The 5 Best Female-Directed Horror Films For You To Die Over
If we had to take a shot every time a horror movie featured a woman making a stupid decision or running half-naked away from death, we’d be in the hospital recovering from alcohol poisoning. The “damsel in distress meets her doom” storyline is as old as our souls and as tired as the idea of homophobia in American politics. A lot of that sexist bullshit, though, has less to do with what’s happening on camera and more to do with what’s happening behind the camera. Because, in a lot of horror movies, men are at the helm. Which makes the prevalence of the whole “naked women running and screaming” trope pretty unsettling. Despite half of horror movie audiences skewing female, male horror directors outnumber females 12 to one.
Luckily, horror films by female directors do exist, albeit in an extremely limited capacity. Musician and certified badass, St. Vincent, just announced that she’ll be joining the club with a new film she’s writing and directing for a larger feminist horror anthology film called XX. In addition to St. Vincent, three other female directors—Karyn Kusama, Jennifer Lynch, and Jovanka Vuckovic—are slated to direct the three other films in the four-part series, all of which will star female leads. To celebrate the bright and gory future of film, we bring you our favorite horror films from female directors that you need to scream at.
Near Dark (1987) by Kathryn Bigelow
Decades before Twilight made vampires sparkle, Bigelow directed this schlocky ’80s horror movie that was heavy on practical effects and cheese. A characteristically beautiful drifter is turned into a vampire by a pack who roam the open road, but hide from the sun rather than cruising down the 101 with the top down. Bigelow has steered clear of horror movies since then, but the Oscar-winning director may one day return to bring scares unrelated to watching people waterboard terrorists.
The Hitch-Hiker (1953) by Ida Lupino
In the 1950s, women had a hard enough time even breaking into Hollywood, much less directing a feature film. That’s where Lupino came in. She co-wrote and directed the psychological horror film that focused on (you guessed it) a hitchhiker. He’s an ex-con without a heart of gold who plans to kill two men who pick him up after their ride ends. Lupino jumped behind the camera after finding film work for females severely lacking, and we’re glad she did because it has almost as much tension as the time you peed your pants on the roller coaster and kept riding it to avoid letting people know what happened.
Jennifer’s Body (2009) by Karyn Kusama
If you still haven’t seen this masterpiece, you’re as dead to us as the guys who fall into Megan Fox’s demonic web. Kusama got Diablo Cody to set down the hamburger phone and showcase her scriptwriting skills to provide social critique of the “mean high school girl” trope with this cult classic. A cheerleader demonically possessed? Seth Cohen in bad boy eyeliner? We’re as ready to watch this again as we are impatiently awaiting what Kusama has in store for us with the new XX initiative.
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) by Amy Holden Jones
Instead of workin’ for the man, Jones passed up a chance to edit Steven Spielberg’s E.T. so she could head to the horror genre instead. Her directorial debut was bound to be iconic when she got feminist activist Rita Mae Brown to help her write the script—and it shows. Guys make all the dumb decisions and the murderer and his phallic drill gets chased down by the all-star athletes who are supposed to be the victims. Although Jones went on to write the Beethoven films, she passed on the slumber party fun to writer/director Deborah Brock for a superb sequel. A third film happened, but we like to pretend it didn’t. It’s hard to overcome the greatness of the electric guitar drill sword in the second film.
American Psycho (2000) by Mary Harron
Like Jennifer’s Body, if you haven’t seen this classic horror film you need to reevaluate your life choices. Harron’s classic adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel that showed what happens to a Wall Street fuckboy with a soft spot for murder is one of the best films of all time, solely based on how perfect Christian Bale was for the role. Her visual style paired perfectly with the luxury business cards and buckets of blood that are spilled by a guy who terrorizes women when he’s not watching himself fuck them as he tries to maintain some sense of masculine power. She’s a horror movie veteran and, like Kusama, she’ll be teaming up for the XX anthology, which proves we’re headed for the most exciting project in the horror genre in a long time.
Stay tuned to Milk for more female filmmakers.