As we continue to celebrate Women in Horror Month, we chatted cult actress, producer and director Emma Dark about her inspirations, body of work and upcoming projects.
When growing up which actresses did you look up to?
Is it stereotypical to say Lynda Carter as “Wonder Woman”? I also liked Nichelle Nichols as Uhura in “Star Trek” the original series. Bare in mind we’re talking about a very young age indeed here and I doubt I would have been able to separate the actress from the character, so this is more directly liking those exact characters.
At that age I also admired any kind of warrior women in the fantasy films of the 80’s. Going forward into my teenage years, Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in the “Alien” series of course, and Jenette Goldstein as Vasquez in “Aliens” are actresses and characters that spring to mind.
Considering the Scream Queen era of the early 80’s, do you feel women have always shown strength in horror films?
Not overtly, not always. Trends in the way women are represented on screen come and go in waves, according to time periods / society, and genre. At the minute, certainly in Horror and Sci-fi we do have female characters playing lead parts and clearly showing emotional or physical strength (thank goodness).
I do find often in film though, even when we have a strong female character there are still points in storylines where the female character has to become slightly inept or fragile (or nude, or all of the above while nude) and then has to be rescued or steered by a male counterpart. The nudity and airhead style character is still particularly prevalent amongst the lower budget indie horror I find, and those are the films I tend to avoid.
Which high profile horror franchise would you love to be part of and why?
Tough question, many many choices! There are lots of popular film franchises I would like to be part of if somebody turned around and offered me the chance to direct, or play a role. If we’re talking about female lead horror, then “Species” would be a great one to work on. I’m a huge fan of the Horror / Sci-fi cross genre, it gives you so much scope for creativity.
So, why would I like to be part of this particular series? It’s perhaps not an ‘entirely’ original concept – a beautiful woman harbouring a dangerous killer instinct which she can’t control, but the scope for creating something artful in the films very distinct H.R. Giger styled world would certainly appeal to me.
Tell us about your favourite recent female horror characters?
I absolutely adore Jessica Lange in “American Horror Story”, she’s delivered an amazing performance in every role she’s played across the series. More often than not the characters she plays aren’t very nice people, but she always delivers a compelling performance which takes you right there into the story with the character.
Most of the female characters we see in “American Horror Story” are strong and empowered. I also particularly like the performances of Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, and Angela Bassett. In terms of fairly recent films I really liked the performance of Scarlett Johansson in “Ghost in the Shell” and “Under the Skin”.
The characters she plays in these films are generally considered fairly sexy, and they could have been played more towards that angle, but she really holds her own and gives the characters a sense of dignity and sparklingly deep intelligence.
Do you think horror needs another memorable female villain?
Horror ALWAYS needs another memorable female villain. I honestly think women make some of the best baddies, although more often than not we see women portrayed either as a victim, or sometimes as an ass kicking super / anti-hero.
We also often see women portrayed as evil characters in more paranormal scenarios, with films such as “The Ring” and “The Woman in Black”. It would be nice to see more characters like Julia Cotton in “Hellraiser” whose dark heart is human, and cannot be explained away for being a fantasy or paranormal character.
Tell us what you’re working on at the moment?
At the minute I’m taking my latest short film “Salient Minus Ten” (a dark cerebral Sci-fi) around the festival circuit. It had a fantastic Leicester Square premiere in London (UK) last November at the British Horror Film Festival, went on to play in front of a very large horror crowd at the Dark Side Magazine’s DarkFest, and has recently played at PanicFest in the U.S. and Billy Chainsaw’s Nova Night’s in the UK. The next stop for the film is Starburst Magazine’s festival in Manchester UK, and I’m currently awaiting further festival notifications.
I was very lucky to have cinematographer Philip Bloom onboard, who has previously worked with George Lucas, and is himself a household name. Plus experienced actor Alan Austen (Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark) in the lead role of Adam Harper, who has previously been directed one-on-one by Steven Spielberg for Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I also brought back Chris Hampshire and Beric Read from my previous film “Seize the Night” in supporting roles, and dragged my friend and fellow filmmaker Samantha Oci into another supporting role. A big shout out to Samantha by the way, she’s a great filmmaker in her own right, can definitely be classed as a women in horror, and doesn’t get nearly as much credit and exposure for her work as she should.
I also brought back further alumni from “Seize the Night” including the very talented composer Eric Elick, VFX Artist Davy Simmons, and AD Merlyn Roberts. Plus I got to work with some other fantastic crew members such as SFX Artist Mike Peel (The Descent, Shed of the Dead), and Sound Designer Chris Collier.
Check out Emma Dark’s YouTube channel HERE