Book Review: 10th Anniversary of HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN


Editor, U.S.; California (@m_galgana)
Book Review: 10th Anniversary of HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN

Kier-La Janisse has long been a fixture in the genre film world, as a programmer, publisher, writer, film scholar, and more. She founded the press Spectacular Optical Publications, as well as the internationally known The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies. 

Most recently, she’s become a filmmaker. Her excellent folk horror doc Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched, available via Severin Films’s website. You can also find it currently streaming on Shudder. Fantasia presented her with the film festival’s Canadian Trailblazer Award this past summer. 

Currently, she’s touring North America with the updated, tenth anniversary of her groundbreaking book, House of Psychotic Women via FAB Press. (Our own Josh Hurtado broke the news of the new edition here.) These appearances aren’t merely book launches for their areas, but most often accompany talks and rare screenings of films featuring women on the verge in genre films.

For instance, at Fantasia this year, we were treated to showings of films like the psychosexual 70s Elizabeth Taylor romp Identikit; the Polish vampire 80s spree I Like Bats; Italian folk horror Il Demonio, which no doubt influenced a certain sequence in The Exorcist; the weirdo giallo Footprints; and not-for-everyone body horror In My Skin.

I originally reviewed the first edition of the book in 2012 for another publication, and was immediately impressed. Just blown away. I’d never read anything like it; House of Psychotic Women is at once a blend of an excellent genre theory film book and a very personal memoir in which Janisse is not afraid to delve into elements of her youth and hard times in foster homes. 

The book is not only an exploration of the types of memories that most of us would rather not discuss in public realms, but an in-depth look into the ways that women and mental health are portrayed in film, particularly when it comes to neurosis. This unique, intimate presentation of one’s self and family took an enormous amount of courage. 

The film theory side of House of Psychotic Women is similarly bold; Janisse has an incomparable command of the genre. Melded with her ironclad writing and film criticism skills, Janisse has crafted a masterpiece and cemented herself as a titan of genre film. Fans include No Wave icon Lydia Lunch, as well as 80s pop culture superstar Molly Ringwald. 

Disclosure: I met Janisse at Fantasia way back in 2007, and I’m proud to call her a friend. However, I wouldn’t be writing such a glowing review if I wasn’t blown away by her work. HIRE HER for all your Blu-ray film scholar essays and genre film needs!

The new edition of House of Psychotic Women comes with an exclusive CD of Janisse reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic feminist horror story The Yellow Wallpaper (1892). In the background, you’ll hear Timothy Fife’s (Death Waltz and Library of the Occult musician and composer known) original score. It comes in a cool slipcase with cover art by Katy Horan.

This limited edition also expands on the original book with 48 pages of full-color deliciousness in the form of 680 rare stills, posters, pressbooks and artwork, as well as new writing on 100+ more films, and hundreds of new images.  

You can order the first pressing of this awesome, deluxe hardcover book currently via the FAB Press site, or pre-order through Amazon, where it becomes available in the United States on October 4. Get it now, because the hardcover with CD is a limited edition.

Head over to Janisse’s website to discover more of her awe-inspiring accomplishments and to see where you can meet her in person, catch a film, and nab an autographed book of your own.

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Book Reviewbook tourFAB PressgenreKier-La Janisseneurosispsychological horrorwomen in film

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