Crazyhead’s Raquel: Susan Wokoma, Women in Horror and the Next Generation of Slayers

Published February 20, 2017 by rmpixie

crazyhead

Crazyhead (Netflix, 2016)

 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) was a phenomenon that continues to live on. A TV series spawned from the 1992 cult film, the fandom for a spunky high school student and her crew of friends as they battled vampires, demons and other supernatural fare while dealing with real issues knew no bounds, and new fans of her quest to save the world from creepy crawlies spring up even to this day.

Enter a new generation of shows that have found a home on Netflix. Here, writers and directors have the free reign to offer more than your local cable provider with shows like smash hits Stranger Things (2016), Luke Cage (2016), and Daredevil (2015). There’s also room and the desire for many international contributions as well, including the 2016 comedy horror from E4, Crazyhead.

Crazyhead is the story of Amy (Cara Theobold) and Raquel (Susan Wokoma), two young women who suffer from what doctors think is a mental illness. They see things – people with demonic faces – and are continually told that it’s all in their heads. When they meet one night after a frightening attack and realize they both see the same thing, they join forces to destroy these demons on earth. Raquel also has a special lineage that makes her of interest to the devilish clan, and along with Amy’s perverse puppy-dog of a friend Jake (Lewis Reeves), they go through some crazy hijinks to find answers and not get killed.

With this being Women in Horror and Black History Month, I must focus on British-Nigerian Susan Wokoma, the woman behind the off-the-hook Raquel. I first noticed her in hysterically funny and outrageous Chewing Gum (2015-2017) as the main character’s religious and fearful sister Cynthia. Her performance kept me laughing and cringing, and I was thrilled when I saw her in Crazyhead. Here, she once again kills with one liners and holds her own as the sharp-tongued and zero-filtered but vulnerable Raquel, who just wants to kick some demon ass and figure out life as a young woman with this unbelievable vocation. Wokoma breathes a vibrancy into the character that allows her to take up space and be present, even declaring at one point that she deserves better from Amy since she is a “strong, powerful black woman.” Even though Raquel has issues connecting with people and making friends, she has a great relationship with her patient brother Tyler (Arinzé Kene), full of playful jabs, sibling rivalry and lots of love. I also applaud the writer Howard Overman for making her confident in the way she looks and her space as an attractive black woman. Raquel gets “hers”, she is sexual, she is attractive and doesn’t look to others for validation, even though she may be looking for love. It is refreshing to see a black female character in a leading role own her sexuality in a healthy, non-stereotypical way like it was meant to be treated; like it always had a place at the table. North America should take note of this representation of female sexuality in general.

 

Her counterpart Amy is the perfect foil for her zany observations and plans with Amy’s voice of reason as a helpful, if ignored, counter argument for Raquel’s actions. Together they are a believable representation of young women in today’s world trying to carve out a space for themselves while dealing with the trials of being “normal”. This brings to light a couple of things: it shows how as a woman, your mental health is sometimes glossed over with medications and misunderstanding, and how once they found each other, Amy and Raquel’s bond strengthened their courage and belief in themselves. Although they have some rocky moments in their relationship, it is a real sisterhood.  In terms of mental illness, the title is a touch misleading as they are not actually mentally ill but battling supernatural forces.  They are however, at the mercy of either indifferent mental health professionals or ones that have an agenda.  Either way, this brings out how those living with mental illness may go mismanaged or pushed out of the medical system without much thought to their situation.

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Crazyhead is a comparable British counterpart to Buffy. It holds it’s own as a show, but it wouldn’t be here if Buffy hadn’t blazed a trail, and that’s ok. Joss Whedon paved the way for shows to push the envelope and have fun doing it.  Like Whedon, Crazyhead’s  writer and producer Howard Overman ensures that the dialogue is sharp and funny with a good amount of raunch, and thanks to the cast members, the delivery is on point.  He’s worn the same hats and worked his magic for The Adventures of Merlin (2008-2012), as well as being the creator for The Misfits (2009-2013), Atlantis (2013-2015), and the UK Dirk Gently (2010-2012). Each of these series has come in with a bang, created a huge following and left before they overstayed their welcome. I have complete confidence that Crazyhead will do the same and make a lasting memory in the world of #BlackGirlMagic as well as in the minds of horror comedy fans for years to come.

Crazyhead is streaming on Netflix now, so do yourself a favour and watch!

Face Off Season 11 Episode 4: “Snow Queens”

Published February 16, 2017 by rmpixie

With all the snow burying the Eastern U.S. and Canada in the past week, it was only fair that the all-stars got a taste of the white stuff too this episode!

McKenzie brought winter to L.A. with real snow waiting for the artists as she introduced this week’s Elimination Challenge. Like the Snow Queens from The Chronicles of Narnia and Once Upon a Time, they had to create their own powerful, unique and beautiful queens inspired by a snowflake. The catch was they had two days instead of three to create their looks and they had to find their snowflakes that were buried in the snow surrounding them. Since some of the artists had never seen snow before, they had an impromptu snowball fight after the search, and then got to work.

Logan and Adam loved the shape of their snowflake and decided to bring a Warrior Queen to life. Logan worked on the cowl while Adam fabricated her armour. It was their turn to find a crack in their mold. They wanted to use silicone for their look and decided to still use it despite the crack and instead of the safer polyfoam to keep the integrity of their concept. Logan used a stencil to convey cracked ice, and they presented  a complete look for the reveal stage. Their Snow Queen was beautiful and fierce. The judges loved the tonal differences with the colours and Glen thought it was the best use of stencilling that he had ever seen on the show. Ve loved the profile and the dark lips which brought out her eyes. They were in top looks with Kiva the Amazon Mountain Queen.

George and Cig wanted to paint a frostbitten look directly on the model’s skin and layer silicone on top for an icy effect. Mr. Westmore thought it was an interesting concept, but cautioned them against using dark makeup underneath as it could be distracting, especially on the tip of her nose. George vaccuformed the lab skeleton to create a really cool sceptre with half a skull and spine. They painted the model with blues, purples and greens to create that frostbitten look and it showed up well through the silicone. I thought the face was too much with the icicle effect. The judges felt the jaw was too masculine and didn’t really fit the challenge, however, they were safe.
Niko and Cat were inspired by their snowflake and the Statue of Liberty. They created an Ice Sculpture Queen. Cat would sculpt the hair and Niko would do the brow piece. Mr. Westmore felt the hair would be too heavy unless it was made out of foam latex. They fabricated an ice torch and collar, but the collar proved to be an issue as it bumped up against the sculpted hair and they scrapped it. The look was simple but the judges didn’t like it. They though sculpting hair was a waste of their time, and it was uninspired and too literal with the Statue of Liberty reference. It also didn’t really look like the snowflake they chose. They were in bottom looks.

Tyler and Emily created an Evergreen Ice Queen. Emily sculpted a wooden chest similar to a corset. She paints landscapes for a living so this was familiar territory for her and understood textures. Mr. Westmore suggested doing a wash of paint to pull out the tree bark look in the sculpt. She also created a headband of branches to add to the hair. Their Evergreen Snow Queen in the midst of a thaw wowed the judges. The loved melting effect and Glenn thought the frozen tree aspect was brilliant. Ve loved the colours they used and thought it was movie set ready. Their complex thinking got them into top looks.

Ben and Evan also went with an Evergreen Snow Queen. They struggled with their concept but finally decided on a crystallized look. They also wanted to make her dark, like black ice. Mr. Westmore told them to keep beauty makeup light. They were really behind and had to apply a prosthetic during last looks which is really risky, plus finish their paint job. I liked the headpiece, but the judges thought the look was a misstep. Even thought Neville got the black ice concept, they still thought it was too dark and the chin piece looked like a beard. As luck would have it, they were safe.

