Those fragile, weak and vulnerable creatures are at at risk, and they are hardly able to fend for themselves. Of course we are talking about the pendulous beings best known as men. Our latest dirty list brings to you 10 horror movies directed by women, and rest assured that it isn’t just the film signature that changes. The female gaze is everywhere, the motives and twists are different, and the women are strong and emboldened. Males, you poor creatures, you better run for your lives!
Australian feminist Barbara Creed argued in her 1993 book The Monster Feminine: “the reason women do not make horror films is not that the female unconscious is fearless, without its monsters, but because women still lack access to the means of production in a system which continues to be male-dominated in all key areas”. Thankfully times have changed in the past 25 years!
Don’t forget to click on the film title in order to accede to our dirty film review (where available). The films below are sorted in no particular order.
1. Prevenge (Alice Lowe, 2017)
This fantastic British film has had horror fans grooving all around the world. The female experience of pregnancy in film is something not known for its jovial depictions. Simply viewing Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968) one can see that child bearing is a painful endeavour, regardless of whether it’s the Devil’s child or not. Akin to Polanski’s film, Alice Lowe’s directorial and writing debut uses the horror genre as a vice to explore femininity and isolation. Unlike numerous egotistical star driven directorial debuts, Prevenge is a strange concoction of the slasher horror and comedy – making for a truly original recipe of British independent filmmaking.
Lowe’s straight-faced performance is all the more impressive when considering the actor was seven months pregnant when filming the role. Her ability to create awkwardness in a scene lends itself well to her script-writing. Though some critics could see the film as a series of killings, without any emotion or character, this would ignore the nuanced portrayal of a women isolated from society and clearly suffering from severe grief and depression.
2. The Babadook (Jennifer Kent, 2014):
This is a touching Australian horror that has won praise all over the planet for its unusual tender and unexpected message of conciliation with the antagonist. Initially it wasn’t a strong commercial success in Australia and was given a limited release in art house theatres. It gained international attention after seeing a strong reception at the Sundance Film Festival.
The film, which does not have any major starts, tells the story of widowed mother, plagued by the violent death of her husband. She’s battling with her son’s fear of a monster lurking in the house, but soon discovers a lingering and sinister presence all around her. At first it feels a lot like a boogeyman story, but you soon realise that it has far more depth.
The film antagonist also became an LGBT icon after it was jokingly said he was gay on Tumblr.
3. Trouble Every Day (Claire Denis, 2001):
The French director is best known for the deeply lyrical Beau Travail (1999), and most people do not know that she created a dirty masterpiece of erotic horror just two years later.
In the film, scientist Shane Brown (Vincent Gallo) isn’t a very doting husband. He neglects his new bride (Tricia Vessey), instead spending their honeymoon searching for an old workmate who vanished after a research paper he had written was discredited by the medical community. It turns out that Dr. Semeneau is living in obscurity in order to protect his wife (Béatrice Dalle), whom he keeps prisoner in a room with boards nailed across the doorway. The narrative slowly unfold with numerous shocking twists, revealing the dark secrets that each character harbours. The film has enough blood and gore to please most slasher and horror fans, even if the device is used in a far more elegant way.
4. Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow, 1987):
Kathryn Bigelow is the first woman to won a Best Director Academy Award, and we would hazard a guess that she will snatch a few more prizes next year with the extremely powerful anti-racist statement in her latest movie Detroit. The 65-year-old director has a very diverse career, and she has even been accused of endorsing torture in Zero Dark Thirty (2012). What few people know, is that she directed a horror 30 years ago, making her a trailblazer also in the genre.
In the movie, Cowboy Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) meets gorgeous Mae (Jenny Wright) at a bar, and the two have an immediate attraction. But when Mae turns out to be a vampire and bites Caleb on the neck, their relationship gets a little bit more complicated. Wracked with a craving for human blood, Caleb is forced to leave his family and ride with Mae and her gang of vampires, including the evil Severen. These ladies are bloodthirsty!
5. Dearest Sister (Mattie Do, 2016):
This movie is not without faults, but it will still scare you. It also the first film ever made by a female and Lao, and it’s remarkable that she decided for a horror flick. A countryside girl moves to the city in order to live as her rich cousin’s companion. Her cousin is quickly losing her sight and occasionally seeing very scary apparitions. She has a doting Estonian husband who will do everything in his power to save her vision, but his attitude towards the local culture is often arrogant and ambivalent. In fact, most characters in the movie seem to be morally-corrupted and easily engage in revengeful acts and petty money feuds.
