An Interview with Filmmaker Izzy Lee [WiHM 2017]

Izzy Lee is a filmmaker, writer, and reviewer. Her films made through her production company Nihil Noctem Films are often nihilistic, funny, and caustically appropriate for our times.

Izzy, please tell us a bit about what drives you to create films and write.
Usually, it’s my anger. If there’s something going on that upsets me, I’ll write something about it — and there’s a lot to be upset about these days. That’s the case with Legitimate, Picket, Postpartum, Rites of Vengeance, and Invisible Friend. Other times, I’ll adapt something written by a friend like Chris Hallock, who wrote For A Good Time, Call… and A Favor, which is hilarious. In that case, I needed a break from my usual politically driven films, and it was the perfect opportunity to get in some breathing room with some horror comedy, played to perfection by my lead Shaun Callaghan.

Why do you think you find yourself working in the horror genre?
The world is horror. You can’t get away from it, no matter how hard you try. Even on vacation recently, I occasionally checked my email and especially on Facebook, every day was (and still is) “WTF Day.”

I’ve been drawn to horror as soon as I knew what it felt like to be afraid, so we’re old buddies. There’s both a comfort and an adrenaline rush in fear. It also serves as psychological boot camp.

As a horror filmmaker, what inspires you?
Well, current events, as you might guess. I also find a lot of foreign horror films inspiring because they don’t usually have to follow the Hollywood scare tropes or formulas.

What are some of your big influences? Why do they resonate with you?
Cronenberg, Carpenter, David and Jen Lynch, AIP Corman/Poe/Price films, and Hammer Horror. They all resonate with me for different reasons. Carpenter is a fucking master at what he does. The Thing is a perfect film, probably my favorite of all time. Cronenberg is more clinical, but his early efforts in body horror scarred me; I don’t really want to get into why, but The Brood is one of my favorite films because of how hard it hits home.

The Lynch clan is phenomenal at what they do. Just watch Mulholland Dr. and tell me that’s not the quintessential depiction of the downfall of the American Dream. Jen’s Surveillance and Chained are master classes in dread and suspense. Goddamn, that woman can direct.

The AIP Corman/Poe/Price films and Hammer Horror films were and are comfort food to me. There’s something so comforting about those lush velvet frocks, those Gothic castles, and well, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, and Christopher Lee. I like to think of them all as horror grandpas.

As a woman in a still male-dominated genre, what does the Women in Horror Month movement mean to you?
It’s a spotlight that shines on a different and exciting perspective. The work I see other women creating is creative as hell and I love it. It’s really invigorating the horror genre. I’m happy to say that I have support from both genders. Horror fans are addicts; I know because I’m one of them. We constantly search out new things to scare out and will champion the film/filmmaker that delivers it, regardless of race, origin, gender, etc.

That said, I do see my male counterparts having a far easier time getting work, whether that’s in television, fiction, or film — say, given an opportunity to make a feature when they haven’t directed ANYTHING, not even a short.  And the fact that we have Women in Horror Month at all illustrates why we need it. I wish we didn’t need it; maybe in my lifetime, we won’t, but I’m not holding my breath.

Who are other female horror filmmakers and writers you believe need more spotlight and why?
Rose McGowan made an extraordinary short film called Dawn a few years back, and I’m dying for her to make a feature. Her film was loaded with the oppression of being female — in the ‘50s, no less — and how that oppression destroys us.

My friend Jovanka Vuckovic is in the news lately because of her cool film The Bo” in XX, the all-female horror film anthology. She’s fierce as fuck, and I want her to go far. Likewise, Karyn Kusama has an awesome entry (Her Only Living Son) in XX; go watch The Invitation on Netflix if you want to see how masterfully she can command an ensemble cast in one location. Prano Bailey-Bond out of the UK has been putting out the incredible shorts “Nasty” and the upcoming Shortcut.

Barbie Wilde (who played the Female Cenobite in the Hellraiser series) writes fantastic psychosexual stories, and I’m psyched that we finally get to meet in a few weeks. Jill Sixx Gevargizian is stupidly talented and deserves a feature after making The Stylist with standout lead Najarra Townsend. I could go on and on. All of these women should be fucking household names.

What would you say to a teen girl dreaming of making horror films, writing in the genre?
You have a hard road ahead of you, but I’ll tell you the same thing Wes Craven told me: “Don’t give up.” We need your point of view. And help other women — always.

On a more personal level, do you believe living on the East Coast, near Salem and its history has influenced your art?  If so, in what way?
Well, in the case of the book Wicked Witches, which I talk about below, yes. That’s put out by the New England Horror Writers, and yes, it’s all about witches. It’s not always about the usual witches, either. Mine’s about a warlock in Iceland.

Additionally, I was able to get some very cool interior and exterior locations for Innsmouth because of how early the towns and cities here were settled. Halloween here is also heavy with the scent of fall leaves, crackling fires, and the weight of history.

What do you hope the public take away from your work?
Whatever they want from it. I like to hear differing opinions.

Please tell us about your upcoming work, what you have coming for fans of Innsmouth, Postpartum, and your writing that you can talk about.
I’ve been published for the first time with my tale “Tilberian Holiday” in the Wicked Witches short horror story anthology, and I have more fiction stories to submit to future works. Believe it or not, Innsmouth and Postpartum”= are still playing the festival circuit. Innsmouth is on Shudder (available in the UK, Canada, and US), and I sell DVDs on my website — as well as signed copies of Wicked Witches, t-shirts, enamel pins, art, and more.

Anyway, Chris is working on a feature version of Postpartum; we’ve co-written another feature horror script; and there’s a dark comedy feature script that Joe Lansdale fans will love that I’m trying to get made. I’ve also got two more short films hitting festivals soon — Rites of Vengeance and For A Good Time, Call… which is going to play the Chattanooga Film Festival in early April.

Find out more about my films and screenings at www.nihilnoctem.com.

Thank you Izzy for this opportunity and for representing women in a tough field.
Thank you!

Click here for more on Izzy Lee’s work.