Celebrate Women in Horror Month with These Films
February is Women in Horror Month. As it turns out, a majority of the horror movie audience is comprised of women, as was stated in The Guardian in 2016:
“In 2013, the hit The Conjuring had an audience composed of 53% women; The Purge had an audience of 56% women. Mama was 61% women. Even the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake showed to an audience that was less than half men.”
There is no denying that women are all throughout horror. The terms ‘Scream Queen’ and ‘Final Girl’ were not created for the dramatic or romance genre films, or for men. Many horror movies are dominated with leading ladies that are above and beyond some of the most badass women on screen. Some personal favorite female performances are from actresses such as Barbara Crampton, Danielle Harris, Kathryn Isabelle, Jamie Lee Curtis, AnnaLynne McCord, Ashley Bell, and Lauren Ashley Carter, just to name a few. The list is truly never ending. Women in horror display a sense of strength and confidence against their male counterparts in many films.
Though many amazing women shine on screen, there are a multitude that shine behind the camera. This list is a credit to women in the director’s chair, in honor of Women in Horror Month. Female directors, as we know, are slim in numbers compared to the mass amount of men in the industry. So, let’s give it up to the female directors and applaud their works, providing their unique female perspective in the horror genre.
The Hitch-Hiker (1953) dir. Ida Lupino
Ida Lupino was the first female director to direct a noir film, The Hitch-Hiker. To top it off, it doubles up as a horror film about an ex-con who forces two fishermen to drive him to Mexico, while at gunpoint. He informs the two that he intends to do away with them at trip’s end. The film was inspired by a real-life mass murderer, Billy Cook, who murdered six people throughout a 22-day span between the states of Missouri and California between 1950 and 1951. The film itself is slightly predictable, but it is filled with tension between the characters. The script is a little bit questionable for 2018 standards, but this was a great noir tale and an important step for female directors in genre filmmaking.
Raw (2017) dir. Julia Ducournau
Horror was in need of something new and it was time for something refreshing. Newcomer, Julia Ducournau, provided just that. She brought cannibals to the table in a whole new, completely wide way. Not only did she direct this, but she also wrote it. Justine is a vegetarian and attending her first year of veterinary school. Suddenly she craves meat after a hazing ritual. Not just hamburgers and meat one would normally eat, but human flesh. From there it is a downward spiral into the dark world she creates for herself. Raw is a neon squeamish experience. Some audience members at TIFF apparently passed out due to the film’s graphic content. For some horror fans, they feel like a bit of an over-exaggeration, but this is definitely worth seeing!
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
Ana Lily Amirpour showcases a gorgeous piece of art, shot in black and white. Sheila Vand plays ‘The Girl’, an Iranian vampire woman who meanders around town. She meets someone who is involved in a drug circle with another man and his own father, who is hooked on drugs. Tension and unfortunate circumstances build into a slow-moving tale of vampiristic living and controlling your urges. Cinematography and minimal dialogue dazzle in this more meditative film. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a beautiful directorial debut by Amirpour.
Near Dark (1987) dir. Kathryn Bigelow
Prior to her Oscar win for The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow dabbled in horror with this 1987 gem. Near Dark is about a traveling herd of vampires who are dealing with a newcomer into their clan. These vampires are not your typical romantic bloodsuckers, they prefer debauchery and destruction. One of the most notable aspect of Near Dark is Bill Paxton’s psychotic, outlandish vampire, Severin. After his recent passing, the iconic bar scene spread all throughout the internet serving as an outstanding Paxton moment. So, thank you Bigelow for this awesome addition to ‘80s horror.
American Psycho (2000) dir. Mary Harron
Adapted from Bret Easton Ellis’s novel of the same title, American Psycho is about a man hiding his psychopathic alter ego from his peers. Dancing his way to Huey Lewis and the News, chasing women maniacally with chainsaws, and telling people how he wants to kill them, Christian Bale puts on a performance for the books. He is suavely sinister and so full of himself, but that is what makes this role so good. American Psycho has become a staple in the genre and worth a watch for any budding horror fan.
Trouble Every Day (2001) Claire Denis
Arthouse and horror make for a very lovely pair. Writer and director Claire Denis pushes things to the extreme in this story of a man who is neglecting his wife on his Parisian honeymoon to find both an old colleague and a woman who he was once obsessed with, who just so happens to be his ex-colleague’s wife. Meanwhile, dark secrets plague both parties in the story. This film is a stylish exotic thriller that tests relationships and who a person really is. Trouble Every Day is grotesque in areas which will make your jaw drop and leave you shaking your head in awe by the film’s end.
This is just a jumpstart into horror films that I am a big fan of. The Love Witch, Slumber Party Massacre, The Invitation, Jennifer’s Body, XX, American Mary, Blood Diner, and Pet Sematary are just a few more to add to the abundant list of horror films directed by women. Horror and women really make for a great pairing, and one can only hope we see more female directors on the rise in the genre in the future.