A male producer recently discussed his struggle to find women horror directors. Here are 6 film suggestions to get him started…
Another day, another offhand remark about women’s place in the world that makes you screw your eyes up tight and groan. In a recent interview, it was pointed out to film producer Jason Blum that his company Blumhouse Productions – which specialises in inventive, low-budget horror films like Get Out, Insidious and Paranormal Activity – has never hired a female director for a theatrical release.
In response, Blum suggested that this could be down to a lack of women working as film directors. “There are not a lot of female directors, period,” he said, “and even less who are inclined to do horror.”
The producer’s comments were quickly and widely disparaged, with many filmmakers pointing out that there are, in fact, lots of female directors who do (or would love to) make horror movies. It’s just that relatively few of these women receive the same recognition, investment and opportunities as their male counterparts.
In other words, it’s not enough for Blum to simply say that women directors aren’t out there; he has to do the work to find and support them.
Blum has since apologised, acknowledging that his remarks were “dumb”. But his original statement perfectly illustrates how challenging it is for female directors to get a foot in the door – particularly in horror, one of the most male-dominated movie genres.
To dispel the myth that there simply aren’t any female horror directors out there, we’ve rounded up 12 brilliant women-directed movies that are legitimately terrifying – ranging from slasher flicks to psychodramas. Prepare to be very, very scared.
1) The Invitation (dir. Karyn Kusama, 2015)
Karyn Kusama is the director of seven feature films, including Jennifer’s Body – featuring Megan Fox as a demonically possessed high schooler – and the forthcoming Destroyer, which stars Nicole Kidman as a hard-bitten LA cop. The Invitation, a glamorous horror-thriller set in the Hollywood Hills, is her fourth film – and one of her most frightening.
It follows Will and Kira, a 30-something couple who attend a dinner party at Will’s ex-wife’s house. Their separation was prompted by mutual grief, and she has since taken up unusual spiritual practices to cope with her sadness. But her new philosophy isn’t all that it seems – and as the evening progresses, things get progressively more unsettling.
2) A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (dir. Ana Lily Amanpour, 2014)
Possibly the coolest horror film you’ll ever see. The feature film debut of Margate-born Ana Lily Amanpour, it stars Sheila Vand as a skateboarding Muslim vampire who wears Breton tops under her chador – and lures men back to her apartment to kill them.
Dubbed “the first Iranian vampire Western” movie upon its critically-acclaimed release four years ago thanks to its tremulous guitar soundtrack and desolate setting, AGWHAAN manages to be moving, sexy, modern and scary all at once. Unmissable.
3) Evolution (dir. Lucile Hadzihalilovic, 2015)
Few horror films are as surreally beautiful or as genuinely unpredictable as this. Evolution tells the story of fragile 10-year-old Nicolas (Max Brebant), who lives with his mother on a peaceful island populated only by adult women and young boys.
One night, Nicolas and his friend Victor see their mothers doing something strange on the beach – and their lives are changed forever. Disturbing, atmospheric and genuinely frightening.
4) Blood Punch (dir. Madellaine Paxson, 2015)
Before directing Blood Punch, Madellaine Paxson was a writer for children’s TV programmes including Lilo & Stitch: The Series and Kim Possible – illustrating the importance of giving female directors a chance to try their hands at new things.
The film follows a shy young man who breaks out of rehab to follow a beautiful woman he meets there. Together, they cook up a plan to make crack cocaine in the woods and sell it on – but then her psychopathic ex-boyfriend shows up. Oh, a curse means they can’t kill him. Smart, unexpected and deliciously bloody.
5) Prevenge (dir. Alice Lowe, 2017)
If it wasn’t impressive enough that Alice Lowe wrote, directed and starred in this tongue-in-cheek (but extremely gory) British slasher film, she also did it all while heavily pregnant. Lowe plays Ruth, a pregnant woman whose partner falls to his death when his friends cut his ropes on a climbing trip.
Traumatised, Ruth becomes convinced that her unborn child is speaking to her from the womb, telling her to take grisly revenge on its father’s killers. It’s a funny, brutal slasher film that taps knowingly into women’s fears about their bodies and minds being taken over by pregnancy.
6) The Babadook (dir. Jennifer Kent, 2014)
After The Babadook was released in 2014, William Friedkin – the director of The Exorcist – said that he’d “never seen a more terrifying film”. It’s a big claim, but this is a big film, encompassing universally relatable themes of grief, mental illness and the desire to protect the ones we love.
Essie Davis stars as Amelia, a single mother trying to raise her six-year-old son Sam alone after her husband’s violent death. Sam is obsessed with the story of a mythical creature called the babadook, a top hat-wearing monster who torments you forever as soon as you know of his existence.
Gradually, Amelia becomes convinced that the babadook is real – and it’s truly petrifying to watch.
Main image: Michael Wharley / Kaleidoscope Entertainment