Having first caught The Boogeywoman at the Fantasia International Film Festival back in July, I can honestly say this is not only a crowd-pleaser, but a true calling card for filmmaker Erica Scoggins. A genre-bending coming-of-age Horror, this 18-minute short celebrates the onset of womanhood by uncannily turning the old boogeyman folklore on its head and exploring the psychology of female sexuality and biology.
I grew up hearing about the “Boogeyman” and decided there should be a “Boogeywoman”
The Boogeywoman is not overtly a Horror film, but rather uses Horror elements to point out the absurdity of demonizing and shaming women for their sexuality, biology, and agency. “I grew up hearing about the ‘Boogeyman’ and decided there should be a ‘Boogeywoman’”, Scoggins explains.
Historically, men can be feared for the ease and frequency with which they kill women, yet women are often feared for just being female – especially if they are free-spirited, strong-minded, and not afraid to discuss a little blood. Scoggins’ Boogeywoman is a fantastical version of everything women desire to be and ultimately represents a mythological rite of passage to womanhood.
It’s hard not to feel incredibly empowered by the idea of little girls listening to tales of this local legend as they go to bed at night, as depending on your own personal interpretation of the story, it may not be a Horror at all.
“If you think menstruation is disgusting and should be hidden, then this is a horror film,” elaborates Scoggins. “If you can look past centuries of misogyny and sterility and recognize the power and magic of a natural process experienced by half the population… then it is a coming-of-age story about a girl who can make her own decisions despite bleeding from her ‘where-ever’.”
The film itself is altogether dreamlike and adds to the lore that Scoggins has created within the small-town setting. By placing the characters in a roller skating rink, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic for the teenagers as they teeter on the edge of romance with every lap. At times, it looks so intensely like a retro music video, that when the scene suddenly starts to feel ‘off’, it’s hard not to sense dread at what is about to come.
In a number of disturbing moments throughout the short, Scoggins shows an impressive amount of restraint, in both dialogue and score, to create an overwhelming sense of unease that is further supported by lead actress Amélie Höferle’s emotive performance. Scoggins’ approach to special effects is also quite subtle and relies mostly on eerie sound design.
“I sometimes find sounds I know I want to use and build a scene around that. This was the case with the blinking in the final scene. It was never meant to be about the eyes, but the cracking sound lends an otherworldliness to the characters when inside that room,” Scoggins tells Short of the Week.
Having been lucky enough to be on the jury that awarded The Boogeywoman Best Short Film at Fantasia, it’s no surprise that it was programmed at a number of fests including Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and Atlanta Film Festival.
Scoggins is currently working with her producer to develop a feature version of the short, which follows a slightly older cast as they navigate intimate partner violence, ancestral trauma, and the fierce capacity for violence in the “gentler” sex. The script is finished, a prequel is in development, and they’re ready to make it happen!