Rachel and Gage found a snowflake that looked regal, so they created an Elemental Queen with ice spires. They vaccuformed the spiny pieces and sculpted prosthetics around them. Rachel also incorporated LED lights into the hair. They had to fix the facial prosthetic to even it out, but they created an acceptable look. The judges liked the concept more than the execution, and the beauty makeup could have been better on the character’s eyes, but they were safe.

Keaghlan and Melissa liked the idea of shards of crystals on their queen. They also made icicles but they had to make sure they didn’t look like horns as Mr. Westmore pointed out. They had to paint them silver to match the eyes. In last looks, Keaghlan felt the queen was too androgynous. On the reveal stage, the judges thought the queen’s brow bone was too low. The proportions were too masculine as well. Neville didn’t like the crystals as he felt you couldn’t tell what they were. They were in the bottom looks.

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The winners were Emily and Tyler for their great choices, execution and exquisite character.

The team going home was unfortunately Niko and Cat! They were the cutest, but the judges felt that at this point, one misstep would eliminate you. Ve was quite emotional and told them it was a very difficult decision. The artists were also really upset, but the tiny couple that could weren’t fazed and were determined to carry on with their business and love for their craft.

Sevdaliza’s “Human”: An Unlikely Woman in Horror

Published February 12, 2017 by rmpixie
sevdaliza

Sevdaliza in “Human”

 

 

A screenshot of a woman, her arms stretched out, intrigued me. She had piercing dark eyes, long black hair and was wearing an intricate, bejeweled bra-like contraption that left little to the imagination. “Can you click on that one?,” I asked the horror boyfriend as we cruised different music videos one snowy, Saturday night. And so, he did. What unfolded before my eyes took me down a rabbit hole to a world of danger, sensuality and speculation.

After the strong features of a woman flicker on the screen, a waiter, ebony-skinned, handsome but with an unsettling milky eye, pushes a loaded service tray down a grand hall. He arrives at a viewing gallery populated by well-dressed men. They watch, with a palpable expectancy, the dirt floor of an empty and grand arena below. A cloaked figure descends ornate stairs; it is a woman and she moves with a strong stride into the arena. The men sit stoical but the beads of perspiration betray their stony faces as she turns and slowly drops her cape, facing them. She wears only bejeweled cups covering her breasts and a bejeweled patch between her legs. She gazes back at them calmly, and the camera cuts back to show her full body profile. We see she has the legs of an animal. Strong, hooved legs hold up her body, complimenting her curves as she begins to undulate and sway. Her face is defiant and unsmiling as the men watch, her dance exuding a confidence that conveys fearlessness and sensuality.

Each of the men’s faces show something different in their barely-there expressions. Inklings of lust, fear and fascination play on their brows as the otherworldly woman sways and her jet-black hair swirls around her. She stops and stares back at them again, while the waiter seems to watch her as if he is waiting for a cue. She lowers her head, her eyes telling a story all at once: strength, rage, and again defiance. It is here that the video and the song end abruptly, leaving us wondering what will happen next.

The song that accompanies the video is called “Human”. The woman who sings it and performs in the video is Sevdaliza, an Iranian-born, Netherlands-based electronic artist who, while being somewhat new to the music scene, has blown up with her hypnotic sound. She works with producer Mucky and with 2 EPS out, will finally be releasing her album sometime this year.

With such a unique concept, I was struck by the fantasy-horror aspect right off the bat. While she has not claimed any allegiance to horror to my knowledge, she is an unlikely woman in horror with this tension building 3-minute clip. Her mythical character is very close to the Deer Woman, a Native American spirit who can be vengeful to men bearing ill intent to women. Her seductive dance is the last thing a corrupt man will see before she kills him.

