Were-grrl (2002), by Amy Lynn Best
A Different Look (2002), by Lindsay Bane
esc (2002) and Viva Stop Frame Animation (2002), by Eric Fleischauer and KC Milliken
By definition, the world of modern underground B movies lacks big budgets and big-name stars. But whatever their virtues, these truly independent, straight-to-video science fiction, horror and slasher movies have long shared something unfortunate with their Hollywood counterparts: a tendency to cast women in the role of helpless victims.
That's always bothered Amy Lynn Best. Best is a B-movie believer if ever there was one. She met her future husband, Mike Watt, a decade ago, when he was a live cast member at late-night screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the old Hollywood Theater in Dormont. Best was a regular at the shows, and soon after they met she was helping out on Watt's student-film productions.
Since then the couple has spent many a weekend at conventions for horror and science-fiction enthusiasts, the kind of places where vendors deal in videotapes, toys and posters, and where, say, Ray Park -- "Darth Maul" from Star Wars -- might show up to sign autographs. But actual movie screenings at the convention were a mixed bag for Best. Too many bloodied bimbos.
"It is kind of hard for me to watch these movies over and over where they run through the woods and get murdered," says Best, who's 30. And in the male-dominated world of B flicks, even when you hear "lesbian vampires," what you get is softcore with fangs.
Two Halloweens ago, returning from the Chiller Convention, in New Jersey, Best conceived of a silver bullet: a lesbian werewolf movie, but one that parodied stereotypes rather than reinforced them.
Co-written with Watt, Best's short video Were-grrl makes its Pittsburgh premiere at the April 8 installment of the Film Kitchen series.
The April 8 screening also includes esc, a stop-motion-animated action short about the adventures of a computer mouse, by Eric Fleischauer and KC Milliken, and Viva Stop Frame Animation, Milliken's light-hearted short about the painstaking process of making esc. Fleischauer was recently awarded Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowship worth $5,000.
Also at Film Kitchen is A Different Look, University of Pittsburgh senior Lindsay Bane's account of the reactions she got when, as a student abroad in Dublin, Ireland, she suddenly decided to shave off all her hair.
To some in Dublin, Bane's new haircut suggested she was a lesbian -- just the sort of presumption Best has fun with in Were-grrl. Best's willing co-conspirator is her star, Jasi Cotton Lanier, a bisexual pinup queen and B-movie actress. "She was doing a lot of victim roles, and she was really sick of it," says Best.
Best's filmmaking is inspired by old science-fiction and horror, but also by Russ Meyer and Doris Wishman -- the latter of whom put a woman's spin on exploitation films. Just like her leading lady Lanier -- who ditched movie victimhood and learned how to be a stuntperson instead -- Best hopes to change B movies from the inside out. Next she's directing Severe Injuries, a feature-length movie about an incompetent serial killer. It, too, is a spoof. "We're just tired of all the normal stuff," says Best. "What you don't want to do, you make fun of."