Shannon Lark

When was the first time you watched a horror film, and how did it affect you?

I was seven years old, at home alone, and flipping through the four channels that were available in the small Mexico border town I grew up in. I stopped on The Elephant Man by David Lynch, fascinated by the stampeding elephants and the dark haired woman screaming and running.

The imagery of John Merrick screaming at his own reflection traumatised me, and I think I aged five years in maturity that night. All I could think of was how horrible it must be to be terrified of yourself and it hit home even more so that it was based of a true story.

The experience I had watching The Elephant Man is definitely reflected in my work today.

What was it that first attracted you to horror?

I had a complete attraction and love for it, before I even watched The Elephant Man. I went to a gruesome ballet rendition of Romeo and Juliet with my Mother when I was four, and I was forever changed. The stage effects, the drama, the horrible, horrible things that happen to us in life: it was all there, and it was beautiful.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Viscera. It’s a non-profit film festival I founded to assist in the expansion of opportunities for contemporary female genre filmmakers and to educate the public by raising awareness of the changing roles for women in the film industry.

I must be socially conscious and help others. It brings me so much happiness and completes me. If I was just an actress or a director there would be a burning hole in my heart. Viscera makes demands and I must give in and juggle everything else I’m doing. The result is priceless.

What are you working on now?

For acting, I’m working on a film called Disciples with Tony Todd, Bill Moseley, Debbie Rochon, and Linnea Quigley. Directly after that I’m working on a short film with a first-time female director, Jamie Jenkins, titled Closure.

I’m booked for several more features I can’t really talk about yet, but it’s all very exciting.

For directing, I’m shooting a short film titled The Philosophy of Milk early next year.

For writing, I’m currently working on several scripts, including a web series and a feature length titled Castle in the Sky, which I hope to shoot in Ireland.

And Viscera.  We just announced many services, such as the Etheria Film Festival (fantasy/sci-fi films by women), Women in Horror Month (run by Hannah Neurotica), and a Film Club. I’m running to keep up!

What do you admire in the horror world?

The accessibility and openness of the people who create it. The conventions, film festivals, blood drives, and events are wonderful networking grounds. Genre filmmaking breeds incredible artists and is one of the most intelligent avenues of storytelling.

Do you prefer gore or psychological horror?

Psychological. I love gore. I love it all. But if I had to choose, I want my mind to be messed with, that’s what hits home the most.

How important is it to unsettle a viewer?

Incredibly important. Visuals are only a small piece of the puzzle: it’s sound, script, and camera.

How do you evoke fear?

I enjoy delving into disturbing sexual situations and the way that women and men interact, on a deeply terrifying level. I’ve watched entire crowds watch my films that are horrified: crossing their legs, shifting uncomfortably, and trying to look away.

I’ve been told that my films have made people vomit, which is the biggest compliment. Hopefully it’s because of the content, not what they ate.

What scares you?

I’m a bit desensitised, so it’s more of a sickly disturbed feeling I get that causes me to realise the film is working right. Watching how far people will go to hurt each other terrifies me. People are monsters. Push someone far enough and watch them do serious damage to others and themselves.

Why should people watch your films?

I don’t think everyone should watch my films. No one should be forced to do anything. But for those who are fascinated by horrible situations regarding sexuality, body image, and where men fall into this picture (and are victims by the women who experience it), then they will most likely enjoy the sort of material I prefer to explore.

How far is too far when it comes to horror cinema?

Snuff films (to the mainstream audience these would be considered horror cinema). Why do it when you can just get actors and effects?

I’m really annoyed by the overuse of the term torture porn. There is torture porn, and then there are horror films that utilise torture to create a sense of fear and urgency, generally playing into commentary about society.

How do you think horror cinema will evolve in the next ten years?

I definitely think we will see more women taking the director’s seat, which will fuel more jobs and interest by the mainstream in horror. I believe horror and pornography will become more intelligent and eventually, revered as high art.

Recommend a film.

Irreversible by Gaspar Noe. If it doesn’t effect you, you are one sick bastard.

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