‘Pink Rabbit’ Director Zetkins Yikilmis on No-Budget Filmmaking and Feminism

If you like weird horror movies told from a very singular point of view, I would definitely recommend checking out the films of Zetkins Yikilmis. It’s John Waters meets Plan 9 From Outer Space meets a gory good time meets stories with heady feminist and working-class themes. Her feature films—Some Smoke and a Red Locker, Planet Zee, and Pink Rabbit —all have elements of science fiction and fantasy. Combine this with German actors (including Zetkins herself) speaking a kind of skewed English, and you have films that live in a world only Yikilmis could have created.

Especially important in her filmography, and her best work so far, is her newest film, called Pink Rabbit. It deals with the loss of a child, though it’s still as weird, humorous, and no-budget as the rest of her filmography. It also adds a layer of psychedelia not seen in her other feature work. 

I was honored to have the chance to speak to Yikilmis via email about her work. 

Dread Central: When did you become interested in movies, and when did you know you wanted to make them?

Zetkin Yikilmis: I’ve been watching horror movies since I was a child. I grew up in front of the TV. Next to reading, watching horror movies always has been a possibility for me to escape my rough childhood. I am very much into the horror genre. In my opinion, the horror genre is the truest and realest genre. There is no sugarcoating or phony idealistic euphemism of humanity or society. It’s full of pain, suffering, blood, and fights against oppression—just like life itself. 

DC: Where does your impulse to mix genres come from?

ZY: I love horror films and the horror genre and I see myself as a clown. I don’t take myself very seriously so I make fun of myself and my work. This is where the comedy comes from. 

I am a big Bertolt Brecht fan. His theory of dialectic theater has always inspired my writing. Without blasting the realm of this interview, I can say that the “alienation effect” used in the dialectic theater is one of the most important approaches to my films. I like to keep the audience wondering, laughing, and feeling weird.

DC: How many shorts did you make before your first feature, and what were they about? 

ZY: My husband and I have shot seven films together. Before meeting him (on the set of a terrific project) I shot two shorts and I have worked in many different positions on no-budget projects. All my films have different social topics, like feminism/patriarchy, and the nature and impact of humans on nature and art.

DC: You’ve said in the past that your “crew” on Planet Zee consisted of yourself and your husband, for the most part. What were some of the advantages of shooting this way? Disadvantages?

ZY: We shot Pink Rabbit, Planet Zee, and Beatrice with mainly a two-person crew (me and my husband). In addition, we have a great composer, Cornel Hecht, and a bit of help during sound mixing in the post-production.

It’s great to work with a skeleton crew because we can shoot with no excuses. No matter what time it is or how long a day it has been, we can add one more take if necessary. In addition, the communication with my hubby works without words. He exactly knows my vision and knows what I like. 

The disadvantage is that you always have to tear yourself into pieces doing so many things all at once—acting, directing, makeup, SFX, and set design. That can be hard. 

During the shooting of Pink Rabbit, I had one experience that was very hard for me. I was lying on the table with my shirt open exposing my bra. In front of me (right between my legs) there was this male actor who couldn’t stop making porn jokes, and who I was supposed to direct. Right before that, we shot an action scene in which I was dragged over a stone floor, so I had injuries on my arms and legs, which were bleeding and hurt like hell. So I was lying in this very uncomfortable position on this table, getting myself into the right mood for the take, and my husband suddenly said that we needed to get the fake blood and that I, as the makeup person, should take care of this. I got very angry and shouted at him. Sometimes we argue very hard on set.

DC: Who are some of the no-budget, weirdo, or trash cinema directors who influenced you?

ZY: I like Troma movies, but I am influenced by Takashi Miike a lot. I love his films. Every single one. From Visitor Q, which is a very social, political, and feminist movie (in my opinion) or Audition, with one of the strongest female leads in horror to his film Big Bang Love, Juvenile A, which is poetry in pictures. He is an icon for me. I also love Kim Jee-woon, Bong Joon-ho, and very much Park Chank-wook. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance is my favorite not-horror movie.

DC: You have strong political/feminist messages in your films. Why are these themes important to you?

ZY: In my opinion, art is a means to reflect on and to change reality. Oppression in every form is part of this capitalist society and I think that humanity can do better than this. I can imagine a world in which people don’t kill each other in wars or because of competition. A world in which people live together in peace without poverty and without oppressive division of labor and commodity exchange. I think that hate and violence are not part of human nature, but more something we are driven to because of the life conditions we are forced into. Reflecting on violence and society can be easier through art (paintings, poems, music, and film). I want to use the voice I have as an artist to make people think a bit. 

DC: Where do you think your sense of play and playfulness comes from? 

ZY: Haha…do I have such a sense??? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just my way of dealing with myself and playing the buffoon.

DC: What are some of your favorite cinematic monsters?  Are you a fan of the old Universal monster movies? 

ZY: Oh yes, totally! I love them all. Frankenstein is maybe my favorite. Mary Shelley is an icon! My first movie, Some Smoke and a Red Locker is kind of a monster stoner movie.

DC: In Planet Zee, financers want to take the script away from the main character and give it to another director. Is this a fear you have? Maybe not this specifically, but the idea of having your work fucked with? 

ZY: No, it would be great to get a script of mine shot by a cool director, but I have a very strict rule of content concerning the movies I film. I don’t have sex scenes in my films. I don’t need porn to get the audience into my film. There are tons of films that use sex scenes and do that very well and on purpose. I love a lot of films with sex in it. But I don’t do romance or sex scenes. I am very strict on this. 

DC: Do you finance these films yourself?

ZY: Yes. Me, friends, family. S.B. Goldberg is organizing equipment and he is supporting us financially. But we had $4,000 each, which was affordable for us, with the support of friends and family. 

DC: Planet Zee was filmed in one room. Was this a challenge you gave yourself, or was this a budget thing? 

ZY: Yes, there were some scenes in the script we weren’t able to shoot because of the budget. 

DC: What was the initial idea behind Pink Rabbit?

ZY: I wanted to make a movie about my biggest fear, in which I could play the lead. Because that’s cheap and I can shoot 24/7. 

DC: Was it difficult to make a film about the loss of a child? 

ZY: I am very anxiety driven. I live in fear and depression. Putting this into pictures is therapy for me. It was absolutely liberating to play Martha. I was able to cry and scream out my fears. Making movies is very therapeutic for me. 

DC: What are you working on now, and when can we expect to see it? 

ZY: I shot Beatrice in April 2023, and I am still in post-production with this. Beatrice is a horror-comedy about a young goth boy called Blake who is sent to his grand-aunt Beatrice, who owns a hotdog stand. The screwy old lady, with a special understanding of justice, involves him in crime and madness, messing around with the rich and famous of her hometown. Blake becomes part of a delicious killing spree, changing his life forever. Trish Osmond, who is my muse (Granny in Planet Zee) is playing Beatrice and she did that so extremely well. We also have Michael St. Michaels from Greasy Strangler playing a cameo! It was such a wonderful shoot. I think it will be out this summer on Tubi.



Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter