From women bound by blood to those bound by loyalty and friendship, sisterhood is an important and often overlooked theme of many genre films.
It’s no secret that women are featured in a number of horror movies. What would slashers be without a Final Girl? But the idea of sisterhood — in many forms — is sometimes less obvious.
Sisterhood, whether by blood or by choice, is a strong bond between women. In horror and thrillers, it is usually (but not always) showcased in one of four ways: covens, sororities, close friends and actual sisters. But that doesn’t mean that the stories are always the same, or even similar.
Horror filmmakers take advantage of what the average viewer knows about the connections and meanings behind sisterhood with frequency. That bond lends itself to the powerful and sometimes sacrificial actions in film. It can be used in a straightforward manner or as a twist in the plot, but it does reflect the intricacies of relationships.
Even in movies where women appear to be in supportive, tight-knit groups, there is sometimes discord. The covens in The Craft, American Horror Story and Suspiria; the explorers in The Descent; and the roommates in Single White Female and The Roommate are all great examples of this.
In each of these films, at least one person is deliberately misleading and betraying others. It seems to go against the entire idea of sisterhood, and yet, it feels true to the complicated nature of these relationships. The addition of magic, monsters or the general threat of death just ups the ante in these situations.
Those betrayals don’t negate the power of sisterhood or friendship though.
Even in most of those movies, there are characters who are there to support each other. And that support is another thing that shows up in horror movies and thrillers. Think of the sisters in Ginger Snaps; the ballerinas in Black Swan; the friends in Scream 2, Sorority Row and Black Christmas.
Despite those films all having conflict and tension between the characters at some point, it wasn’t on the level of deception of the aforementioned films. There are fewer betrayals in these movies and more misunderstandings or disagreements. All of the women or girls in these films try their best to protect each other and themselves — it just doesn’t always work.
As more women get involved in filmmaking, especially horror and thrillers, it will be interesting to follow the trajectory of these tales of sisterhood. Will they get ever more complicated? Will they be more personal? Will we maybe see more heroines outside of the Final Girl trope? Only time will tell.