Film Review: 10 Films Celebrating Women in Horror

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Women in Horror Month
This February sees another International Women in Horror Month - a month dedicated to supporting the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. As a fellow female and a huge fan of the genre myself, I thought I'd put together a list of my favourite horrors featuring a strong female cast or director. Here's my list...

Women in Horror Audition
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Audition (Takashi Miike, 1999) - Based on the novel of the same name, Audition is a Japanese thriller following Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), a widower who decides to start dating again. Alongside his film maker friend, the pair begin screening girls, whilst posing as a fake production, in the hopes of finding a new wife. Shortly in to filming, he begins a relationship with Asami (Eihi Shiina) - an ex-ballerina and seemingly withdrawn and shy young women who isn't happy with their arrangement. As such, Aoyama soon realises that Asami is not as she seems - leading to gradually increased tension and a harrowing climax.

Certainly not the faint hearted, Audition remains a prominent cult classic within Japanese horrors. Directed by Takashi Miike (known for Ichi The Killer, 2001), the film arguably defies your conventional horror codes by featuring one of the most bad-ass female evil figures - terrorising the male. Much like Miike's other pieces which are socially and politically contextual, Audition is said to act as a statement on male arrogance within Japanese culture. Though stomach-turning, horror fans will adore its stunning direction and wit. 

Women in Horror Alien
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Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) - Deep in the depths of space, the crew of a commercial vessel are awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules to investigate a distress call from what appears to be an alien ship. Having boarded them, the crew encounters a nest of mysterious eggs but are terrified when a creature from inside an egg attaches itself to one of the crew, causing him to fall in to a coma. Believing it to now be dead, the real horror ensues when they learn that it's life cycle has only just begun.

There's no escaping the bad-ass that is Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). Released in 1979, a strong female lead was somewhat of a rare occurrence and whilst Ripley is arguably sexualised in particular scenes, she is ultimately an empowering feminist figure - and nothing gets more feminist theory than a women being chased by a giant phallic space monster. Besides its social and political context, Alien remains a unique and beautifully directed narrative and is well worth the watch if you haven't seen it already. 

Women in Horror American Psycho
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American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000) - Arguably one of the most recognised feminist horrors, American Psycho may seem like an obvious and generic pick. Based on the Bret Easton Ellis novel, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) is a wealthy New York banking executive, consumed by the yuppie lifestyle. Despite having a fiancee (Reese Witherspoon) and an active social life, Patrick hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he escalates deeper into his illogical, dark and gruesome fantasies. 

Some people may fail to see how American Psycho is a feminist film due to the poor treatment and sexualisation of the female characters. However, it can also be argued that this in itself is a social statement. Ultimately, the film is a satirical narrative about fragile masculinity and the male compulsion to compete with each other. Set within the hyper-reality they've created for themselves, the women are presented as less important - something that the director shines a harsh yet somehow comedic light on. With an incredible story that also sees performances from Jared Leto, Willem Dafoe and Chloë Sevigny, American Psycho is forever on my list of top dramatic horrors.
Women in Horror The Final Girls
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The Final Girls (Todd Strauss-Schulson, 2015) - Max (Taissa Farmiga) is still coming to terms with the loss of her mother (Malin Akerman) - a former scream queen from 1980s horror movies. Having attended an anniversary screening of her mum's most famous film with her friends, the gang finds themselves inside the narrative and fighting off a masked murderer. Reunited with her mother, the pair must abide by genre conventions to stay alive.

Its narrative may sounds bizarre but this film is made by horror lovers, for horror lovers. Similar to the satirical humour of Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2011), The Final Girls is fully self-aware and playing on all the genre conventions to make for one refreshing and very amusing comedy. A prominent theme through, of course, is making light of the sexualisation of women, punishment of the sexually active and of course - the final girl. However, with a serious subject matter at the heart, it also has a great level of depth. If you love horror movies or just a laugh, I'd strongly recommend this movie.

Women in Horror The Descent
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The Descent (Neil Marshall, 2005) - A British horror following six female friends who venture in to what they believe is an undiscovered cave on a weekend away. Having found themselves trapped, their expedition quickly goes horrifically wrong when they realise they are not alone underground.

Centred on female empowerment,  The Descent is a suspense-filled, well shot horror and the ultimate last stand story. Though horror is very much at the forefront of this narrative, it also explores themes of motherhood, grief and rebirth through the film's protagonist, Sarah. Sarah is a strong character  -even before she is forced to defend herself against monsters. This film has always been such a memorable film for me - as an underage teen renting this movie, it gave me goosebumps and remains a nostalgic classic amongst my ever-growing horror collection. Beautifully directed and certainly a stand out production from the time and genre.

Women in Horror Ana Lily Amirpour
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A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Ana Lily Amipour, 2014) - The residents of a worn-down Iranian city, known as Bad City, encounter a skateboarding vampire (Sheila Vand) who preys on unsuspecting men who disrespect women.

Created by screenwriter, producer, actor and director, Ana Lily Amirpour - it's title may suggest a vulnerability in a young female walking home alone but it is others who should be afraid. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a beautifully shot, monochrome comedy of the undead, a somewhat hipster interpretation of a vampire genre. Whilst it can be argued that it is nothing new, it is clear that this is made by a movie lover for movie lovers - gathering influences from all the best sources. Having taken home Best Short Film at the 2012 Noor Iranian Film Festival, this is well worth a watch for those of you looking for a refreshing new horror. 

Women in Horror The Babadook
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The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014) - In a refreshing blend of the supernatural and psychological thrill, The Babadook is a chilling Australian horror. Seven years after the tragic death of her husband, Amelia (Essie Davis) is struggling to cope with life as a single mother to a child with severe behavioural problems. Son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), is aggressive and suspended in his thoughts of story-time, magic tricks and monsters. When a mysterious and disturbing children's book appears on the shelf, Amelia battles with her son's fear of a monster, "The Babadook", lurking in the house but soon discovers a sinister presence hovering over her. 

For me, The Babadook remains a standout film for Women in Horror. For me, it was the first horror which appeared to actively addresses depression in mothers. Having made it's way in to the official Top 25 horrors of the 21st century, The Babadook is certainly one to check out although it's very much a marmite movie - you'll either love it or you'll hate it. An outstanding piece of modern horror - read my full review here

Women in Horror Let the right one in
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Let The Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008) - A beautifully shot Swedish vampire tale set in 1982 Stockholm. Oskar is being ruthlessly bullied at school. Feeling isolated and overlooked, he finds an unusual friendship in Eli, a bizarre girl living next door. Eli's friendship gives Oskar the strength to fight back but she will need help in return.

The American remake, Let Me In (Matt Reeves), went on to be made in 2010 and it is nearly shot-for-shot. However, it lacks the originality and personally, I'd recommend the original as it seems that Sweden just know how to make a horror. Whilst the lead female in this film is presented as a young girl, she is a force to reckoned with. Her 'guardian' is a middle-aged man but it soon becomes clear that is the one in control and has a hold on those around her - presenting interesting feminist themes throughout. 

Women in Horror You're Next
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You're Next (Adam Wingard, 2011) - Erin (Sharni Vinson) is meeting her boyfriend's parents over a long weekend when the family comes under siege by a gang of mysterious masked killers. However, when their attack is proving more difficult then planned, the killers soon learn that Erin harbours a concealed talent for fighting back. What follows is a gore-fest and bloody battle to survive as a gang in animal masks savagely attempt to take down the family and their first time guest.

Directed by horror veteran, Adam Wingard (known for The Guest, 2014), it's no surprise that this film is wonderfully stylised with a fantastic plot. You're Next doesn't so much as play on horror conventions, yet it is aware of it's genre and makes humorous references through excessive gore. In a seemingly conventional tale of last girl standing, Erin turns out to be somewhat of a badass and fights back against the gang of killers revealing specialist training from her past. The film also features a number of shock plot twists which results in a hugely underrated crowd pleaser.

Women in Horror Stoker
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Stoker (Pan Chan-Wook, 2013) - Following the tragic death of her father on her 18th birthday, India (Mia Wasikowska) and her unstable mother (Nicole Kidman) move in with her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) - a charming man of which she has never heard of. Realising that this mysterious man may not be who he seems, India becomes fascinated with him and learns to embrace her inner dark thoughts.

Directed by Park Chan-Wook, Stoker presents a beautifully stylised and wonderfully dark gothic melodrama. Drawing heavy influences from Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Stoker ultimately follows the development of India - a girl on the brink of womanhood who learns how to master her violent, inner demons. Some of the most prominent scenes in the film are that when India's male schoolmates attempt to sexualise and belittle her. However, she reclaims her female power over him before unleashing her repressed desires later on in the film.
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Well, that's it for another film list. Don't forget to visit the Women in Horror Month website to keep up to date on all their events and spread the word. But tell me, what are your favourite films celebrating Women in Horror? Do you agree with my list above? As always, I love to read your comments so please do leave me lots of lovely ones below.

Until next time movie lovers,




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12 comments:

  1. Fantastic list! A Girl Who Walks Home Alone At Night and Audition are both on my watch list and I think Ill make it a point now to watch them both this week (as well as The Eyes of My Mother).
    Babadook still stands at the top of my list of favorite recent horror films-superb! I also love Stoker, Let The Right One In, and of course Alien.

    I recently watched The Monster, a mother/daughter monster movie from Bryan Bertino. It kept me on the edge of my seat, and I appreciated the intertwining story behind the mother and daughters relationship and the impact it had on their situation.

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    1. Aw thank you! I think you'd really enjoy them - I'd love to hear what you think if you get around to seeing them :)

      I haven't actually seen that! I wonder if I can find a copy somewhere. Thanks for the recommendation! I'm forever looking for new films to watch xx

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  2. Love this post! Mine would be the evil dead remake, Mia is such a badass character! x

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    1. Aw yeah that's another good one :) I found that really interesting cos it's obviously a metaphor for her going through withdrawal. Such a good movie though not at all easy to watch in parts

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  3. That's a pretty good list. I haven't seen the Japanese and Iranian ones. Actually, besides the White Balloon, I'm not sure I've seen any other Persian language films. I am kind of puzzled by the inclusion of American Psycho. It's been a while since I've seen it. I think only Reese Witherspoon has a positive role?

    Have you seen I, Daniel Blake (2016), Sophie? There was a scene in which Hayley Squires gives up her food despite being very hungry that brought me to the verge of crying. What did you think of the movie? Do you think the movie was realistic?

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    1. All the women in American Psycho are poorly treated (including Reese Witherspoon). His assistant who is in love with him is properly the only 'pure soul' though. But that's the point - it's meant to shine a light on their the treatment of women and how fragile the males are.

      I haven't actually seen I, Daniel Blake but I imagine it's probably pretty accurate, yes. Our government does very little to help the poor make anything of themselves. We live under a Conservative government meaning keep the rich, rich - keep the poor, poor. So I wouldn't be surprised

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  4. You always make the best film selections! I liked Cabin in The Woods a lot as they made fun of their archetypes showing that people including the female characters are not one dimensional.

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    1. Aw thank you :) Yeah in that case, you will totally love The Final Girls! I really like how it makes fun of the conventions. Cabin in the Woods was so funny x

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  5. Brilliant list! I loved the decent and the girl power in that film is brilliant! I must watch Stoker again, I was a little confused at the start but India is brilliant, such a different character to most films but I loved her!

    I think I might have a horror night soon and watch a few of these for sure!

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    1. Yeah I sort of watched it with no expectations or prior research and really loved how refreshing it was. Haha amazing - hope this list comes in handy! xx

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  6. I loved The Descent sooooo much, but also I can never watch it again it scares me so! Some great and interesting choices. I always felt the Chloe Sevigny character in American Psycho added a lot of depth to the film. I haven't heard of The Final Girls before now, it sounds great! I am embarassed I couldn't get into You're Next, maybe I should have stuck with it longer! Stoker was so beautifully filmed, I almost couldn't concentrate on the plot! I will definitely check out Audition and A Girl Walks Home too, it's so hard to find good horror films these days thanks! Great post! x

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    1. Haha it is one of those films where once you've seen it you don't have to see it again for a while. Ah I hope you like them, you'll have to let me know what you think once you've watched them. They're really great :) Thanks so much for reading! xx

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