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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor.  [April 24, 2007]





[]  Of horror's many scream queens and femme fatales, Shannon Lark is one of its truest believers and most dynamic multi-taskers. Not content with just acting and directing, she also founded San Francisco's Chainsaw Mafia, and now its spinoff Viscera Series -- a "for women only" horror event co-sponsored by the Tabloid Witch Awards.

"The Chainsaw Mafia is both my production company and an online networking board for horror filmmakers," Lark explained to the Hollywood Investigator. Her Mafia also runs annual horror film festivals. "We have about 300 members. Membership is free and will soon provide benefits such as discounted equipment rental in select cities. It's there to get filmmakers organized and aware of what's going on. To create a feeling of genre unity."

Lark has loved horror from an early age. She bills herself as a "horror actress" -- and doesn't take that label lightly. "I don't do anything that isn't horror or off-the-wall," she said.

"I'm open to black comedies or offbeat dramas -- if they contain a horrific element. I've had agents tell me I have to do commercialized work to 'make it' as an actress. I say thanks, but no thanks. I do what I do because I love it. Not so that I can maybe, possibly, potentially get into some Pepsi ad. No one should do what they don't want to do, just because someone tells them they have no future if they don't do XYZ.

"I remember the exact moment everything came together for me. I was four years old. My mom took me to a ballet rendition of Romeo and Juliet. When they stabbed themselves in the chest, these red streamers burst out of their chests, and flew hundreds of feet into the air until they gracefully fell over their bodies. I understood that the streamers represented blood. It was the most beautiful moment I've ever experienced."

As with horror, Lark fell in love with acting at an early age, partially inspired by a sister who was a small town theatrical director at age 13. "I followed along by acting in plays and performing for my family with skits we created. When I moved to San Francisco, I went to the Film Arts Foundation and took a bunch of film classes, got myself on sets, and followed the crew and director around. I picked up books and taught myself by creating my own short films. That's one reason why film is great; you don't have to go to school to learn it. You just need to be ambitious. I've never had any formal acting training. Everything has been learned by creating."



Lark has acted in both features and shorts, which have played in festivals. She's also directed seven shorts and is working on her first feature. She's performed on stage, starring in Evil Dead: Live, Reanimator, and The Elm St Murders (which she directed). "All are splatter parodies of horror films," she said. "In Elm St Murders we sprayed about 20 gallons of blood." She also manages and acts as "gore wrangler" for the Living Dead Girlz, a zombie dance troupe. "We're zombies, and we dance."

Lark's latest project is the Viscera Series -- a "for women only" horror film festival. Unlike competing "women only" horror film festivals (yes, they're out there), a woman director or theme is not enough. To qualify for Viscera, everyone behind the camera must be female.

"The purpose is to raise the ratio of women to men in horror, currently less than 7%," said Lark. "Prizes include online distribution, money, and promotion. Film festivals [such as the Tabloid Witch Awards] are joining up to choose one Viscera film of their choice to screen at their festivals."

"I think genders look at horror films differently," said Lark.  "Men like horror films because they get all the action, but can also relate to the one female character still left who stands up and fights for herself.

"But it can be rough for some women to watch horror, especially when it involves rape or the terrorizing of a female, because it hits so close to home. Men can be more removed from it, and take it in easier."

"That's why Deliverance is so effective. Every male I talk to about the sodomy rape scene looks queasy. Countless films have female rape content, and not only horror movies. It'll be nice when both genders are terrorized equally."

It's true men aren't terrorized in horror films as often as are women, but horror films do depict castration, sometimes performed by women (Demented, I Spit on Your Grave, The Last House on the Left), sometimes by men (Don't Open Till Christmas, Make Them Die Slowly). Non-horror films too have depicted castration (Caught Up, The Valachi Papers).

Even so, Lark adds, "I think most women veer away from the slasher subgenre. They prefer more psychological horror.  Films that are slower paced than an action film. Women love horror mixed with fantasy. They get their fill of action and horror, but it's all so aesthetically pleasing. I'm not saying women don't like slashers, or no female can take a slasher seriously -- there are some really good ones out there -- but it's been so played out. I think women and men are looking for something with more substance. Films that mess with your head a bit."


UPDATE: On January 5, 2015, Shannon Lark emailed the Hollywood Investigator to say that the Viscera Film Festival is no longer active.

Apart from Viscera, horror film festivals founded by women include Shriekfest and Screamfest. Horror filmmakers -- men and women -- are also urged to enter the No Entry Fee Tabloid Witch Awards!

Copyright 2007 by


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