Horror Favourites from Final Girls Berlin Film Fest -Amanda Reyes

The Final Girls Berlin Film Fest runs between February 6 – 9, 2020 at City Kino Wedding offer a sensational line up of horror features, horror shorts and horror talks. We where lucky enough to hear to some of the amazing people taking part including Horror Specialist Amanda Reyes.

Amanda Reyes is an archivist, author, film and television historian and academic. She edited and co-wrote Are You in the House Alone? A TV Movie Compendium: 1964-1999 (Headpress, 2017) which celebrates the made for television film, and was featured on Barnes and Noble’s Best of Horror list for 2017. She’s been a guest speaker at international film festivals, TV movie screenings, and conferences in such places as the UK, Australia, and the United States. She’s also contributed commentary tracks for several made for television Blu-Ray releases and curated a series of made for TV mystery screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse.

For the Final Girls Berlin Film Fest Amanda Reyes presents Horror Comes Home: Women and The Made for Television Movie: 1964-1999. She will discuss how small screen horror is a women’s genre that explores issues that are relevant to its large female viewership. Through the lens of cultural theory, marketing practices and history, Amanda will discuss how several films voiced the anxieties, fears and desires of women as they were experiencing the world during and after the second wave feminist movement. Her talk is sponsored by the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival and will be held on February 7th, 16:00-17:30 at City Keno Wedding.

Below Horror Specialist Amanda Reyes discusses her favourite horror:

“The most difficult part of picking a Horror Favourite is that I have so many! But since I’m coming to Berlin to talk about women and the TV genre film for the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival, I thought I’d go with my favourite female-centric made for television genre movie, Fantasies.

Fantasies came out in 1982 and stars Suzanne Pleshette as Carla Webber, a divorced woman who goes from a jilted housewife to the creator of a very popular night time soap. Unfortunately, she’s lured in the wrong fan, and someone starts picking off her cast-mates, one by one.

There are many reasons to love Fantasies. First and foremost, it’s a genuinely fun film. Suzanne Pleshette is given lots of great dialog, which she delivers it with an incredible bite. Carla is strong and glamorous, but she’s also a caring mother and shows compassion when it’s due and needed. She’s very likable and the character’s rags to riches story makes her relatable as well. (And let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be Suzanne Pleshette?)

Fantasies is basically riding on the coattails of the slasher boom of the early 1980s, arriving right at the tail end of that genre movement. Sure, it’s played down for television, but the kills are inventive and surprisingly brutal for the small screen. I watched it when it originally aired and at an age when I was still slightly too young to get into anything slasher related playing in the theater. Fantasies became a gateway film for me. It is different than your regular Friday the 13th, since it’s focused on adult characters with serious careers and there’s not a lot of partying, but the murder set-pieces scream S.L.A.S.H.E.R., and I love it!

Fantasies is also doing a couple of really amazing things. For one, it’s responding to an anxiety felt at the tail end of the second wave feminist movement when women were becoming more secure in choosing a career over living as a housewife. Carla is essentially built on these women, starting as a homemaker who has no idea what to do when her husband leaves her, but then manages to pick herself up and finds great success following her passion. And, while the killer seems to be a response to a sort of tension with the rise of female independence, Fantasies makes sure that Carla stays fairly autonomous throughout. With a few exceptions of course, since there is a romance and ultimately a male hero, but the work is being done, and done well.

Finally, Fantasies is an extremely self-aware film. Real life soap actors were cast to play the soap actors in Carla’s show, and there’s a lot of discussion and exploration on what life was like for those actors when the soap opera was at its height of popularity. Lines get blurred between the fans who saw the actors as their characters. And that might be the scariest part, because that is a very real phenomenon for some people who watch a show five days a week, and start to feel close to the characters on that series. As a soap fan, I found it to be insightful and fascinating. (as a side note: screenwriter David Levinson was inspired to write Fantasies after John Lennon was murdered)

Finally, that last camera shot tells the audience that the filmmakers are more than aware of the meta-narrative. In a way, it’s a very accomplished film, and it did enjoy great ratings when it originally aired. Approximately one-third of America tuned in, and it ended up as the sixth most watched TV movie for the 1980-1981 season. As it stands, it remains a fascinating cultural artifact. One though, which has also sadly fallen by the wayside. It has never enjoyed a legitimate home video release.

Here in Austin, where I live, I was able to screen Fantasies as part of an ongoing series on the history of television which is held by the Austin Film Society. It drew a really nice crowd and had a great reception. I was so excited to show it and so pleased that everyone saw its merits, because Fantasies is a very special film for me. I don’t think it’s perfect, but I do think it’s thoughtful and great fun. And, there’s a real sense of comfy nostalgia there too, if you love soaps or slashers… or both (i.e. if you are me).

And Carla Webber’s wardrobe? Now, that’s perfection.”

The fifth edition of Final Girls Berlin Film Festival will take place between February 6 – 9, 2020 at City Kino Wedding continuing to raise the bar by showcasing horror written directed, and/or produced by women and non-binary filmmakers. The exciting program features eight curated short blocks and nine feature films, a horror-inspired self-defense workshop, an exhibition, a festival party with multimedia drag performances, and specialist talks.

TWITTER: @finalgirlsfest
INSTAGRAM: @finalgirlsfilmfest
FACEBOOK: www.facebook.com/finalgirlsberlin
WEBSITE: www.finalsgirlsberlin.com

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Alex Humphrey

Alex studied film at the University of Kent and went on to work for Universal Pictures in their Post Room gaining an inside look at the movie industry from the very bottom. Constantly writing reviews in everything from local magazines to Hip Hop sites Alex honed his critical skills even spending a brief period as a restaurant critic. Read more

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