Vanessa Ionta Wright

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Women in Horror Month 9 Blood Drive, PSA #1 – Be A Hero!

Women in Horror Month 9 Blood Drive, PSA #1 – Be A Hero!

Happy Women in Horror Month, Souls! Now’s the time to reach out to and salute all the great women working in the industry – writers, directors, actors, costume designers, makeup artists, location scouts, directors of photography, editors, and, well, all areas of horror. At House of Tortured Souls, we not only support women in horror, we also support the Women in Horror Month Blood Drive – and this is its ninth year running.

This year the Twisted TwinsJen and Sylvia Soska – have set about organizing an enormous blood drive through a series of PSAs created by 30 filmmaking crews from all over the globe. Today’s PSA comes to us from Vanessa Ionta Wright.

Oh, and before we continue, here’s the obligatory disclaimer (not that we need it, right Souls?):

DISCLAIMER: This IS Horror, boys and grrls, so SOME of these do have VERY naughty content. Blood. Gore. EXTREME gore. Disturbing situations. Nudity. Sexual situations. Violence. Language.
If you are SENSITIVE to this kind of content, be a mature human being and just don’t watch. No need to spoil the fun for us fellow weirdos. We’re not hurting anyone. It just REALLY looks like we are 😉

And without further ado, behold the awesome first Blood Drive PSA of Women in Horror Month:

Be A Hero

By Vanessa Ionta Wright


Vanessa Ionta Wright is a filmmaker based in Atlanta, GA. She is the co-owner of Above the Line Artistry ( as well as the co-founder and Festival Director of the Women in Horror Film Festival (  Vanessa collaborated with Samantha Kolesnik, Mark Simon (One Missed Call), David Irwin (House of 1000 Corpses) and Josh Oliver (Oculus) on Rainy Season, based on the story by Stephen King.  Vanessa has also directed the short film I Baked Him a Cake and a PSA for the WiHM9 Massive Blood Drive.  Vanessa graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Video Production & Film. She is a lifelong fan of cinema, most especially the horror genre. She enjoys punctuality, scary movies, a quick wit, sandwiches, the music of Michael Jackson, Halloween & Bacon Jam. She does not enjoy bugs, clowns, perpetual lateness, mean people, oppression, laziness, running more than 3 miles or curved walls.


I was really honored to be invited to create a PSA for the WiHM Massive Blood Drive.  This is a brilliant idea to blend the world of horror filmmaking with such an important cause.  I think it’s easy to take our blood for granted.  It is crucial to donate.  I hear people say all the time “I wish I could do something to help” and this is probably the most simple and effective means of helping others.  Giving your blood will save lives and I am so grateful to be a part of such an amazing cause.  The theme this year of Be a Hero is so appropriate, because when you give blood, when you save a life, you become a hero.

For more information on the cast and crew of Be a Hero, check out the IMDb page.

Remember, Souls, there’ll be a new PSA every day up to and including 1 March 2018, and please check out the official WiHM website for more on Women in Horror Month.

And check out my interview with Vanessa and Sam Kolesnik on the Women in Horror Film Festival from last year’s Women in Horror Month celebration.

Posted by Alan Smithee in HORROR NEWS, NEW RELEASES, 0 comments
SHORT REVIEW: Rainy Season (2017)

SHORT REVIEW: Rainy Season (2017)

