As you may know, February is “Women in Horror” month. To celebrate, PromoteHorror.com asked women from different professions if they would like to answer some questions about being a “Woman in Horror,” and more. One of those women, who was kind enough to answer our questions, was writer, and actress Dory Hoffman. Lets see what she said about being a “Woman in Horror”…
-PH: When did you first become a horror fan?
-Dory: When I was five, I started watching A Nightmare on Elm St. movies on TV. I had a little TV and VCR in my room. My parents didn’t let me watch Disney films because of the inherent sexism and subjugation of women. But any kind of horror was fair game. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I discovered Stephen King’s books at ten. By 15, I was obsessed with all things horror, especially Wes Craven.
Growing up in Southern California gave me access to Hollywood and year-round horror film props. I used to cover my parents’ mirrors with corn syrup and red food dye, writing I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER! Then I’d drop a fake severed leg from the balcony, make calls with a Scream voice changer, and find other ways to terrorize my mom.
-PH: Was there a specific moment when you realized that you wanted to go from being a fan of horror to a woman who contributes to the genre, or did it just kind of happen naturally?
-Dory: There was a series of events that led to the creation of my feminist film review column, The Final Girl, for the site Psycho Drive-In. I’m an English professor and I once taught at this college in Maryland. One of my colleagues is a writer at Psycho Drive-In and he convinced me to write for the site. The timing was perfect as I had just read the gospel of Final Girl Theory, Men, Women, and Chainsaws by Carol Glover.
I realized that there was this whole lens through which to view film, the Final Girl. I was on a train from New York when I started writing what would later be The Final Girl horror review column. That column got picked up by Horror Homeroom who ran some of my pieces for Women in Horror Month 7!
Ever since then, Psycho Drive-In and I have participated in WiHM and I have even gotten to act in a few indie horror movies! I’ve been in The Theta Girl and Vampyras Psychedelikas, two awesome indie slashers by filmmaker Chris Bickel. I also promote indie horror, review indie films, and interview people in the indie horror industry.
-PH: What does having a “Women in Horror” month mean to you?
-Dory: I can’t tell you how excited I was when I found out Horror Homeroom ran a piece on me! I was on Twitter when I read “Check out Final Girl, Dory Hoffman’s work” and I was like, Holy shit! That’s me! I matter!
It’s such an amazing feeling to be part of a grassroots, international phenomenon that promotes and celebrates women in the industry. I think horror is such a misunderstood genre and women are really underrepresented as directors, producers, and writers. WiHM showcases the amazing work women have been doing in horror and I think it’s about damn time. People should understand that horror does not promote violence against women. Horror recognizes that violence against women exists and provides a space for women to respond to it.
I think people who don’t like horror or think it’s anti-women just don’t want to see violence against women. But we need to see it. We need to understand that rape, murder, domestic abuse, none of that is foreign or alien. Violence against women is real and it happens every day. Horror gives women a space to get the justice and revenge that modern society does not permit. The only difference between horror violence and TV news violence is justice.
Sidney Prescott (Scream), Jennifer Hills (ISOYG), Nancy Thompson (Nightmare). All these badass, empowered female characters get to exact revenge on their attackers. In real life, these women would be torn apart in courtrooms while their rapist runs free. If Scream took place today, Billy Loomis would survive, get an award, then become a Supreme Court Justice. But in horror, justice exists and crimes actually get punished, especially in the Final Girl genre.
-PH: Is there a woman in horror who you consider a role model?
-Dory: Neve Campbell who plays Sidney Prescott (Scream) is my role model. While Final Girls like Carrie White and Nancy Thompson are badass, Sidney’s a little different. Sid doesn’t have to play the submissive virginal role. She can fuck her boyfriend in one scene and save the world the next.
Sidney is also a realistic portrayal of what it’s like for a woman in today’s society to persevere in the face of trauma. I think Campbell does an amazing job playing that character. Instead of playing Sidney as some ridiculous Jessica Jones archetype, Sidney Prescott is a real human being. Neve Campbell’s friendship with the late Wes Craven was also really beautiful. And oh yeah, she’s Canadian so what’s not to love?
-PH: How do you think the role of women in horror has changed over the years?
In terms of the Final Girl’s role, I’m not sure since I’m stuck in 1996. I tend to only watch slashers from the 1990s and early 2000s. Modern horror seems so anesthetized these days. It seems that contemporary horror is watered-down horror TV bullshit. It’s difficult to locate the Final Girl’s revenge on violence against women since that violence can no longer be shown. The only recent Final Girl that stands out to me is Tree from Happy Death Day (2017). Jessica Rothe does an amazing job playing the modern-day Sidney Prescott.
As far as female writers, directors, producers, etc. in film, I think we’ve come a long way. This time last year, I couldn’t even name one female-created slasher. Now I can name one! Slumber Party Massacre (1982). But seriously, Twitter has been an amazing platform that has connected me to so many women in horror. I think we have a long way to go, but the progress made by these women is just incredible.
I’m also really excited to see more Black women in horror and I can’t wait to watch the Horror Noire (2019) documentary now streaming on Shudder. There’s still a huge underrepresentation of people of color (POC) and LGBTQ+ people in horror so we have a long way to go. That being said, I think Get Out (2017) is one of the best horror films of all time. I think it’s such an important film. I am so excited to see what Peele has to show with upcoming horror film, US (2019). Usually, if there’s a POC in a slasher, they’re just the opening death scene (e.g. Jada Pinkett-Smith and Omar Epps in Scream 2). I think there’s no excuse for that. POC and members of the LGBTQ+ community deserve empowering, representative roles in horror. Period.
-PH: What do you think the future holds for women in horror?
-Dory: If you could serve a role in horror that you’ve never done, what would it be?
I’ve acted in films, interviewed filmmakers, written film reviews. I even met Wes Craven and got him to sign my Scream mask! I guess I would really like to go to a horror convention and meet Neve Campbell. I’ve never been to any type of con. I’d love to represent Psycho Drive-In at an event like the Women in Horror Film Festival, Horror Hound, or SDCC.
-PH: Who is your favorite final girl, and favorite female villain?
-Dory: Final Girl? Sidney fucking Prescott. Female villain? Carrie White. I don’t know if Carrie’s a villain. She didn’t start that fight at prom, but she sure as hell finished it!
-PH: Being that this is PromoteHorror.com, please feel free to plug your current/next horror project.
-Dory: Check out the links below to read my Final Girl column and follow other amazing writers at Psycho Drive-In. Stay tuned as I have two pieces coming out for Women in Horror Month, including an interview with indie horror actress, Katherine Elliot! I’m also working on a top-secret project for Psycho Drive-In. Details to follow! Special shout-out to our beloved Editor-in-Chief Paul Brian McCoy for his hard work and support. Thanks!
Read Psycho Drive-In’s Women in Horror content
Read Dory’s ode to Sidney Prescott
We would like to thank Dory Hoffman for taking the time to answer our questions, but more importantly for her contribution to horror!