February is Women in Horror Month, and we’re celebrating different women in the genre all month long. Up first: directors!
Horror is a genre dominated by female performers, from scream queens to final girls, but there are fewer women behind the camera. Most legendary horror directors are men: Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, George A. Romero, etc. But if you look a little closer, there are (and always have been!) women bringing some amazing entries to the horror canon.
Right now, some of the most exciting and inventive horror films have come from the minds and eyes of female directors. Check out our list for some of the best women directors to watch right now.
Anthology films have been having a moment in the genre, and Roxanne Benjamin has two of the best under her belt: Southbound and XX. Southbound was a festival favourite that interlocked five stories about travellers on a remote highway, and Benjamin was the sole women creator involved. Her segment, “Siren”, about a female rock band who end up in a creepy home after their van breaks down, is one of the strongest parts of the film. In XX, the all-female directed horror anthology, Benjamin wrote two of the shorts and directed one. Benjamin’s next film is Body at Brighton Rock, set to be released later in 2018.
Have you seen The Love Witch? If not, go watch that movie immediately. Director Anna Biller blends Old Hollywood and feminist critique to make a truly original film about a modern-day witch using spells and potions to get men to fall in love with her. Biller worked as the director, producer, writer, editor, production designer, costume designer and composer for the film, showing that it is truly her vision up the screen. Recently, Biller revealed on Twitter many members of the crew wouldn’t listen to her direction on set and doubted her abilities because of her gender. It’s insulting that a woman director would have to experience that in this day and age, but hopefully the massive critical success of The Love Witch means she won’t have to deal with that ever again.
Karyn Kusama has been representing women in male-dominated genres for decades now. Her first film was Girlfight, a sports drama about a boxer, followed by sci-fi action flick Aeon Flux. Kusama slid into horror next, and she managed to bring different styles and influences to the genre with each film she took on. Jennifer’s Body is an underrated gem, a black comedy about female friendships, high school, and demonic possession. The funny, in your face attitude of Jennifer’s Body is a complete 180 from Kusama’s next film, quiet indie horror The Invitation, about a dinner party that goes awry. Her next film is a crime thriller starring Nicole Kidman, which is all you need to know it’s going to be amazing. Expect to see it later this year.
Jennifer Kent only has one feature film under her belt, but it’s a doozy. The Babadook is one of the most talked about horror films of the decade, and one of the scariest. The Babadook is an Australian horror film about a single mother dealing with the death of her husband and an evil presence that has invited itself into her home. The movie blends supernatural and psychological horror — is it in her head? or is there really an entity haunting them? — that comes together in a satisfying ending (it’s both!). Kent’s next film is Nightingale, a period film about a young woman out for revenge. No release date has been announced.
Jen and Sylvia Soska, aka the Soska sisters, are a pair of writers and directors known for gory, violent horror. Their debut, Dead Hooker in a Trunk, is an indie exploitation film, and their follow-up, American Mary, was a body horror with plenty of gore. The Soska sisters don’t shy away from blood and guts, which makes their decision to remake David Cronenberg’s Rabid so intriguing. Rabid, one of Cronenberg’s first films and body horror masterpiece, is about a woman whose botched surgery results in a taste for blood that causes a city-wide pandemic. The Soska sisters are right in line with the original’s sensibilities, and it’s sure to be an interesting remake. In the meantime, watch Hellevator! The horror game show puts a group of friends into a creepy survival scenario, with Jen and Sylvia as the unhelpful hosts watching them stumble in the dark.
While these five (technically six, with the sisters and all) are worth checking out, they are far from the only women directors in horror you should get familiar with! Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Alone at Night, The Bad Batch), Julia Ducournau (Raw), Coralie Fargeat (Revenge), Alice Lowe (Prevenge) and Axelle Carolyn (Tales of Halloween) are just some of the other exciting and talented women working in horror today.