"It's not a rock."
Fair use doctrine.
As regulars to HoTS can attest, back in October of 2016, I became aware of a short film titled Rainy Season when director Vanessa Ionta Wright reached out to HoTS. A quick look at the information confirmed my suspicion: Rainy Season is an adaptation of a Stephen King story of the same name. Since Rainy Season is one of my favorite stories, I jumped at the chance to cover this. Later, I found out that Wright and fellow Rainy Season executive producer Samantha Kolesnik had organized the first annual Women in Horror Film Festival which is being held September 22 – 24, 2017 - more great news!
Then I got the best news. The short film was finished, and I was offered a chance to view and review it. So, without further ado and with many thanks to Wright and everyone involved in the production (as well as apologies for the delay), here we go.
First, it’s important to note that rarely are Stephen King works solely one tone or another. King is known for the dark comedic streaks that are seamlessly integrated into otherwise horrific and terrifying tales. Second, while King often brings monsters into his stories (“Gray Matter”, “The Raft”, Cujo, IT, The Stand), the real focus is the humans and how they react in extreme situations. It’s well known that stressful situations often result in the worst of mankind being brought to light, but they can also bring out the best in mankind. This is something that King handles quite well and which draws us back time and again to see how things work out for his next victim. Finally, one of King’s greatest gifts is his ability to tell a story in a manner that makes the reader want – need – to finish it. It’s incredibly difficult to translate the words to images in a way that’s going satisfy all fans of the written word. That’s why so few of his works have been effectively adapted into the medium of film and video. It takes a director with a deft touch to bring a King story to life on film, and Vanessa Ionta Wright has that touch.
Rainy Season_Willow General Mercantile & Hardware / Fair use doctrine.Rainy Season follows John Graham (Brian Ashton Smith), a college English professor on a book-writing sabbatical, and his wife Elise (Anne Marie Kennedy) as they arrive in Willow, Maine, for the summer. Stopping in at the Willow Mercantile and Hardware, John and Elise are greeted by elderly local Henry Eden (Kermit Rollison) and his dog. Henry spooks the couple by knowing who they are and why they are there before reminding them of the speed at which news travels in a small town. Henry is soon joined by Laura Stanton (Jan Mary Nelson), another local, as he attempts to convince the Grahams to spend the night out of town. Laura backs up Henry, stressing that they’ve arrived on the exact day of the Rainy Season, but rather than convincing them, her words solidifies the Grahams’ view of the two as not quite right. After making their way to their rental cabin, John and Elise settle in for the night, unaware that they will soon find out the two locals may not be as crazy as they first thought.
Brian Ashton Smith and Anne Marie Kennedy are believable and sympathetic as the loving yet troubled couple who don’t seem entirely at ease with one another. Their chemistry is real, and we get the sense that both want things to be better but aren’t entirely sure how to make it so. The trip to Willow is supposed to help give them both new perspective. Their love is clear, but so is the tension affecting it. At the cabin, their shared looks and shy touches reinforce this.
Rainy Season / L – R: Jan Mary Nelson, Kermit Rollison, Anne Marie Kennedy, and Brian Ashton Smith / Fair use doctrine.
Kermit Rollison and Jan Mary Nelson do a great job portraying the locals whose unwilling duty it is to greet the couple. We get the sense that doing it more than every seven years would be too much. As reluctant emissaries of Willow, Eden and Stanton try to welcome the couple without being too welcoming, ultimately suggesting they spend their first night out of town even though they know the Grahams will not.
Technically the film is excellent. Sound and visuals are top notch, adding to the overall effectiveness. With a sometimes ironic soundtrack, Rainy Season definitely captures the feel of the source material – a little bit retro, a little bit modern, and all apropos. Together with the solid acting of the players as well as the impeccable direction, Rainy Season works. Wright makes some difficult choices for the adaptation, but they pay off. The climax made me groan and grin – though the grin may properly have been more of a grimace – simultaneously. She takes us to the edge of an eldritch chasm and leaves us laughing nervously at our escape.
Do yourself a favor. Watch it if you get a chance. It shows there are still directors in the industry who know how to adapt the written word. King fans will be especially happy to spot a few Kingian Easter eggs.
Catch Rainy Season at Attack of the 50ft Film Festival at 7:00pm on June 27, 2017, at The Plaza Theater in Atlanta, GA.

Don't forget to check out the official website.

Give them a Like on Facebook.

Follow them on Twitter.

Subscribe to their YouTube channel.

Posted by Alan Smithee in MOVIE REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
WiHM: Women in Horror Film Festival (WIHFF)

WiHM: Women in Horror Film Festival (WIHFF)

Happy Women in Horror Month! We continue our tribute to amazing women in horror with a look at the Women in Horror Film Festival (WIHFF).

Overview of Women in Horror

Women have played critical roles in horror films since horror films began. They began as objects of desire before evolving into damsels in distress. With Psycho, female nudity became part of the standard, eventually leading to the trend of "bad" girls having sex and being killed. With this came the final girl trope, wherein a female survives to the end, often killing the monster or slasher who had been the film's antagonist. The final girl was almost always the one who didn't do any drugs, drank little if at all, and did not engage in sex. Despite the evolution of the female to a strong survivor, there was quite a bit of underlying misogyny that really only began to be weeded out of horror in the 2000s with the current crop of strong women filmmakers. Indeed, the changing roles of women were defined by the changes in the genre itself, and, as any horror fan knows, there is no shortage of great women in horror. Moreover, not only have women moved beyond the stereotypes, they've also moved beyond simply acting in the films to becoming more active behind the camera in virtually every aspect of filmmaking. And that’s what the Women in Horror Film Festival (WIHFF) is all about.

