All Soul's Day

Written by Cat Wilson of catthewilson.com

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We have had fun reviewing horror films for Halloween, but it’s important to remember that often women have been singled out as the “other” or witches if they did not conform to society. So as a palette cleanser we recommend the Spanish Language film Bless me, Ultima. This is a beautiful and quite film about a woman who goes against a tradition role. Women that live alone, childless, or authorities are revered and much as they are reviled.

Happy Halloween Ladies of Horror

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Written by Cat Wilson of catthewilson.com
We made it! Today we were going to review the new Suspiria, but unfortunately it isn’t playing in our city so maybe next year.

Here is Ladies of Horror by the numbers: 30 movies with women in lead roles, 9 were written or co-written by women (the original Halloween was co-written with a woman), 6 were directed by women, 7 featured women of color (counting the foreign language films), 1.5 featured queer women.

Recommended Further Reading and Research:

Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film Carol J. Clover’s book that coined the term “Final Girl”

Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection Barbara Creed’s Essay on the Monstrous-Feminine

The Fear of Femaleness: How “Frankenstein” Acts as a Feminist Platform

Anita Sarkeesian on Evil Seductress —->

20 Years of ‘The Craft’: Why We Needed More of Rochelle It would be amazing to a remake of The Craft with women of color although it would need to be handled carefully.

Something Is Wrong in This House: How Bluebeard Became the Definitive Fairy Tale of Our Era On Women and the Gothic Horror

Scary Sisters: A Brief History of Black Women in Horror

Black Final Girls & Other Musings From the Graveyard Shift Sisters a blog dedicated to Black women in horror.

Honorable Mentions and Other Films:

Hush a slasher featuring a deaf mute women, it’s important to see differently abled people on screen, however we are troubled by the number of films that show women being tortured.

American Psycho because it was directed by Mary Harron.

Pet Sematary because it was directed by Mary Lambert.

Near Dark because it was written and directed by the amazing Kathryn Bigelow.

We have one more post tomorrow for All Soul’s Day.

Movie Posters Honorable Mentions:

Ladies of Horror: Gothika and Gaslight

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Written by Cat Wilson of catwilson.com
Today’s pick is the supernatural psychological horror Gothika. Critics lumped a lot of hate on this movie… saying it wasn’t scary, it didn’t make sense, etc. We ladies think they are wrong, there is a lot going on in this film. Halle Berry’s character Miranda is a psychiatrist at a woman's penitentiary. One a stormy night she serves her car to avoid a injured girl on the road. Trying to help the girl Miranda blacks out and wakes up in the other side of the bars having apparently killed her husband.


Spoiler Warning


It turns out that the girl was a ghost that possessed Miranda to act out her revenge on Miranda’s husband who is a serial rapist and murderer. It isn’t until Miranda finds irrefutable physical proof that she is believed, by even the men that care about her. What interested us at Lady was the parallels between this story, the Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas hearings and women historically being disbelieved when reporting rape.
There are two phrases repeated in the film. “Not Alone” which at first Miranda thinks it means she is not alone but learns to her horror that it means the rapist didn’t act alone. One could say there are many perpetrators and actors in rape culture.
The second is first said by Penelope Cruz’s character Chloe “How can you trust someone when they think you are crazy.” How can we? If men think women are crazy, not rational creatures how can we trust them. As Jenna Sauers, of Jezebel says

“Reflexively calling women “crazy” is a habit young men need to learn to break. As a term, “crazy” is entirely of a piece with the long and nasty tradition of pathologizing female emotion (and particularly sexuality). 

For women of color this has been doubly true. As Judith Worell and Pamela Remer say in Feminist Perspectives in Therapy

"African American women were sexually exploited during slavery" and because of stereotypes originating from slavery such as the Jezebel, black women "are not viewed as credible complainants, and are stereotyped (e.g., as promiscuous) in ways that blame them for their rapes."

When slavery ended these evil stereotypes lived on justifying the rape of African American Women.

