Borrowing the stylistic flair of Hitchcockian thrillers and the seductive force of Film Noir’s femme fatales, Director Kat Webber’s Barbara-Anne tells the unsettlingly comedic story of a housewife with a dark side. Webber’s film is a visually striking feast which reverses the male gaze present in the aforementioned genres, bringing a fresh edge to the tired serial killer trope. Read our conversation with both Webber and lead actress Katelyn McCulloch below, who dive in on creating their modern twist on a classic tale.
Where the idea for a 50s-inspired housewife serial killer come from?
Katelyn: I was a platinum blonde for another project I was working on and with that hair colour I didn’t recognise myself in the mirror. My wild imagination took over and I started to dream up a character and would improvise with her voice and look. One day I decided just to record on my phone an improvised monologue where I was pretending to be interrogated by a cop. That opened up her world and from that I wrote the first draft and then Kat jumped in early I’m development and we fine tuned the story and character.
I read that you were inspired by Hitchcock and the femme fatale too, what were you taking from those inspirations and how were you seeking to expand on them?
Kat: Barbara-Anne comes to you from the minds of women who grew up admiring classic Hollywood thrillers and the charms of their femme fatales. As we examined these tropes closer we resented the inescapable presence of the male gaze. We were interested in reclaiming and modernising the trope, while paying homage to where she came from in old cinema. Helmed by female filmmakers, Barbara-Anne serves up a familiar, hyper-stylish Hitchcockian landscape replete with dark comedy and red herrings. All the while shattering the viewer’s expectations of our leading lady with a deliciously wicked and modern twist.
Katelyn, how did you develop the character of Barbara-Anne?
Katelyn: as I mentioned before, improvising at home but then I started to work on her in a class I was doing at Second City. I’m sure my classmates were wondering what my weird, dark obsession was with this serial killer, but it was a blast and I was able to learn more about her in relationship to other people and situations. Lots of quirky character details/props came out like; the knife, how she moved and her love of lemons. The development continued right through our pre production prep and even onto the set. Kat and I were finding out new things about this character and how far she could go in every take.
Kat, how did you approach set design and the visuals? I loved how striking it all looked.
Kat: Thank you! Building the world with our production designer Hope Little and Director of Photography Nina Djacic was a treat. We really concentrated on creating a bait and switch scenario where the film initially feels like a period piece until you started to notice modern details, like lights on a dimmer, a flat screen TV and the noise-cancelling headphones. Using the horrors of mid-century party cuisine as our way into the world grounded us in the dark humour found in the film overall, while giving us a peak into our character’s personal obsessions. Shot at Digital Canaries in Hamilton, ON we had access to a ton of props and sets within the warehouse and spent a good amount of time treasure hunting.
What is it about the horror genre that excites you both?
Katelyn: I love the willingness to push boundaries and explore taboo topics. I love how filmmakers takes risks and that horror loving audiences are vocal and game for it!
Kat: I was raised on it because my mom absolutely loves genre films. I love the thrill of an edge-of-your-seat viewing event. I love the audience coming together in gasps and jumps in a shared visceral experience. I enjoy that this genre examines the darker side of the human experience, while oftentimes revealing our own light, resilience and strength. Horror films allow us to confront and examine our macabre universal fears, while also providing a social commentary.
And last but not least, what projects are you both working on now?
Katelyn: I am currently in post production for short film I wrote/Directed called Mulligan. Which is being cut by Anna Catley, of Coven Collective, who also edited Barbara-Anne! I’m working on my second draft of my first feature film and as an actor I just wrapped up a guest star role on a new series called Lady Dicks that will air next year.
Kat: I am gearing up to be the lead editor on a new genre series, Safe Haven, set to begin production in the new year! My short film Dear Jesus is currently on the festival circuit too.
Barbara-Anne was programmed by the Twelve Cabins submissions team. If you’d like to see your film on our pages, submit here.