Cherie (Ella Balinska), is due for a good date following the aftermath of her breakup with her abusive ex-boyfriend. She’s set up on a blind date by her boss with the perfect candidate: Charming and mysterious Ethan (Pilou Asbaek), who is revealed to be misogyny in a human form and the date from hell, sending Cherie running for her life after a violent attack. This isn’t a bad date, it’s a survival story.
Director Shana Shana Feste confessed she doesn’t watch horror films despite her husband making them for a living, as watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a child was enough to make her never want to watch another again. Feste typically works in melodrama and romance genres, explaining she wrote this film “in a very angry place” after having her daughter, and hoping for her to have a different experience than her own in Los Angeles.
The latest Blumhouse production, the social horror film explores the roots of sexism and toxic male energy. Influenced by Get Out, Feste questioned what the scariest antagonist was for her, and how she could project the most fear onto the audience. “I’ve met very scary men in my life…a man can be defeated. But, if I’m using my metaphor of the patriarchy, the patriarchy is so much more powerful than we will ever know, and so much more daunting for a woman to face. It almost feels like a supernatural power.” When referencing the fourth wall breaks that adds a unique element to the film, Feste explains she wanted to use “all the tricks I can have up my sleeve. What would be scarier than an antagonist that controls the camera?”
Feste goes on to explain the heavy attention placed on Cherie being on her period throughout the film: “Menstruation was, for me, something I was always ashamed of. I’ve been whispering the word “tampon” my entire life, and now that I have kids- I’ve had three beautiful kids because of my period- I realize there’s nothing shameful about that,” she tells the audience. “When I was writing the script I was thinking, we have never seen women menstruate in a film. I’ve never seen Meryl Streep get her period…it’s ridiculous when you think about it.”
Feste also answers a question acknowledging the diversity of her case, and she recalls being at Sundance twelve years ago with The Greatest, and the casting list was 20 white girls she could choose from, as that was all that would be approved by the financier, “Thank God we’re actually able to cast a diverse cast that’s so much more representatives of the story you want to tell.”
Feste closed her Q&A hoping her audience walked away with her intended message following: “I’m not interested in making films that don’t speak to where I am in my life, or say what I want in a loud way. I’ve been fairly quiet as a filmmaker, and I think now I’m ready to be a little louder in my career.”