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There is a term for manipulating a victims reality so that the doubt themselves, Gaslighting. We would argue that gaslighting is the one of the most terrifying forms of metal and emotional abuse. A true horror story for women. In the two films called Gaslight a trusted husband purposefully attempts to drive is wife insane by moving and hiding objects in order to undermine her reality. A man hurls crazy at a woman like a weapon devaluing everything she is in one swift stroke, which brings us back to Gothika. Gaslighting works when the woman or society trusts the abuser, so how can we “Trust someone when they think you are crazy.”


Ladies of Horror: Breaking In and Women of Color in Horror

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Written by Cat Wilson of catthewilson.com
Today’s pick is actually going to be a longer post about women of color in horror movies. We looked hard for movies with women of color in lead roles that where in empowering. Unfortunately, there was very little to choose from. Breaking In had a great premise, a black mother protecting her kids but the plot and dialog was clumsy. Even though Gabrielle Union gave a fantastic performance it was frustrating that the rest of the movie didn’t match her. But why are there so few movies horror and otherwise with women of color? Where is the Get Out for black women?
Unfortunately, when looking back for strong women of color characters in past films, they are often in the role of the “other": such as Lisa Bonet as the Voodoo Succubus/Victim in Angel Heart or Aaliyah in Queen of the Damned.

While films have been slowly more inclusive starting with Rachel True in The Craft, Naomie Harris’ fantastic role in 28 Days Later (a movie that also passes the Bechdel Test. Just saying.), recently Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez in Annihilation and Li Bingbing in The Meg. Often women of color are co-stars to a white actors.

When there is a black woman lead film it tends to be torn apart by critics. Just look at Rotten Tomatoes: Breaking In 20%, Alexa Woods in Alien vs. Predator 20%, and Gothika 14%. There is an notable exception of Sennia Nanua playing Melanie in The Girl with All the Gifts, however she is a girl and not a woman.

We had a theory and to test it we watched Gothika, which will be our review for tomorrow. Because spoiler alert, it’s not a bad movie. It’s not Get Out but it’s on par with What Lies Beneath which has a 46% Rotten Tomato rating. Even Roger Ebert gave Gothika 3 out of 4 stars and amazon.com rates it as 4.3 out of 5. So why all the hate on Rotten Tomatoes… because the majority of the reviewers are either white or male. BlackHorrorMovies.com gave this film a 2.7 out of 5 but although the reviewer isn’t named they opened their review with “Halle Berry is hot. And at one point in my life, that would’ve been enough. (I actually bought Swordfish for about 20 seconds’ worth of boob.)” So yeah there might be some male bias here.

To close, we are on the hunt for a fantastic art house film that have black women in the lead and received accolades at Sundance… Does anyone know where we can watch Hair Wolf??


Ladies of Horror: Annihilation

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Written by Cat Wilson of catthewilson.com
Today’s pick is the lovecraftian science fiction horror, Annihilation. What’s fantastic about this movie is it has five female leads but it doesn’t make a big deal about it. (Looking at you The Decent.) Usually movies with this many women becomes sort of a Steel Magnolias, a story about the experience of being a woman, but this story is not gendered like that. The women in it are all professionals chosen because they were the right person for the job. It is important to see stories of women simply being human. This normalizes women taking a more equal role in media and hopefully society. Although, the film is not perfect there was a bit of white washing when it came to the lead role that in the book was a person of color. More on this in our next post.

Ladies of Horror: Prevenge

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Written by Cat Wilson of catthewilson.com
Today’s pick is the horror comedy slasher, Prevenge. This film was written, directed and starred by Alice Lowe all while she was actually pregnant. In most women lead revenge films such as Kill Bill or the 2017 aptly named film Revenge, the women are usually first raped and beaten and left for dead, while men lead films Taken or John Wick the violence they experience is more vicarious, because it happens to “their” women, family or dog. Not so with Prevenge, which has as it’s premise that the main character Ruth is being goaded to murder by her unborn child. Ruth character emulates a mythical fury dealing out bloody justice to those who have wronged her. When asked if this film was feminist, Alice Lowe replied

Really if this film has any agenda, it would be to say, "You might think you can't identify with this person because they're a different age to you, or a different race, or a different gender, or a different situation because they're pregnant, but actually by the end of it, why can't you identify with this person?"

