Round up your besties for a horror movie marathon featuring feminist-friendly flicks!
Halloween is right around the corner, which means horror-movie season is here. But every girl worth her gore knows what a feminist nightmare scary movies can be. Drew Barrymore said it best in Scream: “What’s the point? They’re all the same—some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can’t act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door. It’s insulting.” But lady-friendly horror flicks do exist. There are some that aren’t all about young women getting offed because they have sex and that feature at least one female main character who takes no shit. She may wear short shorts (we aren’t here to slut shame), and she may not make it out alive, but she does it her way right up to the end. We’ve created a guide to our fave flicks that meet this feminist criteria (most are available on Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and the all-horror streaming site Shudder), and have even made a handy key so you can tell right away which ones are gory, which ones need a trigger warning for rape, and which ones actually pass the Bechdel test. We’ve also sprinkled in some recipes for ghoulish goodies so you can invite your gal pals over and make your fright night super festive.
= Bechdel Test Badge, awarded to movies featuring two female characters, with names, who talk to each other about something other than a man.
= Cult Classic
= Extreme Gore
= Depicts Rape
MURDERS / HOME INVASIONS
TAGLINE: Solving this mystery is going to be murder.
A year after her mom’s death, Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) is targeted by a serial killer who begins offing everyone in her social circle. The characters in this thriller (directed by horror legend Wes Craven) openly mock horror movie “rules,” adding a meta twist while still managing to shock. Plus, the cast is amazing: Drew Barrymore, Rose McGowan, and Courteney Cox also star.
TAGLINE: Silence can be killer.
This thriller revolves around a murderer who taunts a deaf writer (Kate Siegel, who also co-wrote the screenplay), in a secluded cabin. Her fight for her life will have you on the edge of your seat.
Sleepaway Camp (1983)
TAGLINE: ...you wont be coming home.
A shy girl who was traumatized at a young age is sent away to summer camp with her cousin. After several murders are committed (and an attempted rape), the killer is finally revealed in one of the most original plot twists of early ’80s horror.
You’re Next (2011)
TAGLINE: They will hunt you.
Psychotic masked killers attack a family reunion in an isolated house (always be wary of isolated houses). The killers, however, do not know what they’re in for.
Season of the Witch (1972)
TAGLINE: Every night is Halloween.
Written and directed by George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead), this is a tale about a disgruntled housewife who starts dabbling in witchcraft because she’s frustrated with her asshole husband. Light on horror, heavy on feminist undertones, and loaded with awesome ’70s outfits.
TAGLINE: Terror gets domesticated.
A woman placed on house arrest is confined to her childhood home—then strange things start to happen. Her mom thinks the house is haunted, but there are things creepier than ghosts. (There’s a character I dubbed “Dusty Man,” and every time he appeared on screen, I screamed my face off.)
TAGLINE: Heal the sickness.
A socially awkward high school student (AnnaLynne McCord) who wants to go to medical school tries really, really hard to impress her controlling mother, taking things a little too far.
TAGLINE: Compliments to the chef.
Written by a woman (Pik Wah Lee), this Chinese movie follows Aunt Mei, a former abortionist now famous for her youth-inducing dumplings. An aging TV star desperate to regain her looks and the attention of her husband wants Mei to make her even more potent dumplings, which means procuring a more powerful ingredient—one that is very difficult to get. This doesn’t involve murder, but it is disturbing.
Drag Me to Hell (2009)
TAGLINE: Christine Brown has a good job, a great boyfriend, and a bright future. But in three days, she’s going to hell.
A loan officer about to be overlooked for a raise, simply because she’s a woman, evicts an elderly lady from her home, which turns out to be a terrible idea. I now have a new irrational fear of an old person trying to chew my face off. Director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) once again delivers a film equal parts ridiculous and scary.
The Night of the Comet (1984)
TAGLINE: They came. They shopped. They saved the world!
Two badass, machine gun-shooting sisters are some of the few survivors left after a comet kills almost everyone on Earth. This B-movie is perfect for those who like their scary flicks PG-13.
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
TAGLINE: Close your eyes for a second... and sleep forever.
Written by Rita Mae Brown and directed by Amy Jones, this may come across as a slasher film full of tits and ass, but it’s really a witty feminist satire mocking the male gaze in horror movies. The film, which centers on a group of slumber partying girls stalked by a deranged killer (carrying a drill—hello dick reference), paved the way for parodies like Scream and Scary Movie.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
TAGLINE: She knows a sucker when she sees one.
A high school cheerleader finds out she’s destined to be a vampire hunter. Light on horror, featuring awesome fight scenes, this female-directed comedy (written by Joss Whedon) is a great mood lightener.
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
TAGLINE: She’s evil...and not just high school evil.
When a cheerleader (Megan Fox) is possessed and begins killing her male classmates, her best friend “Needy” (Amanda Seyfried) has to figure out how to stop her before Jennifer kills Needy’s boyfriend. This campy flick is directed by Karyn Kusama and written by former BUST cover gal Diablo Cody, who delivers witty dialogue and strong, smart female characters.
American Mary (2012)
TAGLINE: Appearances are everything.
Written and directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska, this film follows a broke medical student who gets involved with an underground body modification ring. After surviving a sexual assault, she begins experimenting on her captured rapist. This movie’s got lots of torture and gore, so weak stomachs watch out.
TAGLINE: If only they knew she had the power.
Based on the novel by Stephen King, this film centers on a shy teen girl (Sissy Spacek) with an uber-religious and super controlling mom, who is bullied at school. This classic involves period blood, pig’s blood, telekinetic powers, and what is possibly the worst prom in history. Plus, the oft-quoted line: “They’re all gonna laugh at you.”
I Spit On Your Grave (1978)
TAGLINE: After it was all over...she waited...then she struck back in a way only a woman can!
A writer retreats to a remote cabin where she is repeatedly gang raped by a group of men. One by one, she brutally gets her revenge. The sexual assault scenes are very intense, but if you can make it through them, her murderous streak will have you cheering.
The Craft (1996)
TAGLINE: Welcome to the witching hour.
New teen in town, Bonnie (Neve Campbell), befriends a group of high school outcasts who practice witchcraft. Together, they have immense power and begin cursing anyone who ticks them off. Fairuza Balk’s character Nancy is one badass bitch and delivers one of the movie’s best lines: “We are the weirdoes, mister.”
Final Girl (2015)
TAGLINE: The hunted becomes the hunter.
Abigail Breslin slays as a trained assassin in this bloody thriller about a group of serial killers that lures young girls into the woods to hunt and kill them for “sport.” It looks like they just fucked with the wrong chick.
TAGLINE: Motherhood can be its own affliction.
A woman loses her unborn baby and joins a support group where she finds friendship. But maybe there's something to be said for not having friends.
TAGLINE: She always gets a part.
A wealthy Japanese widower agrees to let his friend hold a fake film audition to help him find a new wife. The woman he picks and eventually falls in love with has a dark, mysterious past that manifests in a very, very violent way.
Let the Right One In (2008)
TAGLINE: Eli is 12 years old. She’s been 12 for over 200 years, and she just moved in next door.
A 12-year-old boy who is bullied at school falls in love with the very strange girl next door in this beautiful Swedish film. Excellent choice if you want a bit of blood with your warm fuzzies.
The Descent (2005)
TAGLINE: Face your deepest fear.
An all-female crew of cave explorers encounters terrifying creatures living deep down in the earth.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)
TAGLINE: The first Iranian Vampire Western.
Written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, this black-and-white film centers on a teenage, hijab-wearing, skateboard-riding vampire. Part horror, part love story, and more visually breathtaking than frightening, it’s perfect for ladies who love just a sprinkle of scare.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
TAGLINE: Hungry like the wolf.
Two teenage sisters obsessed with death, Brigitte and Ginger, are their school’s resident weirdoes. When Ginger’s first period coincides with her turning into a werewolf, Brigitte helps her through. Ginger’s line, “No one ever thinks chicks do shit like this. A girl can only be a slut, bitch, tease, or the virgin next door. We’ll just coast on how the world works,” is reason enough to include this flick in the feminist horror canon.
Carnival of Souls (1962)
TAGLINE: She escaped death. Now it wants her back!
A professional organ player moves to a small town to take a job at a church shortly after being the sole survivor of a car crash. Then strange things start to happen: she sometimes can’t be seen or heard by others, a mysterious man keeps showing up, and she finds herself drawn to an abandoned carnival. This beautifully shot film is perfect for those who prefer their horror sans blood.
It Follows (2014)
TAGLINE: It doesn’t think. It doesn’t feel. It doesn’t give up.
After having sex, a teenage girl is followed by an evil shapeshifter out to kill her. The only way to stay alive is to pass it on to someone else through intercourse, sort of like a terrifying sexually transmitted chain letter.
The Babadook (2014)
TAGLINE: Don’t let it in.
Following the death of her husband, Amelia must deal with her son’s fear of monsters, exacerbated by a mysterious book about a creature named the Babadook. Shortly after they read it, Amelia begins to wonder if there’s some truth to her son’s fear. Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, The Babadook has no gore, but plenty of jump scares.
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
TAGLINE: Pray for Rosemary’s baby.
A couple moves into a new home and notices that there’s something odd about their neighbors. The wife, Rosemary (Mia Farrow), becomes pregnant and begins to fear for her sanity and the life of her child.
WRITTEN BY CALLIE WATTS
ILLUSTRATION BY JULIA GEISER
This article originally appeared in the October/November 2016 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
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