Features Film

Alison Roberto & Landon LaRue On Their Satirical Horror, Girls Night In

Producer Landon LaRue and director Alison Roberto’s Girls Night In was created based on the Bechdel test.

The test examines works of fiction to see whether there are interactions between female characters that don’t involve discussing a man. Which of course begs the question, where is the most ridiculous place these two women could be fighting over a dude. Well, what if he was there to kill them? This genre-bending horror-comedy short has combined satire and horror perfectly which is not an easy task. Girl Night In will screen in official selection at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival.

Landon and Alison join us on Close-Up Culture to discuss women in horror, worn-out tropes, self-funding, and much more.

This is such a fantastic idea for a short film. Can you tell us about your relationships with horror and particularly the genre’s presentation of female characters?

Landon:  I love horror movies because in general, there is a clear delineation of good versus evil and you have an obvious protagonist to root for. Women in horror are also usually represented more favourably – at least the “final girl” is – and is the only genre where women speak as much as men. Stereotypically, women in film are portrayed as weak, vulnerable, and damsels in distress, and while there are women in horror who are portrayed the same way, so are the men.

Alison: Halloween is my favourite horror film of all time. Jaime Lee Curtis evolved into a true badass throughout that series. Horror is one genre that hasn’t shied away from strong female characters. Sure, it has also given us vulnerable damsels in distress, but it’s also given us Ellen Ripley, Clarice Starling and Sidney Prescott.

Can you talk about some of the female characters in horror films that you enjoy and those you don’t?

Landon: Sydney Prescott is my absolute favourite because she does her best to move on from the tragedy in her life but when Ghostface comes out to bring her down, she kicks into action without hesitating. Scream takes a character who has a past/internal wound and turns it so that it becomes her superpower.

As for female characters I don’t enjoy them – that would have to be the trope of “the bimbo who dies first” which of course, brings up the conversation of Madonna vs Whore but we can get into that later.

Alison: Jaime Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode for Halloween is an absolute icon. Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley for Alien was one of the first times, I saw such a strong, badass woman taking the lead. That film came out in 1979.

I don’t enjoy the ‘couple having sex in the barn is getting killed’ trope. And here’s a gratuitous tit shot followed by death. 

What was your trigger point to make Girls Night In?

Landon: I’ve had Girls Night In written for years but it sat in a drawer. I came up with the idea when I was on the dating apps and my first question was “are you a serial killer” in conversations but realized it may have not been a complete deal-breaker. It was a dark time in my dating life. Ali and I were offered a fully-funded feature (she would direct, and I would do a rewrite) but the financiers and we had radically different ideas about how women were represented in the script so we decided to make a movie we could feel proud to show.

Alison: Landon and I had been offered a fully funded feature film and when it came down to it we did not agree with how women’s rights issues were coming across in the film and we stepped away from it. After Landon shared the initial script for Girls Night In we decided to self-fund and create something we were proud of and could stand behind vs something we morally questioned and felt apprehensive about.

There’s so much great satire in here. How much fun did you have ridiculing these worn-out tropes?

Landon: The limit does not exist.

Alison: I felt strongly that playing up the tropes of horror movies we love would make the switch into satire that much more surprising. The slow camera push-ins, the killer lurking in the shadows, the voyeuristic points of view through windows and bushes. It all helped to establish horror patterns that everyone feels safe with (in the vein of ‘Scream’). But when we get to the bathroom scene there is quite a tonal shift that launches Girls Night In into a genre-bending category of its own.

This project was self-funded. What were the biggest challenges to getting this short made?

Landon: We were self-funded, and I am so blessed to have the relationships and friendships I have because we were able to get gear, the location, the talent and the crew at a “very, very good friend” rate.

Alison: Any self-funded short film has its challenges with funding, timing, and resources. We brought together a wonderful group of talented friends to help make this happen. Landon and I produced the film ourselves and handled wardrobe, art department, and blood clean-up. We called in every favour. Our cinematographers were also a huge help, Brian Henderson got all the gear donated and Sébastien Paquet edited the film himself. We also decided to shoot this entire film in one overnight to save on costs. We filmed it over Valentine’s Weekend in 2021 and finished the post in about a month to submit to festivals. 

And what have been the most rewarding parts of making this short?

Landon: Having someone quote a line back to me makes my heart go boom.

Alison: We had a Los Angeles premiere last October at Screamfest at the Chinese Mandarin Theatre. It was my first time watching a film with a real audience. To experience the reactions and laughter was undeniably the coolest thing ever. The jokes were hitting, the audience appreciated the satire,and it was a beautiful experience. There were moments along this journey where Landon and I questioned if people would understand the film, but when I got the call from Tribeca asking us to be an official selection those concerns quickly faded. 

Girls Night In is a wonderful short and I highly recommend it to audiences at Tribeca. What are your hopes for the short?

Landon: I’m currently writing a feature version of Girls Night In and the dream is to have it become a reality.

Alison: Landon is currently writing the feature version of Girls Night In. Our hope for the short is to have the feature made. 

And lastly, what are your hopes for female representation in horror and cinema more generally in the future?

Landon: I hope those who identify as women take more of the reins in cinema (producing, writing, and directing) overall but mostly in horror because the protagonist is always a “weak” person who comes into their power, and nobody knows that struggle as well as the historically disenfranchised community. 

Alison: I’d like to see more strength and confidence right out the gate. Like Rose McGowan’s character, Courtney, in Jawbreaker or Megan Fox’s character, Jennifer, in Jennifer’s Body. I like unapologetic rebels for my female protagonists.

Keep up with Alison – alisonroberto.com

Follow Alison on Instagram – @alisonroberto

Check out Girls Night In at the Tribeca Film Festival – https://tribecafilm.com/films/girls-night-in-2022

Read our interview with Girls Night In star, Jess Adams – Close-Up: An Interview With Jess Adams – Close-Up Culture (closeupculture.com)

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