#Crucial21DbW: Night Hunter directed by Stacey Steers

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Stacey Steers’ films are often described as “dreamscapes.” Her film-collages blend early cinema with 18th and 19th century engravings to create worlds that feel at once enigmatic and sinister.

Night Hunter (2011) [15:30 min] features Lillian Gish – archetype of white femininity in the silent cinema era – caught in a psychoanalytic fever dream set inside an isolated cabin. Gish appears trapped in domestic drudgery, sewing and cooking while looking forlornly off-frame, until one evening, she finds a giant egg in one of her bedrooms. She tends to the egg like a baby, keeping it by her rocking chair as she sews. As eggs continue to appear, she is menaced by moths, worms, and a Biblical snake.

Night Hunter

The specter of domesticity hangs over the film. Nancy Hightower of Weird Fiction Review posits: “The acts of domesticity – sewing, cooking, birthing – take on a nightmarish quality not because they are worthless things to do, but perhaps because they have been assigned to Gish without her consent or desire.” But what does Gish desire? As I watch Night Hunter, I can’t help but wonder if the dreamscape is an externalization of the character’s repressed desire – sexuality and motherhood bursting from her subconscious and infesting her domestic space.

Animation as a medium is particularly suited to creating such dreamscapes – nightmarish or otherwise. One can animate any object or idea, choosing from a multitude of techniques, from hand-drawing and painting to stop motion to computer-generated methods. For Night Hunter, Steers chose a handmade method in collage animation. Devoting over four years to this film, she crafted approximately 4000 collages, with an average of eight collages per one-second of film. Then she photographed her collages – frame-by-frame – on an Oxberry animation stand using 35mm film, giving the image a high degree of visual quality.

The result of these four years of effort and imagination is a film that is utterly unique and immersive.

Night Hunter is available to stream on Fandor. Follow Stacey Steers on Facebook, Vimeo, and her website.

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