Mary has killed 19 men, one for every year she’s been alive. In Sarah Jacobsen’s debut short I Was a Teenage Serial Killer, feminine rage runs riot as Mary (Kristen Calabrese) becomes the very embodiment of all the male-directed anger we women hold so close, enacting out her sweetest revenge on all the ‘sexist pigs’.
Screened alongside Jacobsen’s first and only feature Mary-Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore at Glasgow’s Weird Weekend, her distinctive rebel grrrl voice is a deafening disruption to an era that spent its time lauding the work of up-and-coming male auteurs on a God-like platform. But she’s not just an important voice for her own generation, but for this one too. In a time of pussy-grabbing presidents and casting couch nightmares Mary’s mantras and viable anger ring true.
Watching our heroine Mary prowl the streets reminds me of The Stooges song ‘Search and Destroy’s opening line; ‘I’m a street-walking cheetah / with a heart full of napalm’. Targeting the street-harassers, catcallers and bad sexual partners, Mary will revel in the delights of painting the tarmac with men’s blood. Jacobsen frames these dead bodies with only close-ups of body parts, twisting our usual perceptions of filmic violence − naked women covered in blood − to turn the tables back at the person who usually does the gazing.
It would be easy to try to add depth to the black and white visuals and the no-budget treatment; attempt to deem it a stylistic choice rather than one out of necessity. Jacobsen isn’t filming on grainy black and white film cause she’s a cool edgy indie director, she’s filming on it because that’s all she has. And she has an urgent story to tell. The choppy edits and dingy locations of course play into Jacobsen’s Riot Grrrl and punk influences but speak more to an absolute yearning to create something no matter the outcome.
It’s clear that I Was a Teenage Serial Killer’s methods of anger management are wholly extreme and off-putting to men, but this was never a film made for male consumption. Jacobsen consistently walks the fine line between outrage and realisation. It feels like a call to arms for women to confront their aggressors and to spit on the man who told you to smile.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of SQ. She hails from the north of England (the proper north that people think is actually Scotland but isn’t). Her life source is Harmony Korine’s 90s Letterman interviews and Ezra Miller’s jawline. She is a costume designer for hire who spends far too much time watching bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff and logs them on letterboxd here