Real #Horror show

Tara Subkoff muses on cyberbullying and classic scares at the première of her new film.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Tara Subkoff's #Horror is sharp-witted filmmaking
Tara Subkoff's #Horror is sharp-witted filmmaking Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Art world heavyweights, Urs Fischer, Francesco Celemente, Rob Pruitt, Daniel Subkoff, Adam McEwen, Dan Colen, Adriana Atema, Jordan Wolfson, Tabor Robak, Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe hosted a premiere screening of Tara Subkoff's #Horror with Chloë Sevigny, Timothy Hutton, Natasha Lyonne, Lydia Hearst, Balthazar Getty, Taryn Manning, Stella Schnabel, Annabelle Dexter-Jones and the 12-year-olds: Sadie Seelert, Haley Murphy, Bridget McGarry, Blue Lindeberg, Mina Sundwall, Emma Adler at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Chloë Sevigny with Tara Subkoff
Chloë Sevigny with Tara Subkoff Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Scarlett Johansson, Salma Hayek, Waris Ahluwalia, Fred Armisen, Derek Blasberg, Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler, Arden Wohl, Johan Lindeberg, America Olivo, Christian Campbell, Jeremy Kost, Humberto Leon, Nanette Lepore, Daniel Arnold, India Menuez, Hari Nef, Beatrix Ost, Cipriana Quann, TK Quann, Rachel Trachtenburg, Josh Moran, Chloe Wise, Nanette Lepore and Natalie Lebrecht were among the guests with an after party at the Players Club.

The fogged windows of a red Ferrari, parked on an icy road in a snowy forest of Connecticut, at first obscure what is happening inside. Sex or crime or both? Tara Subkoff's debut feature #Horror goes for the unsettling real, where Debussy's Clair de Lune and murderous fantasies can be enjoyed side by side. Chloë Sevigny (Alex Cox), initially seen in a kimono, sprouting kite-like flowers made from maps, portrays the host girl Sofia's (Bridget McGarry) mother and Timothy Hutton (Dr. White) the intense father of another.

A giant, medium-hard-boiled-egg artwork pulsates on the wall. The girls' disguises include vintage furs in various shades of brandy, silky slips, mother's jewels, grotesque face masks [conceived by Urs Fischer] and swimsuits in the perfect ashen hue that could have been designed by Orry-Kelly for a Busby Berkeley party. Part Grey Gardens, part Eighties socialites, part school uniform, part scary little privileged monster grin. Subkoff combines the tropes of the horror genre with a strong message about cyberbullying, without ever betraying the playful 12-year-old girl, hidden behind the functioning façade of many an adult.

Natasha Lyonne, Tara Subkoff, Lydia Hearst, Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Timothy Hutton and Chloë Sevigny
Natasha Lyonne, Tara Subkoff, Lydia Hearst, Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Timothy Hutton and Chloë Sevigny Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Fun and games, playing dress up, synchronised water ballet, cupcakes and a taste of the grown-ups' liquor are only the beginning of what is "submitted" to the deadly online pool - thirsty for blood.

#Horror is sharp-witted filmmaking.

Anne-Katrin Titze: You picked 12-year-olds!

Tara Subkoff: Yes. I wrote the script for 12-year-olds and, lo and behold, I cast real 12-year-olds to play 12-year-olds.

AKT: Why did you write them in that particular age?

TS: Because that is actually statistically the proven age where cyberbullying hits girls the hardest and the most. And it’s the most amount of suicides at that age, it's around 12 and 13.

AKT: Do you remember being 12?

TS: Oh, I really do. I was actually badly bullied at 12 myself. But I only was bullied on the bus. So I could go home and it would end.

AKT: Now it’s a very different world.

Anne-Katrin Titze slipping into an Urs Fischer #Horror mask
Anne-Katrin Titze slipping into an Urs Fischer #Horror mask Photo: Ed Bahlman

TS: It was a very different world. Now, I would kind of gear up, the way I’m gearing up right now to have to say a speech in front of a lot of people.

AKT: Or this here [I am pointing to the MoMA red carpet minglers].

TS: This is fine. I’m used to this. The speech in front of a lot of people for me is like -Whoa. It was always for me very scary. Now, what kids have to face with it, doesn’t end. Even if they put their phone down, they know it’s still going on. For all the world to see, for everyone to see. It’s horrifying.

AKT: How did the title come about?

TS: I really like titles. I don’t know how it came about. It just seemed right. I decided that that is what made sense to me for what to call the film.

AKT: Visually, I never thought of a hashtag as a prison. Here on your poster it looks like that.

TS: Thank you.

AKT: I have to ask about your jewelry. I love it.

TS: It’s a woman named Solange [Azagury-Partridge]. She’s out of London but I think she’s from Paris. She did this whole collection that’s supposed to look like blood. So I thought it was perfect for a horror thriller.

AKT: It is. Did you show your cast horror movies?

Tara Subkoff with Urs Fischer
Tara Subkoff with Urs Fischer Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

TS: I did! I asked them to see... Some of the young cast members had never watched a horror movie before. So I introduced them to horror – which I loved at their age. They really do too now.

AKT: The Shining among them?

TS: Yes, definitely.

AKT: What are the other ones?

TS: I wanted them to see Poltergeist. I asked them to see Carrie. I asked them to see some early Wes Craven like The People Under The Stairs or Last House On The Left.

AKT: Nothing earlier? Like Cat People?

TS: Oh, I love Cat People! Psycho, early Film Noir – I watched a lot of that. But they really loved Carrie. Obviously, that’s the Sissy Spacek one. And they really enjoyed The Shining and The Exorcist. And I had them watch Suspiria, also The Bird With the Crystal Plumage. I love all those films. I even asked them to watch some of the Korean horror or Japanese horror, which I’m a huge fan of.

AKT: Obayashi's House?

#Horror at MoMA
#Horror at MoMA Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

TS: Yes! That’s such a good one. But that’s too scary for them. That went too far. These are really nice girls and very well raised.

AKT: I can see that in person. I am very much looking forward to seeing them on the screen.

TS: Oh, good. Have you seen it yet?

AKT: No.

TS: That’s exciting. I can’t wait for you to see it and then we’ll talk more!

Coming up: Timothy Hutton (Dr. White), Lydia Hearst (Lisa), Sadie Seelert (Sam), Haley Murphy (Cat), Bridget McGarry (Sofia), Blue Lindeberg (Ava), Mina Sundwall (Francesca), Emma Adler (Georgie) and Wes Anderson favorite, Waris Ahluwalia on the red carpet and Players Club after party.

#Horror opens at the IFC Center in New York on November 20 with Tara Subkoff and members of the cast in person following the 7:15pm screening. The UK release date has yet to be confirmed.

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