Ladies of Horror: The Love Witch

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Written by Cat Wilson of catthewilson.com
Today’s pick is the feminist think piece wrapped in a horror film dressed as a 60’s sexploitation film, The Love Witch. This film was written, directed, produced, edited by Anna Biller. She also designed the costumes, music and paintings in the film. There is almost nothing in this film she did not touch and it took seven years to make. It shows, this film is a cult masterpiece in the making. The main character Elaine is on a quest for a man to love, but just not any man she wants the hegemonic ideal, a handsome man, that is strong and unemotional. While this film might barely pass the Bechdel and focus on relationships between heterosexual fantasy on the surface, underneath Elaine’s declarations and attempts at domesticity there is rage and vengeance for the role she is forced to play. But don’t take our word for it, seriously see this movie for yourself.

Ladies of Horror: The Girl with All the Gifts

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Written by Cat Wilson of catthewilson.com
Today’s pick is the post-apocalyptic zombie horror drama, The Girl with All the Gifts. The girl in question, named Melanie, is held prisoner with other children at a military base during a zombie outbreak. All of the children are second generation zombies that can think and learn although they have an irresistible craving for human flesh. They are taught in a classroom by Helen Justineau, who is the one person that empathizes with the children. At the same time Dr. Caroline Caldwell is experimenting on the children in hopes of finding a cure and save human kind.

Women are the major players in this story. Also, it is the first in our list featuring a black girl or woman, but more on that in a later post. It is an unusual zombie film, thought provoking and tragic.

Ladies of Horror: Under the Shadow

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Written by Cat Wilson, catthewilson.com
Today’s pick is the Farsi-Language war time horror film, Under the Shadow. Shideh was a medical student who is forced to abandon her dreams of becoming a doctor because her past political activism and also because she is a woman. It is the late 1980’s, Shideh’s husband Iraj is drafted to the front lines of Iran-Iraq War leaving her to care for their daughter Dorsa in Tehran. One night during a bombing, a missile lands without exploding on the floor above their apartment. Dorsa believes that a djinn (western audience might recognize this as a genie, a supernatural spirit) beings haunting them. This is a film about systematic oppression. Cultural oppression that prevents Shideh from being a doctor or leaving her house without her chador and the oppression of war. Something especially creative with this film the djinn often takes the shape of a chandor, which the women of Tehran were forced to wear under Sharia Law. It is literally a specter of oppression.

Ladies of Horror: 10 Cloverfield Lane

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Today’s pick is the psychological horror, 10 Cloverfield Lane. This movie is proof that a film can have a strong feminist character and without passing the Bechdel Test. Our heroine Michelle, wakes up in an underground bunker, after a car crash. She is locked with two men who both insist that an event has left the surface of Earth uninhabitable. At her first chance she fights her way to the exist only to see for herself that they are telling the truth. What is extraordinary about this film is Michelle is not portrayed as a sexual object. The possibility sexual abuse is acknowledged and swiftly ruled out of the movie. Michelle, like Ripely of Alien, is a fully formed character with strength, intelligence and her own motivations. That is not so say that there is not a dark aspect of patriarchy at work in the film.

SPOILER WARNING

We also love how Michelle uses a typically feminine skill, her knowledge of fashion design, to macgyver a bio-hazard suit and save her life.

Ladies of Horror: The Descent

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Written by Cat Wilson, of catthewilson.com
Today’s pick and part dishonorable mention is The Descent. Okay. This movie passes the Bechdel test in the first few minutes. It is a film about an all female group of cavers. There are feminist blogs that love this film, so we felt it was important to include it. However, we had a few problem with the plot.

