Tag Archives: Halloween

An Exclusive Interview with Horror Movie Director Simone Kisiel

I love horror movies. Not just on Halloween, but all year round. I simply can’t get enough of the terrifying concepts they explore and the expert social and political commentary behind a good horror film. I particularly love indie horror films because they’re just so raw and unique.

So this year I’m celebrating Halloween by getting inside the mind of horror filmmaker Simone Kisiel, founder of Magic Dog Productions. As an avid horror fan, I feel that it’s my responsibility to support women in horror. The days of the “scream queen” stereotype are long over. Not only do women play a variety of different characters in horror films, they’re writers, directors and producers who are working hard to give horror a new and even more terrifying perspective. Now let’s meet Simone.

1. What are some of your favorite horror movies?

My favorite type of horror is realistic horror (doesn’t rely on supernatural happenings or unrealistic stupidity of characters) such as “Goodnight Mommy” or “You’re Next”. I also really love horrors that take a serious right turn like “The Babadook” and “From Dusk Till Dawn”. I also love Hitchcock and really old/ridiculous horrors like “Creature From The Black Lagoon” and the original “Mummy” because I still think they’re scary but also hilarious.

2. How did you first become interested in horror and making horror films?

I grew up with an older brother who loves “The X-Files” and a dad who loves the classics. When I was a little girl my favorite movie was “Die Hard” and as I got older I realized that what interested me most was the side of humans that we all try to hide. The side of each of us that is twisted, dark, bizarre and dangerous. I think we all have it in us to some extent which is why we are equal parts terrified of and fascinated by the horror genre.

3. What challenges do you face as a female horror director?

When I tell people that I direct horror films the most common reaction is laughter. People actually fairly regularly laugh in my face because the idea of a woman directing a scary movie is more likely to be a joke than reality. I have news for these people; men do not have a monopoly on fear and evil. In fact, I think women probably have a broader and more fully encompassing understanding of what fear and evil really is. Especially if they’ve lived in NYC.

Simone Kisiel horror movies directed by women

4. What advice do you have for women looking to become directors?

Keep your eyes open. Watch people, listen to everything, absorb it all. I think general experience and specific knowledge are what make a good director. That said, work begets work. Don’t turn down that PA job because you only want to direct. Get in there and work your way up. My formal education is in acting, which I rarely do anymore. Every single opportunity/relationship/project is a stepping stone. Use them all!

5. Horror movies are full of social and political commentary. What’s a subject you’d like an upcoming film to explore that the genre hasn’t yet?

I want so desperately to see a horror film that stars women, both as the victim and the villain, where they aren’t required to take their shirts off and run around screaming. I think women are smart, savvy and sophisticated. We’re not dumb enough to walk into that dark basement or to not call the police. So I decided to make a film about women (for everyone) that doesn’t rely on graphic violence or explicit sexuality, but instead is based on the premise that horror begins in the mind and in the imagination of the audience. “BUGS: A Trilogy is a psychological horror film based on real terrors that women face such as a violent child, an infection or an infestation.

6. What projects are you working on right now?

The main project I’m working on is a feature film in the style of the 1975 classic “Trilogy of Terror” called “BUGS: A Trilogy. Women and men can watch these three shorts and know that they represent horrors we have to live with every day and fears that are all too real.

indie horror films

A babysitter with a clever and violent ward. A patient who mistrusts the doctor’s orders. A young woman haunted by a malevolent presence. And the terror that ties them all together: BUGS. On their own, spiders, parasites and bedbugs hold their own private horror for those who are beset by the quiet scuttles and slurps of inhuman creatures. But for Diane, Hannah and Elena, three varied yet eerily similar women, these bugs represent the larger horrors of paranoia, helplessness and abandonment.

