February marks the beginning of Women In Horror Month, an event created to celebrate the amazing women working in the genre, from directors and producer to the iconic scream queens. Despite what certain horror producers may think, there are a plethora of talented and demented women creating diabolically poignant pieces of horror cinema. In a genre that is so often described as misogynistic and exploitative, it can seem easy to dismiss it and not address its long history of interrogating societal fears. But, women have been working against, and sometimes with, those conventions just as long as any man.
To help you celebrate all month long, we’ve compiled a list of 10 horror films directed by women to put on your watch list. But don’t confine your honoring of women in horror to just February; they deserve your attention and support all year long.
American Psycho, dir. Mary Harron
Everything superficial about American Psycho appeals to the kind of masculine, wide-eyed, dorm room energy of boys of a certain age—its sleek quotability, retro aesthetic, sardonic wit, and extreme violence are all, well, pure Bret Easton Ellis, literature’s resident teenage boy. And while Ellis may have crafted his tale of a absurd Wall Street serial killer with his own anger and transgressive style in mind, director Mary Harron grants her film adaptation of the novel with a entirely different, yet no less fascinating lens through which to view the world of Patrick Bateman. And who better to craft a killer of women than a woman herself?
American Psycho might be funny—scratch that, it’s hilarious—but the horror grows with each passing frame, building in Bateman’s victims on screen, building in us, and building in the character himself as reality starts to slip away. The film’s germane, eerie satire of American capitalism and wealth only deepen some truly terrifying sequences of murder and mutilation that speak to the horrors of misogyny and power. Yet so much of that depth owes itself to Harron’s camera, which doesn’t linger on these women’s bodies and ask us to revel in their destruction, but rather remains tight on Christian Bale’s face, clothes, hands—the apathetic instruments of a society that values nothing but money.
Okay, this is starting to sound like more dorm room analysis, but it only takes one good watch to enthralled by this movie for a lifetime. Come for the controversy, stay for the cultural commentary, and return time after time for “I have to return some video tapes.”