Horror Icon Mini-Marathon: LUCKY MCKEE


It’s rare that a male filmmaker, working in a genre known for its unenlightened views of the female experience, would build an entire resume of films that were mature and thoughtful observations of the horror genre from a woman’s perspective. In celebration of his upcoming film release “All Cheerleaders Die,” this week’s article covers the career of filmmaker Lucky McKee.

McKee’s feature directing career began, interestingly, with the 1999 high-definition video version of “All Cheerleaders Die,” which he co-directed with Chris Siverston (and with whom he is making the remake). The film that put his name on people’s minds, however, was “May,” a film that is equal parts “Frankenstein” and “Teeth.” The low-budget film got him attention that brought him more work in the industry, from acting to producing.

His next directorial work was the United Artists release “The Woods,” followed by a writing and acting turn in “Roman.” The film was a follow-up to “May,” with actress Angela Bettis this time directing him. His next job, producing on the disturbing horror film “The Lost” for friend Siverston introduced him to author Jack Ketchum.

This led to a creative connection between McKee and Ketchum, leading to two big-screen adaptations of his work: “Red” and “The Woman.”

His career has also been influenced by his friendship with “Brick” and “Looper” director Rian Johnson, with whom he worked on the 1996 short film “Evil Demon Golfball From Hell.” (Johnson also did the editing chores on McKee’s “May”)


The beginning of McKee’s fruitful relationship with actress Angela Bettis (with whom he has worked on nearly every project since, including a disturbing episode of “Masters of Horror”) began here with this tale of an odd and fixated young woman coming into her sexuality and learning that not everyone has the same dark urges as her. Masterful tone and direction and a flawless lead performance (as well as good turns from Jeremy Sisto and a young Anna Faris) make this an impressive debut feature.

The Woods

Lost on audiences upon its initial release, this film (which McKee clearly seems to be using to create an elaborate homage of “Suspiria”) about young girls attending a specialized school in New England, has a strong sense of environment and an interesting cast of recognizable indie faces (from Bruce Campbell to Patricia Clarkson). The film never entirely comes together, but the journey to the end is an exercise in effective imagery, mood, and sustaining of tension.

The Woman

McKee’s second take on a Ketchum work (after the troubled production of “Red”), “The Woman” is a disturbing tale of misogyny, buried secrets, and violence that stands on its own as well as it ties into Ketchum’s previous stories “Off Season” and “Offspring.” A powerhouse performance from “deadwood” alum Sean Bridgers as domineering country lawyer and supposed family man Chris Cleek anchors this story about the perversion of the American family and the lengths people will go to create “civilized society.”

Chris Vander Kaay and Kathleen Fernandez-Vander Kaay


Chris Vander Kaay and Kathleen Fernandez-Vander Kaay are a husband and wife writing team who agree on almost everything except whether or not 28 Days Later should be considered a zombie movie. After years devoted to interviews, podcasts, and articles in which they championed the idea that the horror film genre should be taken seriously, they hope the idea is finally catching on.

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