Women and horror have gone hand in hand almost from its origins...
...Whether it’s Mary Shelley putting pen to paper during the 19th century to create a monster to thrill and terrify audiences to this day and birth a genre with Frankenstein, or the iconic actresses who have earned the title of Scream Queen, time and again women prove their prowess in the genre.
March is Women’s History Month so in celebration of all that women in horror have accomplished, we here at Killer Horror Critic would like to shine a spotlight on the women behind the camera who have blazed a trail for future generations of filmmakers to look up to or are on the path to becoming trailblazers themselves.
Below are ten incredible horror films directed by women that we think you should seek out!
The Velvet Vampire (1971)
Directed by: Stephanie Rothman
Directed and co-written by Stephanie Rothman, a leading figure in the exploitation era of filmmaking and a Corman favorite, The Velvet Vampire stars the beautiful and absolutely amazing Celeste Yarnall (Star Trek) as the vampire Diane LeFanu (any Carmilla fans out there will spot the reference) who lures an unsuspecting couple to her desert estate. The film is an underrated entry in the vampire genre and will sink its fangs into you with its stunning and beautifully crafted imagery.
Pet Sematary (1989) & Pet Sematary 2 (1992)
Directed by: Mary Lambert
We don’t always get to see original directors return for horror sequels, but Mary Lambert’s reappearance for Pet Sematary 2 proves how strong they can be when they do. With her at the helm for both entries, we get two downright chilling stories, each able to stand on its own two feet and remind us “Dead is better”.
Directed by: Antonia Bird
Navigating the subject of cannibalism and what could drive a person to such a hunger is one thing. Merging that unusual territory with real events is a uniquely challenging tightrope to walk, and nowhere is that process more splendidly executed than under Antonia Bird’s direction in Ravenous. The atmosphere of the 1840s setting and the increasing sense of dread and tension will leave viewers stunned.
Directed by: Leigh Janiak
Directed and co-written by Leigh Janiak, Honeymoon is a mind-bending film featuring a stunning performance from Rose Leslie (Game of Thrones) as Bea, a woman on her honeymoon who begins to experience some strange happenings. As the film progresses you are left questioning what is real and what is fiction.
Near Dark (1987)
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow
Equal parts western and vampire horror, Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Hurt Locker) co-wrote and directed this bloody thrill ride about Adrian Pasdar (Heroes)’s Caleb becoming entangled with a group of nomadic vampires led by Lance Henriksen. With a villainous and scene stealing performance from Bill Paxton, Near Dark is another film that is often overlooked in both the vampire genre and Bigelow’s filmography.
Jennifer's Body (2009)
Directed by: Karyn Kusama
Written by Diablo Cody (Juno, United States of Tara) and directed by Karyn Kusama (The Invitation), this cult film was the subject of much debate when it originally premiered due to its poor marketing and the world's weird obsession with hating Megan Fox. Fortunately, Jennifer’s Body has been given the rightful love and adoration it deserves on reappraisal. Both Fox and Amanda Seyfried are amazing on screen together, Cody’s snappy writing feels accurate to the time period and original for the horror genre, and Kusama’s directing gave some of my favorite sequences put to film.
Directed by: Nia DaCosta
If there’s one film delay due to COVID that hurts the most, it’s Nia DaCosta’s Candyman. While the film has yet to be released, the trailer alone clues us in that we’re in for a real treat. DaCosta’s style for this follow up to the classic film is unique and powerful, and clearly going to be worth waiting for. I for one cannot wait to devour the visuals alone and just bask in DaCosta’s mastery of the genre.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2015)
Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour
There seems to be a trend with female directors and vampires, but who can complain with so many fantastic films to be seen? Written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night wowed audiences with its homages to the expressionist era of silent films with its use of black and white film Amirpour’s use of shadows. It was also quoted in its marketing as being, “the first Iranian vampire western.”
American Psycho (2000)
Directed by: Mary Harron
How do you capture the absolute depravity of a man like Patrick Bateman? That was the task Mary Harron was given as a director and co-writer alongside Guinevere Turner. Patrick is charismatic thanks to Christian Bale’s performance and we are left stunned by the lengths he will go to in order to feed his inner demon. The film is also a black comedy that frames Bateman as the poster boy for the debauchery and egotism of the 1980s.
The Babadook (2014)
Directed by: Jennifer Kent
Writer-director Jennifer Kent’s study of grief, The Babadook, grew an unusual reputation of new LGBT icon while scaring the living daylights out of some of us with its haunting imagery and moments of sheer unexpected terror. More than a horror film, it was a film about a mother and son learning to reconnect after tragedy and heal while battling a monster that is still ingrained in my brain—especially that ceiling scene.
Be sure to check back soon as we will highlight even more films and directors. Let us know your favorites and remember to lock your doors and check under your bed...you never know what might be lurking in the dark.
By Kalani Landgraf
Celebrate Women in Horror Month with us by donating to Cinefemme at: Donate (cinefemme.net)