February is Women in Horror Month, and we at Addicted to Horror Movies want to salute the bad ass women behind the camera who are responsible for chilling our blood and giving shape to the the monsters under our beds.
There’s so much to say about these incredible storytellers, that I’ve broken the list in half, so make sure to check back for directors 1-5 later this week!
This British director is best known among horror fans as the mastermind behind the film Ravenous.
Inspired by the Donner Party incident, Ravenous follows a 19th century military regiment who are ambushed by a cannibal while on a rescue mission. This film is bleak, raw (lol puns), and surprisingly funny.
Rather than leaving it up to the imagination, Bird is not afraid to deliver the gore. She knows exactly what the viewer needs to see, making each scene a satisfying cinematic experience. The film starts with the main character, a cowardly American Lieutenant, hiding in a pile of fresh corpses to keep from being killed during a battle in the Mexican-American War. Covered in blood, the Lieutenant must wiggle his way out from under the crushing pile of dead weight (sorry) in an extended sequence that will make you squirm. And that’s all before the cannibal shows up. . .
Honeymoon, Janiak’s directorial debut, is a delightful little tale that explores the idea that you can never fully know someone–even your significant other.
Janiak’s style combines an imaginative premise with solid acting placed in a grounded location. The viewer buys into the narrative immediately because of its realism, which makes it that much easier for Janiak to blend in more fantastic concepts and plot points without losing the audience.
Although Honeymoon is told primarily from the husband’s point of view, Janiak brings a subtle feminine humanity that is too often lacking in film. This is not to say that anything about the story is inherently “female” it’s more that everyday female experiences are part of the narrative and not treated as unique or different from the norm. The main female character talks about her period with her husband the way real couples do, and when something supernatural may be happening to her vagina the horror comes from the unknown threat not just the fact that the character has a vagina.
Janiack is slated to direct the remake of the 90s classic The Craft, and if her debut film is any indication, she’s going to kill it (I can’t help myself).
What’s not to love about Karyn Kusama? She’s given us two stellar horror films, Jennifer’s Body and 2015’s The Invitation and has recently been directing for Amazon’s sci-fi series The Man in the High Castle.
As our The Invitation review points out, Kusama understands suspense. She knows what causes it and how to use it to manipulate her characters and audience into whatever emotional state is needed to best tell her story
One of these elements that she wields with mastery is the social situation. Intimate, awkward, jolly, and terrifying Kusama navigates the natural flow surface conversation while never losing track of the more visceral motivations lurking inside the characters.
Art is about honesty. Whether through documentary or allegory, when a director takes on a project, their job is to hold a mirror up to the world for the audience to see. No one does it better than Jennifer Kent.
Director and actress, Kent tackled the complex and emotional topic of motherhood in her 2014 film The Babadook. Although the film plays the central threat as supernatural, the real question of the film is not “How will they escape the terrifying Babadook?” but “How will she escape her terrifying thoughts about her child?”
The topic of infanticide is one that even horror films seem to avoid. Mother shaming is a rampant issue the world over, and even well-intentioned moms who don’t seem to “have it all together” are often treated like criminals even without the murderous intent. Combine that with the brutal truth anyone is capable of tipping off the deep end if pushed hard enough, and you have a challenging horror film that fires on all levels.
This Oscar Award-winning, blockbuster-creating director needs very little from me to sell her name, so I’ll keep it brief.
Bigelow’s 1987 horror-western Near Dark helped define the serious, roaming (some might say emo?) pack of sexy-but-dangerous vampires sub genre, which is still popular today. It’s gritty, it’s dramatic, and it highlights what would eventually become Bigelow’s signature style.
Even though Bigelow hasn’t returned to the horror genre, her subsequent films never shy away from visceral horror (The Hurt Locker) or big-budget, cinematic melodrama (Point Break), making this talented director a renaissance woman of versatility.
Amy Holden Jones
Hero alert! In a time before the idea of feminist horror films was ever discussed, Amy Holden Jones decided to take matters into her own hands and make The Slumber Party Massacre. This B-horror slasher subverts the “tits and death” tropes through subtle changes to the way the tits and death are portrayed.
Jones, along with writer Rita Mae Brown, created what seems like a straightforward slasher film with some very specific differences. Scenes portray the female victims as three-dimensional characters. They have desires, futures, and they even–are you sitting down?–talk to each other in scenes. It’s crazy. Holden also takes time to add sly symbolism into seemingly innocuous shots such as a cast-off Barbie doll or the killer’s phallic instrument of death.
Jones also wasn’t afraid of simply showing the genre for what it is. Naked women giggle and bounce through the women’s locker room while Jones captures every inch of their naked bodies. The scene’s duration and lack of frills highlights the absurdity of the this style exploitation to the point where even the most enthusiastic filmgoer begins to feel uncomfortable, and that’s the point.
If you want to see a young director taking lemons and turning them into a subtle treatise on the feminist reclamation of an inherently misogynistic sub genre, then you should stop everything and check out The Slumber Party Massacre.
Oh, then check out her other awesome work, which includes Beethoven and Mystic Pizza. Yeah, she’s awesome.
Who are your favorite female directors? Are you excited for the all-female directed horror anthology XX opening February 17? Be sure to check back for the second half of the top female directors list, coming soon!