She Kills is a new podcast from Shudder all about women in horror. Hosted by Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog, Escape From New York), the podcast features in-depth conversations from women working in the genre, including legendary actress Barbara Crampton and director Karyn Kusama.
Adding She Kills and expanding their podcast roster in general is a good move for Shudder. Horror fans are always hungry for behind the scenes content, as well as celebrations of our oft-overlooked idols, and the documentary Horror Noire recently was a major success for the service.
The first episode of She Kills is a conversation between Karyn Kusama (The Invitation, Jennifer’s Body) and actress Emily Deschanel (TV’s Bones). Barbeau’s narration serves to introduce both women, then occasionally through voice-over set up questions or topics for them to discuss. It was a slight disappointment to realise she wasn’t going to be present for the conversation, as I’m sure she’d be able to provide a lot of insight of her own.
Kusama and Deschanel discussed their careers and films, with a heavy amount for Jennifer’s Body, as well as the genre overall. Politics dominated a good part of their conversation, as clearly the Kavanaugh hearings in the U.S. were still front of mind. Kusama believes that the hearings, which caused many women to feel depressed and powerless, is partially responsible for the resurgence of interest in Jennifer’s Body.
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But not every episode of the podcast is as heavy as this. The second episode, with Jennifer Tilly (Bride of Chucky) and film critic Grae Drake, looks at the lighter side of the genre, much like the Chucky films themselves. Tilly speaks about her experiences working on the films (and admits to never having watched the Child’s Play movies that don’t have her in them), and also horror fans and feeling welcome in the fandom.
Both Tilly and Drake, and Kusama and Deschanel before them, talk about how horror can be perceived as a second class genre, and how that makes it a refuge for the ‘other’ in film: women, the LGBT community, people of colour, etc. It’s something I hope is explored further in later episodes — hopefully with someone from those communities as part of the conversation.
The third episode was, unfortunately, my least favourite. Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman) and Staci Layne Wilson (Cabaret of the Dead) discuss rape revenge films, a tense topic about a controversial subgenre. The conversation didn’t tackle the concept as hard as I would have liked, with McIntosh and Wilson speaking about revenge films more broadly, including Carrie and 9 to 5. They also talked about male rape on film, and didn’t have much kindness for Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge. While I appreciated their perspectives, the best parts of their conversation came when they strayed away from Shudder’s pre-set ‘rape revenge’ questions and towards topics like their love for 70s filmmaking, or how they shut down characters being called bitches constantly.
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The episode highlighted my main frustration with She Kills so far — many of the conversations are fairly surface level. The episodes are only 30 to 40 minutes, with a few questions or topics for the guests to get through (provided in voiceover by Barbeau). The structure doesn’t lend itself to more in-depth conversations. With someone like Jennifer Tilly, that’s more than fine — she has enough charm and fun stories to keep you hooked! But when broaching heavier subject matter, it fell a little flat.
Overall, She Kills is an engaging podcast with plenty of insights into the world of horror films from the women who make them, but the series could be more polished. Hopefully, Shudder continues to adjust and the series grows even stronger. Listening to these women and giving them a place to champion their work, revisit their favourites and talk about trends in the genre, old and new, is time well spent.
She Kills premieres today (1 March) and is available on iTunes.