7. What are some perceptions of horror films that you’d like to see changed?

That they’re all disgusting. That only sick people watch horror. That only boys or men would ever like horror. I’d like it to be acknowledged that people like horror films because feeling fear (or anxiousness or excitement) is one way of feeling alive. Of testing the limits of what we can handle, what we can imagine. When I watch horror films I am constantly thinking “Oh yeah totally that’s what I would do” or “NO! WHY! THAT’S A HORRIBLE IDEA WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?!” The science around dreams indicates that we have them so that our brain can test out actions and behaviors in certain situations. Since evolutionarily speaking we no longer have to fear tigers or wolves, we dream about losing our wallets or standing naked in front of our coworkers. Our brains are anticipating conflicts that haven’t come up yet. Horror is like that. It’s a way to explore the disturbing without putting ourselves in bodily harm. It genuinely serves a purpose.

8. Which horror movie directors do you look up to most?

My favorite director of all time is Alfred Hitchcock. He’s the reason why I make films. He will forever be the master of suspense. He taught me that there is something tangible in the corners of possibility, that if done correctly, more fear and anxiety can be generated by not showing the murder occur. There is weight in potential. I hope to master that skill in my career.

Additionally, I really look up to Jennifer Kent who wrote and directed “The Babadook”, which was an intensely real and deliciously horrifying film. I also admire Mary Harron who directed “American Psycho” and Jen and Sylvia Soska who co-directed and co-wrote “American Mary”.

9. What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened to you on set?

I shot part 1 of “BUGS: A Trilogy” in my apartment. Right after we wrapped I tiedied up, picked up my dog and then had to head out for a brief meeting. When I returned I walked in on a bloody massacre. There was blood EVERYWHERE. All over the carpet, on the walls, on the floor, on the couch and all over my dog who was lying like road kill on the carpet. My first thought was that someone had come in and stabbed my dog to death. My heart stopped and my blood ran cold as I screamed “MERLIN!?” He sat up, tongue lolling out and trotted over to me with his big, goofy grin. My shock and terror slowly turned to anger as I realized that Merlin was fine, he had just unzipped my bag and opened a zip-lock bag and removed the fake blood to chew on. Believing fully for a few seconds that someone had come by to murder my dog after a shoot was the craziest thing that ever happened to be me on set. (Merlin was fine, it was blood that’s safe to use in your mouth.)

10. What’s your ultimate goal as a horror director?

My goal as a director is to create films that my audience can enjoy on a visceral and thought provoking level. I want to make films that scare you and make you wonder, where female characters aren’t stripped down to over-sexualized stereotypes. I want you to think twice about that dark street corner or that creepy motel and then I want you to feel empowered because you’re a cunning, intelligent person who is yourself capable of violence, if need be.

I want to level the playing field by bringing female villains and heroines to the big screen and I’d like to see Hollywood have a more equal representation of women in creative and decision making roles. The ACLU has called for an investigation into discriminatory hiring practices in Hollywood because over the last 17 years women represent only 7% of directors, 11% of writers, and 18% of editors in the most successful films. I’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign because the likelihood of being hired as a female director in Hollywood is literally 7%. I want the next generation of female filmmakers to not face this uphill battle in pursuing their dreams.

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Happy Halloween from Harley Quinn!

This Halloween I’m going from socialite to supervillain! Inspired by Margot Robbie’s portrayal of the notorious Harley Quinn in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie and of course my favorite holiday, I took on Gotham City in my first ever cosplay shoot.

How to look like Harley Quinn

For those of you that aren’t familiar with Harley Quinn, she’s an accomplice and sometimes girlfriend to the Joker in the Batman comics. Before becoming a supervillain, she was Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, M.D, a psychiatrist at the Arkham Asylum. Her career as a Doctor was on the up and up until the Joker became one of her patients and she fell in love with him.

As her infatuation with the Joker grew, she decided to leave Harleen behind and transformed permanently into her criminal persona –Harley Quinn. While Harley has traditionally been portrayed as a sidekick of the Joker, she now stands alone is a psychotic criminal mastermind. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this Harley portrayal in the Suicide Squad movie.

Becoming Harley Quinn

With the popularity of Harley Quinn, getting this look was super simple. I ordered a Harley Quinn shirt off Etsy and paired it with black shorts and a pair of black tights which I destroyed. I then added combat boots and a baseball sock for the modern Harley Quinn look.