Dearest Sister has most of the ingredients of an effective horror movie: creepy ghosts, violence, sex and punishment for betrayal or corrupt behaviour.
6. Deliver Us (Federica Di Giacomo, 2016):
This one is out in cinemas this weekend. And it’s a doc. A very unusual one! Father Cataldo runs a regular mass in Sicily aimed at freeing people from bad spirits. Giullia, Grazia, Enrico and some others in the crowd suddenly start to act strangely. After a few minutes their voice and expressions don’t belong to them any longer. They are said to be possessed and they look possessed. The mass that started quietly in the name of God suddenly becomes a theatre of the disturbed.
The film almost tresspasses the very fine line between documentary-making and fiction. But then the director retracts, and instead smoothly enters the lives of the subjects of the movie, investigating who they are, where they come from, what the issues are that surround them. We often find people with a tormented background, dysfunctional relationships, in desperate search for answers. The director remains non-invasive, just an observer. Some viewers might think these people need to be set free from a demon, other will think they need psychological support.
7. Good Manners (Marco Dutra, Juliana Rojas, 2017):
This dirty Brazilian film was made by both a man and a woman, but the tender and feminine touch is conspicuous throughout. It starts out as an awkward domestic drama, as the gorgeous, upper-class, white and pregnant Ana (Marjorie Estiano) hires the black babysitter Clara (Isabél Zuaa). At first, Ana is reluctant to take Clara on board because she lacks credentials: she did not finish nursing school and she has never looked after babies. To boot, one of her referees doesn’t quite sing her praises. Yet, there is something soothing and comforting about the very beautiful and polite stranger.
The subject of interrupted motherhood and isolation from society become central to the story, which takes a very unexpected twist roughly in the middle of the 127-minute narrative. Good Manners then incorporates easily recognisable devices from a number of horror films, such as Rosemary’s Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968), Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979), Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981) and the more recent French cannibal flick Raw (also on this list). Oh, and there is a giant creature that looks a lot like a meerkat!
8. Raw (Julia Ducournau, 2017):
This incredibly well-crafted cannibal horror starts with a sequence that is guaranteed to get you jumping off your seat, only for the pace to slow down and gradually begin to build up again to the very graphic, repulsive and inevitable outcome: human eats human. At first, the film seems to be a very serious and stern horror with strong political and activist connotations, but then it slowly and willfully morphs into an absurd black comedy about wild and naughty university students and a very strange fraternal relation between two sisters. It will keep you hooked, fluttering and pulsating throughout. Much like a chicken in an abattoir.
Cannibalism isn’t the only sort of interaction with the human body that you will encounter in Raw: there’s plenty of sex (both straight and gay), the most unorthodox university initiation rituals (Americans call them hazing) you’ll come across (including covering the rookie’s body in paint for a hilarious and colourful interaction) and even a Brazilian wax with a tragic outcome. Oh, and there are animals everywhere: dead or alive, put to sleep on ketamine or being cut open in an operation table.
9. Berlin Syndrome (Cate Shortland, 2017):
One of the dirtiest films of the year. Clare (Teresa Palmer) is an Australian photojournalist visiting Berlin and trying to capture some of the city’s essence with her camera. As both a female and a foreigner who doesn’t speak the language, the actress conveys a sense of extreme vulnerability without coming across as clueless and stupid. There’s lingering fear in her eyes, even in the most trivial actions such as having a glass of wine or crossing the street. She soon falls for the handsome and charming local lecturer Andi.
The dirtiest aspect of Berlin Syndrome is that, unlike in the syndrome named after the Swedish capital, the victim here does not gradually begin to identify with her kidnapper. The frail and vulnerable foreigner here defies all expectations and instead morphs into a headstrong escapee.
An image from this film illustrates the top of this article.
10. Jennifer’s Body (Karyn Kusama, 2009):
A horrific female double dose: Jennifer’s Body was created by not one, but two American women! The script was penned by Diablo Cody, while the film was directed by Karyn Kuasama. If you are a fan of Courtney Love’s band Hole – like many of us at DMovies – you will realise that the film title was taken from one of their songs.
This supernatural black comedy tells the story of a newly-possessed high school cheerleader turns into a succubus who specialises in killing her male classmates. Her best friend suddenly intervenes but her plans don’t quite work out as expected. There is no shortage women power, all with a very demonic twist!