Kier-La Janisse is a film writer and programmer, the founder of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies and Owner/Editor-in-Chief of Spectacular Optical Publications. She has been a programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema and Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, co-founded Montreal microcinema Blue Sunshine, founded the CineMuerte Horror Film Festival in Vancouver (1999-2005) and was the subject of the documentary Celluloid Horror (2005). She has written for Filmmaker, Rue Morgue and Fangoria magazines, has contributed to The Scarecrow Movie Guide (Sasquatch Books, 2004) and Destroy All Movies!! A Complete Guide to Punk on Film (Fantagraphics, 2011), and is the author of A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi (FAB Press, 2007) and House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films (FAB Press, 2012). She is the co-editor (with Paul Corupe) of Spectacular Optical Book One: KID POWER! and is currently working on the book A Song From the Heart Beats the Devil Every Time about children's programming in the counterculture era.
Kier-La Janisse (pronounced K-La) has been involved with film writing and exhibition since 1997, when she started Cannibal Culture Magazine, a quarterly Vancouver-based fanzine devoted to reviews and essays about obscure and/or underappreciated horror films.
In 1999 she started the CineMuerte International Horror Film Festival in Vancouver in response to concerns that the films reviewed in Cannibal Culture were not accessible to Canadian horror fans outside of mail-ordering (which, in a time before Ebay and Amazon, few were inclined to do). After the first year of the festival, Cannibal Culture was renamed CineMuerte Magazine. There were 11 issues of the magazine in all.
The CineMuerte International Horror Film Festival was originally mounted with the creative and administrative help of her friends Ashley Fester and Chris Bavota, and programming assistance from Vancouver noise artist and eurotrash fanatic Sam McKinlay (“The Rita”). CineMuerte was a nine-day festival showcasing a mix of premieres and obscure repertory films, and ran from 1999-2005, with visiting guests that included Jorg Buttgereit, Jean Rollin, Jeff Lieberman, Udo Kier, Buddy Giovinazzo, Jack Taylor, Jim Van Bebber, Edwin Neal, Bob Clark and more.
The popular annual fundraiser for the festival was called "The Torture Garden" and consisted of an all-night B-movie marathon where "it's free to get in...but you pay to get out!" (an idea that has since been frequently appropriated!). Customers who wanted a smoke break had to be taken outside by prison guards - in handcuffs!
The festival was documented heavily in Ashley Fester’s feature-length documentary Celluloid Horror.
An off-shoot of the festival was The Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat Cereal Cartoon Party, which was officially born in 2003 and still tours in new incarnations every year. Inspired by the annual cartoon-centric birthday get-togethers of Vancouver pal (and Darkest of the Hillside Thickets frontman) Toren Atkinson, Kier-La curates multi-hour programs of vintage cartoons, commercials, PSAs and even original network IDs, with an endless buffet of sugar cereals. Kier-La brought the idea with her to Texas where it became a staple of the original Alamo Drafthouse Cinema programmming, and has been making new shows for a number of exhibitors worldwide ever since!
Another off-shoot of the festival was the Bloodshots 48-Hour Horror Filmmaking Challenge, which ran every October in Vancouver from 2004-2012, in association with the Celluloid Social Club.
Participants were given a horror subgenre, a weapon, and a common prop
and line of dialogue, and had 48 hours to create a short masterpiece in
competition for a prize of $1000. Celebrity judges for the contest
included Dan O'Bannon (Alien, Return of the Living Dead), Robert Rodriguez (Sin City), Stefan Arngrim (Class of 1984, Land of the Giants), Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins), Uwe Boll (Postal, Stoic), Neil Marshall (The Descent), Larry Fessenden (Habit, The Last Winter), Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Stuck) and George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead).
In 2002, she created the horror trivia boardgame All The Colours of Darkness, a very limited edition collector’s item (read: only 20 hand-made copies) with Saul Bass-esque design by Lester Smolenski and questions devised primarily by Kier-La Janisse, Sam McKinlay and Kelly Salerno. They sold out fast and have probably all fallen apart by now. She collects vintage boardgames, and inspired by the structure of The Jackson 5 Boardgame she created The Brinsley Schwarz Boardgame in 2007.
