News

Five Female Horror Directors Shaping the Future of the Genre

The next generation of female horror filmmakers are telling their own stories – and they're scary and thrilling as hell.

by | October 31, 2018 | Comments

Welcome to Mercy
(Photo by © IFC Midnight)

Female creators are at the cutting edge of modern horror, turning out some of its most inspired, and twisted, offerings. Babadook director Jennifer Kent is one big name you might have heard of, but she’s at the crest of a huge wave of talent that’s likely to be splattering multiplexes with blood for decades to come.

Joining them is actor-turned-writer Kristen Ruhlin, who spoke recently with Rotten Tomatoes about what inspired her to move into the bloody world of horror. It’s a tale many female actors and writers tell: she wasn’t finding stories that spoke to her. “One of my close friends suggested I just write my own thing and stop relying on other people,” she said. The result is Welcome to Mercy, out in limited release November 2, which draws on her religious upbringing to craft a hair-raising tale of abduction and the occult, and one with a specifically female focus. Ruhlin plays Madeline, a young single mother stricken with stigmata, sent to a remote convent where nothing is what it seems. “The correlation between religion and horror goes back to…people searching for answers to things that we can’t explain, and that can be itself frightening.”

As Ruhlin’s movie hits theaters in limited release, and film media turns its focus on women in the horror genre, we’ve picked five films to watch from female horror filmmakers who are absolutely slaying right now.


Raw (2017) 92%

Written and directed by Julia Ducournau

Over 400 films screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016, but only one left audience members seeking medical attention. It was an infamous debut for writer/director Julia Ducournau: paramedics were dispatched during a midnight screening of her cannibal horror film to revive multiple audience members who passed out. The story centers on Justine, a staunch vegetarian whose first bite of meat awakens a terrifying family secret. Not for the faint of heart, Raw is an unflinching take on teenage angst with a carnivorous twist.


Jennifer's Body (2009) 44%

Written by Diablo Cody, Directed by Karyn Kusama

Horror films often capitalize on misogynist tropes to heighten the horror: only the good girls survive, no sex or booze, and generally stay in line if you want to be the ‘final girl.’ Jennifer’s Body skewered this mindset to hilarious and terrifying results. Fresh, funny, and ahead of its time, this ultimate teen girl revenge fantasy was not well received initially. And yet, director Karyn Kusama’s little slice of feminist horror has gained something of a cult following in recent years. Her two leads – Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Needy (Amanda Seyfried) – are neither fully pure or fully sullied, and give female horror fans two strong characters they can revere and to whom they can relate (when they’re not being repulsed, of course).


The Lure (Córki dancingu) (2017) 88%

Directed by Agnieszka Smoczyńska

Fables are a rich vein to mine for horror filmmakers, and this next terrifying tale drew its inspiration from Hans Christian Andersen. Agnieszka Smoczyńska’s blood-soaked horror-musical The Lure is a genre mashup that stays faithful to each genre into which it dives. Sister mermaids Golden and Silver escape the sea to live life on land, but they’re not looking for love. It’s fame they have their eyes set on. The movie is stacked to the brim with jaw-dropping style and rib-shaking melodies you will find yourself wanting to sing along to – whether you speak Polish or not.


Revenge (2018) 93%

Written and directed by Coralie Fargeat

This is the type of film that happens when you point the female gaze squarely at the revenge horror genre, and aim to make something as bloody as possible, and mad as hell. In her debut feature, writer-director Coralie Fargeat marries Mad Max landscapes with Tarantino-style action for sensational and disturbing results. In Revenge, we follow Jen, a young girl enjoying a romantic getaway with her boyfriend when a series of events (that we don’t want to spoil) leaves her for dead. She miraculously survives and embarks on a no-holds-barred assault to wreak unrelenting wrath upon her attackers.


The Love Witch (2016) 95%

Written and directed by Anna Biller

Writer-director Anna Biller did indeed cast a spell with her sophomore effort, The Love Witch. In a ’70s-styled B-movie throwback, we follow Elaine, a jilted femme fatale, as she loads up her lipstick-red Mustang and revs off to San Francisco in pursuit of the men who’ve wronged her. In another revenge plot, our lead adopts ‘Sex Magick,” potions, spells, and her womanly wiles to lure her unsuspecting victims. As beguiling as she is treacherous, Elaine is a villain we can’t help but root for no matter how twisted she gets.