Harley Quinn Makeup

I opted out of the traditional clown makeup because I still wanted to look like me and I have super acne prone skin. I made the eyes as crazy as possible not paying too close attention to precision. Since Harley is a psychotic psychiatrist I made the makeup a little crazy. By crazy I mean controlled chaos. I added hints of red to one eye and hints of blue to the other along with bright red lipstick.

I played up the Harley Quinn details by painting the nails on one hand blue (essie – bell-bottom blues) and the ones on the other red (essie – with the band). Lastly, I used wash out dye in my hair. While I like the way my hair came out in the photos, I wasn’t a big fan of the spray in dye because it got all over everything.

Photos by: Zarif Taufiq

Harley Quinn Halloween Costume

Harley Quinn Brooklyn

Harley Quinn DC Comics

Harley Quinn Makeup

Harley Quinn Makeup lipstick

Harley Quinn Cosplay

Gotham City Harley Quinn

DC Comics Harley Quinn


Harley Quinn Gotham City Super Villian

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DIY Metallic Pumpkins for Halloween

I haven’t done many DIY projects before. However, after being inspired by a bunch of amazing DIY blogs and my favorite holiday – Halloween, I decided to try my hand at making glam metallic pumpkins.

Pumpkins Halloween DIY

They were relatively simple to make and look great in a garden or lit up by candles on my kitchen countertop. After I picked out a few pumpkins I liked, I took a paintbrush and acrylic paint. Then I coated the pumpkins in silver and gold paint. It took a lot of coats before they look solid, but once they did I left them to dry and presto!

DIY Pumpkin Halloween ideas

Halloween DIY

How to Decorate Halloween Pumpkins

How to decorate Halloween Pumpkins DIY

Halloween Pumpkins DIY

DIY Halloween

Jack-o'-lantern Halloween

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13 Movies to Watch this Halloween


I’ve always been one for a good scare. Therefore, Halloween is probably my favorite holiday. While I  love to dress up, decorate pumpkins and watch horror movies this time of year, I’m a hardcore horror movie fan all year round (bet you never guessed that). Slasher films are okay, but most of my favorite horror movies have terrifying concepts behind them, which in my opinion, is what really makes them scary. Anyone can make a gory slasher film and call it horror, but it takes a true artist to put a terrifying concept on film and do it well. That being said, here are 13 of my favorites:

13. House of 1000 Corpses: When I was a sophomore in college, kids in my creative writing class told me that I should see this movie because I laugh just like the character Baby. After my good friend from class leant it to me, I watched it one night while studying and found just how disturbingly similar Baby’s laugh was to mine. This movie is not for the occasional horror movie watcher. Being a Rob Zombie film, it’s pretty hardcore. But, if you’re a fan of Rob Zombie’s unique film style and can handle some grotesque scenes, this is one of his best.

12: The Skeleton Key: This movie explores the inner workings of hoodoo in the south leading you down a dark path of southern tradition and deception. It tells the story of a young nurse who takes a job caring for an elderly couple in their old creepy mansion. While you learn that hoodoo can’t hurt you unless you believe in it, nothing will prepare you for the twist ending.

11: Wolf Creek: While Wolf Creek does have some qualities of a typical slasher film, it’s so much more than that. In typical slasher films, the protagonists tend to make bad decisions that are so stupidly unbelievable that they take away from the movie’s credibility. This is quite the opposite. When a group of American tourists are stranded in a remote part of the Australian outback, they make the same decisions you would have made when they’re offered a ride from a seemingly friendly local.

10: The Craft: The Craft is the definition of a cult classic. It’s also an excellent coming of age story. I must admit that the four high school witches summoning the powers of the watchtowers of the north, east, south and west, totally take me back to my childhood days when I too played ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board’ at sleepovers. The goth fashions of the 90s against oppressing Catholic school uniforms also takes me back to my childhood making The Craft one of my favorite Halloween traditions.

9. Funny Games: This home invasion thriller will either leave you on the edge of your seat or cause you to leave the room. I can best describe Funny Games as A Clockwork Orange on Cape Cod. Shortly after arriving at their lakefront vacation home, a family of three is terrorized by two psychotic prepsters in white. The movie toys just as much with the audience as the killers do with their victims giving it a terrifyingly unique quality.


