uncomfortable to watch.
2. OUT OF MY SKIN (Nadine L’Esperance)
The story is dialogue free, but not any less impactful for the lack of dialogue. Mom’s daily life is a tedious drudgery of taking care of kids, cooking for the husband, and cleaning the house — it’s enough to make mom want to crawl out of her skin! When the pressure gets too much, who doesn’t feel like sitting back with wine and peeling off the drudgery of the day? Anyone who is a homemaker can relate to OUT OF MY SKIN, and HELLRAISER fans will enjoy the gruesome makeup effects used in this short. While very brief, OUT OF MY SKIN is very effective and one of the high points of the tape.
3. RECIPE (Olivia Saperstein)
The third short, RECIPE, is one of my favorites of the collection. Saperstein gives an entirely new meaning to the definition of “raw diet.” Not for the faint of heart, RECIPE is a tremendous story on the desire to find ways to stay fit and healthy. It is also a warning that you may want to steer clear of recipes involving nuts.
4. CLEANING HOUSE (Andrea Wolanin)
The next short on the tape is the partial first person POV or “found footage” style movie CLEANING HOUSE. Two women film their “house cleaning adventure” on their smartphone. Most of the movie is shown in this phone camera POV until the end when it switches to the more traditional audience view. While I’m not a fan of the found footage/first person POV type of film, CLEANING HOUSE is more effective in the phone camera vantage point, and it made me wish that Wolanin had kept that vantage point throughout the entire short. That one nitpick aside, CLEANING HOUSE is a nice twist on the home invasion sub-genre, and the characters of Claude and Chuck are perfectly cast in their role as the adventurous house cleaners.
5. PINKY TOE, PINKY TOE, PINKY TOE (Lina July)
PINKY TOE, PINKY TOE, PINKY TOE by 3-year old Lina July is hard not to like, though it does go a bit long. The short is, essentially, Lina saying “pinky toe” and playing with her Pop! Horror toys. Kudos for the parents making sure their daughter is educated on horror, and PINKY TOE… has a very nice payoff at the end of the tape.
6. NEWBORN (Simmer Cheema-Innis)
NEWBORN is the story of Marris, who finds a mysterious container left at her front door. Marris opens the container and ends up having a hair-raising experience. Stephen King once talked about the importance of not having to explain everything in a story. He meant that sometimes things happen in his stories, and it’s best not to explain why or how they are happening. In that instance, he was talking about his short story ‘The Moving Finger” about a man seeing a multi-jointed finger emerge from the pipe in his sink. That same idea, of not explaining the origin of the horror, applies to NEWBORN. The mystery of the sender and the contents of the package deepen the horror of the story. The creeping terror intensifies as the story unfolds, leading to a truly satisfying end to NEWBORN. Kudos to the special effects team for the design of the creature in this short.
7. DR. DREADFUL’S CREEPSHOW (Megan Petasky)
The only animated short in the collection is DR. DREADFUL’S CREEPSHOW. The first thing that is noticeable about this short is the animation style, which seems to be influenced by Tim Burton and Charles Addams. Petasky marries her influences with her own distinct sense of style and artistry to create something truly unique and, if you excuse the pun, morbidly beautiful. DR. DREADFUL’S CREEPSHOW gives us a look inside a macabre sideshow club that is not for the faint of heart, and you certainly want to ensure that your organ donor card is up-to-date before planning a visit to this doctor.
8. SEIREN (Kat Threlkeld)
SEIREN is also in the running for my favorite installment of this horror anthology. If you’ve seen the movie BITE, then SEIREN will be a familiar story. Abby is a model on a shoot. She is bitten on the ankle by something in the ocean — something unseen. After the bite, Abby begins to exhibit strange behavior like craving salt and dreaming of mermaids swimming deep in the ocean. Abby is going through a transformation that she can’t understand and is she is frightened. There are no surprises in SEIREN, but the movie is really well done, and Abby’s transformation after the bite, while not as over-the-top gross as the transformation in BITE, is still quite unsettling. Despite the familiarity of the story, SEIREN triumphs and is one of the best selections of Volume 1.
9. BELLE NOUVEAU (Cassandra Secular)
BELLE NOUVEAU is a visual nightmare that plays a bit like a film school project mixed with industrial noise sound and sexual and mechanical imagery, harkening back to some 90s-era Nine Inch Nails. BELLE NOUVEAU is filled with striking imagery and the choice to film in black and white adds to the unsettling feel of the film. Like PINKY TOE, PINKY TOE, PINKY TOE earlier in the collection, the brevity of this piece works in the film’s favor, as the noise score and blunt images don’t have the chance to overstay their welcome.
10. RED RED (Ama Lea)
The final entry of Volume 1 is my favorite entry in this collection of shorts, and possibly the strongest film. RED RED is a love letter to giallo slasher flicks. Everything you love about Italian giallos is here — the palette of bright reds and blue colors, a killer who wears black gloves, nightmare images, highly sexualized characters, and explicit and bloody deaths. RED RED starts with an unidentified blonde man with a very young blonde girl on his lap. It’s clear he has been or is about to start molesting this girl, but before he can act, someone with a strange killing contraption at the end of a long chain appears to kill the man. Jump forward a number of years to a young woman, Julia, inheriting the house where the initial murder happened. As she gets close to her neighbors and begins to make friends, the people in her world begin to meet mysterious and bloody ends.
Ax Wound Film Festival Mixtape Volume 1 is a solid collection of horror shorts — and a worthy addition to any horror fan’s collection of movies. Along with the anthology film XX, Volume 1 is an incredible showcase of talent. My hope is that these women continue to create more stories in the horror genre.
Not only is Volume 1 a great collection of horror shorts, but the cost of the tape goes directly to the festival to help keep it going for years to come. Click here to purchase.