XX: 13 Killer Horror Movies Directed by Women
This past week, Blumhouse’s Jason Blum made some “boneheaded comments” about the lack of talented female directors in Hollywood—specifically in the horror genre. I have often found it strange that there are not more female horror directors out there. I mean we have quite a few shining examples of the genre helmed by strong females.
So why has Hollywood not learned their lesson fully and slapped more horror projects at not only the classic female directors of the past but a whole new generation of up-and-coming filmmakers? This doesn’t make much, if any, sense to me. And so I just wanted to take the time, yet again, today to point out some of the best horror movies that you either never knew were directed by women, or maybe you just forgot.
It is an impressive list to be sure and I can only hope that it may inspire a horror producer currently looking for a director to open the spectrum of their search to some of these classic directors. Some of which that are still on the top of their game.
Here you go, Jason Blum. Look this list over. You’re welcome.
This 1982 slasher about a group of high school seniors left alone by their parents for a slumber party, and then preyed upon by a murderer using a power drill is a total classic. And not only is the film directed by a female, Amy Holden Jones, but its screenplay was also penned by a woman as well, Rita Mae Brown. For those who may have skipped The Slumber Party Massacre for some reason, make sure to remedy that as soon as possible as it’s a true treat. Special mention also goes out to its sequel, which I find to be just as much fun, if not even more so, than the original.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say first-time director Kathryn Bigelow’s modern vampire-western Near Dark is one of the best horror movies of all-time. That’s not hyperbole, is it? If you’ve seen the film, you just quickly answered with a resounding “Hell, no!” If you haven’t seen the film, you owe it to yourself to snatch up a copy this evening and share it with the ones you love. Bill Paxton may never have been better than here as the wild-card vampire in his clan of misfits. Extra points for including Lance Henriksen and Jenette Goldstein (Aliens) in on the fun.
Pet Sematary (1989) Directed by Mary Lambert
Without a doubt, Mary Lambert’s adaptation of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary is one of the scariest horror movies of all-time. Sure it has its cheesy moments, but then again it boasts the freakiest little zombie kid to ever grace the silver screen, and let’s not forget about the twisted-up pretzel nightmare that is Zelda. Brr. Just thinking of Rachel’s dead sister calling her name in that gravelly voice, or rushing out of the corner of the room to taunt her face-to-face still gives me the super-creeps. Bonus points awarded to Lambert’s follow-up Pet Sematary 2 which holds a very special place in my horror heart. Sometimes dead is better, yes. But Lambert’s career desperately needs a resurrection.
Yet again we have a classic horror movie that was not only directed by a woman (Mary Harron) but co-written by a woman as well (Guinevere Turner). From the extreme blood, gore and sex contained within, to the fact that the black comedy horror film is one of the ultimate studies on the darkness of the male mind, and it is a wonder Harron and Turner were let anywhere near this adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel of the same name. The fact that they were not only allowed to make the film but that they exceeded so perfectly is one of the best examples of why we need to bring more females into the horror fold.
Kusama is a director that (spoiler alert) we’ll see again further down this list. But the Girlfight director’s first foray into the world of horror, written by Diablo Cody (Juno) is a prime example of a film that’s unjustly forgotten to the sands of teen-horror time. The movie’s not only gory as hell and sexy as shit, but it also boasts one of the most enduring plots I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. The power of a teen girl’s friendship is a power that even possession has a hard time breaking. It’s so damn sweet that I have to admit it made me cry at one pivotal moment. Which moment? Watch the film and I think you’ll figure it out, no problem.
Jen and Sylvia Soska have been making horror movies for a while now, including their upcoming remake of David Cronenberg’s Rabid, but it was really this little body-horror film starring Katharine Isabelle that put them on the map. And for good reason too. The movie is filled with style, charm, and did I forget to mention body-horror? Yeah, if you like a bit of graphic gore that will have you cringing for days afterward, then make sure to add The Soska Sisters’ American Mary to your must-see list as soon as you finish reading this. You will not be disappointed.