The Women in Horror Film Festival

The WIHFF is a new horror film festival whose time has definitely come. According to the website, the festival showcases and celebrates not only female writers, directors, producers, and actors, but also cinematographers, make-up artists, and composers who have dedicated their craft to the horror genre. In order to be considered, submissions must be in no later than 15 July 2017, the extended deadline. A complete list of deadlines is available on the WIHFF official website.
The first rule for the WIHFF is that entries have women in key creative positions from the following roles: (Producer(s), Director(s), Writer(s), Cinematographer(s), Composer, SFX Artist, and lead talent). This is especially exciting for women behind the camera since those roles are often overlooked – particularly when staffed by women. Feature films (80-120 minutes) and short films (45 minutes) both are welcome as are feature screenplays (80 – 100 pages), short films (30 pages maximum), and TV pilots (45 pages maximum). Have a screenplay or TV pilot that hasn’t been produced? No worries there. As long as the script was written or co-written by a woman, it’s still eligible for submission. All items to be considered must be submitted no later than 15 July 2017 to allow sufficient time for the judges to evaluate all entries. To ensure impartial consideration, people who have worked on a festival submission are exempt from judging.
There are a total of 19 categories eligible for prizes that include, but aren’t limited to, custom WIHFF trophies, distribution consideration by Terror Films (feature only), and a 1-hour mentoring session with industry pro Mark Simon, who has over decades of experience in the camera department for major films (One Missed Call, Risky Business, Weird Science, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3, Predator 2, and Primal Fear). The 19 categories are:
  • Best Traditional Horror Film (short or feature)
    These films can encompass but are not limited to Slasher/Stalker/Supernatural
    /Creature Feature/Zombie/Folklore/Urban Legend
  • Best Non-Traditional Horror Film (short or feature)
    These films can encompass but are not limited to Animated/Comedy/Experimental,
  • Best International Horror Film (short or feature)
  • Best Documentary Horror Film (short or feature)
  • Best Grindhouse Film (short or feature)
  • Best Sci-Fi Film (short or feature)
  • Best Local Horror (GA filmmakers) Film (short or feature)
  • Best Student Horror Film (short)
  • Best LGBTQ Horror Film (short or feature)
    These films must be made by persons who identify as LGBTQ or center around LGBTQ characters/stories/subject matter)
  • Best Overall Feature Audience Award
  • Best Overall Short Audience Award
  • Best Unproduced Feature Screenplay
  • Best Unproduced Short Screenplay
  • Best Unproduced TV Pilot
  • Best Director (short or feature)
  • Best Actress (short or feature)
  • Best Cinematography (short or feature)
  • Best Musical Score (short or feature)
  • Best Make up/Practical FX (short or feature)

Clearly there’s a lot to look forward to in this festival.

The Festival Directors

The WIHFF is being organized by festival directors Vanessa Ionta Wright and Samantha Kolesnik. When I learned of the WIHFF, I knew that I had to honor it during Women in Horror Month. I reached out to Vanessa and Samantha who were kind enough to answer a few questions for me. Without further ado, here's your chance to learn something about the strong women filmmakers who have organized this much-needed festival.

WIHFF - Vanessa Ionta WrightVanessa Ionta Wright is an award winning screenwriter. Her work has garnered recognition at film festivals & competitions around the globe. She graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Video Production & Film. She recently launched the Women in Horror Film Festival with fellow screenwriter, Samantha Kolesnik. She enjoys punctuality, scary movies, a quick wit, sandwiches, the music of Michael Jackson, Halloween & Bacon Jam. She does not enjoy bugs, clowns, perpetual lateness, mean people, oppression, laziness, running more than 3 miles or curved walls.

WIHFF - Samantha SkolesnikSamantha Kolesnik is a writer and independent film producer living in Pennsylvania. She co-directs the Women in Horror Film Festival with Vanessa Ionta Wright. Her screenplays have been recognized at various festivals nationwide, and her fiction has recently appeared in The Bitter Oleander and The William and Mary Review. Her short horror film, I Baked Him a Cake, is currently in post production, and stars actresses Fleece and Lillian Gray.

HoTS: Who are some of your inspirations?

Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling are two biggies. I love Hitchcock's approach to suspense and building fear around what cannot be seen. I think Serling was an absolute visionary and I can definitely see his influence in a lot of my more science fiction/thriller writing. I am also very inspired by anyone brave enough to take a risk and put their work out there for everyone to see. As an independent filmmaker, I understand the challenges and the risks involved and I am absolutely inspired by those who don't take no for an answer and power through.

Some of my recent inspirations include Jennifer Kent, Vladimir Nabokov, Shirley Jackson, The Great Medieval Heretics: Five Centuries of Religious Dissent by Michael Frassetto, the huge database of the Righteous Among Nations, the performances of Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson in the film, Schindler's List, and so much more. I was a tremendous introvert as a child, and relentlessly bullied, so 'horror' for me, both in film and literature, has a deeper meaning than a temporary adrenaline rush. I enjoy psychological horror, tales steeped in folklore, and statements (intelligent, subtle statements...) on culture, myth, and human nature. Horror is when the darkness threatens to overtake the light at any moment in time, but I am a huge believer in the power of light. You can always make a light brighter, but darkness only gets so dark. I guess, what I'm saying, is there's more to horror than blood and guts - it just depends on your lens.

