Boutique production/distribution label Severin Films have optioned film adaptation rights to David Kerekes and David Slater’s influential book Killing for Culture: An Illustrated History of Death Film from Mondo to Snuff.
Documenting the intersection of ethnographic documentary, the dystopic future visions of JG Ballard, and the 1970s snuff hysteria that gave us films like Emanuelle in America and Videodrome, Killing for Culture was written as a looming new millennium brought a ubiquitous anxiety about communications technology. Originally published by in 1994 to great critical acclaim, and subsequently expanded in 2016, Killing for Culture was the first committed study of atrocity cinema, and why and how it finds an audience.
“We are delighted to be involved with Severin Films in bringing Killing for Culture to the screen,” says Kerekes. “Their appreciation of, and investment in cult film and fandom makes them the natural, most exciting choice for the project. The result promises to be an unflinching exploration of the ideas and themes of the book.”
The option was instigated by film writer, producer and publisher Kier-La Janisse – best known as the author of canonical horror text House of Psychotic Women – who will adapt and direct, with Severin co-founder David Gregory (director of 2023 festival hit Enter the Clones of Bruce) executive producing.
Janisse has been a producer at Severin since 2018 and was made an Acquisitions executive at the company in 2022. Her previous work for Severin includes writing, producing and directing the SXSW Midnighters Award-winner Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror (2021) and co-producing David Gregory’s feature documentary Tales of the Uncanny (2020) and Sean Hogan’s To Fire You Come at Last (2023), as well as dozens of bonus features for disc release. Most notably, she was the producer and creative director for the groundbreaking blu ray collections “All the Haunts Be Ours: A Compendium of Folk Horror” and “The Sensual World of Black Emanuelle.”
It was the latter project that prompted Janisse to pursue an adaptation of Killing for Culture; as part of the Black Emanuelle box set she was in the midst of producing a featurette on snuff films – a central plotline in Emanuelle in America, and for which Killing for Culture’s David Kerekes was an interviewee – and the idea arose to expand it to a standalone feature. “I had started doing interviews and there was just too much interesting material,” Janisse explains, “And while there is a great deal of scholarship around snuff films, all of it is greatly indebted to the work of David Kerekes, whose publishing house Headpress has released several key texts on this topic. And so the idea of a formal partnership between Headpress and Severin was hatched, and our planned featurette on snuff films for the Emanuelle in America blu ray became the feature film adaptation of Killing for Culture.”
As part of her role in Acquisitions, Janisse has curated and/or negotiated deals for the US blu ray debuts of Brazilian filmmaker Rogério Sganzerla’s anarchic true crime drama The Red Light Bandit (1968), caustic and ferocious LA travelogue The Savage Eye (1959), Fassbinder alumnus Hark Bohm’s juvenile delinquent classic North Sea is Dead Sea (1976), Paul Vecchiali’s feminist detective melodrama Change Pas De Main (1975), Italian TV mystery Closed Circuit (1978), the Spanish “Quinqui” films of Eloy de la Iglesia and José Antonio de la Loma, and a quartet of fantasy films by Slovak master Juraj Herz, including the celebrated gothic fairytale Morgiana (1972). She will be in attendance at EFM (taking place in Berlin 2/15 – 2/21) to discuss Severin original projects and catalog acquisitions.
“Kier-La’s passion for film across all genres remains unmatched,” says Severin’s CEO and co-founder David Gregory. “Her unique insight and skills will further hone and expand the sharp edges of what Severin Films brings to entertainment.”
Janisse was awarded the Fantasia International Film Festival’s Canadian Trailblazer Award in 2022, reflecting her 25-year career in all aspects of the genre film business. Prior to Severin, Janisse was head programmer for the original Alamo Drafthouse Cinema location and founder of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies before venturing into publishing with the books Satanic Panic: Pop-Cultural Paranoia in the 1980s (2015), Lost Girls: The Phantasmagorical Cinema of Jean Rollin (2017) and Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television (2017), as well as editing Warped & Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Genre Film Archive in 2021.
About Severin Films: Severin Films is dedicated to the world’s most provocative cinema for physical media, theatrical, streaming and beyond. Founded in 2006, Severin’s curatorial and archival work has produced acclaimed collectors’ editions and box sets – all with exclusive/extensive Special Features – that has placed the company at the forefront of the industry, while their original productions have won numerous awards on the international festival circuit. Severin has produced the award-winning documentaries MANCUNIAN MAN, LOST SOUL: THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, BLOOD & FLESH: THE REAL LIFE & GHASTLY DEATH OF AL ADAMSON, and Kier-La Janisse’s definitive exploration of folk horror, WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED, as well as co- produced original feature films that include PLAGUE TOWN and THE THEATRE BIZARRE. Their recent documentary ENTER THE CLONES OF BRUCE had its world premiere in June 2023 at The Tribeca Film Festival.