A Terrible Cold-Blooded Murder of an Innocent Woman

Curator's Note

My QRFV article is a feminist history of women screenwriters working in horror film, read through Sorry, Wrong Number (1948), written by Lucille Fletcher. Given this approach, it seems apposite to continue feminist praxis in the making of my accompanying video essay. I do this at the level of content - there is feminist intent in my framing of Leona (Barbara Stanwyck) in Sorry, Wrong Number - but feminism is present in the form, as well.

The formal inspiration for ‘A Terrible Murder…’ comes from the videographic work of two women. The first is Dayna McLeod. McLeod’s ability to disrupt the flow of films, and to remake them anew through a feminist, queer lens, is unprecedented in videographic criticism, and she is a huge influence on my own practice. There are several overt nods to McLeod in ‘A Terrible Murder’. The quadrant is a gesture toward her ‘Thelma & Louise: Rape Culture, Mudflaps, and Vaginal Horizons’ (2023) (much lauded in the recent BFI/Sight & Sound Best Video Essays of 2023), while my repetition of ‘innocent / woman’ at the start of my piece is a direct homage to her ‘s/mother love/r’ (2022). Her repetition of ‘queers, queers, queers’ cut to Robyn’s ‘Dancing On My Own’ is a devastating audio-visual conjunction that never fails to rip out my heart, no matter how many times I experience it.

The second inspiration is Barbara Zecchi. I am part of Ways of Doing (WoD), a videographic collective formed by Lucy Fife Donaldson, Colleen Laird, Dayna McLeod and myself. We are currently developing a suite of feminist citational practice exercises, in which we highlight a videographic maker whose work we love and respect, and then create an exercise with parameters that reflect some of the formal attributes of that maker’s work. For Zecchi, we created ‘Dis/Re/Orienting Cinematic Language: Barbara Zecchi’s Feminist Mechanisms’ (2023), inspired by Zecchi’s ‘Being Dolls’ (2023), ‘The Accented Sound of Camp’ (2023) and ‘169 Seconds: Improbably Dialogism or the Art of Flying’ (2022). The parameters are as follows: focus on language; insert yourself, however briefly, but the choice must be related to the content; use visible grid lines; include captions and/or subtitles; limit yourself to one media object; 60 seconds - 3 mins long.

The only difficulty I experienced with this prompt was inserting myself into the work. I did initially envisage inserting myself, on the telephone, into conversation with Stanwyck (how videographic criticism holds the potential to make our dreams come true), but as the piece developed, I became more interested in how Stanwyck’s lines could be reused to challenge the insidious, patriarchal structures that contain her character. So, instead, I thought about my position as a spectator, and what it feels like to watch this piece. I recorded audio of myself breathing as I watched back the piece silently, in real time, and then I mixed this audio into the video essay as ambient sound. If you are listening for my breath, you can hear it. But if you aren’t, you won’t notice it. Instead, you may mistake my inhale for crackle on Leona’s telephone line, my exhale as the wind tunnelling in through her window, or my sigh as the sound of the man who climbs through her kitchen window, intent on murdering her.



Dayna McLeod, ‘s/mother love/r’, https://daynarama.com/s-mother-love-r/ (2022) (accessed 10 January 2024).

Dayna McLeod, ‘Thelma & Louise: Rape Culture, Mudflaps, and Vaginal Horizons’, Teknokultura: Journal of Digital Culture and Social Movements (forthcoming, 2024) (accessed 10 January 2024).

Barbara Zecchi, ‘Being Dolls (or Not): Spinning Mothers and Daughters in Elena Ferrante’s Adaptations’, Tecmerin: Journal of Audiovisual Essays, Vol. 23, No. 11 (2023): https://tecmerin.uc3m.es/project/being-dolls-or-not-spinning-mothers-and-daughters-in-elena-ferrantes-adaptations/?lang=en (accessed 10 January 2024).

Barbara Zecchi, ‘The Accented Sound of Camp’, Zeitschrift für Medienwissenschaft, September (2023): https://zfmedienwissenschaft.de/en/online/videography-blog/accented-sound-of-camp (accessed 10 January 2024).

Barbara Zecchi, ‘169 Seconds: Improbably Dialogism or the Art of Flying’, 16:9, December (2022), https://www.16-9.dk/2022/12/169-seconds-thelma-louise/ (accessed 10 January 2024).

Ways of Doing, ‘Dis/Re/Orienting Cinematic Language: Barbara Zecchi’s Feminist Mechanisms’, https://waysofdoing.com/feminist-citational-exercises/dis-re-orienting-cinematic-language-barbara-zecchis-feminist-mechanisms/ (2023).

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