Another March has come and gone, but our Women in Horror celebration is far from over...
...From the final girls slaying in the last act to the villainesses enchanting their victims, this two-part series celebrates them all.
Part one of our Women in Horror list covered many well-known and a few lesser-known films featuring women in front of and behind the camera. In part two, we expand even further. From vampires to slumber parties to coming-of-age cannibalism, women can do it all.
Kiss of the Damned (2012)
Written/directed by: Xan Cassavetes
Since part one started with a vampire flick, it seemed only fair to do the same for part two. By 2012, the vampire genre had reached a fever pitch thanks to the Twilight film and book series. The vampires in writer-director Alexandra "Xan" Cassavetes’ Kiss of the Damned, however, prefer returning to their blood-soaked roots over sparkling in the sun.
The film centers around the love between vampire Djuna (the absolutely amazing Joséphine de La Baume) and mortal Paolo (the always charming Milo Ventimiglia). The couple’s romance is upended, and the vampire world threatened, when Djuna’s sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida) arrives.
Cassavetes’ directing weaves a highly erotic and bloody romance. I was enchanted by this world and the chemistry between La Baume and Ventimiglia carries the film. As you watch you’ll find yourself hoping the pair can avoid turning to dust.
12 Hour Shift (2020)
Written/directed by: Brea Grant
Nurses and doctors have always had to put up with some heavy and hectic circumstances, and even more so now thanks to COVID. So, it makes sense to set a black comedy horror during a hospital’s night shift. Writer-director Brea Grant delivers an unexpected thrill ride of ever-growing insanity and hijinks with 12 Hour Shift.
The film centers on Mandy (the always amazing Angela Bettis), a nurse selling organs to a local gangster on the black market during what is surely one of the most disastrous work shifts in the world.
It feels almost like a bizarre Coen film with characters that feel more real than the typical horror movie caricatures, and Bettis delivers one of her best performances.
The Slumber Party Massacre Franchise
If you’re looking for a predominantly female-directed slasher franchise, The Slumber Party Massacre films are for you. The first entry was directed by Amy Holden Jones and written with Rita Mae Brown, the second written and directed by Deborah Brock, and the third written by Catherine Cyran and directed by Sally Mattison. While each film varies in story, the premise remains the same: a driller killer stalking teenage victims at slumber parties.
While most audiences might favor the first entry, I enjoy the second film just a bit more. The idea of a rockabilly killer with a freakin’ drill attached to his guitar is one of the coolest villain/weapons I’ve ever seen.
Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)
Written/directed by: Issa López
You know you’ve impacted the world of cinema when you catch the eye of Guillermo Del Toro. It’s no wonder writer-director Issa López has made a name for herself with the fantastical Tigers Are Not Afraid.
The film centers on Estrella (Paola Lara), a young girl living in Mexico in a town ravaged by violence and drugs. The haunting tale begins when she is gifted items that will grant her deepest wishes, and she must face off against enemies real and fantastic to protect her friends.
I highly recommend double featuring this one with Pan’s Labyrinth.
Saint Maud (2019/2020)
Written/directed by: Rose Glass
Writer-director Rose Glass’s mind-blowing cinematic masterpiece was on everyone’s most-anticipated list, even with COVID delays.
It centers on nurse Katie aka Maud (Morfydd Clark in a star making performance), recently deeply religious to the point of self-punishment. She is tasked with caring for terminally ill Amanda (Jennifer Ehle) and soon the lines between fantasy and reality begin to blur irrevocably.
Saint Maud examines the lengths a disciple will go to please a higher power and has one of the most unforgettable endings of the year.
Written/directed by: Coralie Fargeat
Revenge is a tale as old as time and has a place in the genre alongside films such as Last House on the Left. Sometimes the violence against the women in revenge films can feel like exploitation, so I was weary of the idea of this one…until I actually watched it. Writer-director Coralie Fargeat’s film is much more than your average revenge tale.
It centers on Jen (Matilda Lutz), a socialite left for dead and out for blood. Lutz delivers a powerhouse performance with scenes that literally made me squirm and feel phantom pain alongside her character. Fargeat’s directing makes even the open desert feel like a character.
The Invitation (2015)
Directed by: Karyn Kusama
Director Karyn Kusama returns to the list, this time with writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi and awkward dinner conversation instead of demon teens. Centering on Will (Logan Marshall-Green), who has been invited to his ex’s house for a dinner when all hell breaks loose, The Invitation feels reminiscent of such genre darlings as The Strangers or You’re Next.
Kusama directs the dinner sequence and subsequent events in a way that makes the audience feel like both a participating member and voyeur of the gathering. The film’s twist will have you going back to its beginning in search of hints to tie everything together.
Goodnight Mommy (2014)
Written/directed by: Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala
When it comes to the trials and tribulations of dealing with grief or identity, the horror and suspense genres have a massive storytelling sandbox to play in.
Veronika Franz and her filmmaking partner Severin Fiala are no strangers to films that mess with your mind; they would follow up this 2014 thriller of strained relationships with 2019’s equally enticing The Lodge.
Goodnight Mommy gives us the first real sense of what these two can do, however, as we are introduced to the bandaged visage of the mother (Susanne Wuest) and her two sons Elias (Elias Schwarz) and Lukas (Lukas Schwarz) who doubt that the woman underneath the bandages is really their mother.
Written/directed by: Julia Ducournau
What can I say about writer-director Julia Ducournau’s body horror coming of age story that hasn’t already been said? The film centers on Justine (Garance Marillier), a lifelong vegetarian who, after tasting raw meat, begins to hunger for the taste of flesh.
The film feels like the perfect allegory for growing up in a similar vein as Ginger Snaps. Ducournau’s visuals and use of colors make this film the critical hit it is. Its heart, blood, and everything you could want in a carnivorous tale make it surely one to be talked about for years to come.
Written/directed by: Stewart Thorndike
Referred to as a “lesbian Rosemary’s Baby”, Lyle centers on the story of a grieving mother (played by Gabby Hoffman) who begins to suspect her neighbors are part of a satanic cult. The film is an underrated gem with Thorndike ramping up the tension with every scene and Hoffman showing once again why she is one of the best in the business. Lyle largely goes without discussion, but trust me when I say that this descent into terror is worth the watch.
By Kalani Landgraf
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