Thursday, November 7, 2013

UTG LIST: 10 Essential Horror Films Directed By Women

Happy Halloween, everyone! This is by far our favorite holiday, and as part of this year's celebration we've partnered with filmmaker Andrea Wolanin to bring you a list of 10 essential horror films directed by women.

Who is Andrea Wolanin? Good question! No seriously, it's okay if you don't know. Andrea is an aspiring feature filmmaker whose most recent short, , is one of the top contenders to be included in The ABCs Of Death 2. We saw her short a few weeks back and instantly fell in love with her talent. After speaking with Andrea and the team at Wicked Bird Productions about our love of horror, we realized we shared a desire to shed more light on the female directors in horror. Andrea offered to put together a list of her favorites, both features and shorts, and we thought that an offer we couldn't refuse. to check out her short, then read below to learn about some great horror flicks you need to see as soon as possible.

FROM ANDREA: It's a subject that's oft echoes across the media landscape: Where are all the female directors? Looking over a list of feature-length horror films, it's actually tricky to come up with a list of ten directed by women. Digging into short films yields a richer number, but the output of male directors is still probably close to double. It's a curious and frustrating problem, and one that is far from a solution. Yet, the work we see coming from women in the genre stands out: freaky, uncomfortable, hyper-gory and original, these films will stick in your mind, weaving tendrils of dread down your spine long after you finish watching.

Here are my top ten favorite female-helmed horror films.


FILM: Boxing Helena

DIRECTED BY: Jennifer Lynch

I've never been able to look Julian Sands in the eye since I first saw Lynch the younger's feature film debut. Startlingly original, Boxing Helena takes incisive look at our typically male-dominated culture, twisting the perspective to look at it from all angles - and surprising the viewer with what they see in it about themselves. The story follows a sadistic surgeon whose god-complex is so grandiose, he refuses to believe a woman could be uninterested in his advances. When an unfortunate accident puts the titular Helena at his whims, the man methodically removes her limbs, turning her into an unwilling pet in this delectably macabre piece.

FILM: American Mary

DIRECTED BY: Jen and Sylvia Soska

Rape and revenge films have always been a favorite of mine - it's terribly thrilling to watch a woman take down her attackers with wits and determination. That being said, it's not the most empowering archetype of women in cinema. Why does a woman need to be so brutalized before she can stand up for herself? The Soska sisters modified this genre in a simple but exciting way: the eponymous Mary is always intelligent, determined and bold. A run in with the wrong man only serves to galvanize her will. This film is artfully shot and fun, featuring some truly great female characters.

FILM: Pet Sematary

DIRECTED BY: Mary Lambert

A classic of the horror genre, Pet Sematary tells the story of a young family just moving to a rural area of Maine. Alas for them, this is Stephen King's Maine, and tragedy is just around the corner. Lambert made the story her own, with directorial decisions that amped up the eerie quality of the unpleasant story: her decision to cast a man as the dying Zelda makes all scenes containing 'her' all the more unsettling. With a soft heart caged in barbed wire, Pet Sematary is merciless, teasing your emotions with empathy and revulsion in equal parts.

FILM: Ravenous

DIRECTED BY: Antonia Bird

I love the idea that people all have a slice of darkness in them, an evil that comes to life at the right moment. Ravenous plays with this concept marvelously, creating a decadent morality play around the question of what our concepts of right and wrong will allow us in order to survive. Bird directs her slam-bang cast through the roof, pulling delightful performances from Robert Carlyle as a silver-tongued cannibal, and Guy Pearce as a stoic, beleaguered anti-hero. A sense of otherworldliness overtakes the film with its remote location and strange characters, furthering the thought that no one can judge decisions made under duress - and making Pearce's character's ethical confusion all the more understandable.

FILM: American Psycho

DIRECTED BY: Mary Harron

There's something so sinister about Patrick Bateman as a character - from the plastic hair to the cap-tooth grin, his determination to stay perfect and contemporary is almost a horror in itself. Encapsulating the fear of mortality so present in the 80's, Harron's film of the iconic Ellis' book is funny, wrenching and brutal. The calm vision of his everyday juxtaposes the frantic surrealism of his murders perfectly, leaving open the question of what Bateman is really up to - if he is indeed Patrick Bateman, that is.


FILM: Cargo

DIRECTED BY: Yolanda Ramke

This is hands-down one of the most earnest zombie films I've seen - and I've seen a lot of damn zombie films over the years. Written by Ramke, Cargo is a co-direction effort between herself and Ben Howling. The near-wordless tale follows a father in his heroic efforts to save his baby daughter during the zombie apocalypse. A slice of life vignette more than a rip-roaring gore film, its still a fascinating watch: the quiet introspection of the father's strength makes him stronger than any other leading man I've seen in recent years.

FILM: Legitimate


Here's a short by a friend of mine, the always exciting Izzy Lee. Legitimate is a very pure film at its heart: a response from Lee to Senator Todd Akin's famous statement on 'legitimate rape'. Through a twisted little script she states her viewpoint concisely, with beautiful cinematography and happy little perversions key points in her argument. The film is brash, funny and painful at turns, a feminist statement in the truest sense.

FILM: Doll Parts


Taking on a typical "hunted turned hunter" storyline in her film, Lam wrenches the tale around, adding a supernatural flip that makes the skin crawl. Doll Parts watches as your typical bad hitchhiking episode unfurls: the man is obviously dangerous, the girl cold and hungry, the day growing dark. But this girl is different, all spooky eyes and twitches; and as we watch him lay her prone body onto a tarp in the woods, the audience soon finds out exactly what she's up to.

FILM: The Captured Bird

DIRECTED BY: Jovanka Vuckovic

This wordless short is compelling and lush, taking the audience to a magical world of childhood imagination gone-wrong. What starts as a romp into a cloud-castle turns deadly for our petite heroine, as she begins to see that things here aren't quite as she had imagined. Vuckovic takes the storybook, fairytale world typically foisted on little girls and turns it into a nightmare of possibility. What if the prince isn't in the castle? What if the monster isn't a charming beast? The answer turns out to be bigger than we could guess.

FILM: Summer of the Zombies

DIRECTED BY: Ashleigh Nichols

Poor Summer - she is having the crappiest day. Her roommate called her fatty, she got turned into a zombie, and now she just can't seem to fit in with the other undead, who just don't get her vegan lifestyle. Life is hard for an corpse-girl! This short, co-written and directed by Nichols and Eddie Beasley, is a hilarious send-up on your typical zombie film, turning the usual tropes on their head for a clever romp. The script is witty and cute, the performances tight, and there's just enough gore to keep a girl happy.

And so there it is! Ten awesome pieces from woman directors you need to keep an eye out for. Watch out, gents - we're comin' for ya.
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