“Conventional” (2015): Fading Scream Queen Faces the Horrors of Reality


Addictions of many different varieties have long been an important theme in horror cinema, including addictions to blood, money, sex, murder, and the like. Writer/director Karen Gillan’s short horror film Conventional examines addiction to celebrity and fame, boasting powerful emotion and an engrossing performance by Gillan, who also stars.

Karen Gillan – well known to genre fare fans for her roles in Oculus, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Dr. Who – portrays Rachel Milligan, an actress who once had a brush with fame when she toplined a slasher film named Axe Wound 2. Now Milligan is relegated to touring the horror convention circuit and isn’t exactly drawing long lines. She has had more than one too many collagen shots to her lips, she’s feeling her age, and money is apparently so tight that she resorts to desperate measures because she is making no money on new, autographed head shots.

Conventional mic
Karen Gillan wrote, directed, and stars in Conventional. She portrays a flash-in-the-pan actress whose days on the horror convention circuit seem to be on the decline.

Conventional is a bleak 9-minute ride, as viewers see Rachel Milligan go from fake-it-’til-you-make-it bubbly to a decidedly downward spiral. Her few fans cosplay as the killer from Axe Wound 2 and aren’t the most socially skilled people around. At a Q&A session, one of these fans asks her, “What does horror mean to you?” Her initial answer is rather surface level, but as her fast trip down continues, she addresses the question again later. It is at this point that Karen Gillan gives the most moving part of her performance, baring her character’s soul and putting her depression – caused at least in part by her fall from her shot at “the big time” or what passed for it – front and center.

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Rachel Milligan (Karen Gillan) lives her answer to a fan’s question, “What is horror?”

Though not overtly graphic, Conventional deals with themes of sex and violence, with accompanying visuals usually obscured by objects or people. Karen Gillan gets her points across in a more subtle manner than bludgeoning viewers’ senses. She proves herself to be a true talent behind the camera as well as in front of it, and her dialogue rings harshly true. She is impressive as an actress playing an actress initially, which is no easy feat in itself, but when Gillan turns on Rachel’s heartbreaking emotional decline, she proves herself to be a truly formidable performer.  You can see for yourself now by watching Conventional on Fun Size Horror’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oIWRI1g_NFE.

Conventional: 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.