Raw screens on 10/7 as part of the series

After 18 months of virtual programming, Facets reopened its doors in September to Chicagoans buzzing to see independent films on the big screen. But the return to in-person screenings is not the only thing different at Facets—the storied cinema house is trying something different this season with a series of “Alternative Horror” picks.

Programmed by Facets’s Emma Greenleaf and a late-night programming subcommittee, the series explores a breadth of horror films outside the margins of the mainstream—from female cannibals to Blaxploitation to surreal animation. It signals not just a welcome return to Facets, but also an investment in non-traditional horror programming for a hungry new audience.

Facets Alternative Horror Essentials
10/7-10/28, 8 PM, Facets, 1517 W. Fullerton, facets.org/cinema, $5 per screening.

Fresh off of the release of Titane, there’s no better time to revisit Julia Ducournau’s debut feature. Justine (Garance Marillier) is a lifelong vegetarian following in her sister’s footsteps to become a vet. But after an intense hazing process forces her to eat a rabbit kidney, an all-consuming hunger for flesh takes over. Raw marries the coming-of-age story with horror sensibilities, juggling Justine’s relationship with growing up and finding her sexual agency with power and bloodlust. Raw is one of few films in the “female cannibal” canon, one that flips the power dynamic of women in horror so they are in control, rather than afraid of, their own carnal desires.

Trouble Every Day
You can’t talk about female cannibal flicks without mentioning one of the films that paved the way for the genre. Claire Denis’s 2001 feature is a staple of New French Extremity—a label given to horror films at the turn of the century that featured relationships between sex and violence outside of the status quo. Coré (Béatrice Dalle) uses her sexuality to lure her victims and feast on them, but that dynamic is changed when she reunites with Shane (Vincent Gallo), who has the same cannibalistic urges that she has. Denis treats this hunger the same as she does sex, all while commenting on, and flipping, normative gender power dynamics along the way.

Ganja & Hess
A seminal take on Blaxploitation and horror, Bill Gunn crafts an experimental mediation on the intersections of sex, religion, and vampirism. After being stabbed with an ancient ceremonial dagger by his assistant, Dr. Hess Green (Duane Jones), an anthropologist studying an African nation of blood drinkers, develops a thirst of his own. But when Hess needs more, he forms a relationship with his assistant’s wife Ganja Meda (Marlene Clark), setting the stage for secrets to be unearthed. Ganja & Hess is one of only two films that feature Jones in a lead role along with Night of the Living Dead, which is a shame given the sheer command he has on the screen at any given time. 

Perfect Blue
Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue remains one of the most shocking anime films since its release in 1997. Mima Kirigoe (Junko Iwao) is part of a semi-popular idol group, but everything changes when she decides to pursue a career as an actress. Mima is besieged by stalking attempts and haunting visions of her former self. Kon thoughtfully depicts a woman on the verge of madness as her squeaky-clean image devolves into the compromising and gruesome roles she plays in her acting career—and as terrible murders occur around her that fester paranoia and make Mima lose her hold on reality.

Don’t Look Now
Adapted from the 1971 short story by Daphne du Maurier, Nicolas Roeg crafts a thrilling and kaleidoscopic portrait of grief. After the accidental death of their daughter, a married couple flee to Venice where John (Donald Sutherland) is commissioned to restore a church—but the couple are constantly haunted by visions of what looks like their daughter running through the city. Don’t Look Now implements stylistic and oftentimes jarring editing techniques that alter the perception of what exactly is going on—and it is also known for a controversial sex scene that was often censored because it pushed the purity standards of mainstream cinema.