Written by Kier-La Janisse
FAB Press, 2012
Design by Kier-La Janisse/Layout by Harvey Fenton
In 2012, FAB Press released Kier-La Janisse’s film criticism/memoir hybrid House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films, which explored her troubled life from childhood adoption through teenage years in group homes and reform school and precarious adult relationships, reflected through the lens of horror films that featured similarly unstable female characters.
The book was first released with endorsements from Fritz the Cat director Ralph Bakshi (“God, this woman can write, with a voice and intellect that’s so new.”) and The Wasp Factory author Iain Banks (“Fascinating, engaging and lucidly written: an extraordinary blend of deeply researched academic analysis and revealing memoir.”)
In his column in Gorezone #32, Tim Lucas called it “A groundbreaking book,” continuing to say that: “This is a rare work within the field, one that takes an almost novelistic leap of imagination in determining and recording its subject and collating its parts. The personal chapters are fascinating and harrowing, showing gifts for autobiographic writing not commonly found among film critics. Janisse proves an equally adept critic; her selection of films reveals a remarkably thorough immersion in her subject. She also deserves points for confronting the question about the subtle scars that we may invite by turning to such films for entertainment.”
Ian MacAllister-McDonald of the LA Review of Books wrote that “What ultimately makes House of Psychotic Women so spellbinding is less the memoir or the reviews as individual entities, but the way that the two, when juxtaposed, remind us that these stories are rooted in the real; and not the big/broad/social-political real, but the real that is small and intimate and experiential.”
“HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN is for the horror aficionado as well as the horror curious. Janisse weaves her own life into an intensely personal exploration of the genre, challenging the reader to reconsider the films in all of their complexity. I devoured this compelling, surprising, and moving book.” – Molly Ringwald, actress, singer and author
“If you don’t have her book HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN you are missing something. A melange of misfit movies and very personal agony, there is just nothing like it in the universe. Others may attempt a similar approach, but Kier-La did it first and did it best. This is a book that will never be topped.” – Jimmy McDonough, author, Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography and The Ghastly One: The 42nd Street Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan
“High Priestess of Horror Kier-La Janisse has crafted the definitive encyclopedia of female neurosis as depicted in horror cinema and the many ways it paralleled her own trauma zones. Beautifully written, extremely well researched and lush with gorgeous film stills and posters – a masterpiece.” – Lydia Lunch, musician, poet, author and No Wave icon
Beginning in 2012 the book formed the basis of film retrospectives in Austin, Montreal, Los Angeles, Brussels, Amsterdam, Melbourne and more. The book was responsible for the re-popularization of many forgotten films, and since its publication, “House of Psychotic Women” has been referred to as a film subgenre unto itself.
The first edition hardcover came with a limited edition 45rpm postcard record of Charles Bernstein’s “Somebody’s Waitin’ for You” from the 1973 film Pigs – the first time the song had ever been released outside of the film itself. Below is the back of the record:
To mark its 10th anniversary in 2022, Kier-La Janisse and FAB Press reteamed to produce an expanded edition of HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN, featuring new writing on 100 more films – many of which were inspired in part by the book itself – and hundreds of images, including a 48-page full color section. The expanded edition of HOUSE OF PSYCHOTIC WOMEN will launch at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival on July 24th in a limited edition, large-format hardcover. The expanded edition is also available for pre-order at https://www.fabpress.com/hopw-expanded-edition-hardcover.html
PLUS: Included in the limited edition hardcover is an exclusive CD of author Kier-La Janisse reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic feminist horror story THE YELLOW WALLPAPER (1892) with an original score composed and performed by Timothy Fife (known for his work with labels Death Waltz and Library of the Occult) and cover art by Katy Horan (LITERARY WITCHES, ASK BABA YAGA).
The trailer below was made for the 2013 retrospective at CineFamily in Los Angeles.
The following video was made to promote an exhibition inspired by the book at Adamastor Studios in Lisbon, Portugal in 2015. The exhibition featured work by Charleine Boieiro, Sandra de Matos and Gwen Dupré, with video by Simon Phillippe.
In 2017 Janisse and producer Andy Starke of Rook Films pitched a television series based on the book at the Frontieres International Film Market.
Based on film critic Kier-La Janisse’s acclaimed memoir of the same name, House of Psychotic Women is the dramatized tale of a 15 year old horror fan named CARLY who is abandoned to the child welfare system in 1980s Winnipeg after a suicide attempt.
The series follows CARLY as she is hurled through a broken system – from lock-ups to foster homes to the much-coveted ‘independent living program’ – attempting to find stability in the dysfunction, and forming ephemeral connections with the troubled youth whose journeys parallel her own. As CARLY is prodded to tell her story in obligatory counselling sessions, her memories are filtered through the terrible but strangely comforting imagery of horror cinema – offering warnings, and in some cases, reinforcements, that will help her transcend her past.