February is Women in Horror Recognition Month! So my posts this month are going to highlight this topic in some way.
For this post I want to move away from writing and publishing, which is of course the main focus of my blog. But for WiHM, I HAVE to talk about horror movies! I love watching horror movies about as much as I love reading and writing horror stories. With my overactive imagination, though, I can’t watch them alone. Or, if I can’t find anyone to watch with me, I must have all the lights on and watch them during the day. Just like how my brain will turn almost any story idea I have into a dark tale, horror movies have a way of sticking in my brain even if I know the events could never happen in real life.
Sometimes the movie itself doesn’t even have to be that great; if I find the concept scary enough, it will stick with me despite cheesy effects or poor execution. So I have to take care when I decide to watch a horror movie; most of the time I wait until my birthday, which is right around Halloween, and then invite my friends over for a party where we basically watch as many horror movies as we can before falling asleep and having nightmares.
Of course, anyone who knows anything about horror movies knows all the tropes surrounding the women in these movies. If you’re a sexually active woman, you will die (this often dooms her partner as well). If you’re a blonde, you’ll probably die. If you’re a woman, you’ll often be the character that is too dumb to live. And only the virginal woman can be the final girl (or “survivor girl”), destined to confront the killer.*
Nowadays, those tropes aren’t as obvious or are even actively defied.** Still, it’s hard to watch many classic horror movies without running into these tropes, and they still sneak into some modern horror movies. So as a female fan of horror, sometimes it’s frustrating to watch those character arcs unfold over and over again. I mean, no one likes predictability anyway, but when it also comes with a whole lot of social commentary on female sexuality and worth, it’s even more frustrating.
So I wanted to look up some horror movies directed by women…and I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed with the results and with myself. Few names came up, and I haven’t seen most of the movies. But I did learn some interesting things. Not being a movie buff in general, I admit that I don’t often pay attention to directors or screenwriters (unless I really like the story or the way the movie was shot). So I was pleasantly surprised to learn that American Psycho was directed by Mary Harron. Then there’s Jennifer’s Body, directed by Karyn Kusama and written by Diablo Cody, which I heard a lot about when it came out but never got around to seeing. And Pet Sematary, which I love even though its special effects do not stand the test of time, was directed by Mary Lambert.
But that’s where the list of horror movies I’ve heard of that are directed by women ends. I admit that I don’t watch a great deal of mainstream movies in the first place, so my knowledge of indie films or ones that don’t get widespread release is limited even in horror. Luckily in my searching, I found a few lists with horror movies directed by women that I can’t wait to see. But notice how much those lists overlap. Apparently there’s still a large gap between the number of women characters in these movies (although most of those women end up victims) and the number of women behind the camera. I hope that’ll be rectified in my lifetime.
On the plus side, at least I have some great horror movies directed by women to add to my birthday watch list this year!
Other posts in this series:
*I apologize for linking to TV Tropes because I know people who have lost hours of their lives on that website, but I thought it necessary (and interesting) for this post.
**It doesn’t fit with the theme of this post, I know, but for a movie that does this in a clever way I recommend The Cabin In The Woods.