Tag Cloud

Musicals Food Network spain RT21 Brie Larson halloween sequel Sci-Fi binge E! Mary poppins Rocky romantic comedy Walt Disney Pictures Disney Extras hist New York Comic Con video Chernobyl adventure LGBT Mindy Kaling Amazon Prime Video Rock SundanceTV medical drama TLC spy thriller zombie Women's History Month DC streaming service Tarantino Pop San Diego Comic-Con Video Games comiccon YouTube Acorn TV renewed TV shows Disney Plus YouTube Premium comic period drama ESPN Awards Tour CMT space Toys Netflix television cinemax Year in Review richard e. Grant Disney Channel Fantasy CNN aliens Quiz 2017 quibi Winners dramedy The CW Adult Swim psycho Trophy Talk TV renewals Superheroes Opinion Cosplay TNT Holidays President Certified Fresh toy story Dark Horse Comics Nat Geo movies WarnerMedia 24 frames Lionsgate Calendar Comic Book based on movie cancelled TV series Action ABC Family Family TruTV Sneak Peek PaleyFest tv talk Ghostbusters Esquire OWN Summer Box Office talk show romance Watching Series Premiere Dates children's TV 007 war ghosts composers PBS First Look CW Seed Thanksgiving Interview 21st Century Fox award winner Apple TV+ GoT foreign Pet Sematary witnail justice league Television Academy National Geographic psychological thriller Fox News Peacock USA boxoffice Marathons X-Men crime drama series Drama cancelled television crime thriller Trailer social media WGN Binge Guide NBC cooking Masterpiece Britbox animated finale discovery Apple ITV American Society of Cinematographers Star Trek The Witch spanish language CBS Winter TV Christmas technology Podcast anthology The Purge CBS All Access Tomatazos 2016 crossover Spike Pride Month festivals elevated horror TIFF Shudder game of thrones MSNBC Countdown Turner Classic Movies adaptation Vudu AMC politics historical drama TCA 2017 2015 Musical The Walking Dead political drama cancelled unscripted Sundance Now Animation YA revenge 20th Century Fox Character Guide miniseries cancelled TV shows Pixar RT History Elton John golden globes Cannes History TBS Cartoon Network Mary Tyler Moore facebook vampires Awards harry potter Hulu Chilling Adventures of Sabrina game show Starz strong female leads Shondaland First Reviews Trivia 45 Tumblr book Emmys IFC Lifetime cults Ellie Kemper HBO FOX Universal GLAAD Film Freeform Sundance 2018 disaster spider-man NYCC TCA Columbia Pictures TCM Epix Horror Stephen King spinoff The Arrangement Star Wars Nickelodeon zombies Country BBC America FXX Kids & Family natural history docudrama Set visit slashers DGA canceled TV shows Anna Paquin Disney streaming service Schedule APB Super Bowl diversity USA Network SXSW ratings HBO Max jamie lee curtis Black Mirror Showtime Paramount Network Sony Pictures Bravo LGBTQ biography true crime supernatural science fiction joker Syfy Comedy Central Superheroe Heroines BBC 2019 breaking bad nature doctor who E3 BET Valentine's Day Rocketman Song of Ice and Fire Election Infographic Paramount robots Pirates zero dark thirty Arrowverse Mystery GIFs Ovation Mary Poppins Returns DC Universe travel stand-up comedy Crackle mutant Teen MCU anime A&E Warner Bros. IFC Films Polls and Games See It Skip It FX YouTube Red transformers batman singing competition TV Land Grammys Film Festival Music Spring TV latino Turner cats serial killer police drama blaxploitation sports canceled green book Captain marvel sitcom Fall TV Red Carpet Amazon Prime Logo Emmy Nominations Comedy theme song free movies cars Spectrum Originals dceu Amazon Mudbound Oscars DC Comics thriller casting Creative Arts Emmys VH1 El Rey Best and Worst DirecTV MTV Martial Arts Lucasfilm mockumentary 71st Emmy Awards crime VICE Photos dragons what to watch Reality Competition Comics on TV ABC Nominations Rom-Com kids Biopics Western streaming dc Marvel Crunchyroll Classic Film SDCC south america hispanic cops teaser TV Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Writers Guild of America Reality