This vision also struck me as an extremely important video for many reasons. First, I think some may find the video objectifies with this basically nude, fantastical woman dancing for an audience of men. I would argue that this is actually the opposite. She is strong, she is defiant and she is celebrating her body. I also embrace the implied horror that unfolds. To me, she is in league with the waiter as they exchange knowing looks at the very end. Perhaps she has lured them because of their wrong-doings and seeks to dole out her vengeance, much like the Deer Woman.  Perhaps they have elected to die by her hand, a penance for their evil past.

She includes a quote to accompany the video, “The basic human need to be watched was once satisfied by God.” It’s from a video game, Deus Ex based on a dystopian world made up of secret societies and artificial intelligence.  It’s a quote from Morpheus, a self-aware A.I. character, and goes on to end with, “Now, the same functionality can be replicated with data-mining algorithms.” Morpheus is apparently referring to the vanities of humans, and our need to dominate and control everything we touch.  Named after the Greek god of dreams who would bring messages to mortals from the gods, you can only speculate what Sevdaliza meant with this quote.  Is this dancer in a future world, created for the whims of these seemingly moneyed men for their male gaze and now she has a mind of her own? The theories are dizzying in their numbers, so one can only speculate.  At any rate, she looks like she is about to do some major damage to this gallery of patriarchy, but it is left up to our imaginations the ominous horror that awaits them.

The video was directed by Emmanuel Adjei, who works with Sevdaliza often. His beautiful vision is tinted with sepia tones and the visual effects are seamless-the stuff of feature films.  I would love to see what this dancer has planned, but the same time, I enjoy wanting more without a payoff. This is the crux of the clip. Everyone, from the waiter to the dancer, is waiting in intense anticipation for something, and it seems we will never know what. The desire that comes from the men, also comes from her. The difference is she isn’t afraid to show hers, embracing the animal half of herself.

The song itself is could be called an anthem for those suffering from the effect of current events. The words to the song are simple and effective:

I am flesh, bones

I am skin, soul

I am human

Nothing more than human

 

One could take the song as a plea for understanding or a rallying cry for the oppressed as they break through the chains of judgement.

The next stanza is intriguing:

It’s passing me by

Been in and out

And in front of my judgmental eyes

My precious disguise

Business so cold

Can’t cope with my own

How to not fail

In my interpretation, it appears she has become weary of hiding her true nature; tired of being seen as different or a thing and now seeking retaliation. It’s extremely telling of what could happen (and already is with all the protests and upheavals) if things continue to escalate within the U.S. political sphere. Sevdaliza, however, won’t reveal the meaning of her art, leaving it up to the viewer and listener to find their own truth.

Being Iranian, Sevdaliza has announced that she will not be travelling to the United States due to the political climate, and rightfully so. The travel ban will go down in history as yet another attempt for supremacy, and with it the call for a show of real humanity. Trump has shown his true colours, and it is evident minute by minute that he brings true terror.

With all the real world horror going on, this song comes at the right time and it couldn’t be more perfectly represented. What do you think? Does it objectify, divide, or show a woman’s strength despite her environment? Is she victim or victor? Was she a creation that has now gone rogue? You decide, because apparently there is no wrong answer in her eyes.

 

The video is up for an Edison Music Award (a Dutch music award) and you can find her at the following links:

http://www.sevdaliza.com/

https://www.facebook.com/sevdalizamusic

https://twitter.com/sevdaliza

http://emmanueladjei.com/

While researching mythologies from other cultures, I couldn’t find any other comparative deities or spirits from the Middle East aside from ancient Greek ones such as Pan and satyrs and the Native American Deer Woman.  Her legend is documented here;

And read my review of AKOÓ! that played at the ImagiNATIVE Film Festival 2016 for Cinema Axis. It features a similar mythical figure called the Caribou Woman that kills men who put women in danger here.

 

Face Off Season 11 Episode 3: Monster High Comes to Life!

