BLOODY WOMEN: The 10 Best Horror Movies Directed by Women{0}

2014 was a banner year for female-driven horror, and arguably the first time in history when the year’s best horror film was directed by a woman. Witness, too, the growing cult of Soska, the complete takeover of Twitter and Facebook by Truth or Dare director Jessica Cameron, and the controversy surrounding Axelle Carolyn’s beguiling Soulmate.

What better time, then, for a look at some of the best horror films directed by women, both new and old. Spoiler: Twilight isn’t on the list.


Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991, dir. Rachel Talalay)

It might seem a little odd to kick off any list of 10 ‘best’ films with one of the genre’s most notorious misfires, but bear with me. For all its faults, Freddy’s Dead is one of the series’ most visually inventive sequels, with a number of great nightmare sequences and amusing cameos from the likes of Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp. Viewed as the horror comedy it is, it’s a lot of fun, giving the always game Robert Englund carte blanche to chew the scenery like a ravenous man at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Imperfect it may be, but Freddy’s Dead is the most memorable Nightmare on Elm Street sequel ever made (yes, even more than the one with Jason Voorhees) and infinitely preferable to the dull, dour and drab remake.


Honeymoon (2014, Leigh Janiak)

This year’s Frightfest was a good outing for horror’s female talent, with Leigh Janiak’s Honeymoon emerging with a good share of critical acclaim for its trouble. Game of Thrones star Rose Leslie plays one half of the titular honeymooners (next to fellow talented Brit, Penny Dreadful‘s Harry Treadaway) – a lovely young couple who experience supernatural goings on at the proverbial cabin in the woods. A great pair of central performances, a smart script (co-written by Janiak herself) and a delightfully folksy tone make this one of the year’s best indie horror features and mark Janiak out as a major talent to watch in future.

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Chained (2012, Jennifer Lynch)

Jennifer (daughter of David) Lynch followed up her impressive debut, Boxing Helena, with this incredibly dark but incredibly smart little thriller. Vincent D’Onofrio plays cab driver Bob, who also moonlights as a serial killer in his spare time. Kidnapping young Rabbit, Bob keeps the lad as his butler slash protégé, giving Lynch plenty of room to spin a gritty, frequently nasty tale of survival and twisted fatherhood.

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American Mary (2012, Jen and Sylvia Soska)

Since their no-budget Dead Hooker in a Trunk, the sisters Soska have made quite the name for themselves as horror’s next big thing. Popping up in the likes of The ABCs of Death 2 and having directed WWE’s See No Evil 2 (admittedly, not their finest moment) the Soskas’ greatest achievement so far is their body horror inspired American Mary, starring the terrific Katharine Isabelle. A witty, tricksy little horror film, it marked the Soskas as a pair to watch and left us with a delightful change from the usual. Now, if only we can get them to stop wasting their time with WWE and Jacob Goodnight, they might just produce the modern classic we all know they’re capable of.

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Slumber Party Massacre (1982, Amy Holden Jones)

An ’80s cult classic cut straight from the slasher subgenre in its prime, Amy Holden Jones’ parody-played-straight is one of the most interesting horror films of its time. The story will be sound familiar to horror fans, whether they’ve seen the film or not. But that would be the point: it’s Jones’ playful flirting with cliché and convention that makes Slumber Party Massacre such a joy to behold. Parodying the slasher movie long before Wes Craven’s Scream, it would be remiss of us to discount the film’s importance. Crucially, it’s also a lot of fun.


Pet Sematary (1989, Mary Lambert)

One of Stephen King’s more troubling novels becomes one of his best films in this adaptation by Mary Lambert. For the uninitiated, the story sees a grieving father bury his son in a run-down ‘pet sematary’ (spelled wrong, making it doubly horrifying if you’re a fan of the English language) rumoured to be able to bring the dead back to life. Sure enough, the cemetery does its job, unleashing one of the most sinister horror movie children we’ve ever seen upon the world. Where most adaptations struggle with King’s work, Pet Sematary has a great handle on its tone and story. Most traumatic of all is its treatment of poor Fred Gwynne (cuddly Herman Munster), savagely murdered by the demonic Gage Creed.


Near Dark (1987, Kathryn Bigelow)

Kathryn Bigelow, the only female director with a Best Director Oscar (for Zero Dark Thirty, arguably the most horrific film on this list), will always be known to horror fans as the director of Near Dark, one of the greatest vampire movies ever made. The film pits young Caleb Colton against a family of vicious vampires, led by Lance Henriksen and the always wonderful Bill Paxton. Blending horror and western genres (with more than a hint of humour) it’s a great antidote to the camp and pretentiousness which can tend to proliferate the vampire subgenre – and not only in the ’80s.

Ravenous (1999)

Ravenous (1999, Antonia Bird)

Antonia Bird only directed a handful of movies before her sad, untimely passing last year – what she left us with, however, was one of the greatest horror comedies ever made. Set in California in the 1840s, Ravenous pits the cowardly Captain John Boyd (Guy Pearce) against the insane cannibalistic Colonel Ives (a wonderful Robert Carlyle). Ably assisted by David Arquette, Neal McDonough and a soundtrack by Blur‘s Damon Albarn, Bird overcame the production’s notorious  problems (she was brought on by Carlyle after the original director’s departure) to create something truly memorable and original.


American Psycho (2000, Mary Harron)

Bret Easton Ellis’s ‘unfilmable’ novel got the adaptation it deserved with this classy take on crazy, sleazy murderous Patrick Bateman. With Christian Bale taking the lead as Bateman, it propelled the former child actor into a big time which would ultimately see him dressing up like a giant Bat and punching criminals in the face. Harron tackled American Psycho with aplomb, creating a black comedy which is as disturbing as it is hilarious. The resulting movie might just be the best possible outcome for any potential adaptation of the book. So much for unfilmable.


The Babadook (2014, Jennifer Kent)

A very recent release to be so high on this list, but The Babadook really is something special. A horror film which truly divided audiences at Frightfest – some found it terrifying, while others were underwhelmed – it tells the story of a widowed mother and her child, trying desperately to hold it all together in the face of… well, to say more would be to spoil one of the most fraught horror cinema experiences this year has to offer. Not for nothing did The Exorcist director William Friedkin, no slouch when it comes to horror, call it “the scariest film I’ve ever seen.”

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Joel Harley