By Matilde Steck
Rakefet Abergel is a California-based Israeli actor, director, producer, and screenwriter. She has had roles in major films, but in the last five years has risen as an extraordinary talent in horror filmmaking, with two notable recent films being Jax in Love and Boo.
Can you explain, in your own words, who you are as a filmmaker?
Rakefet began in cinema as an actress but moved into directing and especially writing to face an industry that didn’t offer the roles she wanted. When told she couldn’t act in dramas, Rakefet created films that she wanted to be in, and she is tremendously skilled. She considers herself a “slow filmmaker,” focusing on the quality over quantity of films she puts out.
Do you find more joy in writing or directing horror?
The strange thing about Rakefet’s relationship with horror is that she isn’t actually a horror-lover. She entered the genre by accident, believing that her first film (Jax in Love) was a drama, while it was really a thriller. Since then, she has become fully absorbed in the genre. The big joy of directing is being on set, while writing is amazing because anyone can do it, for free and alone. Rakefet believes that to be a writer “all you need is a computer.” Unfortunately, writing alone doesn’t give you a shot to boss people around!
What’s unique about being on set for a thriller or a horror film?
Of course, two fun points are the “random knives” and “jars of blood around” the set. However, Rakefet pointed out that most horror actors are also horror fans, so there is an incredible joy in the process of creating horror. Seeing the film being made takes away a lot of the fear from watching it back.
What elements do you think define horror in cinema?
It has to have scares-but not necessarily jump scares. A scare can just be a feeling of fear, dread or anxiety. More than flat fear, horror has to surprise the watcher. “You want to take [the audience] to a place they are not expecting to go.” In her films, and in horror, twists are important. Part of what can be so fun is the surprise of a thriller, instead of shock or brutality.
What are your favorite horror films? Why?
Even after almost six years of producing horror and judging the genre in film festivals, Rakefet still has some trouble with some of the scares inherent to the genre. However, she’s big into psychological fear like Saw I, the skillful twist of The Sixth Sense or anything by M. Night. Shyamalan (although “real” horror fans have a lot to say about that). Also, she really admires the educated and meaningful horror of Get Out. Rather than slasher films, Rakefet finds real value in horror with a message. “If we’re going to show something ugly, let’s have a reason.”
Your short, Boo, is centered around a female lead. Do you believe femininity impacts the experience of watching or creating horror?
There is a definite impact on the creation of horror, especially for female horror filmmakers. Generally, female creators make more elevated horror films, centered around genuine messaging and social commentary. Historically, male filmmakers lean on gore and shock more heavily. In watching, one leads to another. Female horror fans have to face questions like “why am I the dumb blonde” or “the victim” or “why are no women ever the lead?”
Do you have any words to share for horror fans or creators?
For creators, it’s a really joyful genre to get involved in. Horror is one of the bestselling genres. Rakefet mentioned a friend Parker Finn, director of Smile, who is finding really great success. It is a genre that you can really find success in, even as a debut creator. This includes making your debut at a film festival. In all of Rakefet’s experience, horror fans keep up with creators at fests and support both the projects and creators with a genuine passion. For fans, just “keep demanding better horror.” Expect better.
Why do you think that fans are so attached to horror?
For a lot of people, horror is cathartic. It is a way to face and control the fear we feel in our everyday lives. For thrill-seekers, it’s adrenaline with no real danger. And “If you think the world is a bad place, it is a way to fantasize with no consequences.” Rakefet points out that “In my films, I usually kill the guy.” She has a history of relationship struggles and finds a way to face them in her filmmaking. In Boo, the central character does what she does to face how she feels on the inside, something a lot of people struggle with.
Resources and Recommendations
– Boo and Jax in Love
– Creator Gigi Saul Guerroro
– Cutthroat women– a collection of women in horror
Thumbnail Credit: IMDb – https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1679525/