An Ode to Female Horror Directors

So, now that I’m making my first real film, I’ve been watching a lot of movies for inspiration, and reading a lot about the film directing process. One of the first things I realized, that never really stuck in my mind until I started working toward my own film project, is that there is a serious imbalance of attention paid to male and female directors. In the horror film genre, I have yet to watch one horror film while being aware that it was directed by a woman. Through my research, I now know there ARE women horror film directors out there, a few of the well-known female-directed horror films being “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “American Psycho” and “Pet Cemetery”. But most of the film history books reference male filmmakers. Seriously, before doing my research for this blog post, I have read lists and lists of classic and contemporary horror films directed by men, but NONE by women. To quote Rebecca Keegan, who wrote for the L.A. Times on February 1st, 2010:

“A woman is more likely to hold a seat on a Fortune 500 company board (15%), serve as a member of the clergy (15%), or work as an aerospace engineer (10%) than she is to direct a Hollywood movie (7%).”

“In 2010, women were most likely to work in the romantic comedy, documentary and romantic drama genres, and least likely to work in the horror, action and comedy genres, according to (San Diego State’s ‘Celluloid Ceiling’) study.”

With a little bit of research online I learned that there’s a good amount of support for emerging female directors. A few examples include the Birds Eye View organization in the UK (http://www.birds-eye-view.co.uk/2/home/homepage.html), the BleedFest in L.A. (http://bleedfest.com/we-are/), and the Sarah Jacobson Film Grant online (http://sjfilmgrant.wordpress.com/about/). The more I research, the more I discover- which is exciting!! But… women horror film directors? They are out there, but as Rebecca Keegan mentioned, they’re far and in between. An excellent article in the Guardian written by Emine Saner quotes Professor Barbara Creed, author of The Monstrous-Feminine, who examined women’s roles in horror films:

“Horror reflects society. What we probably need are more thoughtful horror films that speak directly to female experiences. There are plenty of bad taste, poorly-made misogynistic horror films around – as with all genres.”

Likewise, the article also quoted Caroline Cooper Charles, who is head of creative development of Darklight, an initiative to encourage female horror directors at the low-budget film studio Warp X:

“I think women have a different take on what people find scary. I love horror films but most I don’t find scary. Some of the ideas the women have come up with are scary, perhaps rooted in their own experiences. A lot of them have female lead characters. What we’re not getting is the standard horror film, where the only appearance girls make is to run around semi-clothed before getting their heads chopped off. The female characters are much more important in the narrative than in most horror films.”

Jennifer Eiss discusses women’s involvement with and contribution to the horror genre in her article “Do Women Prefer Psychological Horror?”:

“Women have been involved in horror since the conception of the genre, back when horror stories only appeared in writing and were given labels such as ‘Gothic fiction’ and ‘ghost stories’. Mary Shelley published her seminal Frankenstein in 1818, and it has become one of the most famous and iconic monster stories of modern times. Women such as Pulitzer Prize-winner Edith Wharton, children’s book author Edith Nesbit and many, many others were heavily involved in and lauded during the modern ghost story boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.”

But, you ask, WHO are these women horror filmmakers? And WHAT are they making? Well, I will reply, here are some of my favorite discoveries:

Helene Cattet: “Chambre Jaune”

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Kerry Anne Mullaney: “The Dead Outside”

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Jen & Sylvia Soska: “Dead Hooker in a Trunk”

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Jackie Kong: “Blood Diner”

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Rita Mae Brown: “The Slumber Party Massacre”

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And I can’t not include this awesome trailer for “Zombie Girl”, a documentary about the now 18-year old Emily Hagin’s making of the film “Pathogen” at the age of 12:

Check out Emily’s production website, “Cheesy Nuggets” here: http://www.cheesynuggets.com/cheesynuggets.html

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To discover more, you might start by visiting this link to ghouls on film, which featured a post titled “10 Female Horror Directors You Should Know”: http://ghoulsonfilm.net/?p=331. Also check the comments to the post, which list 10 more.

And with that in mind, I will continue to endeavor on my own horror film, Red Blob Massacre“. Coming SOON, to a theater near you. 🙂


References

http://www.bigvisionemptywallet.com/women-in-horror-month-%E2%80%93-lovers-haters-and-boobs (Women in Horror Month: Lovers, Haters and Boobs)

http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/features/2011/03/28/do-women-prefer-psychological-horror/ (Do Women Prefer Psychological Horror?)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2007/apr/06/2 (Everything But the Ghoul)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-12665443 (Damsels in Distress)

http://bitchmagazine.org/post/horror-show-women-horror-directors-to-watch (The Horror Show: Women Horror Directors to Watch)

http://www.afterellen.com/column/the-weekly-geek/what-if-horror-films-were-made-by-more-women (The Weekly Geek: What if More Horror Films Were Made By Women?)

http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/features/2011/03/07/warped-women-the-emergence-of-female-horror-directors-in-the-uk/ (Warped Women: The Emergence of Female Horror Directors in the UK)

http://wellywoodwoman.blogspot.com/2011/03/horror-stories.html (Horror Stories)

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3 thoughts on “An Ode to Female Horror Directors

  1. Christina

    This is a great article! Not to be a self-promoter but I’m a female horror director who could use some support getting my film off the ground. Please check it out & support if you can. http://summitthemovie.com. Thanks! I appreciate anyone who takes an interest & helps by simply sharing the link 🙂

    Reply
  2. Dionne Jackson

    Oh wow. This is really awesome. I find it so hard finding support in this genre. I’m working on my debut film and we also just launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise some funds. Please check out our movie site at http://donumfilm.com and please support us if you can and we’ll do the same. It would really be nice to connect with more female horror filmmakers. Good luck with both of your projects!

    Reply

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