Interview with Christina Raia, Filmmaker and Horror Fanatic [Women in Horror Month 2021]

Please introduce yourself.
Hi, thanks for including me in this year’s festivities!

My name’s Christina Raia. I’m a writer and director from Queens, NY. I focus on character-driven and socially conscious horror and comedy, using genre as a lens to represent, discuss and dissect social issues, otherness and real world anxieties. In my work, I tend to subvert expectations, play with genre tropes, and blend seemingly opposing tones.

What is it that attracts you to the horror genre for your chosen field of creative work?
I’ve been drawn to horror since I was a kid. I loved watching the Sci-Fi Channel (when it was still spelled that way) and would rent whatever horror movies I could get my hands on. Part of that love came from my mom; she wasn’t a big fan of gore (still isn’t) but she loved anything psychological. So we watched things like The Twilight Zone marathon every fourth of July and New Years Eve. I loved how the episodes always surprised me, sometimes affected me physically, and often had me thinking long after they ended. I think horror is generally a lot of fun because it’s such an interactive audience experience, but I especially love that it works so well for allegory and social commentary. As someone who often aims to challenge the status quo and get people thinking outside their own perspective and experience, I find horror is an effective tool to pull people in to receive a message they maybe aren’t thinking about or looking for.

Who inspires you in your work and in life?
Some big directors whose work has really inspired me lately are Jordan Peele, Karyn Kusama, and Bong Joon-Ho. But I would say I’m most inspired by my peers who are making incredibly innovative and creative work completely without industry resources. I don’t want to endlessly list names, so I’ll say this – look through the names in the credits of my films and through the films I’ve programmed for IndieWorks, a monthly screening series I run. And as for who inspires me most in life, that’s easy – my mom!

Women in horror have made great strides, but it’s clear that a lot of work is still needed to make it a most inclusive genre. To you, what is the importance of a movement like Women in Horror Month?
The film industry is filled with gatekeepers and it can be so difficult getting opportunities even when you’ve proven yourself across multiple projects because so much of the industry is built on bias and exclusionary practices. Women in Horror Month provides amplification and accountability. So the next time a major genre producer says there aren’t any women directing horror movies, there’s an abundance of lists and interviews to counter with. I think it’s also so important for women and nonbinary filmmakers to know that they’re not alone. The horror community can feel very dominated by men, and like only one perspective is truly valued in the genre (particularly when you look at who’s getting the most recognition, financing, and acclaim at the top of the industry). I know for me, seeing that there’s so many others fighting the fight with me and that we’re all making space for each other is motivating. There’s power in numbers, and so, visibility is crucial.

What would you tell an up-and-coming creative in the world of horror who sees that being a woman/identifying as a women as something that makes it so much more difficult at times?
Know that you’re not alone, and that there are peers and collaborators who really want to see your work get made and seen. It’s about finding those people through publications like Cinema Crazed and festivals that make overt efforts to program women and nonbinary voices. Find those people and support each other.

What are your favorite bits of helpful advice that you have received about your work or your field?
Know your WHY. At the end of the day, it can be hard to get projects off the ground or get hired because there are so many of us trying to do it. But knowing and being able to articulate why your voice and vision matters, why your story needs to be told, why what you do is special and unlike what’s already being done – that will always help get you to the next stage. To inspire collaborators to join you, secure financing, or get a yes in the room – knowing your WHY is your best tool.

In honor of celebrating Women in Horror Month, who do you believe viewers should keep an eye on in terms of the creative ladies in horror?
So many! Some that come to mind: Beck Kitsis, Nicole Solomon, Kim Garland, AK Espada, Monika Estrella Negra, Heather Taylor, R. Shanea Williams, Mariama Diallo.

What do you have coming soon that you can talk to us about?
My latest short, “Game Brunch,” is a comedy with a touch of horror. I’ve been referring to it as a fantastical farce. It’s hitting the festival circuit this year and just premiered at Horrible Imaginings Film festival’s Campfire Tales in February. You can see the trailer and find upcoming screenings on my production company site: I’m also working to get my next feature off the ground. It’s a horror-comedy titled Silent Night. More about that film and what I’m up to next can be found on the directing page of my site:

Pop them links to follow your work here:
Find me on social @craia9 and my production company @congestedcat