Throughout September the film community has been celebrating Woman Director Awareness Month, so it’s been the perfect time for me to rewatch some of my favourite horror films, catch up on some classics I’ve missed, and discover some new gems that also have the honour of being directed by women.
From vampires, revenge horror, creature features, body horror, cannibals, demons, slasher movies, and sequels, films directed by women are all over the horror genre and are definitely something that needs to be celebrated.
I’ve picked just twenty awesome horror films directed by women for you to check out as Woman Director Awareness Month comes to an end and the Halloween season goes into full swing, so you can add them to your watchlist, and hopefully fall in love with them.
1 – Pet Sematary (1989) Directed by Mary Lambert
Stephen King adaptations can very much be hit or miss, but Mary’s Lambert’s version of the King novel Pet Sematary (1983) has got to be up there as one of the best. Not only does it hit the mark much better than the lifeless 2019 remake, but it also captures the heart of the book perfectly.
The story follows the Creed family, who have recently located to a rural town in Maine which happens to be next to a very busy road, and a patch of cursed ground which has the ability to bring things back from the dead. After Louis, the family’s father, buries their pet cat and brings it back to life, things start to go very wrong for the Creed family, and when their three-year-old son is killed on the road soon after, it’s clear where the story is headed.
This film isn’t about the horror of feline and toddler zombies; it’s more about the terrible effects grief and death can have on people. From Rachel still dealing with the trauma of seeing her sister die to the point where she is literally haunted by her, to Louis continuing to visit the burial ground despite knowing it’s never going to end well. Once Gage dies, it’s the impending doom of knowing exactly what Louis is going to do that makes the film scary.
Pet Sematary is one of King’s best books, and Lambert did a fantastic job of bringing it to the big screen without losing that feeling of dread that lingers throughout the entire story. It’s not about jump scares or gruesome murders, and Lambert captures that perfectly.
2 – The Babadook (2014) Directed by Jennifer Kent
The Babadook is a brilliant piece of horror cinema because not only did it manage to create a creepy-ass new monster to haunt your thoughts every time you see a top hat, but it also gave us a devastating 94-minute delve into how grief can affect a family.
Amelia is still dealing with the death of her husband almost seven years later. He was killed on the way to the hospital while Amelia was in labour with their son Samuel, so as Samuel’s seventh birthday approaches, things start to fall apart for the pair.
Amelia’s refusal to deal with her grief, talk about her husband, or even celebrate Samuel’s birthday on the actual day leads to the manifestation of the Mister Babadook, who begins terrorising the pair, with each appearance driving Amelia’s mental health to breaking point.
I think it would be all too easy to overuse Mister Babadook in this movie and have him appearing on-screen every five minutes because he’s super creepy. Instead, we get hints of him, such as his coat and hat hanging in the background, or flashes of his long fingers flitting through the shot. It’s a monster movie but the family relationship between Amelia and Samuel, as well as their shared grief, is the main point of the movie, and Kent handles the balance between the two perfectly.
3 – Revenge (2017) Directed by Coralie Fargeat
Rape revenge plots can be a hard angle for a film to pull off without feeling like we’re delving into exploitation territory. Overly sexualised or drawn-out assault scenes can ruin any satisfaction we’re supposed to feel when the victim finally gets their revenge on their attackers. However, Revenge is a great example of how you can pull off this type of story, and it’s incredibly clear it was filmed through the female gaze.
Jen and her boyfriend Richard, who happens to be married, head out to his desert house for a weekend away. However, when his two hunting partners, Stan and Dimitri, turn up a day early, they discover Richard and Jen’s secret relationship. After a night of drinking and Jen flirting with Richard’s friends, Stan tries to come on to Jen. When she turns him down, he sexually assaults her, while Dimitri knowingly ignores the whole situation. Richard returns the house, and instead of supporting Jen, he tries to buy her silence, which she refuses, and Richard ends up pushing her over a cliff and leaving her for dead.
The lead up to the attack on Jen in this film is incredibly well done. While the assault scene itself is quite short and largely unseen, and no nudity involved, it doesn’t make it any less of a gut punch. Stan and Jen’s conversation before he attacks her is eerily similar to the type of interaction a lot of women have probably had to deal with, where things turn from friendly to hostile in an instant when it becomes clear to Stan that he isn’t going get what he wants. Even the fact he walks in on Jen changing, and she apologies to him feels like the sort of behaviour women have to adopt to avoid confrontation with hostile men. The whole scene leaves you with a horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach, and Richard’s return and reaction to the situation makes it even worse.
