Feminist Horror

6 Movies to Watch If You're Sick of Mainstream Torture Porn

(Scream 1996)

It seems as though all horror movies today are either tired remakes of classic favourites or unnecessary origin stories of the torturous men whose infamy defined said classics. These movies rely heavily on overly sexualized and objectified women (see: Jessica Biel in Texas Chainsaw Massacre), who will face almost inevitable sexual assault to some degree, and over the top gore which adds nothing to the plot (see: Evil Dead remake). 

As a lover of all things horror, as well as all things feminist, I have curated a list of movies I believe fits in such a Venn diagram.

1. 'It Follows' (2014)

It Follows via IMDB

It is no surprise that It Follows tops the list of feminist horror movies not to miss. This film follows Jay, a young woman, who, after sleeping with her new boyfriend, Hugh, for the first time, finds herself with something way more insidious than an STI. Though the curse is passed similarly to an STI, its purpose is to kill its host unless they too can pass it on to another. 

This film deals with intimacy and the fears that accompany it, as well as themes of unrelenting friendship and support. Something that this movie is delightfully devoid of is the sense that Jay is being slut-shamed for having had sex and in turn contracting a fatal curse. Jay's friends remain supportive and at no point do the female characters try to tear each other down. In fact, this movie passes the Bechdel test on various occasions.

If you're looking for a movie that is equally horrifying and feminist friendly, this one is for you. 

2. 'The Love Witch' (2016)

The Love Witch via IMDB

Oh, love! If you've ever watched an episode of Dateline, you know that love can be deadly. There is no exception when it comes to Elaine, a beautiful young witch, who uses her powerful magic to make men love her. As she becomes more desperate and powerful, she leaves in her wake a string of unwitting victims. 

Filmed in technicolor and written and directed by Anna Biller, The Love Witch attacks the dangerous side of love and obsession, showing how easily Elaine is able to fall for, and in turn seduce, her victims. This film uses classic horror tropes from the 60s, like the doe-eyed female lead and dreamily lit scenes to emulate movies like The Birds or Rosemary's Baby. In contrast to its classic tropes, this movie explores traditional gender roles in a modern light, never once shying away when the blood turns from that of a murder victim to that of menstruation. 

Thank you, female directors, for your unwavering honesty in female portrayal. 

3. 'The Eyes of My Mother' (2016)

The Eyes of My Mother via IMDB

The Eyes of My Mother is shot entirely in black and white, allowing for some amazingly lit shots and understated character development of a young girl experiencing loss and loneliness. 

As a trained surgeon, Francisca's mother taught her at a young age how to remove the organs from their various farm animals. After losing her mother in a horrific accident to which she bore witness, Francisca and her withdrawn father live alone on their sprawling farmland. 

Not to give too much away, but as she gets older, Francisca begins to express dark curiosities that she may have buried for the younger half of her life. As she grows from a quiet teenager into a resigned young woman, Francisca begins to connect with the world outside her idyllic farm and it doesn't go so well. 

4. 'Scream' (1996)

Scream via IMDB

Scream. Everything about this movie was meant to flip the genre on its head. Subversion of movie tropes is my weak spot; I live for it. Scream was one of the first horror movies I ever watched growing up that did this. 

Sidney Prescott is being stalked a year after the death of her mother by a masked villain named Ghostface, who has already taken the lives of several of her school peers. Scream was one of my first introductions to the strong female lead, able to overcome some of my worst nightmares. 

The female characters are written as competent, brave and ready to stand up for what they believe in. It is Sidney Prescott and TV anchor Gale Weathers who have the last laugh. In contrast, the male characters are naïve, susceptible to peer pressure (looking at you Billy and Stu), and kind of idiots. Their best detective for the case was Dewey? DEWEY?

5. 'Hush' (2016)

Hush via IMDB

Hush is a movie that follows Maddie, a deaf-mute author who lives alone while trying to finish her latest novel. Dramatic irony allows the audience to see her friend and neighbour banging on Maddie's kitchen window while a masked assailant stabs her to death, yet our protagonist hears and sees nothing. As this too becomes apparent to the masked man, he decides to make her his newest target. 

Maddie is resilient in her fight, using everything in her power to try and keep the man out of her house. She is also free from sexualization. One thing I noticed and loved about this movie is the fact that Maddie's deafness is more than simply a plot device. It is inherently part of her character and shapes the way she maneuvers through the story. 

Also, Kate Siegel co-wrote the movie with her husband and stars in it as Maddie, too. 

6. 'The Babadook' (2014)

The Babadook via IMDB

The Babadook is another female written and directed horror movie that follows a widowed mother, Amelia, and son, Sam, who claims a monster lives within his children's book. 

The relationship between mother and son is explored alongside the residual feelings of grief and hardship they face beyond the death of Amelia's husband, who died driving Amelia to the hospital during her labour with Sam. As the young boy's behaviour becomes erratic and somewhat scary, his mother must determine whether the cause is cerebral or supernatural. 

The reciprocated love between a mother and her child is the defining theme of this movie, leaving the audience at once heart-warmed and fearful.

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Feminist Horror