To celebrate Women in Horror Month, we thought we’d have a look at some of our favorite horror movies that were directed by some seriously talented female filmmakers.
Listed in chronological order, here are a few of our personal favorites. Any we missed? Add yours in the comments!
Slumber Party Massacre (1982) – Amy Holden Jones
Written by feminist writer and activist Rita Mae Brown and directed by Amy Holden Jones, Slumber Party Massacre prominently features satirically appropriate phallic imagery in the form of the film’s villainous “driller killer”. It’s a fun and campy slasher with some great kills, practical effects, and serious feminist undertones.
Near Dark (1987) – Kathryn Bigelow
Long before winning two Oscar awards for The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow crafted a cult classic with the vampire film Near Dark. Starring Aliens alumni Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein, Near Dark is arguably one of the finest vampire films to exist.
Pet Sematary (1989) – Mary Lambert
Even with the new film on the way, Mary Lambert’s Pet Sematary will always have a special and terrifying place in the heart of horror fans. She brought us nightmares of Zelda, a wonderfully creepy undead child, and sage words of wisdom from a perfectly-cast Jud Crandall. And we’ll always thank her for that.
American Psycho (2000) – Mary Harron
Do you need to return some videotapes? You can thank Mary Harron for making that the most popular exit line that horror fans have ever uttered. Bret Easton Ellis’ novel makes for some truly dark source material, but Harron was able to dig through the many music references and brutal scenes of violence to bring us an iconic satire that drags misogyny, conspicuous consumption, and pretension through the bloody mud.
Trouble Every Day (2001) – Claire Denis
New French Extremity film Trouble Every Day is – as with most films in the New French Extremity – challenging and divisive. Denis’ style of filmmaking has been described as “tactile”, in that her work sets out to “touch” the viewer with a sense of contamination that cannot be obtained from a distanced viewing. She combines romantic sensuality with violent cannibalism and challenges the audience with feelings of “unreality”; scenes leading up to a particularly violent climax all feel very rehearsed, so this moment of honest and visceral release comes as a shock.
Jennifer’s Body (2009) – Karyn Kusama
Jennifer’s Body is a perfect and vicious twist on the dynamic between teenage BFFs. It wasn’t widely loved upon its initial release, but has found a bit of resurgence recently with horror fans rediscovering the wild charm of this flick.
For more serious fare, check out Kusama’s The Invitation, which is a positively brilliant slow burn that more people need to see.
American Mary (2012) – Jen & Sylvia Soska
Not quite a rape-revenge film, American Mary is about a young medical student who finds her calling in the world of surgical body modification. Katherine Isabelle absolutely shines as the titular Mary, and the Soskas show some serious skill as they carve this dark tale into a delicious delight.
You can see more from the Soska sisters with their upcoming remake of David Cronenberg’s Rabid.
The Babadook (2014) – Jennifer Kent
The Babadook beautifully captures the exhaustion of being a single parent following a traumatic event. Widow Amelia (Essie Davis, whose performance plucks at every empathetic heartstring in your body) must contend with a mysterious monster that her troubled son has developed an obsession with. The film drags itself through dull grey interiors and screaming children to build a stunning metaphor for depression that carries on through the film’s conclusion.
Honeymoon (2014) – Leigh Janiak
Featuring raw performances from Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) and Harry Treadaway (Penny Dreadful), Honeymoon slowly builds the idea that something is not quite right during a young couple’s getaway. Haunting, beautiful, unsettling, and visceral, it reaches a fever pitch that will definitely stick with you once the film has ended.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) – Ana Lily Amirpour
Noted as “the first Iranian Vampire Western ever made”, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is slick and relentlessly cool as it mixes its influences of graphic novels, horror films, spaghetti westerns, and the Iranian New Wave into one beautiful black-and-white genre masterpiece.
Prevenge (2016) – Alice Lowe
Prevenge is a pitch-black British dark comedy about a woman who believes that her unborn baby is sending her on a mission to kill. Written, directed by, and starring an 8-month pregnant Alice Lowe, it’s a whip-smart take on loneliness, prepartum madness, and the conscious decisions a mother must make.
Raw (2016) – Julia Ducournau
Julia Ducournau presents an unflinching coming-of-age tale with a deadly and dread-fueled twist. Garance Marillier and Ella Rumpf‘s nuanced performances as sisters Justine and Alexia are like a raw, meaty steak; they drive the film forward to its heavy yet deeply satisfying conclusion.
Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017) – Issa López
Tigers Are Not Afraid is a visually and emotionally striking dark fairytale. The real-world violence of Mexican cartels simmers under every scene, bringing the childlike wonder and fantasy to the forefront. Like anything concocted from a child’s imagination, the magic we see can be both beautiful and truly terrifying.
M.F.A. (2017) – Natalia Leite
M.F.A. is an emotionally brutal and deeply effective rape-revenge film that points a steady, angry finger at rape on college campuses and the efforts made by administration to silence or blame the victims for their trauma. It delivers one powerful punch of a message that is both infuriating and cathartic, as our heroine goes on a cross-campus spree of vigilante justice.
The Ranger (2018) – Jenn Wexler
Jenn Wexler has made a name for herself as a genre producer before stepping into the director’s chair with The Ranger, and her clear dedication to the genre has resulted in a slick, punk rock killer thriller. It’s delightfully vicious and pulls no punches, and it proves that she’s a name to watch for.
Revenge (2018) – Coralie Fargeat
Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge is a vibrant, sun-soaked, full-tilt ride that spins a fresh and vicious take on the rape-revenge subgenre by focusing the rage through the “female gaze”. The start of this horrible chain of events comes from an awkward conversation that every woman has experienced. The action that follows is, of course, dramatically over-the-top and gorgeously stylized, but it’s so deeply satisfying to cheer on our heroine as she blazes a brutal, bloody path of vengeance.