Fargeat does an impressive job of you wanting to see each of these men die in horrific ways, and the payoff is fantastic. If you don’t like watching someone a couple of fingers deep in their own foot pulling out shards of glass, then this movie may be a challenge for you.
4 – Honeymoon (2014) Directed by Leigh Janiak
Honeymoon does an interesting job of presenting us with a couple where one of them may be turning into something otherworldly, and yet it’s husband Paul that comes across as the villain. Bea and Paul head to Bea’s family cabin to celebrate their honeymoon, and one night Paul finds Bea alone and naked in the woods. While she claims that she was sleepwalking, she has no memory of how she ended up there and what happened to her. While it’s clear that something has changed within Bea, it’s Paul’s behaviour towards Bea for the first chunk of the film that creates the tension rather than the possibility of what Bea is turning into.
Right at the start of their honeymoon, Paul makes a misjudged remark to Bea about her womb after they’ve had sex, which leads Bea to believe that Paul wants to start a family straight away, and it’s this theme that is continued throughout the rest of the film. The film targets what it’s like to look at someone you’ve just married and find that perhaps you don’t really know them as much as you thought you did. It also tackles the presumption of women immediately starting families, as well as the possible loss of identity as you’re absorbed into a couple. Bea literally starts to forget the individual details that make her a person and has to write them down in order to remember who she really is, while the possible alien creature inside her merely uses her for her body.
The way Paul treats Bea throughout the film is incredibly uncomfortable, from horribly misjudged sexual initiations, telling her what is normal when it comes to her periods, and just generally not believing her when she tries to explain things to him. He doesn’t trust her to know her own body, even when it’s clear there is something monstrous living within her and seems more interested in having control over her until he can bring the situation into his understanding.
The ending perhaps presents more questions than answers, but it’s an interesting take on paranoia horror, with a bit of a monstery twist thrown in for good measure.
5 – Prevenge (2016) Directed by Alice Lowe
Alice Lowe’s Prevenge takes a less subtle approach to pregnancy themes, as our main character, Ruth, enacts bloody revenge on the group of people she blames for her partner’s death in a climbing accident. Oh, and she does it all while she’s eight months pregnant, which director, writer and actor Alice Lowe also was at the time of filming.
Driven by the apparent voice of her revenge-driven baby, Ruth ticks off an Arya Stark-style list in her baby book as she one-by-one murders the six other climbers who were present the day her partner died after he was cut from the climbing rope in order to save the others.
Ruth is an interesting take on a serial killer. While she and her baby believe she has just cause for murdering all these people, Ruth is keen to avoid killing others due to collateral damage and seems to have the most morals when it comes to the whole situation, while her baby is cruel and has a taste for blood. Also, the fact that she’s heavily pregnant allows her to project an unthreatening image, allowing her to kill most of her victims without much trouble. In fact, one victim punches Ruth in the stomach and then fearing she has injured the baby rushes to Ruth’s aid, which makes it very easy for Ruth to stab her.
Prevenge is also a fascinating examination of what it’s like to be a pregnant woman, even if your baby isn’t a murderous little sprog. Ruth is continuously told that baby knows best and how baby basically has control over your body now, which is something you hear a lot during those nine months. This loss of control and also having to think about the second person you are carting about with you is a terrifying enough prospect, even with no murder involved.
6 – The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999) Directed by Katt Shea
Stephen King remakes that exist outside the world of his original novel don’t always get the best rep, but The Rage: Carrie 2 shouldn’t be written off. Sure, it has some questionable connections to Carrie (1976), but it works very well as a horror movie in its own right.
One of the key themes of the original movie is what happens when young women don’t have an adequate support system in place, though it just so happens that this particular young woman also has telekinetic powers. Carrie doesn’t understand her own body, she doesn’t have friends so get tricked easily by the mean, popular kids, and she spends a lot of time getting slut-shamed or accused of being a demon by her overly-religious mother.
