THE BLOG
12/01/2014 03:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Horror With a Woman's Touch -- Not Your Average Deadly Movie

Berkshire County closed Shriekfest Horror Film Festival in October, and came away with the coveted Best Horror Feature Film award -- and for good reason: it's frightening, as one would expect, but it's different -- very different -- and the audience loved it!

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Production still - "Berkshire County" - Used with permission: Audrey Cummings

Coming of age is not a theme typically associated with horror films, and it surprised me, but in this case, it works. Another interesting aspect is how much time and care went into introducing the audience to teenage Kylie Winters, the lead character -- really letting the audience walk a mile in her shoes, to the end that, once things got cooking, the audience would be transfixed.

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Kylie Winters played by Alysa King
Production still - "Berkshire County" - Used with permission: Audrey Cummings

As an author, I know that's not an easy thing to accomplish and, in a genre like horror, where that kind of emotional connection generally takes a back seat to the "main event" of stopping your heart, freezing your blood, or turning your stomach, I found it very satisfying. I don't want to just be grossed out -- when I'm watching a movie, regardless of the genre, I want to care when someone gets an ice pick shoved into their eyeball! And director Audrey Cummings does an brilliant job of it.

Audiences agree. Berkshire County has been grabbing award after award: most recently, Grand Jury Prize at Shriekfest (first woman to receive that in Shriekfest's fourteen-year history), Best of the Quest and Best Actress at HorrorQuest, Best Feature Film at Atlanta Horror Film Festival, and Best Director at Phoenix Fearcon - all within a four-week period!

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Audrey Cummings & Alysa King - Grand Jury Award at Shriekfest
Used with permission: Shriekfest Horror Film Festival

What makes Berkshire County so compelling is its authenticity. Executive Producer David Miller explains: "The whole film is about beating the odds - Audrey's story as well as Kylie's. It was Audrey's fighting spirit that drove the whole thing." Because female directors are such a minority, and female horror directors even more so, the standard funding sources were quite reticent to loosen their purse strings, even though her presentations were spot on. "They worried that a woman just couldn't pull it off. But Audrey wanted to show the world that a woman can do horror."
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Production still - "Berkshire County" - Used with permission: Audrey Cummings

Which they can... and have been as far back as the early 1900s. Lois Weber, a groundbreaker in her own right, introduced the world to Lon Chaney in ten-minute thriller named Suspense (1913). Perhaps even more well known was actress-turned-director Ida Lupino, who, in 1950, opened the film-noir doors for the 'gentler sex' by writing and directing her first feature horror, Outrage.

Kylie Winters (played by Best Actress Alysa King, one of 200 women who auditioned!) is a teenager who's bullied and humiliated terribly at school. Her mother, a loving woman by all accounts, keeps encouraging her to be stronger, stand up for herself. How Kylie handles the untenable situations in which she finds herself, and how she interacts with her tormentors, feels real because that's how Audrey designed it.

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Production still - "Berkshire County" - Used with permission: Audrey Cummings

"I worked hard on the story arc for Kylie," Audrey explained, "That's why we took our time developing her character, really letting the audience get to know her. I wanted that substance for her."

That substance was precisely what attracted actress Alysa King to the story and the role. "Kylie Winters is the person who carries the story," Alysa told me. "She has a lot of inner strength she doesn't know about. That was the fun part for me: Kylie goes through such a journey." A journey that's handled realistically. "Real life home invasions and abductions don't come with warnings. They happen to the most random people at the most random times. That's what's really frightening."

And Audrey clearly knows that because Berkshire County does not rely on tiresome tricks like sudden, loud sounds or someone suddenly popping out of nowhere.

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Madison Ferguson as Phoebe (L), Alysa King as Kylie (R)
Production still - "Berkshire County" - Used with permission: Audrey Cummings

But before I start accidentally printing spoilers, I suggest you go out of your way to see the film - then you can see for yourself what audiences are raving about. Here's Berkshire County's official website: Berkshire County - The Movie.

Pamela S. K. Glasner is a published author, filmmaker, social advocate, and contributor to Cabaret Scenes Magazine. Learn more about Ms. Glasner at http://www.starjackentertainment.com/ or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pamela.glasner.

Copyright by Pamela S. K. Glasner © 2014, All Rights Reserved