Four Faves Files: Kier-La’s Horror House

One of cinema’s ultimate psychotic women: Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill in Possession. 
One of cinema’s ultimate psychotic women: Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill in Possession

Filmmaker and author Kier-La Janisse tells The Letterboxd Show about cultivating the cinematic canon of female madness via her book, House of Psychotic Women.

Horror fans are such an enthusiastic audience. They adopt these movies and they take care of them and are their custodians in a way that a lot of non-genre audiences aren’t.

—⁠Kier-La Janisse

It’s been ten years since Kier-La Janisse published her seminal book, a hybrid of film criticism and personal memoir entitled House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography Of Female Neurosis In Horror And Exploitation Film. Using a canon of mostly genre films, she mirrors her own troubled life stories against those of numerous unstable female film characters, in the process creating a passionate testament to how the solace found in cinema can literally save lives. 

As such, it was an honor to welcome her as a guest on Four Faves to glean some of her copious genre film knowledge and discuss the newly updated edition of her book, which features more than a hundred new entries. There’s an accompanying five-disc box set from Severin Films (where Janisse works as a producer and editor), featuring four rarities that are all on Blu-ray for the first time ever: Identikit, I Like Bats, Footprints and The Other Side of the Underneath

Five Blu-ray discs full of exclusive features and certified hidden gems, each with fewer than 3,000 logs on Letterboxd. Let’s get those numbers up!
Five Blu-ray discs full of exclusive features and certified hidden gems, each with fewer than 3,000 logs on Letterboxd. Let’s get those numbers up!

During the conversation, Janisse explains that the idea for the update had been percolating since about 2016, when she started a log of recent releases that would make fitting recruits to her ever-growing sisterhood after watching Queen of Earth and Always Shine

“The book, in a way, has its own family that’s bigger than and not just limited to me,” she says. “There are all these people who have this appreciation for these types of films and these types of characters, which I can’t help but think can only be good for their relationships with mental illness in real life, in terms of their empathy for [people with] mental illness.” 

So what else has Janisse been up to since spearheading an entire subgenre? Among myriad other accomplishments, she edited a book about the Alamo Drafthouse Weird Wednesday film series, written by Alamo lead programmer Lars Nilsen (who has previously appeared on The Letterboxd Show) and friends. And she recently made her feature directorial debut with the comprehensive documentary Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror, a three-hour deep-dive detailing folk horror’s cinematic infancy with 1973’s The Wicker Man, all the way through to its recent revival, heralded by Robert Eggers’ The Witch. Oh and: Janisse hosted our first Magic Hour conversation, with director Ben Wheatley. 

Anya Taylor-Joy is that very witch. 
Anya Taylor-Joy is that very witch

All this is to say, horror is Janisse’s jam, and she has a real reverence for the devoted community that the genre has fostered. “Horror fans are such an enthusiastic audience,” she gushed. “They adopt these movies and they take care of them and are their custodians in a way that a lot of non-genre audiences aren’t.” 

But her tastes also expand beyond the macabre: one of her Four Faves is Melody (1971), a tender love story between a pair of ten-year-old kids. “When I first saw the movie Moonrise Kingdom, which I saw way later, I remember being furious in the theater, because I was like, ‘This is just ripping off Melody!’” she recalled with a laugh. “I was thankful that Wes Anderson at least mentioned being influenced by Melody in an interview.”

A young Tracy Hyde as the title character from Melody, one of Kier-La (and Wes Anderson’s) favorite films. 
A young Tracy Hyde as the title character from Melody, one of Kier-La (and Wes Anderson’s) favorite films. 

Listen to the rest of Kier-La Janisse’s conversation with Slim and Mitchell, where they also dig into the rest of her four faves (Over the Edge, Cockfighter, The Last Wave). 


House of Psychotic Women: Expanded Edition is available via Fab Press, and the accompanying Blu-ray box set ‘House of Psychotic Women: Rarities Collection’ is available via Severin Films. 

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Author and filmmaker Kier-La Janisse joins Slim and Mitchell to discuss the tenth-anniversary expanded edition of her book House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography Of Female Neurosis In Horror And Exploitation Films, as well as taking a dive through her four favorite films: Over the Edge; Melody; Cockfighter and The Last Wave. Plus: Kier-La’s trick to seeming so productive; Matt Dillon’s iconic outfits; knife fights in the woods; twelve year olds on acid; parents just don’t understand; Jack Wild’s preternaturally youthful looks; the dulcet sounds of the Bee Gees; the masterpiece that is Little Darlings; Kier-La’s work with Severin Films restoring underground classics; taking vows of silence; cosmic horror; the absolute legend Peter Weir; and Kier-La’s secret Letterboxd account.