I initially caught wind of Catcalls after seeing it as part of The Final Girls’ touring selection of female-directed horror shorts We Are The Weirdos. It’s pertinent story of two young women who take revenge on a man who hassles them in the street. Catcalls confronts issues of harassment and the victimisation of women in supposedly safe places, and does so with such a wonderfully feverish genre sensibility. It’s strong, direct and confrontational cinema, and Twelve Cabins is proud to present it’s online premiere today alongside a conversation with Director Kate Dolan who delves into crafting the purr-fect formula for genre filmmaking.
What inspired you to create Catcalls?
Around the time I wrote it I was feeling quite frustrated as a woman. I hated catcalling on the street and how unsafe I was made feel walking alone at night sometimes. So, I was toying with an idea of flipping the script and for once see a grown man feeling vulnerable and frightened walking alone at night.
Then one night I was walking home with a friend and a man pulled in and asked us for directions, and when we went over to the car he was masturbating. He drove off but we got his license plate. The police found him and went to his house; there his wife was standing in the hall behind him and the guy burst into tears. So, there was the predator, whom only an hour before had been so threatening, and he was now reduced to tears in his hallway. I found that really interesting and that’s when I wrote Catcalls.
Cats have such a strong lineage in horror history, which films were particularly influential on you?
I mean the obvious one is Cat People. It’s such a standout film in the genre. I think it’s the first film with a jump scare so it is an extremely influential film for the genre. I am obsessed with cats, I have two, and I find them so interesting. They are equal parts revered and feared throughout history and they are just full of contradictions. They are totally independent but also want to be a part of your family. Even watching them move is totally ethereal like when I watch my cats jump to my windowsill from the shed it’s like they are defying gravity like flying through the air. I have been reading a lot of books about witchcraft for research at the moment and they are so often referenced. I feel like they will continue to inspire my work for many years to come.
Could you talk about constructing the practical effects used throughout the film?
We had a great little team working on the monster makeup of Costume Designer Jaime Nanci Barron, Make-up Artist Audrey Corrigan and Prosthetics Artist Vincent Lam all working together. Jaime made a textured body suit, and then Audrey painted Cesca’s skin. Then Vincent made a claw, ears and a spine. We could only afford one claw, so she only raises one paw in the scene. It all worked really well together and then in post we added glowing eyes and her tail. It was thrilling seeing it all come together. I had quite a specific look I wanted and the guys did an amazing job considering how little time and money we had.
I’ve seen some audience members take concern over the wife’s death in the film, what’s your reaction to that and does this align with your artistic intention for that scene?
Since the film has been online I have noticed a lot of comments about this, with some saying it goes against the message of the film. When writing the script there was a lot of back and forth about the wife and what should happen to her because she’s there when the girls arrive. I chose her fate for two reasons really.
The monster will get you no matter who you are.
Firstly, I wanted the monsters in the film to be really frightening, and for monsters to be really scary they can’t really have morals or ethics. The monster will get you no matter who you are. For me, the girls in the film are wild animals; they choose to hunt at night so they can hide their identity. If they let this woman go she is a witness to this and could reveal them to the world. The second reason I chose this fate for his wife was down to what happened in the real life story. When the police called to our predator’s door his wife was there. I kept thinking about her. Her life was probably shattered that night totally out of nowhere. Imagine finding out your partner did something like that, how that would effect you mentally. The wife’s death is metaphorical in that way, this guy has taken away her life by bringing these monsters upon their house.
What is that attracts you to the horror genre, and will you continue to make more horror films?
I have been obsessed with horror movies since I remember so in general the genre makes me feel very much at home. I feel safe within horror because I know it so well. It’s like an old friend. So there’s that, but also I think nowadays as a filmmaker, genre just gives you so much scope for what you can do. It allows for so much creativity and originality. It also allows you to delve into issues which otherwise could be disturbing if presented in a drama. Like with Catcalls the reality of that situation that inspired it, is that it deeply affects you and makes you afraid to walk at night. But, within the horror genre it can be a fantasy and you can sort of reclaim something through it and it can be fun.
What can we expect from you next?
I am currently in pre-production on my debut feature which is a horror entitled You Are Not My Mother. It is a supernatural horror/family drama about cycles within a family and how you pass down trauma through generations. How does a young person coming of age break out of those cycles? It’s being produced by Fantastic Films, funded by the Screen Ireland POV scheme and we shoot in September. So, it should be, hopefully, out at festivals in 2021. I have another film in development at the moment, which is in the same world as Catcalls, but a very different story. It’s still got some cool monsters though!
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