I love horror movies. This may surprise people belied by my bunny-like punim and Snow White, sing-songy voice. But women don’t have to dress in black to be fans of the macabre. So, listen, even if blood and guts are not your cuppa, RIGHT NOW is when you should be watching and talking about these killer women directors who are bringing a new type of terror to a genre traditionally dominated by dudes.
Here are my TOP FIVE MUST SEE HORROR MOVIES of recent years DIRECTED BY WOMEN. These movies are light on exploitation and torture, and heavy on psychological and emotional fear. These films will get under your skin, into your head, and ultimately make you love your ladies of the dark.
1.) The Babadook—written and directed by Jennifer Kent (2014)
If you haven't seen this yet, don't admit it—just rectify that immediately. Everyone already knows this is the coolest, scariest, most interesting movie in years. Maybe it's because the mythos of the long-suffering martyr mother has a nightmarish flipside: the mother who kills and eats her own children the way a hamster or an abused dog will. This movie explores the grief and exhaustion of both a single mother and her child, and the monster they fear to name.
2.) A Girl Walks Alone At Night—written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour (2014)
Vampires are not sexy to me. Except this one. This one, a burka-wearing, skateboard riding, Farsi-speaking, avenging angel, is a terrifying bad-ass babe that fills a revenge/love fantasy hole I didn't even know I had. The ironic title says it all. This girl isn't clutching her keys between her fingers when she walks alone to her car, she’s wielding fangs. This movie serves you dessert for dinner—the main villain is dispatched early so we can focus on the sweet relationship between a lost, love-sick boy who falls for a solitary girl who can only bite back. A beautiful, bitter valentine for those who aren't afraid of subtitles, black and white photography, or the dark.
3.) American Mary—written and directed by Jen & Sylvia Soska (2012)
Starring Katharine Isabelle (of the Ginger Snaps trilogy), this is the most accurate and disturbing metaphor for how it feels to be a woman in Hollywood. After being drugged and raped by a doctor she admired, a medical student starts to perform plastic surgery for people who seek to customize their own bodies. Her first client is a woman who wants to look more like a Barbie by having her nipples removed and vagina sewn shut. This movie uses the knife not just as a weapon of pain and revenge but as a symbol of the deep cuts people inflict on themselves to take control of their physical forms.
4.) The Invitation—written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, directed by Karyn Kusama (2015)
A dinner party reuniting estranged friends can be awkward and stressful, but this is on a whole other level of creepy. Everyone is trying so hard to pretend things are "normal," but Kusama's direction makes us feel the paranoia of being in that house on the hill, trying to decipher glances, tones of voice, and figure out why our host just locked us in. This meditation on grief and forgiveness takes place in real-time and builds to a heart-pounding finale. You won't be able to shake it.
5.) The Love Witch—written and directed by Anna Biller (2016)
Careful what you witch for…her spells backfire because they work too well. This sardonic homage to '60s thrillers tracks one woman's quest for her soulmate using incantations, potions, murder, and remarkably perfect blue eye shadow. You’ll be laughing, but it also hurts a little more than you might want to admit. If you don't fall in love with Biller's use of 35mm film stock, throwbacks to Hitchcock acting styles, dreamy use of color, and wicked sense of humor, I still defy you to deny the magic power of the harp serenade in the ladies tea-room. Spanking new, just released, see it first and win the conversation.
published July 12, 2016
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Laura Lee Bahr is the writer/director of the unromantic comedy BONED (BONEDthemovie.com — Available through most cable providers and on V.O.D. platform itunes, amazon, etc. You can watch it right now!). She is also the author of the novels, Haunt and Long-Form Religious Porn (Fungasm Press). You can follow her on the usual social media sites and see more at lauraleebahr.com.