7 Must-See Horror Films Directed by Women
Updated: Jul 5
This Saturday, October 24 as part of the Renaissance Press Virtual Conference, I'm thrilled to be on the Representation in Horror panel, alongside authors John Haas, Elizabeth Hirst, and Shannon Barnsley.
Since many of us enter this time of year looking for quality Halloween viewing, I thought I'd showcase some of my favourite horror films directed by women. There are of course many more, so if you'd like to hear about some of them (among many other things related to representation and diversity in horror), join us for the panel! Registration for all events throughout the con is FREE.
Check back later this week for some of my favourite LGBTQ horror films.
American Psycho (Mary Harron)
Love or hate author Bret Easton Ellis, there’s no denying American Psycho its place as a seminal novel about the fragilities of masculinity and materialism. Considered ‘unfilmable’ by many, including its author, it took an all-female director/screenwriter team to umm… flesh out the nuances for a broad audience. Christian Bale’s performance steals the show, but it’s Harron and screenwriter Guinevere Turner who found the satirical heart of the controversial novel and turned it into an enduring cult classic.
The Babadook (Jennifer Kent)
Arguably the scariest experience I’ve had watching a movie in the last decade (next to the all-girl fronted Descent), there’s a lot more to The Babadook than its jokey queer icon status. Australian writer/director Kent weaves a high-tension horror show that nimbly passes through the veil between the supernatural and the psychological – if there’s any difference to begin with – and turns the challenges of motherhood into one of the 2010’s most compelling nightmares.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (Ana Lily Amirpour)
Pair this with Under the Shadow for a great Iranian horror double. Shot in stark black and white, Amirpour’s film is a compelling and evocative spin on the vampire genre. There are some echoes of Let the Right One In here, as the movie find ways to shed old cliches and grapple with its lead monster’s night to night activities, which include skateboarding and feeding on dangerous misogynists.
The Invitation (Karyn Kusama)
Kusama’s Jennifer’s Body has become something of a queer cultural hit, but it’s the creepy slow burn of The Invitation that’ll stay with you, right down to its final, unforgettable last shot. If at least half the great scenes in screenwriting take place at dinner parties, Kusama’s plants an uneasy taste in your mouth early and refuses to let go, finally exploding into a finale that’s shamelessly bloody and 100% earned.
The Love Witch (Anna Biller)
A great looking horror movie comfortable in its own retro skin, The Love Witch finds its groove between horror and humour, and is a good pick for those wanting a lighter spooky night in. What’s a lonely witch to do when her love spells work a little too well? Biller, also the screenwriter, turns our expectations on their head, reclaiming tired horror tropes as she goes.
Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow)
Okay, going old school on this one. Everyone raves about The Lost Boys as the great iconic vampire film of 1987, which… fair. But damn, Near Dark is a special movie. Uniting about half the cast of Aliens with the unreasonably cute Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright, Bigelow cemented herself as a director to be reckoned with right from her first feature, with a twisted, all-American vampire family, and a grisly bar scene that must be seen to be believed.
Revenge (Coralie Fargeat)
There are a lot of sexual assault/revenge films out there, and in that pile are a lot of bad ones that go for cheap thrills with a veneer of surface feminism. Not so, Revenge! With a bold colour palette splashed over its shamelessly bloodthirsty screenplay, Fargeat’s film holds your attention through its flawed heroine’s shocking transformation, right up to its gory and strangely beautiful finale.