Scream Queen for Halloween

American film The Love Witch, which kicks off the festival, is about a sorceress who snares men with love potions, with horrific results.
American film The Love Witch, which kicks off the festival, is about a sorceress who snares men with love potions, with horrific results.PHOTO: SCREAM QUEEN FILMFEST TOKYO

Festival features horror films from around the world, made by women, about female characters

Horror fans have seen a big improvement in recent years when it comes to women characters.

It is now rare for women to be written in just to be victims or sex objects, which was the norm right up to the 1990s.

Film-maker Mai Nakanishi thinks a lot more can be done though.

After a four-year run in Japan, her Scream Queen FilmFest Tokyo goes abroad for the first time and lands in Singapore this weekend in time for the Halloween festivities.

Nakanishi curates the festival, which features horror films made by women and about women characters.

"We have an array of female-led films with strong and dynamic female protagonists which we are very excited about," says the Tokyo-based film-maker in an e-mail interview.

The festival kicks off tonight with the American film The Love Witch (2016, R21, 120 minutes), a retro- style drama about a sorceress who snares men with love potions, with horrific results.

  • BOOK IT / SCREAM QUEEN FILMFEST TOKYO

  • WHERE: The Projector, Level 5 Golden Mile Tower, 6001 Beach Road

    WHEN: Tonight till Sunday, various times

    ADMISSION: $13.50

    INFO: Go to theprojector.sg for schedule and bookings

This will be followed by a programme of 20 horror short films tomorrow and on Sunday.

Nakanishi's programme is part of this weekend's range of Halloween horror activities at indie cinema The Projector.

The Scream Queen shorts come from around the world and reflect a range of styles. Some drip with camp and black humour - Hard Broads (2015) is about women who have to transport the body of a celebrity while Tampoon (2015) is about a woman's sanitary product that turns evil.

But other films are flat-out creepy, says Nakanishi.

"There are quite a few that can be considered horror films, such as Nasty, Seiren, Summoned, The Puppet Man, The Stylist and Madre De Dios," says Nakanishi, who is in her 30s.

Madre De Dios (2015), from Canada, is about a woman who finds herself trapped in a black magic ritual while The Stylist (2016), from the United States, deals with a hairdresser with dark intentions towards a client.

Singapore is the first international stop for Scream Queen partly because of Nakanishi's connection to the island. It was where she lived for a time from age 11 after her father, a branch manager in a Japanese company, was posted here.

She has also done film work here and is credited as assistant director on Singapore film-maker Eric Khoo's segment, Cinema, in last year's 7 Letters anthology.

"I spent all my teenage years in Singapore and going to theatres was one of my most important after-school routines. I feel that I have a good understanding of local tastes," she says.

She points out that the festival is not a platform to raise awareness of women's issues.

"We want to showcase amazing works created by women for both male and female horror fans."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2016, with the headline 'Scream Queen for Halloween'. Print Edition | Subscribe