5 Female Horror Directors You Can Watch Right Now - Matt Butler
During the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony, Chloe Zhoe made history when she became the first woman of colour and the second woman ever to win the Oscar for Best Director for her work on 'Nomadland'. This was a huge moment in film history; not only did Zhoe take the win, but it was the first time in The Academy’s 93 years that more than one woman had even been considered for this award. Emerald Fennel was also nominated for her work in the fantastic 'Promising Young Woman'.
As a gay man, I love women and I wanted to celebrate this incredible moment by showcasing some female talent in our favourite genre - horror. Now, there were so many fantastic women to choose from, so I had to be selective with this list otherwise I would still be writing it now. My apologies if I have missed out your favourite but I have kept this list short and sweet and only included films that you can go and watch on your favourite streaming services right now.
Revenge - Coralie Fargeat
After their sex-fuelled desert getaway is interrupted by his sleazy friends, wealthy businessman Richard tries to cover up his affair with young socialite, Jen. With his friends unable to keep their hands to themselves, tensions rise and the situation takes a sinister turn, leaving Jen betrayed, battered and bleeding at the bottom of a cliff edge. However, these friends made one very fatal mistake: they didn’t kill her.
I really enjoyed this movie: the concept was simple, with limited characters and an easy-enough-to-follow story. The scenes were always tense and different characters gain the upper hand throughout and move the narrative forward at a steady pace. Jen is a great character and her transformation from Lolita to Lara Croft is nothing short of perfect. She outwits the men who are pursuing her in ingenious ways, and you really do root for her to survive. She may spend most of the movie running around the desert in her underwear; but don’t worry we are all about equality in this film and the men end up equally as objectified – something we are seeing more and more in modern horror. In fact, one of the men spends the majority of the film's climax stark bollock naked during an edge-of-your-seat stand-off with our femme fatale.
Revenge is a French action thriller that is available to watch on Shudder right now. However, this one does come with a trigger warning. The film deals with themes regarding rape and unwanted sexual attention which some viewers may struggle to watch. It is only a short scene, and it is not exploitative, but if this is something you would rather not see then I advise skipping from the 20-minute mark to around 22 minutes.
The Babadook – Jennifer Kent
An eerie psychological horror from down under. The Babadook follows Amelia, a single mother dealing with the death of her husband and the increasingly erratic behaviour of her son. When a monster is seemingly released from a storybook, the family become terrorised and the more they try to ignore the monster, the more powerful he gets…
Okay, unpopular opinion time but when I first watched this film: I hated it. I really hated it. I’m not a kid person at the best of times and six-year-old Sam really tested my patience during this movie. I was fully #TeamBabadook for most of the film and just wanted the mother to give the kid away and move on with her life.
However, upon subsequent watches, I have found an appreciation for this film - and not just because the Babadook became a gay icon. There is something very real about the horror in this movie and it doesn’t rely on jump scares or cheap tricks to get that across to you. It’s a story about family life and motherhood and how pretending that everything is okay when it very clearly isn’t is how real monsters are made. It’s one that will stick in the back of your mind for a long time after watching.
The Babadook is currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime.
Jennifer’s Body – Karyn Kusama
Jennifer and Needy have been best friends since kindergarten and despite their different interests and varying social statuses they have an unbreakable bond. However, that ‘sandbox love’ is put to the ultimate test after Jennifer is possessed by a succubus and begins feasting on the horny male population of her high school.
Jennifer’s Body gets a bad reputation, but honestly, it’s a great movie and I won’t have anyone say otherwise. It’s fun, it’s memorable and it doesn’t take itself too seriously – something I personally love in my horror movies. If you haven’t seen this one yet, I highly recommend you do not watch a trailer beforehand as I think the way this film was advertised is the most problematic thing about it. This is not just Megan Fox being all sexy and evil, it’s about female friendships, bisexuality and learning when to let go of a toxic relationship regardless of the past you two may share.
Jennifer’s Body is available to watch right now on Disney+. This one also comes with a warning as once you have seen this film you will never stop quoting it for the rest of your life.
Prevenge – Alice Lowe
A British horror comedy from the wonderful, and slightly warped, mind of Alice Lowe. Prevenge tells the story of Ruth, a pregnant widow who is coerced into a homicidal rampage by her unborn baby. Blinded by her grief and potentially losing her mind; Ruth tracks down the seven people involved in the climbing accident that killed her partner with killer intent.
Prevenge’s absurd concept is so much fun, and yet equally heart-breaking. Ruth’s mental state is questioned from the very first scene and it’s hard to tell whether her partner was murdered or if it was just some horrific accident. As the body count gets higher, we learn more and more about what happened on that fateful trip and we begin to question whose side we are on. The conversations between Ruth and the foetus growing inside her are disturbing in a great way and the dialogue is dry British humour at its finest.
You can catch Prevenge right now on Amazon Prime. I highly recommend this one for anyone looking for a more light-hearted horror that cracks jokes and skulls at the same time.
Satanic Panic – Chelsea Stardust
Down-on-her-luck Sam has just started a new job as a pizza delivery girl, only to find herself the target of a group of affluent Satanists who want to use her as a virgin sacrifice to summon Baphomet… so, y’know just typical first day-on-the-job stuff!
I threw this on one night when I wasn’t quite sure what to watch, fully expecting to ignore the film whilst doom-scrolling endlessly pretty much through my phone. However, that is not what happened at all: this movie fully pulled me in with its fun story and light-hearted-yet-high-stakes humour. This is a midnight movie that really teases that line between horror and comedy, but what I love most about this is that it doesn’t try to be anything else. This film knows it is silly and leans into that insanity in the best way. The chemistry between the characters is wonderful to watch and you can really tell that the cast had an absolute blast on set.
Satanic Panic is available on Sky Movies and NowTV. I recommend throwing it on with a pizza, a beer and a couple of friends you don’t mind ritually sacrificing.
Unfortunately, I could not fit all the directors suggested to me on this list. There are some very talented female directors that I would love to have included but I simply did not have the time to re-watch their work and remind myself of how much of a boss bitch they truly are. I would like to stress that this list is not exhaustive and is most certainly not yet complete. So please do let us know your recommendations online and let’s continue to champion talented women in this genre.
Matt Butler is an MA Screenwriting graduate and proud member of the LGBT+ community. Can be found on twitter @mjpbutler