Female Fronted Horror To Watch After Hereditary
There is no denying that the horror world has taken a great turn within the past few years, and for horror fans, it’s a great thing to see. Many recent horror films have topped their budgets in the box office and cashed in. We have another one that just came out, Hereditary, which has been all the buzz since Sundance Film Festival. Coming from A24, we are almost guaranteed for a good thought-provoking time.
Toni Collette is the star of A24’s new addition to their ever fabulous lineup of films. Even though this is not the first time Collette has been in a horror movie, this is the first time she is front and center leading the way. The abundance of amazing female-led films is apparent throughout the genre for years.
I’ve never been one to label things as “The Best,” but I hope this list provides some insight into more female-led horror films worth checking out. These movies are in no way in any specific order, and they all deserve the attention.
The Descent (2005) dir. Neill Marshall - After opening with a horrific scene, The Descent only continues to get more terrifying as it reaches end credits. Completely female-led, this movie circles around the lives of a group of friends who go exploring in a cave. Unfortunately, something else is in the cave. Unknown predators are lurking below ground level giving the friends an unwanted excursion. Be sure to watch the UK version, as the ending differs and is so much better than the US version.
Cat People (1942) dir. Jacques Tourneur - If you have sex with your new husband, you turn into a big cat. This is the superstition carried around by Simone Simon (Irena Dubrovna Reed). Simone is a Serbian immigrant who is taking the fables of her home quite literally. She marries her husband, Kent Smith (Oliver Reed), but is worried about transforming into an undomesticated feline. Smith confides in his Secretary about his wife’s outlandish thoughts, which in turn triggers the fable to become something of truth.
Drag Me to Hell (2009) dir. Sam Raimi - Alison Lohman hasn’t done too much since Drag Me to Hell, which is a shame because she is so great in this. Christine Brown (Lohman) works at a bank accepting or denying loans. After she denies an old woman a loan costing her her home, she receives a cursed gift. As her days become increasingly strange and dangerous, she tries to alleviate the curse by hiring a seer. Unfortunately, this unleashes the worst in the curse and Christine fights for her life.
Carnival of Souls (1962) dir. Herk Harvey - Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) gets in a terribly traumatic car accident and survives. She is the only survivor. After moving to a new town, not knowing anyone, and having a hard time becoming friends with people, she finds herself drawn to an abandoned carnival after a spirit (Herk Harvey) is haunting her every so often. Here Mary finds herself inundated with souls attached to the carnival area that may hold the answer as to why she was the only survivor of the accident.
Ginger Snaps (2000) dir. John Fawcett - Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte (Emily Perkins) are obsessed with the concept of death. They trick their mother into believing her children are dead, driving her to complete hysterics. When Ginger gets her period for the first time while out with her sister, she is also wounded by a werewolf that has been mauling neighborhood dogs. What follows is a wild narrative of promiscuity and debauchery.
Ms. 45 (1981) dir. Abel Ferrara - The unfortunate happens when Thana (Zoe Lund) is attacked and raped twice in the same day. Even worse, she is mute, so she couldn’t scream out for the help that she really needed. Revenge is on the horizon as Thana hunts down the culprits that stripped her of her dignity. All of this revenge is done with a - you guessed it - .45 caliber pistol. Quite possibly one of the most underappreciated revenge films out there.
Excision (2012) dir. Richard Bates Jr. - Based off of a prior short of the same name, Pauline (Anna-Lynne McCord) is a socially awkward high schooler and the black sheep of the family. She fantasizes about losing her virginity, blood, and becoming a surgeon. Pauline is set to achieve her goals as she finds comfort in her own grotesque fantasies. Slathered in blood, Excision is packed with jaw-dropping scenes of comedic degeneracy.
Darling (2015) dir. Mickey Keating - Darling (Lauren Ashley Carter) takes a position as a caretaker of an old-timey New York home. As time passes, something otherworldly takes over and descends Darling into a realm of madness and uncertainty. Shot in black and white with six chapters, it is easy to watch the insanity ensue.
Raw (2016) dir. Julia Ducournau - Justine (Garance Marillier) is a newcomer veterinarian student. As do many universities, a hazing ritual takes place. Justine is vegetarian, but she is forced to indulge in meat. This unleashes an inner monster in Justine as she begins to crave meat. Not only meat, but flesh, and flesh of the peers around her. Secrets unravel and Justine’s life is turned upside down by this new revelation.
The Innocents (1961) dir. Jack Clayton - Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) is a young woman who takes up as governess for two children in a creepy looking old house. She believes it to be haunted. However, she’s not sure if it the house or the children that are haunted, or if she is just going crazy. Equipped with one unnerving hide and seek scene and an uncomfortable kiss scene, The Innocents makes for a movie that continues to affirm that children in horror movies are a bone-chilling factor.
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) dir. Robert Aldrich - A movie widely known and still hailed today. Blanche Hudson (Joan Crawford) and Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) are sisters who both had a career in the entertainment business. Jane is harboring on the childhood memories of success and it’s making her increasingly mad as the years pass. Jane should be taking care of the wheelchair-bound Blanche, however; she is physically and mentally torturing her because she had a more successful career growing up than she did. Family secrets, jealousy, and mental illness run deep in this iconic horror with two amazing actresses leading the way.
Teeth (2007) dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein - Vagina Dentata is a word that, after seeing this movie, there is no way you will forget it. Dawn (Jess Weixler) is a chaste high schooler. She meets a boy at school, Tobey, and they go off to have a fun evening. When Tobey tries to rape Dawn, to put it bluntly, Dawn’s vagina bites off Tobey’s penis. After doing some research, Dawn finds out that she has ‘vagina dentata’, a circumstance where her lady bits grow teeth when she is feeling threatened. In this case, and in many unfortunate cases, the teeth end up biting off whatever is threatening the area. A comedic gem that does not get the talk it deserves today.
Now, this is not to say that these are the only female-led horror films that should be checked out. Some other films on my list include: Possession, Rosemary’s Baby, Audition, Lovely Molly, The Bad Seed, May, Tale of Two Sisters, and The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. There was another film on my list that I wrote down and afterwards thought how this director needed to be mentioned solo. That director is Mike Flanagan. Mike Flanagan has created female-led horror films, one after another, and he should be recognized for this. The first movie I saw from him was Absentia, followed by other films in his filmography. Most recently he created Gerald’s Game. The movie that has *that* scene. These are not the only ones in the filmography that have women taking over, and I can only hope that he continues working with female leads. He seems to do a great job with his work.
Females are an important addition to the horror genre. Hereditary is in itself, something terrifying to watch. Having just seen it, there are scenes that lurk with you for the rest of the day and even spilling over into the next. Toni Collette brings the heat. She is a showstopper, fully taking over her character, leaving you with chills up your spine.
Hereditary is in theaters now.