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Picks from the 2018 Ax Wound Film Festival

To mark the tenth year of Women in Horror Month, celebrated every February, Steven Allison chooses his top five films from their 2018 Ax Wound Film Festival, an event which champions horror films made by women.

‘A decade of blood’ – February 2019 marks ten years of Women in Horror Month celebrations (Image: Women in Horror Month)

February is stuffed full of awareness events, with Women in Horror Month (WiHM) being one of the lesser known. Yet, it’s an event that people, especially fans of the genre, should be made aware of.

According to its website, WiHM is “an international, grassroots initiative, which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries.” This “inclusive and positive movement” celebrates the contributions of women to horror via its Ax Wound blog throughout the year and via numerous events across February.

Every November, WiHM also hosts its annual Ax Wound Film Festival, featuring horror films made by women or those who identify as women. If you’ve never heard of the festival, or if its Vermont location wasn’t too handy for you to make it in 2018, don’t worry – I’ve now watched all the official selections from the 4th annual Ax Wound Film Festival. And while it was a tough pick, I’ve managed to round up my top 5 films. Here they are:

Nepenthes, written and directed by Ariel Hansen

5. Nepenthes (2018)

Ariel Hansen’s gripping horror-mystery follows lonely Max (Ariel Slack) as she tries to make a meaningful connection by inviting over Venus (Tristan Risk), an online dating match. ‘Why would she do that?’ you may ask yourself, but in today’s world of Tinder, Grindr and the likes, people are inviting strangers into their homes all over the show. With technology as it is presently, this film is of such contemporary relevance.

Nepenthes demonstrates why caution is advisable when meeting people online. This is an essential film for the moment, turning instinct on its head. Its pertinent message is delivered with the help of great visual effects (I can’t say any more than that) and a twist you won’t see coming. A fun short with strong undercurrents.

Lovesick, a 2018 film by Cassandra Sechler, Dreams for Dead Cats Productions

4. Lovesick (2018)

Cassandra Sechler’s off-kilter, symbolic body-horror is sickeningly brilliant. The writer-director pulls us into a dying alien’s twisted grume of a fantasy about the human experience of sex, and the outcome is graphic and unsettling. This oozing genre experiment, with a transformative performance by Sechler herself as the alien, offers a vile but thought-provoking insight into the world of perceived ideals and objectification.

Lovesick shows the grisly anguish, dripping thrill, and sweeping interpretations involved in being removed from yourself and landing in a perceived other. Its 8-minute runtime gives viewers enough space to go through a wide range of emotions, leaving you feeling moist and rigid (not in that way, unless you’re into aliens that is).

Good Morning, a short film written and directed by Elaine Mongeon

3. Good Morning (2017)

Elaine Mongeon’s 12-minute horror-drama is a shining example of good things coming in small packages. It follows Cate (Maya Kazan) and her cancer-ridden father Henri (Jamie McShane) as they learn to adapt to unexpected circumstances.

Good Morning may tackle some sad stuff, but it ends up doing so in rollicking-fun fashion. About as subtle as a shotgun, this expectation-subverting film starts off as one thing and ends up an entirely different creature; both parts equally enjoyable. The shift is brilliantly jarring yet gratifying, providing a clever structure and complementing some excellent narrative pacing.

42 Counts is written and directed by Jill Gevargizian (Image:
Method Media & Sixx Tape Productions)

2. 42 Counts (2018)

Jill Gevargizian’s gloriously distressing horror-drama follows as Ava (Andrea Dover) and Alicia (Najarra Townsend) attempt to uncover a dark secret during a girls’ night watching horror films and talking about their love lives. Based on a true story, this slickly simple yet effective indie short tackles the darker side of human nature while remaining firmly rooted in reality.

42 Counts demonstrates that true evil can be found in the most unexpected places and that it would surprise the best of us just how many of those we know have a twisted voyeuristic streak in them. The dramatic outcome is both shocking and terrifying, haunting viewers with a sickening sense of dread long after its 8-minute runtime.

Braid, written and directed by Mitzi Peirone (Image: Blue Fox Entertainment)

1. Braid (2019)

Mitzi Peirone’s surreal, noirish horror-thriller follows Petula (Imogen Waterhouse) and Tilda (Sarah Hay) as they become immersed in a dangerous, candy-coloured world of fantasy to rob their crazy childhood friend Daphne (Madeline Brewer). This frightening, wonderfully oddball debut feature is both bold and unafraid of delving into the more sinister side of female friendship.

In Braid, a unique, outré aesthetic is paired with some unconventional, dizzying camerawork and swift, twisty narrative changes. All of these elements work in conjunction to continually surprise and provide a truly unsettling, visceral experience. This film will pull you into an unsavoury, feverish waking terror that you might find it hard to escape. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted.  

Main image credit: Ax Wound Film Festival


Steven Allison

Freelance writer, editor and proofreader

Steven is a Scottish freelance writer and editor living in London. You'll often find him in a cozy corner of some coffee shop or other working on an article or his first novel. He also loves to learn French, sketching, and bake in his spare time.

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