This disregard for young, vulnerable women is something Kat Shea carries on into the sequel. Our main character Rachel also has these powers, which start to present themselves more strongly after her best friend, and fellow misfit, commits suicide after finding out she was part of a sex game the high school football team have been playing with the local girls. This film may be 20-years-old, but the themes feel very current. Rachel battles to get justice for her friend, as the football players manage to escape any punishment for fear that it will tarnish their reputation and ruin their futures. It’s this display of going against the most prominent kids in town that sees Rachel on the wrong side of the football team and on the receiving end of a cruel prank, which of course, doesn’t end well for anyone involved.
I think Shea does a fantastic job of taking the central themes from the original movie, and moulding it into a new story with a more sinister motive for the irredeemable popular kids’ prank rather than them just thinking Rachel is a loser. It does make the final bloodbath that little bit more satisfying as well, especially when one football player gets his dick shot off with a harpoon gun.
7 – American Mary (2012) Directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska
Moving over to the body horror side of things we have American Mary, directed and written by the Twisted Twins Jen and Sylvia Soska. Our titular character Mary is a very skilled surgical student, but due to a lack of funds and a terribly unsupportive lecturer Dr Grant, she is struggling with school life. After an interview at a strip club leads to her carrying out some underground surgery for the club’s owner, Mary ends up performing body modification surgeries on the side. She also quits medical school after Dr Grant drugs and rapes her at a sordid sex party held by the other top surgeons.
This is a movie about people, especially women like Beatress, Ruby Realgirl and the Demon Twins of Berlin, taking control of their bodies and deciding how they want to look, even if it’s not what society would consider conventionally attractive. They come to Mary because she is the only one willing to help them do what they need to do to feel complete, and in this Mary finds a new purpose in her life, and a way to use her fantastic surgical skills for good, even if it is a tad illegal. It’s a fairly gruesome film, though the bloodiest scenes are reserved for actual surgery Mary carries out, with things like her slow torture of Dr Grant left to our imaginations.
I love that Mary getting revenge on the men that have wronged her is a central theme, but it’s not what the entire film is about. We see Mary trying to get on with her life once she has paid back Dr Grant for what he did to her, and turning a terrible situation to her advantage as she uses her new career path to improve both her surgical skills and her financial situation.
8 – American Psycho (2000) Directed by Mary Harron
Turing a somewhat misogynistic, and all other types of hateful if we’re honest, novel such as American Psycho (1991) into a film that was actually enjoyable, and that people would want to watch more than once was always going to be a bit of a challenge, but Mary Harron managed it.
Set in the ‘80s, American Psycho tells the story of Patrick Bateman, a New York investment banker with a fairly materialistic lifestyle and a lot of friends who don’t actually know what each other look like. Patrick has a deep love for pop music and a tendency to murder coworkers, homeless people, and women.
American Psycho is so interesting because we follow the story of our bad guy rather than any hero-type character. We can’t even excuse Patrick’s actions, as he murders people for the most trivial of reasons, such as killing a smug coworker who is outperforming him at work. Patrick also doesn’t exactly look like a typical movie serial killer. In fact, he’s so ordinary looking that other character frequently confuse him for other city investment bankers, and no one ever really seems clear who they are actually talking to, which is pretty handy if you’re trying to get away with murder.
This movie is still a difficult watch in places, as Patrick dishes out violence at every opportunity, but Harron focusses on just enough of Patrick’s deplorable qualities, so we know exactly who he is as a character, but it’s not over-the-top and violent just for the sake of it. Instead, we’re treated to lingering shots of business card fonts and lengthy discussions about Huey Lewis and the News, which overall make this film a beautiful piece of cinema.
9 – Near Dark (1987) Directed by Kathyrn Bigelow
‘80s vampire movies are some of the best out there, and along with Fright Night (1985) and The Lost Boys (1987), we were given Kathyrn Bigelow’s Near Dark. After Caleb meets Mae, a beautiful young woman/vampire who bites him as he tries to drive home before dawn, he ends up turning into a vampire himself. Mae’s nomad vampire clan kidnap Caleb, warning him that if he doesn’t learn how to kill and pronto, they will need to kill him to avoid detection.
This movie is a complete Aliens (1986) reunion with Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, and Jenette Goldstein as appearing as members of the vampire group, along with the child vampire Homer, who is raging that he is stuck in the body of a child forever. Understandable.