8: The Brotherhood: Though this film has all the elements of being a corny scary movie, I absolutely love the concept. Besides, it’s important to have a few movies on this list to watch with friends who can’t stomach a Rob Zombie film. The Brotherhood tells the story of a group of frat brother vampires (yes, you read that correctly) who use their vampirism to stay in college forever. Why didn’t I think of that?

7: The Wicker Man: I’ve always been fascinated by cults and their strange rituals. The Wicker Man is one of the best depictions of their obscure nature. When a patrolman receives a letter from his former fiance, Willow, telling him that their daughter is missing, he goes to look for her on a private island where Willow lives as part of an odd matriarchal community that operates similar to a beehive. Get ready for a great twist at the end.

6: The Ring: Once you watch this movie about a creepy dead girl with a murderous videotape, you’ll cringe every time your phone rings or someone turns on the TV. The Ring does an excellent job of taking everyday objects and making them frightening. Not only is the video itself super scary, but the backstory about the evil girl behind it will stick with you for years to come.

5: The Strangers: If you love a good home invasion film, this is one of the best. When a young couple is stranded in a remote cabin, they are terrorized by three masked strangers. What makes this movie unique is that the killers have little to no lines and wear masks for pretty much the whole movie making them even more mysterious and menacing.

4: Hocus Pocus: Though this movie scared the hell out of me when I was seven, it’s not what any adult would consider a horror movie. However, it’s undisputedly a Halloween classic that I watch over and over again throughout the month of October.

3. The Moth Diaries: The Moth Diaries is one of the most original vampire movies I’ve ever seen in that it tells the story of a vampire that doesn’t live off blood, but off of human suffering. After her father’s suicide, Rebecca’s mother enrolls her in an all girls boarding school where she becomes happy again with the help of her best friend Lucie. When a newcomer arrives on campus and comes between her and Lucie, Rebecca becomes suspicious that there might be something evil about her.

2. American Mary: Unlike most horror movies that focus on killers or vampires, American Mary takes you deep into the taboo world of body modification. Mary is a broke medical student studying to be a surgeon. Against her better judgement, she starts performing freakish body modification surgeries on people looking to do some insane transformations. I’m so excited to see what the Soska sisters of Twisted Twins Productions come out with next.

1. Carrie: I’ve been watching Carrie on Halloween since I was a kid. Back in the days of Blockbuster Video, my Mom would always rent it for me around Halloween and we would watch it together. Though I liked last year’s remake a lot, you just can’t beat the original. No one will ever be able to top the terrifying performance of the mother in the 1976 version. I read an interview with Stephen King  where he revealed that Carrie was based on a girl he went to school with. Her mother was a fanatical gambling addict. As a result of her mother’s crazy gambling habit, she only had one dress to wear to school and was horribly bullied for it. When she wore a new dress to school for the first time, the kids made fun of her even more. She later killed herself, but lives on forever as Carrie.

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Recovering From Hurricane Sandy

In spite of it being my favorite holiday, I must admit that today didn’t feel much like Halloween in NYC. Just days after the worst natural disaster in history to hit the New York area, we are still feeling the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy.  With almost all public transportation suspended, tunnels closed, and nearly half the city without power or water, it feels more like the day after an alien attack in a real life horror movie rather than a fun holiday of dressing up in costumes.  Throughout the day, I often forgot it was even Halloween.

With walking really the only available mode of transportation, as I walked around the city, I saw far fewer people are on the street and almost none in their usual animated Halloween costumes.  Over the past couple days, numerous New Yorkers walked close to 100 blocks just to charge their phones and take a shower at friends’ places uptown.  I’m very lucky to be living in Midtown at the moment.  Since I live on higher ground, I never lost power and didn’t experience flooding.  However, millions were not as lucky.  Now, the relief efforts have begun and I’m once again moved by how resilient this city is.  I encourage everyone to be a part of the Hurricane Sandy relief effort all donations to the American Red Cross are tax-deductible and will go to helping those who need it most as we rebuild the world’s greatest city that I’m proud to call home.