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


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: Under the Shadow


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


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.


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.


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: The Babadook


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: 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.


Ladies of Horror: The Conjuring


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.

Ladies of Horror: Coraline


Written by Cat Wilson, of catthewilson.com
Today’s pick, Coraline, is a bit out shined by the young adult novel that inspired it. The themes in Coraline are on what is home, appreciating what you have and courage. It passes the Bechdel Test no problem.

However, the individuality and agency of Neil Gaiman’s plucky heroine Coraline was changed in the movie. They added a male friend named Wybie, if they didn’t Coraline would be talking to herself aloud when she made discoveries. However, this takes away not only from Coraline’s bravery in facing her parents disappearance alone, but also turns her into a damsel at the climax. The movie is beautiful and enjoyable, but we recommend the book first.

Ladies of Horror: Jennifer's Body


Written by Cat Wilson of catthewilson.com
Today’s pick is another highly divisive film. Jennifer’s Body written by Diablo Cody and directed by Karyn Kusama. This film can be seen as an example of the harmful seductress trope mentioned by Anita Sarkeesian in her series Feminist Frequency.

The harmful myth this reinforces is that women use their so called “sexual power” as a way to manipulate, trick and control men. […] Some men claim that women hold more power is society based on this this absurd myth. -Anita Sarkeesian

Your humble author believes there is more going on in this film. Jennifer is possessed by a demon against her will; sacrificed by power hungry men and because of them becomes a monster. Jennifer’s best friend, Needy is definitely sexually active (a refreshing change compared to the virgin worship in some slasher films), but Needy does not use sex to manipulate. Jennifer’s Body could be seen as a cautionary tale again weaponized sexuality because of the destroyed friendships and damage it causes. As director Karyn Kusama said:

What we need to be seeing isn't just women in movies... we need to be seeing women who challenge us and disturb us and make us uncomfortable and make us think.

Ladies of Horror: Teeth


Written by Cat Wilson of catthewilson.com

…there is a motif occurring in certain primitive mythologies, as well as in modern surrealist painting and neurotic dream, which is known to folklore as ‘the toothed vagina’ – the vagina that castrates. -Joseph Campbell

Barbara Creed coined the term “monstrous-feminine” as a meme created by the phallocentric patriarchy, in which monsters represent the sexual difference of the feminine and terror of castration. Many horror stories deal with male fears: Frankenstein is associated with womb envy and Alien the fear of male rape and impregnation. It’s important to remember while reading our suggestions that feminism is not a monolith, and many feminists are divided on the merit of horror movies. Although, we find it interesting the films with women receive double the scrutiny of the male dominated film.

With that said, today’s pick is Teeth.

Yes, this film was written and directed by a man although it was co-produced with a woman. There was enormous push back against this film by male movie industry executives and even location scouts some of which describe it as porn. But it is not porn. Teeth critiques the purity culture, male entitlement and consent. Trigger warning there are four scenes of rape, although in a twist our heroine Dawn’s body defends her when she is unable. To be fair the film is not perfect as Dawn is drugged for her “consensual” moment, a mistake the director acknowledges. In Teeth Dawn does not start as a monster but is made one through the abuse of men.

Ladies of Horror: Pan's Labyrinth


Written by Cat Wilson of catthewilson.com

It was extremely difficult to decide which Guillermo del Toro films to include in our list. Both Mimic and The Orphanage are excellent, however for our first pick we choose the dark fairytale Pan’s Labyrinth. This film has not one but three very different depictions of women, Ofelia the young heroine of the film, her beautiful but tragic mother Carmen, and last Mercedes the maid turned fierce guerrilla soldier.

“the availability of strong and enterprising women. Would counterbalance stereotypically passive princesses and offer a new paradigm for female consciousnesses” - Guillermo Del Toro

One of the of the reoccurring themes in del Toro’s films such as Pan’s and the Academy Award winning The Shape of Water is how the supernatural creatures are not as dangerous as a violent male in power. TRIGGER WARNING: There is violence in this film.

Ladies of Horror: The Ring and Ringu


Written by Cat Wilson, catthewilson.com
What makes a horror movie feminist? There is the Bechdel test, which is passed if two named female characters talk about something other than a man… but that is just one diagnostic tool. While many protagonists in slasher films are female there is the argument that by using violence to defeat their tormentors female characters masculinize themselves. Fair point. So today’s pick is Ringu the Japanese horror film and its english remake The Ring. In each movie the lead is a investigative journalist and mother. In the end our heroine's survival depends not upon violence or destruction of the antagonist, through luck and critical thinking she finds a solution.