Published February 9, 2017 by rmpixie

 

Even though I’m literally 900 years old and had only a vague idea of the subject matter for this week, the artists seemed really jazzed and it was a fun challenge.

The gang headed to Mattel Headquarters where they met McKenzie and V.P. of Design, Natasha Berling to find out their next Immunity Challenge. The popular characters of Monster High were up for interpretation this week. The artists had to create realistic versions of these kids of iconic monsters and they would have to be ready for the big screen. Natalie told them the characters were all about individuality, kindness and acceptance. Her advice to them was to focus on the doll’s uniqueness and push their styles. The teams also got help with their concepts with two of the lead designers at Mattel, Natalie Villegas and Rebecca Shipman. Oh and another catch: Instead of the regular judges, a focus group of Monster High “superfans” would help pick the winner along with Natasha.

Tyler and Emily got Draculaura. Natalie told them to go with a frilly look. Tyler made some bat wings that were morphing out of her collarbone and Emily created a wig for her pink and black hair. Things went smoothly for them, and the focus group loved her. One fan thought she was a cross between a Disney princess and Dracula, and the others like that they hit all the marks with the character with the organic bat collar and skin tone. Only one person thought she wasn’t casual enough, but the play on Draculaura celebrating her sweet 1600 got them into top looks.

Rachel and Gage brought Venus McFlytrap to life. They wanted to integrate vines with her look as well as a pet flytrap plant. Mr. Westmore helped them with an idea to tack hair and the appliance to the model but the face piece ripped in a few places so they had to repair it and scramble to put on a beauty makeup. I wasn’t a fan of this look. I thought the mouth was a bit harsh. The group liked it better up close, but some felt the paint was too flat (I agree). She did look like the doll to them so they were pleased with that.

Niko and Cat had Clawdeen Wolf. The wanted to create a fashionista with a wolf nose and beauty makeup. Mr. Westmore told them not to bury the wolf ears under hair and to go subtle with the face. Niko tried to lay fur pieces on the model but it looked weird, so they opted out for hair that he curled on the model’s limbs. I didn’t like the paint on the face as it looked muddy, and the group didn’t like the fur, but the nose worked for them.

Logan and Adam were lucky this was an Immunity Challenge week. They got Abbey Bominable. They didn’t have a full concept except that she was a snowboarder. Natalie loved that idea and told them to go towards a Yeti look. Mr. Westmore told them they had to work on the nose since she was a teen and it had to be pretty. They had to scrap the whole face piece in the end and start over again. They also worked on a pet mammoth in a carry case. I didn’t like the nose on the character. The group felt it looked too much like Harry Potter’s Voldemort.

Keaghlan and Melissa had Cleo De Nile. She was part mummy. They didn’t want to emphasize bandages, and wanted to create a full face piece. Mr. Westmore told them they had to have great edges for the face piece to work. When they put it on the model, it ended looking like a “bad drag queen makeup”, so during last looks, they took it off and did a beauty makeup. I didn’t like the paint as it also looked muddy. The group liked the subtle bandage details and the hieroglyphics.

Ben and Evan worked on Skelita Calaveras. They sculpted flat bone details to glue to the models’ arms and legs. She turned out beautifully with Natasha loving all the details. The group thought she stayed true to the character and they would definitely see a live action movie with her in it. They also loved how glam she looked and the shading done on the bones.

Cig and George got Lagoona Blue. The wanted to go all out and create gills, scales and fins on her. The guys hadn’t done a beauty make up in years if at all, but they had nothing to fear. After practicing on each other, they knocked it out of the park with metallic accents and a beautiful face sculpt. Natasha felt they captured the essence of the character and pushed her to another level. The fans loved the metallic touches and the overall fresh version of the doll.

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The team that won immunity was Cig and George!! Everyone loved that they had fun with the character and pushed her to a new level. The was a bonus prize as well: they would get a prize pack from Mattel, Monster High products and highlighted on Mattel’s social media network. I’m glad they won!

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