I was so excited to kick off the month with my article 13 Feminist Horror Flicks To Watch This October, certain I had planted a seed of femi-wisdom into the Halloween season. That excitement remained until a dear friend of mine politely inquired why my list was so white. To my own disbelief, I scrolled through my work to realize the entirety of my list included films with white female protagonists. She asked me if this was a lapse in my personal judgement or a failure of the genre as a whole.
I would have to say both.
People of color have forever been underrepresented in American media. White protagonists’ prioritization in the movie market certainly explains their prominence in my recent memory. Just because representation is sparing, I should not have put it past myself to do the extra digging. In fact, by creating this new list I reminded myself of some favorites from the past and present; ones I never acknowledged for being diverse.
The identity politics of the horror genre are a vast and complicated component of the industry’s structure. A component that I will not be able to address adequately or fully in this piece. My objective with 13 Feminist Horror Flicks To Watch This October was to shed light on horror films that highlighted the female experience. Here, I give you: 10 more diverse feminist horror films that address the female experience in a more intersectional way.
1. The Craft (1996)
Think Mean Girls with spells and incantations— The Craft is, in every sense, the perfect movie. Directed by Andrew Fleming, this film follows four high school girls who are navigating their own coven. Each young witch struggles with her own female teen hardship, from body image to rumors and even mental health. Rachel True’s character, Rochelle, has a distinct racially-charged conflict with the blonde school bully. True has since spoken about the her role in The Craft, explaining once she was cast, major changes were made to the script to involve an explicit struggle with racial prejudice. Though Rochelle was not the protagonist, The Craft portrays a strong intersectional group of young women bonded by friendship (before they start hexing one another).
2. The People Under The Stairs (1991)
The People Under The Stairs was Wes Craven’s not-so-subtle critique on American socio-economic structure. Packed with his true-to-form punching horror bits, Craven crafted this film with enough dark humor to represent a bigger picture. The film follows young and curious “Fool” out of his home in a Los Angeles ghetto and into the his landlord’s affluent residence. There, Fool uncovers that the wealthy, white landlord is hoarding dozens of people, similar to Fool’s circumstance, in the basement. The People Under The Stairs will draw you in with gore and laughs, but keep you for the metaphors involving social and racial exploitation.
3. Audition (1999)
Asian horror is instrumental in the horror genre. Horror movies that come from the East heavily inspire the stories and filmmaking style present in domestic theaters. That being said, Takashi Miike’s Audition is widely regarded as one of the most influential and all-around best Japanese horror films. Widower Aoyama devises an innocent plan to hold an audition in hopes to enter the dating world again. Aoyama falls for sweet Asami in the process, and he pursues a relationship with her. His efforts result in a turn of events that are nothing short of shocking, grotesque and torturous. To the viewer’s disbelief, this terror is driven by a sick, sociopathic petite female. The impact of Audition can be seen in films like Hard Candy and Hostel.
4. Vampire in Brooklyn (1995)
Another one of Wes Craven’s lighter works. Vampire in Brooklyn is probably the lowest-rated film to come out of the Craven-factory, but to its credit, is rich in visual design and earnest in comic effort. And, above all else, this is an all-black horror comedy. Vampire Maximillian, portrayed by Eddie Murphy, romantically pursues Angela Bassett’s character Rita in the heart of Brooklyn. While this film wades in corny territory— Norbit-style Murphy transformations included— Vampire in Brooklyn grants its female character distinction. Rita is a New York detective with motive, background, character development and a voice. Vampire in Brooklyn is the spooky fun of Dark Shadows with the black comedic influence of films like Friday (1995) and Boomerang (1992).
5. The Uninvited (2009)
Directed by Thomas and Charles Guard, The Uninvited was a sleepover favorite when I was in the seventh grade. This psychological horror follows Anna, portrayed by doe-eyed Emily Browning, who is sent to a mental institution following tragic events in her family. Upon her return from the treatment, she remembers the past much differently than it actually happened. The Uninvited is inspired by the South Korean film A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), which expands upon elements of Janghwa Hongryeon jeon, a popular South Korean folk tale. The Guard brothers were absolute in their respect for the original K-horror, wanting to pay homage to the culture of the story rather than ignore its influence. The result is an Americanization of equal story depth; something Western crossovers have not always been able to do in borrowing from Eastern horror. The Uninvited unwinds Anna’s haunting psychosis to Shyamalan-ian twist ending, incorporating themes of sisterhood and an entirely female 1st person narrative.