This film also contains themes on the hidden stories of women. Warning: There are jump scares in The Ring as well as animal violence and suicide.

Ladies of Horror: Ginger Snaps


Written by Cat Wilson, catthewilson.com
If The Craft is like Mean Girls, then Ginger Snaps is like Heathers and Daria had a baby that was bitten by a werewolf. Screen play written by Karen Walton, this is a fantastical coming of age story about two sisters Brigitte and Ginger, with lycanthropy as an allegory for menarche (the first menstrual cycle) and puberty. In Ginger Snaps, however there is no sanitized “blue liquid” there is blood, lots and lots of blood. Trigger warning: If the sight of blood, suicide, dead dogs or body horror upsets you, then this film is not for you. The story dark and tragic but artfully to dodges the “monstrous woman” trope, while dealing with themes of sexism, establishing identity and even the distressing trend of doctors patronizing women and girls. The sisters try to explain to a school nurse something is very wrong but are dismissed because this is the first period they experienced.

Ladies of Horror: The Craft


Written by Cat Wilson of catthewilson.com
Before Mean Girls there was The Craft. A teen girl movie turned cult classic, this film deals with sexism, racism, bullying, beauty politics and abuse of power. It deals in magic while at the same time striving to be respectful of the Wiccan religion. It’s a far from perfect film, there is jealousy over a guy, a love spell and eventually the girls all turn on our heroine. However, the beauty of The Craft is its focus on the female outsiders, a role in film that is usually is reserved for nerdy boys and one lone romanticized female such as Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter, Beverly Marsh in IT or Eleven in Stranger Things (ugh! Why did that show kill off Barb?) In The Craft, we have four girls that embrace their otherness and find that they are not alone.

Bus Driver: You girls watch out for those weirdos.
Nancy: We are the weirdos, mister.

In this era of anger and violence from towards women from the self labeled incels, it important for boys to see that the majority of girls don’t live on pedestals, that girls struggle too.

Ladies of Horror: Alien


Written by Cat Wilson catthewilson.com

Ellen Ripley, the Warrant Officer in Alien, is the best female characters in horror or science fiction seen to date. Her role in the movie Alien was originally written for a man, but Ridley Scott made the decision to cast Sigourney Weaver and not change the script. The term “everyman” is defined as ordinary individual with whom the audience identifies with and who is often placed in extraordinary circumstances. This term is in inherently bigoted because it implies the baseline character of any story is a white cisgender man. Ellen is one of the exceptions to this. She is not defined or constrained by her gender. She is not a “Smurfette” because she is not an object of desire or stereotype of femininity. Ripley is equal to the men around her. However, her character is also not a man stuffed into a woman’s skin. She shows great compassion and bravery when she risks her life to save a cat. Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Well what does Alison Bechdel say…


Ladies of Horror: Halloween & H20

Written by Cat Wilson catthewilson.com

What was the first slasher film? Slasher, the frightening sub-genre of horror where a human fiend stalks and murders people with sharp tools. Alfred Hitchcocks Psycho 1960 or Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1971? Either one could win. But why should women care about such violent films? Because of the final girl; the capable girl or woman that survives the movie. In her 1992 book, Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film Carol J. Clover, explores gender in slasher, occult, and rape-revenge films. Slashers films seem to offer sadistic pleasure to their viewers, Clover’s argument is these films are designed to align spectators not with the male monster, but with the "final girl" who finally defeats her assailant.


We chose for our first slasher Lady pick, Laurie Stodie played by Jamie Lee Curtis in the Halloween franchise. Laurie is the quiet high schooler in the first movie, who not only protects the children she is babysitting, but resourcefully defends herself. In Halloween H20 a old and wiser Laurie protects her son and makes sure the monster can never come back. Warning these movies are violent and bloody, hence the name slasher.

Ladies of Horror: Carrie


Written by Cat Wilson catthewilson.com

The criteria for the movies we suggest are movies that have strong female perspective. It would be a mistake not include Carrie. However, I’m recommending Carrie from 2013 directed by Kimberly Peirce (yay lady directors!). This version I feel is a little more sympathetic to Carrie and makes her character a tiny bit more well rounded than Brian De Palma classic version. Also unlike the first film Carrie makes the conscious decision to spare characters. She not stuffed into the roll of a monster in a nightmare as a final twist.