SPOILER WARNING:

Just because the film has an all woman casts doesn’t mean it’s feminist or a good movie. The leader Juno is supposed to be a experienced caver, but she purposely takes them to an unexplored cave without the others knowledge or consent. One of the women falls in a hole for no good reason. When the monsters attack all of the women panic and one of them dies because she gets in the way of Juno’s pick axe. Juno leaves her to die. Everyone is picked off but the main character Sarah and Juno, who turn on each other because of a love affair. And then Sarah leaves Juno to die and makes it to the surface. Or does she? In the director cut where Sarah dies too. Okay feminist blogs, yes they do fight for their lives. And yes Juno is a kick ass bitch when she isn’t pick axing her own friends. And yes no male hero sweeps into save them… because they all die. So one reading of this movie could be “don’t let women be cavers because make dumb decisions, freak out in an emergency and will turn on each other”. You know “bitches be tripping” underground. So yeah. It’s kind of feminist but seriously we need more women to the front movies so we can leave this one in the dust. Ugh and look at that poster… when have men’s bodies been shaped into things? Okay rant over.

Ladies of Horror: Crimson Peak

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Written by Cat Wilson, catthewilson.com
Today’s pick is the gothic horror romance Crimson Peak. The main reason this movie is included, even though it barely passes the Becheld Test, is of the long herstory of women and gothic fiction from writers like Clara Reeve, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, Charlotte Brontë and even Jane Austin. As a homage, these writers the lead character in Crimson Peak, Edith, is determined to be a writer despite being patronized for her gender. Thomas, a handsome and mysterious man seduces her, using a line that is straight up paraphrased from Jane Eyre. Crimson Peak, is a story of betrayal with ghosts as a side plot. We would recommend this film to the more romantically inclined horror fans.

Crimson Peak has been criticized for not being feminist enough because of the love story in the plot. However we believe that feminism is about choice. We fight so we can choose to vote, marry or not marry, have sex or not have sex, have children or not have children. A stay at home mom with three kids is no less a feminist than a career gal be she bi-sexual, asexual, polyamorous or everything in between. The important thing is that we respect each other choices. So the act of a woman becoming romantically involved does not make her less a feminist. The problems occurs when media constantly shows only one perspective. We need more movies with women of all types and a film version of Frankenstein that get the feminist themes from the novel right, please.

SPOILER WARNING

Edith also goes after what she wants with her marriage and chooses the loss of her virginity. Her one sex scene is consensual and as a change features male nudity but not female. To quote Tom Hiddleston “We wanted to sort of redress the balance, and it's really important that Edith was calling the shots. She's the strongest character. She's a strong woman, and she's going to dictate how that goes down”. In the end Edith’s husband actions do not drive the plot. The climax is a battle between two women, Edith and her sinister sister in law Lucille. This is not a slappy catfight but a battle to the death. Finally it is Edith who saves herself.

Ladies of Horror: It Follows

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Written by Cat Wilson of catthewilson.com
Today’s pick is the supernatural horror film, It Follows. College Student, Jay, has sex with her new boyfriend, but she contracts from him a curse in the form of a shapeshifter creature that will follow her until it kills her or she passes the curse onto someone else. What makes this a feminist horror film is how the sexuality is handled. In many horror films there is a lot of virgin worship and moralizing around sex. In this film, sex is how this curse started, but it is also a way to end it. Also, when Jay tells her friends and sister about her STD like monster, they do not slut shame Jay or see this curse as a her fault. They are horrified at how she was coerced into this situation and stick by her, even when they see how dangerous this creature can be.

Trigger warning: Even though Jay’s sexual encounters are consensual, another character is raped.

Ladies of Horror: The Lure

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Written by Cat Wilson, of catthewilson.com

Today’s pick is the Polish horror pop musical, The Lure. Rotten tomatoes sums up the film as “ Agnieszka Smoczynska directed this off-beat horror comedy about two mermaid sisters who fall for the same man on dry land.” This is bullshit summary. Let’s dive below the surface; in this film a mermaid is lured on land by a handsome blue-eye blond boy playing love songs by the water. She (Silver) and her sister (Golden) move on land join a glittery Polish dancing club as part a band. Trouble finds them when Silver alone, falls in love with the blond boy even though he is repulsed by her fish half. To secure his love and with his help she surgically trades her tail for legs and loses her voice. Sirens are the classic example of the “monstrous-feminine”; female creatures that uses their sexuality to entice men to their deaths. However, The Lure is not a cautionary tale for men, but for women. How many women have destroyed themselves for the promise of male love? I won’t spoil the end of this, but as a retelling of the classic Hans' Christian Anderson “Little Mermaid” so you probably know where this is going. Trigger Warning: For grey area sexual consent and gore.