6. Scream 2 (1997)
The trend continues. As I stated in the original article: it’s not a recommendation list without Wes Craven’s Scream. Scream 2 was the bigger, badder second installment in the franchise that fulfilled promises of higher stakes and a larger body count. Scream was beloved for its self-awareness and Craven did well to expand upon its satirical vibe with the same murder-mystery fun in the sequel. As Sidney Prescott enters college, Craven introduces a handful of characters of color, including Sidney’s best friend Hallie, portrayed by Elise Neal. Neal’s character is unfortunately secondary to Neve Campbell and Courtney Cox, but black visibility in Scream 2 is existent. Jada Pinkett cameos to reprise Drew Barrymore’s role as the film’s scream queen opener. Pinkett and Omar Epps portray a couple massacred by Ghostface, kicking off Scream 2 with inclusive casting and a POC narrative. Their opening sequence gives the iconic original a run for its money. Matter’fact, here’s Pinkett’s glorious death scene:
7. Gothika (2003)
Gothika is part crime drama, part physiological/paranormal horror. Halle Berry leads Gothika as psychiatrist Miranda Grey, who, after a ghostly turn of events, kills her husband and ends up behind the same bars as her patients. The film takes on elements of murder mystery under horror-themed pretenses of possession and channeled spirits. Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz, this film holds the perspective of the black female lead throughout. Gothika juggles themes of madness, revenge and even rape almost entirely at the hands of the über-talented Halle Berry.
8. Somos lo que hey / We Are What We Are (2010) + (2013)
Latin demographics account for as much as 20% of box office sales— but Latin representation in films is lacking. Several horror films are set in Latin America, premising ancient indigenous curses or cannibalistic civilizations. Despite their settings, these films mainly follow white protagonists and don’t exactly celebrate Latin culture (The Ruins (2008); The Green Inferno (2013)). There is a horror market specific to Latin countries whose films have yet to cross over into the domestic mainstream, but certainly deserve recognition for their inventive cinematography and filmmaking.
Mexican director Jorge Michel Grau has a catalogue of Hispanic horror films that are cultural and all-around fantastic. His work Somos lo que hey chronicles a family of cannibals and their pursuit of a steady food source in the poverty of Mexico City. Solos lo que hey discusses family dynamic and struggle, as well as political oppression.
The film got the American remake treatment in 2013 by director Jim Mickle. We Are What We Are follows another cannibalistic family, but is focused heavily on two daughter’s struggle against their father. I would say the imagery in Grau’s piece is entirely more visceral; an unsettling horror that is both sharp and smart. We Are What We Are is not as successful, but does rework the original story with a young female perspective.
Which is better? Watch both films to find out 😎
9. The Transfiguration (2016)
The Transfiguration is the indie horror drama you never knew you needed to watch. The film, written and directed by Michael O’Shea, follows young black male Milo on a bloodsucking coming of age— he believes he is a vampire. When Milo meets Sophie, a young girl struggling with her own identity, Milo begins to spiral. The Transfiguration echoes dialogue about boyhood, obsession and— because of the casting— racial stereotypes. It puts into perspective moral depravation versus what may truly flatten, terrorize and disturb humanity. This inclusive horror is sure to do all three to audiences.
10. Get Out (2017)
Get Out— the critical darling that needs no introduction. The film written and directed by Jordan Peele essentially won 2017; it managed to boom at the box office with racial themes despite a harsh political climate surrounding the release. Critical praise aside, Get Out admittedly got everything right— the balance between dark comedy, psychological thriller and horror. What audiences should credit Get Out the most is it’s initiation of dialogue. Do white women prey on black men? Are black people, as a whole, fetishized and misunderstood by priveleged communities? I love Get Out for its inventive story and delivery by its talented cast; I appreciate Get Out for its critique on society as we know it.