As the nights draw in and Halloween gets closer, what could be better than snuggling up under some blankets, grabbing an abundance of snacks, and watching some scary movies? Nothing right? But don’t you get bored of all this standard horror fare, directed by the same men, with the same ideas, and same women running up the stairs instead of out the door? Don’t worry, here at Women Write About Comics we’ve got you covered. Here are fifteen certified chillers to satisfy every kind of horror fiend, and they’re ALL directed by women.
A black and white, Persian-language, vampire Western film doesn’t necessarily sound like your average crossover indie hit, but with her debut feature Ana Lily Amirpour did just that. This incredibly stylish, instantly iconic, and painfully cool take on vampire lore, became a critically acclaimed hit and fan favourite when it was released in 2014. Harking back to early Jim Jarmusch, the French New Wave, and classic spaghetti Westerns all whilst somehow managing to stay completely original and authentic, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is one of the best horror films, scrap that one of the best films in years.
One of 2015’s sleeper hits, The Babadook is a modern take on the horrors of parenthood and the strange bond between mother and child. With this suspenseful, subdued, and startling horror flick, Jennifer Kent broke onto the horror scene and people loved it. Spooky and serious most of the scares here don’t come from the titular monster, but from the nuanced and haunting performances in this hard to forget chiller.
Technically a film noir, this tale of two men who pick up a mysterious fellow lonely traveler on the road is definitely horrific enough to be on our list. Officially classed as the first film noir to be directed by a woman, in later years it came to be recognised as one of the first films with modern horror tropes outside of the Monster movies that were so prevalent at the time. Emmett Myers is an iconic horror villain who leads our two protagonists on a dark fairytale through the American heartlands.
The newest film on this list, Alice Lowe’s full length directorial debut is a true original. One of the bleakest and best films I’ve seen in years, it’s also the first ever film I’ve seen about pregnancy that isn’t a romantic or indie comedy. Lowe has form for twisted scripts with pitch black humor; she wrote Ben Wheatley’s 2012 wonderfully dark Sightseers. This slasher-esque story of an expectant mother on a revenge spree driven by the voice of her unborn child is a visceral and heart wrenching experience.
Jen and Sylvia Soska’s 2012 contemporary cult classic is a pitch perfect revenge fantasy about an aspiring doctor who after being raped enacts a brutal revenge that may or may not correspond with her newly flourishing career as a back street body modification artist. Dark, savage, and with perfect anti heroine in Mary, the Soska Sister’s American Mary is a must for your Halloween Hit List.
Easily one of my favourite modern horror films, a startlingly subversive, and purposefully odd take on the slasher genre. Tara Subkoff’s slick mediation on wealth, adolescent girls, and the internet watches like Kids for a generation who take tweet and take selfies instead of skate and smoke weed. A terrifyingly dark take on the horrors of preteen girls and the desperate struggle for popularity, the film is surreal, strange, and stylish. This is really a #Horror film like no other.
In these days of franchise-filled multiplexes, it’s hard to escape ghosts, ghouls, and things that go bump in the night and find a really suspenseful, haunting horror. Well, we’ve found it for you. The Invitation is an incredibly tense, slow burning thriller that gets under your skin and stays there. Following a group of friends bought together by an invite to a dinner with old acquaintances, Karyn Kusama ramps up the tension and doesn’t let up til the last iconic scene.
One of the few women who is given the revered title of “Auteur,” Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelowe made her name in action and horror genre flicks including this cool as all hell campy classic from 1987. Debuting the same year as the seminal cool vamp flick Lost Boys, this cult favourite follows a young cowboy, who joins a traveling family of vampires after being turned by a beautiful, very eighties vampire lady.
A film based on the highly controversial, notoriously misogynist, and previously banned book American Psycho doesn’t necessarily scream subversive, but Mary Harron ramps the slick satire of Bret Easton Ellis’ infamous contemporary classic all the way to eleven. This film is a feat of glorious campy gore, incredible performances, and most of all it manages to be a statement not only on the capitalism and materialism of the original novel, but also on the problematic nature of the book itself.
This stone cold slasher classic was not only directed by a woman, but it was also written by one too! Rita Mae Brown originally penned the script as a parody on the generic slasher movies of the time, though when it came to filming it was decided that the movie would instead be a straight slasher, leaving this cult classic with far more humour, character, and killer deaths than your average ’80s horror.
After the critically lauded Juno, Diablo Cody teamed up with Karyn Kusuma to make this satirical body horror starring then it girl Megan Fox. Though it may not have been the box office smash the studio wanted, it’s an original, hilarious, and dark take on slasher movies. With a stellar cast and a very cool female lead revenge plot, this is the perfect subversive solution to your popcorn movie needs.
Though Brian De Palma’s classic Carrie is a masterclass in stylish film-making and genre defining shocks, this sequel from over two decades later manages to hold up. Generally badly received at the time, it’s now looked upon as one of the standout feminist horror films. Expanding on the themes of the first film, The Rage, deals with the toxic masculinity within high school culture and how institutions protect popular and successful boys at a sometimes deadly cost to women. This movie is as relevant now as it was in ’99 and just as enjoyable.
Another Stephen King adaptation Pet Sematary was helmed by Mary Lambert, an acclaimed music video director, who was behind hit videos for stars including Madonna to Janet Jackson. Set in King’s native Maine, this story delves into the lives of a young family who after moving to a new town discover that the pet cemetery in the woods behind their house holds a dark and disturbing secret. Cult ’80s hits are not hard to find, but this is a dark, claustrophobic tale that stands out from the crowd.
It’s been a stellar few years for slow burn indie horror thrillers, and this is one of the best. Starring Rose Leslie of Game Of Thrones fame, we follow a newlywed couple on their honeymoon. For some reason they’ve decided to get away to a cabin in the woods (obviously neither of them watch horror films). This film subverts your expectations of what a horror film should or will be, as Janek crafts an engaging, genre mashing, and stylish as all hell movie.
A spiritual precursor to everyone’s favourite ’90s witch movie The Craft, Mirror Mirror is a low budget oddity about a girl who gains strange powers when she discovers an antique mirror in her new home. For lovers of underrated and lesser known gems, Mirror Mirror is perfect; it was one of my teen VHS discoveries and is still a firm favourite in my “so bad/odd it’s good” category. It’s also perfect for anyone who is nostalgic for the halcyon days of 1990. This film is peak Nineties.
Unfortunately, due to the nature of the structural racism within the studio film making industry, there hasn’t been one indie or mainstream horror directed by a black woman that has had a wide release, though a filmmaker named Tiffany D. Brown garnered acclaim and awards for her short horror film Field Trip. This is a huge problem as there are obviously many incredible black female horror hounds and film directors out there, but it’s just about who gets the jobs and the platform. Because I couldn’t find any straight genre films by any black women (and because I’m super stoked about the project), I’m going to recommend that you all keep an eye out for one of the most exciting projects around at the moment.
My Final Girl: The Black Women of 70s Horror Cinema – Kristina Leath-Malin
Directed by Kristina Leath-Malin, a black filmmaker with a love of horror and blaxploitation, this is an up and coming documentary about the black women in ’70s horror movies. This is a project I’ve been following for a while now, as blaxploitation horror has always been one of my favourite genres and there has yet to be a definitive exploration of the women who starred in so many of these iconic roles. The project takes on the form of a thesis and an up and coming documentary . You can watch snippets of the movie, follow their progress, and support the project here on their website.