The combination of the writing and the festival programming/coordination experience led to freelance writing for renowned magazines Fangoria, Filmmaker, Rue Morgue and the book Destroy All Movies!!! A Complete Guide to Punk on Film (edited by Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly), as well as work for Austin’s famed Alamo Drafthouse Cinema , where she served as film programmer and primary guest coordinator from 2003-2007. She also participated in programming for the first two years of Austin’s Fantastic Fest, and rejoined the team as a shorts programmer for 2013-2014.
In 2007, Kier-La’s first book, A Violent Professional: The Films of Luciano Rossi was published by FAB Press. It is a compendium of the film roles of Italian bit player Luciano Rossi, lavishly illustrated with design by Rob Jones (known for his work with The White Stripes and The Raconteurs), and it’s available to buy HERE. Her second book House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films was published by FAB Press in 2012, and is available to buy HERE. Info on these and other publications is available on the 'Publications' page.
Kier-La’s other main interest is music and music documentaries, and in addition to creating and programming the Alamo Drafthouse’s Music Monday series from 2003-2007, she held the one-off Big Smash! Music-on-Film Festival in Vancouver in 2006, with Grammy Award-winning songwriter Paul Williams and festival namesake Wreckless Eric in person. This stream of programming extended to a weekly Big Smash! Music Scene series at the Winnipeg Film Group’s Cinematheque from 2007-2008, and later a monthly series of music docs under the Big Smash! moniker, often paired with live music. This experience also led to a position as the film curator for the POP Montreal International Music Festival from 2011-2013.
Kier-La also created, programmed and largely coordinated the inaugural Gimme Some Truth, Winnipeg's documentary conference co-presented by the Winnipeg Film Group. It was Kier-La's vision to have a multi-day conference devoted to confrontational documentary film with several master filmmakers attending in person for screenings, workshops and Master Classes, and she brought the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on board as a funder for the event. The first Gimme Some Truth in 2008 featured in-person guests Steve James (Hoop Dreams), Kirby Dick (This Film is Not Yet Rated), Les Blank (A Poem is a Naked Person), Allan King (Warrendale) and more.
In 2010, Kier-La Janisse relocated to Montreal to open a screening venue called BLUE SUNSHINE (after the Jeff Lieberman film) with screenwriter David Bertrand. Blue Sunshine screened films three nights a week - often on 16mm - for two years (2010-2012) and was quickly adopted by the city as its premiere 'underground' screening venue, winning awards in the now-defunct Montreal Mirror two years in a row.
During Blue Sunshine's existence it was supported by a loyal stable of regulars and volunteers and visited by many film and music luminaries, including Jeff Lieberman, George Mihalka and Germain Gauthier (reunited for Pinball Summer on 16mm!), Robert Morin, Raoul Duguay, Kimmy Robertson, Richie Unterberger, Ed Halter, Buddy Giovinazzo, Udo Kier, Tom Savini, Corpusse, Malcolm Goldstein and many more.
Blue Sunshine was also the home of The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, a weekly scholastic curriculum of horror film and literature education founded by Kier-La in spring of 2010, and subsequently co-directed with Professors Kristopher Woofter and Mario DeGiglio-Bellemare, as well as boasting an incredible faculty of genre experts. With Blue Sunshine closed, Miskatonic Montreal continues at Peut-etre Vintage Microcinema under the leadership of Woofter and Bellemare, while Kier-La teamed up with Electric Sheep Magazine Editor Virgine Selavy to open a new Miskatonic Institute at the Horse Hospital in London, England in January of 2015.
From December of 2012-October 2013, Kier-La coordinated an overhaul of FANGORIA.com, and served as its interim director. After being given ownership of the Fantasia Film Festival's former online journal Spectacular Optical, Janisse re-established it in July 2013 as a small-press publisher of collectible film and pop culture books with an emphasis on supporting Canadian genre film writers. Spectacular Optical's first anthology, entitled Spectacular Optical Book 1: KID POWER! is available now at spectacularoptical.ca .
In between various professional contracts she is working on the short film WRECKLESS and a new book called A Song From the Heart Beats the Devil Every Time, about children's programming in the counterculture era.
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