7 Women in Horror Directors To Watch For
We have sure come a long way. In just 10 short years we have gone from very few women directing horror films to a veritable smorgasbord of quality directors to choose from. The Guardian published an article in 2007 titled “Everything but the ghoul” that detailed the severe shortage of women directing this underappreciated genre. Thank God this is no longer true. Here is a look at a the top women getting it done in horror films today. This list is in no particular order and is not even close to being comprehensive. These are all great directors and their movies are all worth a look.
1. Julia DucournauThe genius mind behind the 2017 sleeper hit Raw. We loved this film. The film details the slow descent into cannibalism as told by our vegetarian protagonist Justine. The directing exquisitely brings out the subtle naivete of Justine. The imagery and subject matter is disturbing but the movie ultimately succeeds because of the excellent writing. It’s no surprise that the screenplay was also written by the director. This is a very intense movie not for the faint of heart. It is a relentless anxiety fest that is heavily character driven. Her choice of camera lens particularly is a bold choice and enhances the films crude story. Some love and some hate this movie but it’s that very polarizing response that makes this director someone to watch. No one will ever say it was just OK. She has also directed Mange, a made for TV movie in 2012 and Junior, a short in 2011. As far a future projects she is actively writing a screenplay and details are scant for now but I expect to have my boundaries pushed once again.
2. Karyn KusamaThis director is the force behind such gems as The Invitation and the feminist tale of reclaimed sexual power Jennifer’s Body. She also directed a short in the recent Women in Horror Shorts compilation XX. We here at Signal Horizon loved that movie and our review can be found here. Her movies are all powerful gender reversals that feature tough women claiming their power. Her next film Destroyer starring the always brilliant Nichole Kidman as a detective struggling with tragic events from her past looks promising. It’s nice to have her featuring such strong female characters.
3. Ana Lily Amirpour– Perhaps the most inventive director out there right now. Her movies are the perfect love children of David Lynch and Clint Eastwood. Yeah, yeah I know that’s impossible but boy do her movies rock in the weirdest way. If you haven’t seen the black and white Farsi filmed vampire western A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night go immediately. It sounds as bizarre as it is but it’s so well shot and the story is so compelling you forget what the “real” world really looks like. Her follow up film The Bad Batch has an amazing cast(Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey and Suki Waterhouse) and has received critical acclaim despite being billed as a cannibalistic western. Take minute and let that sink in….a cannibalistic western is getting critical acclaim. It’s well deserved and I can’t wait for her next project being written as we speak. Here’s hoping for a Videodrome western.
4. Axelle Carolyn– As a writer turned director and actor it’s easy to see why her directing is both insightful and unique. Her beautifully shot atmospheric ghost story Soulmate is an emotional gutbuster. The full gambit of emotions is on display. This is another very deep movie detailing the role of grief and love in horror. The horror shorts anthology Tales of Halloween in 2015 was a heck of a ride that reflected a less deep but equally amusing take on the genre. She continues to write for Fangoria and we look forward to her next turn behind the camera.
5. Leigh Janiak– Her debut full length movie Honeymoon in 2014 was an all together surprisingly simple but effective horror film. The film is a slow burn of tension that relies heavily on the actors performances and shot selection. This is not a slasher film or an arthouse indie film with atmospheric music and lots of blood, but a tremendously well planned and executed anxiety inducing mind-f.ck. The lead roles of Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway are tremendous. For lovers of psychological thrillers this film delivers. Her next projects include three potential films in the Fear Street universe of R. L. Stein. My kids loved R. L. Stein so I am optimistic this thoughtful director will do the vast material justice.
6. Soska Twins– These twin sisters, Jen and Sylvia Soska, pack a powerful dual punch. Their film production company Twisted Twins Productions has quietly be pumping out some heavy hitting horror movies. Starting with their film school project Dead Hooker in a Trunk. This Grindhousesque film set the stage for these directors vision of body gore and torture porn. Their very gorific masterpiece American Mary is truly where these two shine. This movie deftly couches the rape culture we live in within a straight out and out seeming snuff film. With as much torture and body horror on display you would think the story would suffer, but it is that very story that keeps the movie from devolving into just another torture porn film. Their current project, a graphic novel, Kill-Crazy Nymphos Attack! with Daniel Way looks like a brilliant satire on our patriarchal society.
7. Jennifer Kent– Her 2014 film, Babadook is a horror fans must see. A brilliant film as much about grief as it is abut horror is as painful and disturbing as it is beautiful. Babadook solidified her position as the director of thoughtful thrillers. If you didn’t catch Horror Podclass this week check it out here. It details the very insightful role grief and horror can play together. The twist on motherhood and social commentary on mental illness is spot on and very relevant. Her next film in preproduction now is The Nightingale starring Sam Claflin. It looks to be a gorgeous period piece with an excellent cast.
These directors are truly breaking new ground and representing women in the most positive way. It’s about time women took center stage. Did we miss one? Let us know by leaving a comment here or on Facebook or Twitter.
As the Television Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.