So, what about horror specifically made you think ‘This is the genre I want to make films in’?
When I was a little kid (about 4 or 5) I used to stealthily watch scary movies from behind the couch, which is pretty creepy on its own. My older brother and cousins would watch scary movies and I wanted in – so this way I got to see saw Child’s Play and The Nightmare on Elm Street without anyone being the wiser.
Instead of having nightmares, I wanted more.
I got my own video store rental card when I was 14 and went to work. I had a good list of what I’d already seen by this time, but I got to rent some great classics on my own. Halloween, The Exorcist, Poltergeist, Black Christmas, Slumber Party Massacre and Carrie were among my favorites.
They all had one common element – Female presence. Our hero often was a woman – something sorely lacking in many other genres.
I love the flexibility of what Horror actually means. I absolutely feel that people who think they don’t like horror just haven’t found the right style for them yet, there is definitely something there for everybody.
I’ve talked about your short film Time’s Up on this website before. I enjoy movies that feature hauntings that are just as sombre as they are scary. What were some of your influences for this one?
I pitched the idea to my husband (amazing Director Kristian Lariviere!) of doing more of a ‘slow burn’ horror film. Which seemed really impossible since I had to try to keep it under 15 minutes. I had just seen House of the Devil, which I really enjoyed. I loved the idea of letting fear seep in slowly.
There’s something really terrifying about the silence around seemingly normal tasks, on a normal day. I’d like to explore that more in the future – that was one of my favorite scripts to write.
You produced and acted in the short film Puritans which has won some awards. What was it like to get recognized for that film?
It was amazing. We won Best Film and my husband Kris won Best Director at the Digi 60 Film Festival in 2013.
We were feeling overwhelmed at the time. When we signed up for the festival, it felt like was the real start to the still seemingly endless wave of news stories about women constantly being violated in horrendous ways by men.
Feeling disappointed and disgusted with the world really made us want to write a story to symbolize these stories and start a good fight. We did it and we were so proud when people responded the way they did.
The film is available on Amazon Prime and YouTube. People still love it – although, there is the occasional chauvinist pig that likes to criticize the story as being man-hating and religion hating. Those people make me feel even better about putting it out there. If it threatens you, then maybe you’re on the wrong side of this story!
Do you have any projects coming out that you can share with us?
Do I ever! Our first Horror Feature, Hens Night is going to be available for rental and purchase on February 16th 2018!
Hens Night was experimental for us. The first Feature I’ve ever written.
It doesn’t hang on to any old tropes. We cast actors that people can relate to, and we really wanted you to understand them before any horror happened upon them. I wrote it for the women out there that don’t “like” horror. I want them to give this a chance. You don’t get any horror with this one until you have an opinion on our characters. Whether you love them or hate them, I wanted our viewer to feel something for them. There’s a tragic love story in there too, but not the kind of you’re used to.
Check http://www.hensnightfilm.com/ to find where you can see it now!
How can our readers support your work?
Watch what we can do, write to us, share with your friends!
I’ve already talked about the launch of Hens Night on February 16th, but if you’re short on time, we have a few shorts available that you might want to see.
Additionally, we completed our second feature, a Christmas Horror Anthology called ‘UNHOLY NIGHT’. This one is being submitted to film festivals worldwide at the moment and we are in distribution talks!
So if you’d like you can take a look at the trailer and send us your good vibes!
UNHOLY NIGHT trailer:
We’re both from Ottawa which is often known as ‘The City that fun forgot’, when you first started out making films here, what were your expectations for the horror community?
I didn’t really have any expectations – I didn’t have a clue how many people are part of this community! I was really surprised and happy. I finally found my tribe. Every time I meet someone new who shares my interests I’m so excited. The support has been so wonderful.
And I have got to defend our city. Sure, if you just go to work and retreat back to your chosen suburb and stay there day in, day out…then Ottawa is definitely no fun. But if you get out there, anywhere central, you’ll see that Ottawa is a lot of fun. We have places like the Mayfair Theatre, House of Targ, Art & Film festivals all over the place. Incredible food scene too. People just have to be willing to…you know…leave their homes!
Do you have any fun/nightmare stories to share from the set of one of your films?
We shot our wraparound storyline for ‘UNHOLY NIGHT’ over the course of two overnight shoots in an abandoned wing of a hospital at the wonderful Gallipeau Centre in Smiths Falls.
It used to be known as the Rideau Regional Hospital. It used to house children and adults with cognitive disabilities, and some physical. At times, from what I’ve read about it, they exceeded their capacity by thousands. It closed down in 2009.
A few crazy things happened during that shoot. One of our cast members saw an apparition at the end of a hallway that seemed to mimic her body movements.
My husband was on the bottom floor and heard children giggling. He was white as a ghost when he returned to the holding room to see that we were all there.
I felt the tiny hairs stand up on the back of my neck a few times, and saw a figure in a black hoodie watching us film when no one else was actually in the building.
I’m so thankful that we had the opportunity to use the hospital as our location. It really was a character in its own!
What have your experiences been like being a female producer/director so far?
Nothing but 100% positive. I did my Directorial debut with the Digi60 Film Festival with a 3 minute long short film you can see here called Retention. It was a great experience, it really got my feet wet. It’s far from a horror project, but still really fun!
Then I co-directed Time’s Up. The feedback has been incredible. People have been nothing but encouraging. I’ve made some Incredible partnerships and friendships with other creatives in the community.
I’ve been really passionate about trying to support women-led projects. Recently my friend Lana Bateman and I came up with a project that we are really passionate about. A project that we hope will encourage women to embrace, and get involved with, horror filmmaking. I have to be vague about it for now, but we are hoping to announce our project in the spring!
Any advice for people that want to get started making horror films?
Watch as many as you can, read the scripts and get out to any one of your city’s film events to make some connections. Use the resources available to you and just do it! All you really need is a good script, at least one good actor, and one location. The less complicated, the better.
Jennifer Allanson can be found on twitter here