Ladies of Horror: The Babadook

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Written by Cat Wilson, catthewilson.com
Today’s pick is the supernatural and psychological horror, The Babadook. Written and directed by Jennifer Kent, this is a film that shows how terrifying grief and being a single mother can be. The main character Amelia, played by the fantastic Essie Davis, is a complex feminine character, she is a mother but she is also a woman with her own needs for sex and companionship. Her son, Sam who she loves, is the cause of so much pain and frustration. There is a point in the movie that he is yelling for her attention in the back seat of a car that is visceral, in it’s depiction of the dark side of motherhood. At the climax her son saves her but he is not the hero. There is no hero. They save each other and the monster is not destroyed but tamed.

Ladies of Horror: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

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Written by Cat Wilson, catthewilson.com
Today’s pick is the Iranian vampire Western, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, this is a beautiful black and white film with a heavy dose of style. The title neatly sums up the themes of flipped gender tropes and speaks directly to women. The girl in question says little during the film but her actions are to stalk and feed on abusive men. This film reminds us a little of the campy Innocent Blood, where a female vampire kills mobsters, however the comparisons end there. The male lead in the movie is portrayed as sweet but clueless. There is a hint of romance, however this love story shows the realism of two people who have just met.

Ladies of Horror: Housebound

Written by Cat Wilson, catthewilson.com
Today’s pick is the brilliant horror comedy, Housebound. Kylie, the main character is a petty thief who gets caught trying to help her accomplice. She is put under house arrest with her parents much to her disgust. Her mother, Miriam believe their house is haunted and soon Kylie notices unusually things happening. Kylie is a great character because she’s not instantly likable. Kind of like a reverse manic pixie dream girl, she has a permanent resting bitch face and she is not clumsy. Trigger Warning: Violence with sharp tools.

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Ladies of Horror: The Taking of Deborah Logan

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Written by Cat Wilson, catthewilson.com
Today’s pick is found footage film The Taking of Deborah Logan. This film uses Alzihmer’s, an already scary subject, as vehicle for terror and possession. The three major characters are Mia on the documentary film crew, Deborah and Sarah, Deborah’s daughter. As the film progresses you learn about the Deborah’s brave even heroic past all while she loses herself to an evil spirit. Sarah is a lesbian who loves and tries to protect her mother. Finally, some queer representation and Sarah is not some male fantasy either. (I’m looking at you, The Hunger) Sarah’s lover is the town Sheriff, so we even have a lady police officer.
Trigger Warning: This film is in the running for our most frightening pick. There are some jump scares and general creepiness.

Ladies of Horror: The Conjuring

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Written by Cat Wilson, of catthewilson.com Today’s pick is the haunted house film, The Conjuring. This movie follows the basic modern ghost story model. A young family sinks their nest egg into a beautiful old house that turns out to be haunted, much like The Amityville Horror, except The Conjuring is so much better. This is a story about women; Loraine Warren and her daughter, then there is Carolyn and her five daughters who move into a house with a malevolent spirt which also was a woman. Men are present, the husbands and ghost investigators, but in this story the women portrayed as competent equals and ultimately it is the women that overcome evil through love and empathy.

Trigger Warning: If you don’t like seeing kids in danger or a dead dog don’t watch.

Ladies of Horror: You're Next

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Written by Cat Wilson of catthewilson.com

In many slashers the Final Girl survives because she is lucky, virginal or simply the main character. Not so with You’re Next. This movie is about the mistaken assumption that heroine, Erin, will be helpless when she is anything but. Raised on an Australian survivalists compound, Erin is brave, competent, resourceful while at the same time being compassionate and protective. You’re Next is the best of the slashers we recommend while still remaining true to the genre. Trigger warning: Violence, pain, blood, sharp tools, etc.