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Women have a hard time getting a foothold in the film industry. Unfortunately, Hollywood’s still a boys’ club. But these are ten outstanding horror films to give your Halloween a more gender-balanced feel… not to mention, to scare you out of your wits.
The Babadook, from Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent, a sleeper hit in theaters, is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Netflix. It’s a creepy, unsettling, “what’s that thing in the closet?” movie where there might actually be a thing in the closet. Or maybe it’s all just the horrible imaginings of a disturbed child and a mom who gets drawn in too deeply. Either way, the moral of the story is to stay childless because parenthood is a straight-up nightmare.
Here’s the trailer followed by nine other excellent horror films from female filmmakers…
From Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani, Amer is a French psychosexual freakout in the lurid giallo manner of Italian horror, a haunted house movie that’s also an exercise in high style for arthouse fans.
Gothic and groovy and full of foreboding, the story follows Ana (Marie Bos) as she experiences visions and sexual obsessions that pull her inexorably toward spooky danger. And dangerous spookiness. It’s probably metaphor for something, but you don’t need to worry about that if you don’t feel like it.
For more psycho-sexual French haunted-houseness, check out Cattet’s 2013 art-thriller The Strange Color Of Your Body’s Tears.
Is this the first horror film to comment, however indirectly, on the student loan crisis? Mary (Katharine Isabelle) is a medical student in money trouble, so she moonlights a little on the side as surgeon, taking, how do you say, “special requests.” And when bad people do bad things to her, she uses her skills to get even. It’s really gross, but directed with wicked energy by twin sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska, whose student film, Dead Hooker In A Trunk, paved the way for this one. Watch out for them if you’re not too squeamish.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Just, you know, a black-and-white Iranian feminist skateboarding vampire spaghetti horror-western. That’s a lot of genre-mashing, but that’s exactly what it is, and it transcends them all, as Ana Lily Amirpour’s story of what happens in the dark unfolds. Its narrative is mysterious and oblique until the deadly power of the woman in the burqa is unleashed. Plus it features heroin, sex work, and a killer soundtrack — what more would you expect from VICE films?
Before The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow jump-started her acclaimed career with this ’80s horror classic. A gun-toting vampire gang in the American Southwest belongs “to the night” and also to each other — so after a newcomer gets “turned” by one of the gang, he’s got to be jumped in and earn their trust. It’s funny, scary, and packs a visual punch, making it one of the great underrated genre films of that decade. It’s a powerful, weirds take on vampire mythology, ditching Gothic convention for something more grotesque, aggressive, and seductive.
A Night to Dismember
Sexploitation pioneer Doris Wishman (who also directed the incredibly strange, early ’70s transgender documentary Let Me Die A Woman), had already worked her way through a few genres — including hardcore porn — before deciding to make a slasher film starring porn actress Samantha Fox (not the British pop singer).
In this film, a lot of people are murdered in really gory ways, and that’s basically it. The result can’t be called “good” with any seriousness, but its badness is part of is high-disturbance. Nasty, meaningless, deranged, but still bizarrely captivating, you’ll find yourself chanting, along with the killer, “I hate them I hate them I wish they were dead!”
The artist whose face became her own canvas, Cindy Sherman’s gallery work has often situated herself into various cinematic fictions. The next step, then, was to make her own film about the horror of anonymity.
It stars Jeanne Tripplehorn, Molly Ringwald, and, most importantly, Carol Kane (a veteran of the slasher classic When A Stranger Calls) as a meek copy editor who accidentally kills a co-worker. Then she kills a lot more of them, performing, in the words of the trailer’s voiceover, “a little corporate downsizing.” Sherman’s only feature film, it’s her deadpan ode to the many ways life can kill you.
Something horrible is about to happen to Elizabeth Olsen in a boarded up house where it’s the middle of the day but pitch black inside. In this atmospheric, stylish bit of scariness from Chris Lentis and Laura Lau — shot to appear like the entire film was done in one take (like Birdman before Birdman but much later than Hitchcock’s Rope) — she’s stuck in there until a lot of symbolic family stuff goes down.
There’s a lot of “power of suggestion” going on until the end (which may or may not rub you wrong way when it all gets explained), but until that point — it’s a tense and bumpy ride.
Slumber Party Massacre
How do you solve a problem like teenage girls in panties getting murdered one-by-one by a homicidal maniac? Let a woman make the film! Director Amy Holden Jones gave up a gig on E.T. for the chance to direct her own movie — a strangely ambivalent parody of the genre, even as it plays by the genre’s rules. Watch this giddy, gory, slasher movie with that in mind and see how just a little difference in perspective can turn everything on its head.
Slumber Party Massacre 2
Deborah Brock directed Slumber Party Massacre‘s bad sequel, but truthfully aren’t most sequels “the bad sequel?” Strengths: it’s got cheapo ’80s production values for days, stupid humor, it’s about a female rock band, Crystal Bernard from Wings is in it, and the killer dude has a drill that’s also a guitar. Gnarly.
Previously published April 10, 2015.