Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays

Issue 10 – 2022 (2)

Three Ways to Dine Well

Alison Peirse (University of Leeds)

How to cite this article: Peirse, A. (2022) Three Ways to Dine Well. Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays, 10, 2022(2). ISSN: 2659-4269

In October 1928, Virginia Woolf gave a lecture at the University of Cambridge on the subject of “women and fiction.” She concluded that “a good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well” (2020: 26). This video essay is inspired by Woolf’s proposition. It recognises the primal importance of eating to our wellbeing, but then exposes the dark underbelly of this idea: the power of food to generate dread, fear and foreboding. Through an exploration of representations of food loathing, women eating men, and dining table traumas, this video essay asks, what does “dining well” look like in the horror film genre?

However, there is more to this film than an exploration of how we eat. 

The study of women filmmakers has grown enormously in popularity since the 2000s (Levitin, Plessis and Raoul, 2003; Gaines, 2018), but it took until 2020 for the study of women working in horror film to have an impact on women’s film histories and film studies (Heller–Nicholas, 2020; Peirse, 2020). Since then, excellent scholarship on women horror filmmakers continues to be published (Pisters, 2020; Creed 2022), but this research frequently centres on contemporary directors of feature–length, narrative, commercial productions from North American and (Western–) Europe.

Three Ways to Dine Well responds to this scholarship in multiple ways. First, it rejects a sole focus on the contemporary. It demonstrates the ongoing and extensive work of women through more than one hundred years of horror cinema. It reveals how women worked in major roles on such horror “classics” as The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980), The Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981) and Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968). Then, it illuminates little–known horror films helmed by women, such as Nettie Peña’s Home Sweet Home (1981), Tracey Moffatt’s Bedevil (1993) and Jackie Kong’s Blood Diner (1987). Second, it highlights women editors, cinematographers, production designers, costume designers, visual effects artists, producers and screenwriters. We tell our students that filmmaking is a collaborative medium, yet we rarely practice what we preach when we prioritise the director above every other role. 

Third, this video essay works against the grain of popular and academic histories of horror by choosing excerpts from narrative and experimental cinema, from shorts and from features, and from a combination of grant–supported, no/lo budget and commercial film. Finally, it works against the dominance of North American and European cinema in our horror film scholarship by containing filmic examples from South Korea, Iran, Australia, India, USA, Laos, UK, Poland, France, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Sweden, Taiwan, Italy, Finland and Czechoslovakia. 

Across all my examples, I employ Tracy Cox–Stanton and John Gibbs’ “non–linear film history” model, which “pauses the narrative flow of films and zooms in on particular moments—gestures, sets, props, rear projections, musical numbers—that evoke hidden histories and relationships, opening up spaces “in between” distinct media, artforms and cultures” (2020: 13).  In cutting together performances of food loathing and cannibalism, and in comparing the spaces of the dining room and the kitchen, I create opportunities to reveal those “hidden histories” of women horror filmmakers. In this way, …Dine Well demonstrates the potential for videographic methods to create new forms of knowledge production that contribute to the vital act of “doing” women’s film history (Gledhill and Knight 2015).



  • Cox–Stanton, T. and Gibbs, J. 2020. “Audiovisual Scholarship and Experiments in Non–Linear Film History,” The Cine–Files, 15: Fall, http://www.thecine-files.com/audiovisual-scholarship-and-experiments-in-non-linear-film-history/ 
  • Creed, B. 2022. Return of the Monstrous–Feminine: Feminist New Wave Cinema. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Gaines, J.M. 2018. Pink–Slipped: What Happened to Women in the Silent Film Industries? Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  • Gledhill, C. and Knight, J. eds. 2015. Doing Women’s Film History: Reframing Cinemas, Past and Future. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.
  • Heller–Nicholas, A. 2020. 1000 Women in Horror, 1895–2018. Albany: BearManor Media.
  • Levitin, J., Plessis, J. and Raoul, V. eds. 2003. Women Filmmakers: Refocusing. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Peirse, A. ed. 2020. Women Make Horror: Filmmaking, Feminism, Genre. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
  • Pisters, P. 2020. New Blood in Contemporary Cinema: Women Directors and the Poetics of Horror. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
  • Woolf, V. 2020 [1928]. A Room of One’s Own. London: Renard Press.

Other videoessays in this issue

Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays
ISSN: 2659-4269
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Universidad Carlos III de Madrid