A female-driven film to watch every day of the week during Women in Horror Month
Part 3 of 4: Chilling Thrillers (Read Part 1: Superbly Supernatural and Part 2: Various Fanged Fiends)
In order to celebrate Women in Horror Month, I’ve drafted a categorized list of horror films directed (and often written) by women that deserve your attention. These 28 films – one for each day in February – have been sorted into four categories. This is part three of four. (Read the full intro here).
12. The Hitchhiker (1953) dir. Ida Lupino
The Hitchhiker is a terrifyingly taught thriller from Ida Lupino and the oldest film to be found on this list. In it, two friends (Edmond O’Brien and Frank Lovejoy) on a fishing trip good-naturedly pick up a hitchhiker (William Talman) who turns out to be an escaped convict. No sooner have they brought him aboard is he barking orders and waving his gun, and the friends must think of a way to escape before they “outlive their usefulness.” It’s like a noir film in the desert, which seems paradoxical but it’s actually incredible. See it to believe it, but also see it because it’s great. [Watch free on Youtube]
13. Amer (2o09) dir. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani
A psychological giallo in three parts, Amer is the stunningly stylish full-length debut of the Belgian-French directing team of Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. The two, who are married, have made a gorgeously visceral film that blends eroticism, paranoia, violence, and oddball arthouse editing. Amer is about the sexual development of Ana, who is played at different stages in her life by three actresses. Her oppression and awakening is a tough watch due to Cattet and Forzani’s, uh, intense filmmaking style, but it’s a jaw-dropping aesthetic experience all throughout.
14. The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2o13) dir. Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani
If you saw Amer and thought “that was cool, but what if it was just even more like that” then buckle up buddy, because Cattet and Forzani’s follow-up pulls no punches. Like a kaleidoscope of sex, mystery, and murder that’s been thrown in a tumble dryer, The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears is a film that will either make you feel captivated or like you’re being held hostage: either way, you will be stupefied. It’s an explosive and almost incomprehensible film and a gauntlet for all the senses, so I highly recommend watching its trailer to see if you can take its tone. If you can, then this film may be highly rewarding.
15. Goodnight Mommy (2o14) dir. Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala
Goodnight Mommy is another European thriller from another directing duo. Nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2016 Oscars, Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala tell the story of two twins (Elias and Lukas Schwarz) whose mother (Susanne Wuest) begins to act very strangely after receiving plastic surgery. Her face is wrapped entirely in bandages, with only her eyes and lips visible. As her behavior worsens and becomes outright monstrous, the two boys most find out what has truly happened to their mother.
16. The Babadook (2o14) dir. Jennifer Kent
If you haven’t seen The Babadook yet, you need to see it ASAP. A sensational sleeper hit from 2014, The Babadook’s eponymous spook is arguably the most iconic monster of the decade, and a strong contender for the scariest. The horror is all due to writer/director Jennifer Kent’s masterful pacing: the suspense of The Babadook will wring you out for all you’ve got, and it’ll be before you even see the thing. Furthermore, it’s a deeply riveting story of grief, trauma, motherhood, mental illness, addiction, and so much more, and this was Jennifer Kent’s feature-length debut! She’s has kept mum about future projects, but the success of The Babadook has fans on the edge of their seat for a follow-up. [Streamable on Netflix]
17. Honeymoon (2o14) dir. Leigh Janiak
Honeymoon is a harrowing and deeply unnerving film. Newlyweds Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) decide to have their honeymoon in an old cabin in the Canadian countryside, but it’s disrupted by extremely bizarre events. One night, after disappearing from the cabin, Bea is found naked and disoriented in the middle of the woods, with no memory of how she got there, why she’s there, or what happened before she was found. A slow burn that plays on fears of identity and life after marriage, this gripping thriller was the feature-length directorial debut of its co-writer Leigh Janiak.
18. The Midnight Swim (2o14) dir. Sarah Adina Smith
A woman disappears one night after diving in Spirit Lake. When her three daughters come back home to handle her affairs, a strange mystery begins to unravel, and one of the daughters – an amateur documentarian – captures it all on her camera. The Midnight Swim is a found footage film, but it feels much more subtle and full of slight not-quite-rightness than most other ones I’ve seen. It’s an engrossing, enigmatic drama about how we cope with loss, and also, there’s a really weird lake. [Streamable on Netflix]
19. The Invitation (2o15) dir. Karyn Kusama
A tense and gripping thrill-ride about a darkly mysterious dinner party, The Invitation is a stunner that shocks, surprises, and scares. There’s nothing supernatural at play, just creeping suspicions and dubious intentions. The less I say, the better – just watch it. [Streamable on Netflix]
Stay tuned for Part 4 of this Women in Horror list, where we highlight female-directed films in the category of Blood, Guts, and Body Counts.