Thursday, February 6, 2020

Horror Directors for WIHM

It’s February and cold outside! But let’s ignore the snow and snuggle up with books and films to celebrate Women in Horror Month. There are so many amazing voices to seek out: writers, actors, directors, reviewers—OH MY!

Thinking about horror films, people tend to gravitate toward the classics: Psycho, Halloween, Scream, Jaws, The Exorcist . . . it tends to be a fairly male-dominated list of directors. But it is not the case that women aren’t creating horror. The ladies are deep in the trenches of the terrifying and they are bringing us some incredibly scary and brilliant films. Here are a few female directors who are making waves in horror.

Jennifer Kent

I don’t know anyone who has seen The Babadook (2013) and not been blown away by it. It is a deeply scary monster movie, but it is also a deeply moving tale exploring mother and son dynamics. Kent burst onto the scene as an innovative and forward-thinking writer/director with this original movie, and everyone has been waiting to see what she’d do next.

Her most recent project is The Nightingale (2019), a revenge tale set in the Tasmanian wilderness in the 1820s, and it is disturbing. Possibly one of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever sat through, and I mean that in the best way possible. It also leans into modern social issues, thinking about gender and racial disparities, and the violence humans are capable of. It is available to stream now.

Issa López

López knocked it out of the park with the social commentary filled dark fairy tale that was Tigers Are Not Afraid (2019), a Shudder exclusive film. From the perspective of a group of young children, the film explores the dangerous and violent arena of drug cartels, ghosts, and living on the street.

This inspiring director has a few more movies in the works. The one I am over the moon (pun-intended, read on:) excited about is a supernatural folklore film that will be produced by Guillermo del Toro and is rumored to be a werewolf-western. Can’t wait! She is also set to write and direct an adaptation of the Matthew Baker short story, Lost Souls.

Floria Sigismondi

One movie that has definitely caused some excited rumblings in the horror fiction community is The Turning (2020), a modern interpretation of Henry James’s classic novella The Turn of the Screw. It is a unique adaptation, and the ending is definitely starting conversations.

Sigismondi is a talented creator whose work goes beyond film. She is also a visual artist with a beautiful monograph available of her photography and has directed music videos for the likes of Justin Timberlake, Marilyn Manson, Katy Perry, Pink, and David Bowie.

Next, Sigismondi will be working on an independent venture, but no details have been released yet!

Jenn Wexler

The Ranger (2018) was Wexler’s directorial debut, and she is certainly one to watch. If you were into Green Room (2015), this one will be up your alley: a group of teen punks hide out in the woods, only to become pursued by an unhinged park ranger. It’s a subversive take on the classic ’80s slasher, and it’s campy, bloody, and stylish.

She is also a producer with several great movies under her belt: Depraved (2019), Most Beautiful Island (2017), Like Me (2017), Psychopaths (2017), and Darling (2015).

Sophia Takal

One of the big conversation pieces of the holiday season (well, at least MY holiday season of horror) was the modern remake, Black Christmas (2019). More than a remake of the 1974 classic of the same name—arguably the first slasher film—Takal’s vision, co-written with April Wolfe (p.s. check out her podcast Switchblade Sisters), this film is a re-envisioning of what Black Christmas could be.

A story about a group of sorority sisters who are violently murdered one by one is the perfect breeding ground to put some of the recent issues surrounding gender in our society up on the screen. This is an empowering film for #MeToo supporters and anyone who has a problem with the state of politics in our nation.

Takal is also responsible for the thriller Always Shine (2016), a dark rumination on female friendships and ambition.

Coralie Fargeat

One of my favorite recent films, Revenge (2017), was written and directed by this French filmmaker. If you shy away from the rape-revenge subgenre of horror, this is one you might want to check out. It subverts the cliched tropes of horror and reclaims the genre with a feminist point of view and a badass female lead.

When this movie hit Shudder, it became the most-watched movie debut in the platform’s history. I can’t wait to see what Fargeat comes up with next!

If you have any other Women Horror director recommendations let us know in the comments!

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