Director Jennifer Reeder on making Knives and Skin vibrate with “grrrl power energy”
Friendship. Grief. Image. Power. Desire. Art. Director and writer Jennifer Reeder left no emotional stone unturned when it came to the presentation of her film, Knives and Skin. In a film I described as “one large sequence of consequence, guilt, perseverance, and loss at the hands of missing innocence and death”, Knives And Skin has dared viewers to open their eyes to modern horror filmmaking with a breathtaking, fresh view. Her influence as a filmmaker and as an artist shines bright in this mysterious tale of female adolescence and adulthood.
With many attractive factors to unpack and absorb, be it the fascinating visual elements or the grounding themes of reality, Reeder has shared her own perspective with me and proves that there is so much behind Knives And Skin to be found.
How are you handling the reception? Knives and Skin continues to gain a lot of (deserved) praise! I admire you so much for being such a strong female presence in horror and film alike, I am forever a fan.
I’m so happy others are seeing how special it is. I am not taking one moment of the accolades for granted. This is exactly the film that I set out to make and I am so thankful that it is finding its superfans. I like to fast-forward to the cosplay sing-a-long screenings! Let’s make that happen!!
Knives and Skin is freshly unique. Where does its story start and how did you know you wanted to turn into a film?
Knives and Skin is related to themes I have explored in some of my recent short films (A Million Miles Away and Blood Below the Skin for instance, which are both free and public on my Vimeo page). I have made many films about the experiences of girls and women. Specifically, teen girls who are empowered and empowering and adult women who are experiencing a kind of second coming-of-age.
Knives and Skin was born directly from an image (that is used in the film) of three misfit teen girls walking to school along a rural two-lane road. That contrast is semi-autobiographical. Then I built the story from there, making sure it had some robust internal logic. The world of Knives and Skin is specific.
So many people have their own takes on it, which makes it such a worthy piece of art, but how would you describe Knives and Skin?
I call it a MIDWESTERN GOTHIC TEEN NOIR….a feminist film about a missing girl that suggests female friendship is a survival strategy and coming-of-age is a life long process……plus lots of singing, but it’s not a musical.
You play with so many amazing elements, from color to sound. How did you determine what you would draw inspiration from versus what you wanted to be original for Knives And Skin?
I think it’s such a perfect combination of both. The production design of this film, which includes the lighting and the color palette, are part of the narrative content, so I never considered that this would distract from the plot, but only enhance. I wanted this film to feel like it was hovering above reality and vibrating with grrrl power energy. For me, cinema is art and no direction should ignore the visual language.
What inspires your craft? Especially when it comes to Knives and Skin, were there other artists or factors that you felt influenced the film’s style?
We (my DP Chris Rejano and I) looked at examples from Giallo directors like Argento to fine art painters like Jenny Seville. I went to art school rather than film school, so my influences are deeply visual from fashion design to sunsets. I am deeply committed to visual story telling.
Being that your films deal with traumatic subject matter, how do you approach tackling such heavy material?
We humans are complicated….we carry A LOT of heavy emotions with us every moment…. This film does not feel like a stretch in terms of how we humans experience our day-to-day. But I did want to make a film about how intensely personal and particular grief is…not to mention desire.
What are you hoping viewers take away from Knives and Skin?
As I mentioned, I like to fast-forward to the cosplay sing-a-long screenings of this film. I want audiences to lean WAY into KNIVES AND SKIN…..laugh, sob, gasp, wince….there is something in there for EVERYONE!
Standing proudly brilliant, bizarre, charming, and full of bite, Knives And Skin has ignited a glittery, sequined stream reducing the ever-thinning lines of contemporary horror cinema. Jennifer Reeder has produced an eloquent reality caught between a nightmare and a dream. If you are looking for a severely beautiful adventure, I suggest you take one and allow her to be your guide.
Knives And Skin is currently playing in select theaters, and is available on VOD and Digital.