HoTS: How did you get into horror?

I wrote my first horror novel at the age of 7. It was called The Witch's Castle and it was a best seller in my second grade class. 😉
I watched my first horror film at the age of 8, Poltergeist. It firmly sealed my fear of stuffed toys, especially stuffed clowns. It also got me completely hooked on horror and I started chasing that fear 'high'. While my parents thought I was asleep, I would sneak downstairs and sit quietly on the steps and spy while they watched movies like Cujo and The Amityville Horror. When I was a teen, you would find me and my friends huddled around the TV on a Friday night, binge watching everything horror that the local video store had to offer. I like to think horror is in my blood.

I was always "into horror". There's a great streak of hope and triumph that runs through classic horror, and I was always on the side of our horror heroines. I think I also always sensed, even as a young child, that humans don't always make the best decisions, that humans are fallible. Horror, in a way, takes that to the extreme and shows us the most monstrous manifestations of our darker natures, and then it allows us to prevail against it (or at least to try to). Early horror favorites for me were the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Scream, The Craft, the original Halloween Parts I and II, and the original Nightmare on Elm Street. I was also exposed to other kinds of 'horror' in film, though, that ended up impacting how I create within the genre... films like Sleepers, American History X, Citizen X... evil isn't confined to special effects and masks.

HoTS: Do you have a favorite monster?

My favorite monsters to create and write are the ones within us. Imagining the depths of evil that people are capable of. As far as iconic monsters, I've always really loved vampires. I know that's so clichè. What can I say, vampires are sexy.

Humans. The human is the most dangerous monster, and doesn't need any alterations or special powers to be utterly terrifying. Leatherface looks like a dandelion when you study human history.

HoTS: What's up next for you?

I always have a few irons in the fire. Up next will be taking the two short films I directed, I Baked Him a Cake and Rainy Season, to festivals. Both films allowed me to collaborate with Samantha Kolesnik who is always a pleasure to work with. She wrote and produced I Baked Him a Cake and came on board as the Executive Producer for Rainy Season. We also teamed up to launch the Women in Horror Film Fest. I also continuing to write, working on a few shorts, a feature and TV pilot. I sneak in a nap or two when I can. 😉

I'm working on finishing a collection of short stories, all which would probably fit into the category of either hyper-realism or 'dark fiction' (depends on how you see life), zealously working on making the Women in Horror Film Festival the best celebration of women filmmakers and writers that it can be, and I'm also wrapping up post on I Baked Him a Cake.

HoTS: What prompted you to start this much needed festival?

Sam and I are both very aware of the unbalanced representation of female filmmakers in the industry, especially within the horror genre. We really wanted to create a platform to showcase the amazing films and screenplays created by women. We are very grateful for the outpouring of support we have received for this festival. We are extremely proud to be doing something we love, supporting our sisters in the industry and scaring the hell of viewers.

Look at the last year's release of horror films. Look at the teams behind them. Very, very few have women directors, women composers, women writers, or women cinematographers. And trust me, that's not because they don't exist or aren't talented. Diversity works hand in hand with creativity. I could say 'I hope we see more recognition for women horror filmmakers in the future' but hope isn't a strategy, right? So, tons of women, like Hannah Neurotica, founder of Women in Horror Film Festival, and my colleague, Vanessa, are doing something about it.

HoTS: That’s fantastic. It really is long overdue, and I have great respect for you two organizing this.
I know it's early, but do you foresee this becoming an annual festival?

100% yes.

I know it will be.

HoTS: If money was no issue, what would your dream horror film be?

A $250,000,000 feature that starts with Jason Voorhees showing up in Haddonfield on Halloween night to battle Michael Myers. They end up in a chase that brings them to Texas where they pick up Leatherface. They start to realize they have a pretty cool little club here so they hop in a van headed to Springwood where they pick up Freddy Krueger. Horror ensues and they stumble upon the infamous puzzle box. Looks like someone forgot to invite the cenobites.  This upsets Pinhead so he drags them all to hell,after all he needed 4 more for poker night.

My dream horror film, should money be no issue, would be one that digs into the violence on women that is perpetrated by other women. It's something rarely explored or discussed, and I think it's a very important and relevant issue. That's vague, but that would be the concept at the heart of the film.

So there you have it - a look inside the minds of two women filmmakers whose impact on the genre has just begun!

Where and When

The WIHFF, which takes place September 22 – 24, 2017, is being held at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta in SW Peachtree City, Georgia. If you’re interested in submitting your work or just finding out more about the event, you can find the complete information at the Women in Horror Film Festival official website. You can also contact the directors at

Posted by Alan Smithee in EVENTS, HORROR NEWS, WOMEN IN HORROR, 0 comments