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Five Great Horror Films From Female Directors

American Mary poster
Poster for American Mary

To be blunt, there simply aren’t enough women working in horror. Female writers and directors are a rarity. That doesn’t mean that women aren’t interested in horror, far from it. It just means they’re not getting the jobs they’re going out for. It might be a harsh truth, but it’s true nonetheless.

The movies we’ll be looking at showcase incredible female directors and are fantastic works of horror in general. We shouldn’t have to point out when a woman makes a great horror film, that’s absolutely true. But until more producers are willing to take the chance and hire more and more women, we do need to. Horror movie audiences are 50% female. It stands to reason that horror filmmakers should be at least that.

The Slumber Party Massacre

Slumber Party Massacre sounds like just another stupid slasher film, and in some ways it is. But in other ways it is so much more than that. Written by famed feminist author Rita Mae Brown and directed by Amy Holden Jones, it is actually a satire on the slasher genre—particularly its portrayal of women. Everything that is usually under the surface is suddenly overt. The killer’s weapon is no longer simply a butcher’s knife, it’s the most phallic drill you’ve ever seen. It’s an intriguing early slasher film, definitely worth a look. It offers an examination on the genre from a deeply feminist perspective and is an all-around successful horror comedy.

Slumber Party Massacre

American Mary

One of the best horror movies in recent years, American Mary cemented the Soska sisters as a major force in the horror world. This film is not only inventive and character driven, but brings back body horror in a big way. It’s as focused on body modification as Hellraiser was and includes a stellar leading performance from Katharine Isabelle. The movie is a character study of a girl taking extreme measures to pay her way through med school, but at the same time it’s great examination of the entire body mod subculture and the mindset of people devoted to it. This is a smart story, expertly crafted by two extremely talented filmmakers.

American Mary 2013Pet Sematary

Pet Sematary is easily one of the scariest Stephen King adaptations to date. Much of this is due to the screenplay by King himself. The rest lies in Mary Lambert’s direction. From the perfect, moody Maine locations down to the incredible casting and sense of dread that hangs over the entire feature, Pet Sematary is remarkable. The cast feels like a genuine family, which makes each loss that much harder. Great horror literature is emotional as well as visceral. King excels in this on the page, but it comes through just as strong in this screen adaptation. Pet Sematary is a cautionary tale that bears powerful dramatic weight.

Victor Pascow in Pet Sematary

American Psycho

Carrie was an exceptional example of a male take on the female perspective. It worked, it was very much a movie about a girl exploring her psyche and all of the horrors that go along with that. In many ways American Psycho is the same thing for the male perspective. As a movie, at least, it’s about a shallow, yuppie businessman who has no sense of self or anything outside the material. To Patrick Bateman, what is in style or about to be in style is all the counts. What is popular is all that exists. And if you’re going to treat the less popular and less important people like trash, you might as well just kill them. Well, that last part doesn’t enter into the thought process of every yuppie but it’s only a few steps away and director Mary Harron pulls this examination off with frightening ease. This is a gory, brilliantly done black comedy that has only grown in popularity since its release. Bret Easton Ellis, the author of the original novel, who isn’t always known for his sense of tact, dismissed the film saying that it simply shouldn’t be directed by a woman. It sounds very much like the people that insisted Carrie should not have been written or directed by a man and the simple fact that the movie turned out great proved him wrong.

Christian Bale as Pat Bateman in American PsychoNear Dark

Gender doesn’t play into Near Dark much, and that’s wonderful. It doesn’t need to. It’s simply a great, moody, brilliantly directed story and that’s all it needs to be. It’s one of the best vampire movies ever made, with a keen focus on family dynamics both traditional and incredibly non-traditional. It examines the nature and mindset of vampirism in a way that is often overlooked. On top of that, it boasts gorgeous cinematography and an excellent score by Tangerine Dream. The cast shines as well, particularly Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton who bring genuine humanity and extreme violence to their characters in equal doses. In 2010, director Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to ever win Best Director at the Academy Awards.

Bill Paxton in Near Dark

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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