As Caleb tries to come to terms with being a vampire, we see what the group of vampires have to do on a regular basis to survive, such as covering their car in tin foil, stealing new vehicles to avoid being traced, and generally setting everywhere they’ve been on fire. Meanwhile, Caleb’s family are also trying to hunt him down and save him from his new murderous lifestyle.
Near Dark is a very different breed of vampire movie. There’s minimal vampire-related talk, a lot of victims are just brutally murdered instead of being charmed and then having their necks bitten, and there are no stakes through the heart or garlic in sight. It’s more a tale about a family doing what they need to do to stay together, undetected, and alive, and it just so happens that they’re vampires.
The neo-western imagery of the film is also interesting, as we see our vampire clan constantly battling the scorching sun of the desert, which obviously isn’t ideal for a group of bloodsuckers. As well as bar fights and massive police shootouts, it gives the film a cool western feel instead of the usual dark, brooding, gothic style that is typical of vampire movies. It also means we get to see Jenette Holdstein rocking some awesome leather chaps throughout the entire movie.
10 – The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) Directed by Amy Holden Jones
The script of The Slumber Party Massacre was initially written as a parody of the teenage slasher genre, and to be honest, it shows. The lingering shots of naked adolescent girls, the overly-sexy nightwear they wear to the slumber party, and the more humorous moments such as Kim’s body flopping in and out of the fridge as Courtney searches for a beer definitely have hints of a more Scary Movie-esque (2000) film.
Those points aside, The Slumber Party Massacre is the surprisingly gory tale of a killer with a love for sticking a ginormous drill through people. Other than finding out the killer has recently escaped from prison, we never really get an explanation for why he has a taste of teenage blood.
Set over two houses, we have the prim and proper Valerie, who has chosen to babysit her little sister Courtney for the night, and Trish and friends over at her house who are hosting a slumber party involving drugs, beer, boys, skimpy outfits, and basically all the other things that will get you murdered in a slasher film.
There’s a lot of phallic imagery used with the killer and his giant drill, especially in shots such as the shadow of the killer with the drill between his legs looming over one of his young female victims, but it does mean we get the satisfying shot of Valerie chopping the drill bit down to size in the final showdown. In fact, the group of women are pretty resourceful once they realise what is going on, and work together to try and stay safe and eventually take the killer out.
11 – Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) Directed by Rachel Talalay
Being the sixth installment in The Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) series was never going to do this sequel any favours, but it’s actually a pretty interesting addition to the franchise. Exploring themes that would later be used in Freddy vs. Jason (2003) where Freddy fights not to be forgotten, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare is the only entry into this beloved horror franchise with a woman in the director’s chair.
Freddy has no self-control and has killed every child in Springwood until only one teenager is remaining, with all the adults are in a state of mass psychosis as they try to cope with the loss. Freddy manipulates the last remaining teen to leave Springwood, while erasing his memory, in the hopes he will lure more souls for Freddy to feast on. Freddy also wants to use the child who was taken away from him as a vessel to allow him to escape the barriers of Springwood.
It is hard at this stage to bring anything new to the Freddy world, and it’s pretty clear that it’s a bit of a challenge to kill Freddy and have him actually stay dead, but I do appreciate what this sequel tried to do. There are some pretty cool practical effects, such as a possessed hearing aid, an exploding head, and the after-effects of landing on a giant spike strip. It’s also very much a product of its time, with a computer game inspired death, including Freddy sporting his own murderous Power Glove, and 3D glasses being integral to defeating Freddy in the final battle.
Interestingly, this movie is the only film in the series to have no female characters die, with the two central women surviving until the end and kicking Freddy’s ass along the way. Both women also have to face their memories of abusive fathers and beat them along the way. Much like Nancy in the original movie, it’s always good to see strong, resourceful women take Freddy down.
12 – Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017) Directed by Issa Lopez
Set in the nightmarish backdrop of a Mexican city that has been ravaged by a local gang, Tigers Are Not Afraid follows a group of children who have been orphaned by the gang’s actions. A group of young boys, lead by El Shine, are joined by a new addition Estrella after her mother goes missing. While the boys are initially resistant to have a girl in the midst, Estrella soon takes on the Wendy to the Lost Boys role and helps to look after the boys as they try to avoid capture by the drug gang.
In fact, the movie leans heavily into the fairytale element, with Estrella being given three wishes by her teacher in the form of three pieces of chalk to try and distract her from gunfire outside the school. When Estrella uses her first wish to wish for her mother back, she spends the rest of the movie being followed by her mother’s ghost, and eventually the ghosts of other gang victims, as they try to guide her.
The setting of this movie is scary enough, without the addition of Estrella’s creepy interactions with her mother. Despite the fact she’s clearly trying to help Estrella, it doesn’t make her any less scary, especially for a child to encounter.
Between moments of terror, we have beautiful scenes of the kids just trying to be kids despite their surroundings, such as them watching TV in their little homemade village, or playing football in an abandoned building. We’re also treated to the cutest cuddly toy tiger, which unfortunately is used in a heartbreaking way.
This movie is not afraid to get dark and violent, despite our group of protagonists being very young children, and it’s that boldness to not shy away from a genuine situation for a lot of children that makes it such a brilliant movie.
13 – Raw (2016) Directed by Julia Ducournau
If you’re a bit squeamish, Raw might not sound like the sort of film you’d enjoy, but I implore you to trust that your stomach will make it through (hey, mine did), give it a watch, and thank me later.
Justine is just about to start veterinary school, joining her older sister Alexia who already studies there. Justine’s entire family are vegetarian, but as part of the rookie initiation, Alexia forces Justine to eat raw rabbit kidney saying she did the same thing last year. Soon after, Justine’s body suffers a severe reaction to the meat, which sees her covered in an itchy rash from head to toe. As well as that, she starts to have a craving for meat, starting with hamburgers, moving to raw chicken breasts, and eventually ending up on the cannibal side of things.
Along with Justine’s newfound craving for meat, she finds her sexual appetite increasing as well, though the animalistic nature of both acts leads to her almost devouring her lover, instead choosing to sink her teeth into her own arm to satisfy her urges.
Raw deals with Justine having to adjust to a new life and come to terms with things that she doesn’t understand, with very little support from her family. As well as the brutal initiation rituals that the new students have to go through, she also has her growing desire for sex and her almost unstoppable urge to eat human flesh. It’s a great insight into the struggles young women are put under, with an added dash of cannibal grossness.
14 – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
A vampire love story where the fact that one of them is a vampire is never discussed is something you don’t get very often, but that’s exactly what A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night gives us. The Girl is our main vampire, and while she does dine on the occasional homeless person, she’s mainly seen killing men who mistreat a local prostitute and putting the fear of death into young boys, so they don’t end up like the aforementioned terrible men.
We also follow Arash, a young man who is working hard to keep his heroin-addicted father alive and out of the grasps of a local drug dealer. Arash and The Girl meet for the first time when they pass at the drug dealer’s apartment after The Girl has killed him. They later meet with Arash is dressed as Dracula and high on drugs, and in a beautiful scene set to almost the entirety of ‘Death’ by White Lies, The Girl resists the urge to bite Arash’s neck and instead embraces him.
The two characters don’t actually spend a lot of time together on screen, and instead, we see them interacting with the same characters in their town, and see the parts where their stories crossover, while the idea of a love story blossoms in the background.
The Girl is an interesting character, with a great taste in music, an amazing dress sense, the ability to do fantastic eyeliner without the aid of a mirror, and she skateboards. However, while a lot of her vampire murders are done to protect a fellow woman, we are reminded that she is still a blood-thirsty monster when she kills simply to feed. She’s not completely good or bad, she’s just a creature that needs to kill people to survive, but she chooses to be selective when people perhaps deserve it.
The whole film is shot in black and white, with the vampire effects kept simple, and the result is a beautiful look at the more subtle life of a loner vampire.
15 – Jennifer’s Body (2009) Directed by Karyn Kusama
Jennifer’s Body famously didn’t do very well at the box office ten years ago, but it has since gained cult status, and quite rightly in my opinion. Not only does it have a pop punk lover’s dream of a soundtrack, featuring Panic! At The Disco, All Time Low, and Cute Is What We Aim For, it’s also a fantastic creature feature, with a dash of black comedy and a language all its own.
Jennifer and Needy have been best friends since they were children, even though the two girls don’t look like they would fall in the same friendship groups in a typical high school movie. When Jennifer drags Needy to a local bar to see the rock band Low Shoulder, the place ends up burning down in a freak accident, and Jennifer leaves in the band’s van.
She shows up at Needy’s house later, covered in blood and clearly a bit wrong, but seems fine at school the next day. While it’s evident to Needy something is very wrong with Jennifer, no one else, including her boyfriend, believe her. The truth is the band tried to sacrifice Jennifer to the Devil, and because she wasn’t a virgin, the ritual failed, and Jennifer ended up possessed by a demon that needs to eat flesh to survive.
Jennifer’s Body is a blood-drenched look at what life can be like for young women in high school. Jennifer is sexualised by pretty much everyone she comes in contact with. The band assume she is flaunting her body to get what she wants but is actually a virgin underneath. They want her to have everything on show so they can lust over her, but still want her to remain innocent, so she isn’t tainted. In the end, Jennifer is ultimately punished for not being a virgin as she ends up possessed by the demon.
It also looks at the complications of female friendship. Needy says “sandbox loves never dies”, but the girls have grown into two very different women. While Needy seems like the dork from the outside, she’s quite clear on what makes her happy in life, and it tends to be Jennifer that sidetracks her life and makes things complicated. Jennifer, meanwhile, is outwardly confident, but ends up coming across as quite insecure – especially when the lack of human flesh in her system causes her to look like a “normal girl”. After all, there’s nothing worse than looking normal when you’re in high school.
16 – The Love Witch (2016) Directed by Anna Biller
I struggle to think of a movie I have watched that is as beautiful or has such spectacular costumes as The Love Witch. Shot on 35mm film, and designed as a homage to ‘60s horror, The Love Witch tells the story of Elaine, a young woman who has recently discovered witchcraft and is desperate to find love after the death of her ex-husband.
However, as any good white witch knows, dabbling in love magic is never a good idea, as the results are often a mixed bag. This proves true for Elaine, as the first man she tries to charm gets a little too obsessed with her, and then dies after Elaine gives him a potion with hallucinogenic herbs in it.
The movie delves into the typical roles men and women play when it comes to heterosexual love, and how those preconceived notions can create problems on both sides, all of which could probably be solved if the people involved communicated effectively rather than working on assumptions. In one scene, we hear the inner monologues of Elaine and Griff, the man she is in love with. While Elaine believes they are both completely besotted with each other, Griff seems to be losing interest in her already, and only wants a woman in his life so he can produce an heir.
Obviously, the stereotypes are pushed to the extreme here, but it’s an interesting take on the pressures that are put on both sides when it comes to falling in love. Elaine decides to take a route that is rooted in female power and use witchcraft to take control of her life, but with her prospective lovers having such different opinions to her on relationships, the results are never exactly what she wants.
17 – Mirror Mirror (1990) Directed by Marina Sargenti
Mirror Mirror is what would happen if Carrie got control of her powers a lot earlier in the movie, and then killed anyone that got slightly in her way. Megan is a young goth girl who looks incredibly like Lydia Deetz from Beetlejuice (1988) and moves into a house where a young woman murdered her sister years earlier in front of a possessed mirror. Despite this, the mirror and the woman’s diaries remain in the house. Unfortunately for Megan, she takes a liking to the mirror and requests that it stays in her room.
Since Megan looks incredibly out of place at her preppy high school, she instantly becomes the target of bullying but manages to make one friend in the form of Nikki. As the bullying continues, and Megan starts to get angrier at her situation, the mirror begins channeling her anger and giving her powers to take revenge on those who have wronged her. It starts with giving bully Charleen a massive nosebleed, and making one of her unsupportive teachers suffer a severe asthma attack, but quickly escalates to murder.
Mirror Mirror has some particularly gruesome death scenes, such as scalding Charleen to death with steam in the school showers, Ron having his bottom lip chewed off before he is drowned in the bath, and Megan’s mother’s hand getting mangled in the waste disposal unit.
Much like Carrie, Mirror Mirror looks at the type of pressure that high school girls are put under every day from those around them, and how it can lead to some students being pushed to breaking point. While Megan isn’t as likeable as Carrie, due to her turning to murder pretty early on and quite obviously enjoying it, it’s still a good, old fashioned, bully take-down movie. Plus Megan’s goth wardrobe is to die for.
18 – Bird Box (2018) Directed by Susanne Bier
Being a mother is hard enough, but trying to care for two children in a post-apocalyptic world where unseen monsters are constantly trying to make you kill yourself has got to be a struggle. Malorie is pregnant with a child she isn’t sure she wants when a force that drives you to commit suicide when you look at it attacks the world. After watching her sister die, Malorie manages to seek refuge in a nearby house.
Stuck with a group of other survivors, they try to figure out how to do things like go on supply runs and such without the use of their eyes, which involves a lot of blindfolds and hoping for the best. The group is soon joined by Olympia, who is also pregnant. Both women end up giving birth at the same time, and Malorie is left with two children to look after.
Bird Box shows the struggles of not only looking after yourself when times get incredibly tough but also taking care of your children. Malorie wasn’t exactly over the moon with her first pregnancy, fearing she would be a terrible mother, and then she ends up with a second baby to care for under extreme circumstances. It takes Malorie a while to attach herself properly to the children, only referring to them as Boy and Girl for the majority of the film, and spending every waking moment trying to ensure they don’t die a horrible death at the hands of the monsters rather than properly bonding with them.
The timeline flicks between Malorie and the children on a treacherous boat ride to try and find safety, and the events that lead her to this point. The boat ride proves that not only does she genuinely care for both children, even though one is not biological hers, but she is extremely good at caring for them, and hopefully, they can all look forward to a better life together.
19 – The Stylist (2016) Directed by Jill Gevargizian
The Stylist is a short film directed by Jill Gevargizian and looks at the horrors that could befall victims in the hairdressing world. Claire is a hairdresser working late one night, with her last client arriving after the rest of her workmates have left.
Her client Mandy has requested to look perfect for a work event she has coming up, and Claire is happy to oblige. She serves Many some wine and gets to work washing and blow-drying Mandy’s hair. Just as Claire finishes her work with the perfect hairstyle, Mandy passes out from something Claire has slipped into her drink. Claire then gets to work on her real task for the evening – scalping Mandy and claiming her beautiful new hairdo for herself.
The practical effects in the scalping scene of The Stylist are incredibly impressive, and along with the sounds effects, make that segment an incredibly hard watch. Claire doesn’t look like the type of person that would be any threat at all, which is why Mandy feels comfortable being alone with her in the salon and accepting a drink from her without a second thought. Even when she’s taking a pair of scissors to Mandy’s hairline, she never comes across as scary and threatening, but rather someone working with a purpose.
As the short comes to a close, we find out that Claire is also striving for perfection, even though she may look perfect to us on the outside. Claire replaces her own beautiful red hair with her fresh blonde wig, but we can see it isn’t enough to make her feel happy, and it’s not the first time she’s done this. It’s an extreme look at what the ever-changing beauty standards that are pushed on women can do to our self-image, and manages to make its point incredibly well consider its 15-minute run-time.
20 – Darlin’ (2019) Directed by Pollyanna McIntosh
Darlin’ is a standalone sequel to Lucky McKee’s The Woman (2011), which follows the characters of The Woman and Darlin’ after they escaped the horror of what happened at the Cleek family farm. Darlin’ ends up at a local hospital, and due to her feral appearance and inability to speak, she is shipped off to the local Catholic boarding school so she can be looked after and introduced back into civil society.
Darlin’ explores violence and oppression toward women in a different way than The Woman did, and it certainly makes the film easier to watch than its predecessor, without diluting the message behind the film. It also has coming-of-age movie feel to it, as we see Darlin’ integrating into the group of girls she shares her boarding school with, and experiencing what it’s like to have a group of close female friends without having to live in the woods or eat raw animal meat.
Darlin’ works so well because director Pollyanna McIntosh fully understands the character of The Woman, having played her for the third time in this movie. She also sidelines her character quite a bit and places most of the screen time on Darlin’ herself, so we get to follow a different character arc, rather than risk repeating the plot of the previous film.
Through Darlin’, The Woman, the girls at the Catholic school, Sister Jennifer, and the homeless women that The Woman befriends, we see what it means to be a strong woman in different situations, and how important it is that women band together against the forces that oppress us.