WOMEN IN HORROR: Jennifer Cooper on Launching a Film Festival and Women in the Horror Industry

Jennifer Cooper is the founder of the Jennifer’s Bodies Film Festival, a yearly festival that is part of the Official Women in Horror Month. At this year’s Glasgow Horror Festival, she presented two short films celebrating Scottish Female filmmakers.

I got a chance to sit down and talk with Jennifer about the difficulties of creating your own horror festival, women in the industry, and much more.


Cooper: First and foremost, what got you interested in horror?

Jennifer: Definitely it was films. The first horror movie I ever remember watching was Poltergeist at the age of six. However, I did watch V (TV miniseries, 1983) prior to that. The first person you could say that I ever had a crush on was Robert Englund when I was about four. Which is really fucked up because he became Freddy Krueger. So maybe that’s a little bit weird. Until Sean Astin came along in Goonies.

C: What intrigues you about horror to want to stay involved in it as an industry?

J: Horror was just always the area that I was always fascinated with. Just in general. When I think about the films that affected me as a kid like Poltergeist or The Birds that I watched when I was seven, living in a sea side town, that’s gonna fuck you up a bit because seagulls are everywhere. But yeah it [horror] was always something that sucks you in and kind of gets to your deepest fears. I’ve found that most of the films that people are actually scared of, and things that actually get to them, are things that they’ve watched when they were younger.

C: What is needed in a horror movie for it to be considered good?

J: Something that makes you feel really uncomfortable. Like, I love all my kind of shlocky, fun slasher films. But something in there has to make you feel uncomfortable.

C: What were some of the factors that went into creating the Jennifer’s Bodies Film Festival? 

J: Basically the first year of Women in Horror Month, my friend Nia, who I met on an X-Files message board in the UK, the two of us got into the whole women in horror scene just as it was coming up as an official month. Then she did a film festival called Ghouls on Film. Which was really fun and really cool thing to do but then when the next year came up Nia wasn’t able to do it. So there was a void in what was actually going to happen in this country. I randomly said on Facebook, “Oh, I suppose I could do it.” Straight away I had a lot of support from everyone involved. Which was great because then it was all these women coming together to make something.

C: What is it about the films that you choose for your festival that stand out enough for you to select them? 

J: At the end of the day these [film characters] were people that I could relate to. They were the stories that I could relate to. It was also looking at it from a fan perspective when you have the whole stereotypical image of a woman hiding behind a guy and we wanted films that are like “fuck that.” All of the old stereotypes in horror really piss me off. Also, if I like something then I just like it.

C: Who are some of your favourite female actors in horror that you admire?

J: Amy Steel from Friday the 13th: Part 2. She’s a total badass in that as Ginny. Growing up, Amy Steel was one of my all-time favourites. Like, I just re-watched April Fool’s Day last week and there’s just something incredible about her and I wish that she was still working today. To me, it’s having this character that still stands out decades later. If I think of an inspirational woman in horror [I think of] Ginny. She’s my girl.

C: How would you fix the horror industry to be more inclusive of women? 

J: I think that we need to get rid of making a distinction between male and female [horror films]. But one of the things that troubled me is that whenever I tried to question anyone on “Who is one of your favourite female directors?,” the only answers I would get would be Sofia Coppella and ‘that chick’ who did The Hurt Locker. And Katherine Bigelow is fucking awesome but there are other female directors beside her.

C: What are some of your favourite films and what films are you excited about that are coming out soon? 

J: There’s a Jeremy Renner film that I really enjoy called Dahmer. What really blew me away about that film was the soundtrack. I actually ended up interviewing one of the artists for Jennifer’s Bodies the blog. Like, I absolutely loved them. To me personally it’s one of my all-time favourite films. My favourite films are always kind of weird. So I’m super psyched about Marc Meyers film My Friend Dahmer. Plus the Ted Bundy film with Zac Efron that’s coming out and the film with Leonardo DiCaprio who’s playing H.H. Holmes.

C: Do you have a favourite monster?

J: The original Creature From The Black Lagoon. Geology, paleontology, global warming, environmentalism they’re all underlying themes. Anything to do with environmental awareness is summed up in that film. Things that I’ve studied. The fact that you have this weird creature who’s fascinated by this woman and he’s not violent, he’s not aggressive per se. It’s someone that’s misunderstood by society.

C: Thank you so much for talking with me.

J: You’re very welcome.

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