Remakes tend to piss people off. I get that. But sometimes a remake comes along that is more of a readaptation if that makes any difference to you. Yes, in 2013 director Kimberly Peirce took on Stephen king’s first (published) novel Carrie and brought it back to the screen with a killer cast including Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne More (to name a few). The result isn’t spectacular and doesn’t hold a candle to Brian DePalma’s original adaptation, but Pierce’s version has more than a few positive things going for it and deserves at least a single watch. For no other reason than you can’t talk smack about a movie that you’ve never seen.
Amirpour is a talent to keep both eyes on starting right this moment. Sure her sophomore feature film The Bad Batch left more a little to be desired, but her first foray into filmmaking is a new classic if there ever was one. From it’s stark black and white photography to its refusal to follow any and all of the tropes and endless cliches of the vampire subgenre, A Girl Walks Home at Night is the loud and proud signature of a director that very well could change the landscape of female filmmaking, horror or otherwise, within the next few years. We’re rooting for you, Ana Lily.
Writer-director Jennifer Kent’s first feature film The Babdook has received its fair share of haters throughout the years since it first crept and crawled onto screens back in 2014. Most people complain that it’s “just not scary.” But I beg to differ. There are sequences in this film that will all but stop your heart, and the film’s final message is one that any human should embrace. Some people complain about horror films lacking depth and three-dimensional characters. All of that can be found in Jennifer Kent’s first film. Along with, you know, some super-charged nightmare fuel that will have you battling a case of insomnia for a few days.
Director Leigh Janiak came out swinging right out of the gates with her 2014 feature directing debut Honeymoon. The sci-fi horror film stars Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) and Harry Treadaway (Mr. Mercedes) as a newly married couple whose titular honeymoon goes to utter shit thanks to a horrific nighttime visitor. Leslie’s character begins to change in the most grotesque Cronenberg fashions and it’s up to Treadaway to keep his new marriage together – as they say for better or worse. Needless to say, things go from bad to worse throughout the course of the film and the ending alone is worth the price of an iTunes rental. Creepy to the core.
I told you director Karyn Kusama was going to make her appearance more than once on this list. And following up her first horror outing – the above-mentioned Jennifer’s Body – Kusama returned to the genre with her 2015 psychological thriller The Invitation. The film stars Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus) and the always terrifying John Carroll Lynch (AHS: Freakshow, Zodiac) as guests at a dinner party that becomes more and more sinister as the wine and beer flows. Is it all in our lead’s head, or is there something downright evil going on behind the scenes of this quaint gettogether? You’ll have to check out the film to know for sure, but trust me, it’s well worth it.
And – boom – good old Karyn Kusama shows up on our list yet again. This time she contributed to the 2017 horror anthology film XX, along with fellow female horror directors such as Jovanka Vuckovic (The Captured Bird), Annie Clark (St. Vincent), and Roxanne Benjamin (Southbound). The anthology features tales of terror including Don’t Fall, Her Only Living Son, The Birthday Cake, and The Box. Like all horror anthologies, some of these entries are hits and some are misses. I’ll let you decide which tales of terror fit into which category. But however you chose to slice and ice this flick, it’s a film you need to see as soon as possible.
First-time writer-director Julia Ducournau’s French-Belgian horror drama Raw is one of my favorite horror movies of all-time. No hyperbole. I saw it last year and it quickly became the film to beat for best of the year. The film follows a young vegetarian (Garance Marillier) throughout her first year at veterinary school and to say the film is only for those with an iron-clad stomach may be an understatement. You see, this young girl tastes meat for the first time here in college and develops… a craving for human flesh in the process. It’s far worse than even that rundown implies, with a bikini-waxing gone wrong being a horrific highlight. Now, where’s Ducournau’s next film, Hollywood!? I’ll be there opening night.
And there you have it. Those are 13 awesome horror movies that you (may) have forgotten were directed by women. What did you think of this list? Make sure to hit us up and let us know what you think below or on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram!