The words “female” and “horror film” are no longer solely synonymous with “femme fatale”, “dead”, or “miniskirt/wet shirt/big boobs/baseball bat”. To be female in the realm of horror also means “filmmaker”, “storyteller”, and “actress”.
The horror genre depends on drawing evil from shared experiences, and for too long has the genre been monopolized by one group of a similar perspective. Can you imagine the gritty thrillers we could have had from women repulsed by prescription smiles and housewife imperfections, leaving occult regimes of flower power, thwarting disco slashers manifesting under strobe lights, or going undercover in mall mayhem with opposing shoulder-padded shop girls?
Today, the female perspective is included in the thought pool by women themselves, through mainstream industry or indie screens, and they’re providing all the jumps and goose bumps horror junkies crave. Maybe most importantly, these filmmakers are making daily female fears more accessible by disguising them with elements of the occult.
Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night centers on rape and drug culture while showing the embodiment of a “higher power” in the form of a justice serving female vampire. The collection of short films entitled XX share elements of childhood loss, motherly fear of doing right by their children, and the quest to remain individuals.
By means of directors and writers like Julia Ducournau, Karyn Kusama, Jennifer Kent, the female psyche is unleashing the darkness male filmmakers have so long been able to cast off and capitalize on.
Female characters in the genre are also benefitting in the metamorphosis from Expendable D-Cup to heroine with a backbone. Laurie Strode of the Halloween series might be the best example of this. From once a startled teenager stalked by a psychopath, Laurie developed into a selfless, axe-wielding protagonist in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. Laurie Strode’s continuing forty-year arc proves female leads can be both swoon and savior worthy. Hopefully this October will prove the new rule when Laurie Strode, as played by her original actress, Jamie Lee Curtis, returns in the final(?) Halloween tale.
Like Laurie Strode, Sabrina Spellman is also set for a deep character shift as Sabrina the Teenage Witch gears up for its dark new appearance on Netflix. From the creators of the CW’s tangled thriller, Riverdale, Sabrina could be a pivotal protagonist in encouraging more girls to experiment and appreciate the genre. With the benefit and backing of popular studios and streaming services, female characters have a long and fruitful future ahead of them, moving from hilarity towards the great macabre.
So, to the damsels on the silver screen who fend for themselves in the face of the criminal, demented, and supernatural, we commend you with an offering of red vines and theater floors strewn with popcorn.
To the women who summon fear in Courier New font, who tangle themselves in perturbed consciousness, who are resolute in creating films the way they envision them and do not let unspoken rules set the boundaries for their ambition and ability, we at Scary Basement media salute you with a wave of our collective, clawed hand.
To paraphrase Mr. Miranda’s call for equality and acceptance, in our case, “horror is horror, is horror, is horror, is horror, is horror, is horror, is horror…”.
Edited by Ollyolyoxenfreak