Updated: Aug 20, 2019
Yolanda Machado is a film critic and regular contributor to REPRESENT. She is also the founder of Sassy Mama in L.A, a popular Entertainment and Lifestyle destination for women. She is a Latina Mom living in Los Angeles with her husband, tween-ish daughter, three cats and a dog. Opinionated, fun and sassy is how most describe her.
Producer Jason Blum, founder of Blumhouse Productions, who has produced hit horror films such as Get Out, Insidious, Paranormal Activity, The Purge and many more, made waves this month when he said in an interview with Vulture that “there are not a lot of female directors period, and even less who are inclined to do horror.” The statement was met by plenty of outlets publishing lists of horror directors who are women, but have been passed over for, well, let’s just say it, Hollywood’s long standing sexist views. He quickly issued an apology and is now said to be talking to a few women about some upcoming projects. But still, that “they don’t exist” rhetoric needs to end, especially when discussing women in horror as many iconic horror films are about women.
Horror has been one of the most consistent genres to embrace women’s stories. Protagonists like Ellen Ripley (Alien), Sarah Connor (Terminator), Sidney Prescott (Scream), Laurie Strode (Halloween) and many many more have long been leading the charge in leading women in horror. Their stories, however, are often told by men, which had led for many critics to point out the sexism that lies underneath their empowering stories. The “final girl” trope, for example, though empowering as having the woman being the last one standing, the one who outwits the villain, still has sexist and misogynistic undertones as pitting women into two categories: the virginal “worthy” heroines vs the slutty inconsequential friend. The final girl trope is evolving, most recently shown by the new Halloween where the plot largely revolves around how a woman and her family have dealt with trauma. No one gets naked, there’s no slashing done when a woman has sex, and three generations of women band together to defeat the villain.
Since Mary Shelley first birthed Frankenstein, women have been essential to the horror iconography. Hell, Bela Lugosi, the man known to the world as Dracula and other famous monsters in classic horror films once said, “It is women who love horror. Gloat over it. Feed on it. Are nourished by it. Shudder and cling and cry out - and come back for more.” Women love horror, it’s true. A study conducted by Google and the Geena Davis Institute in 2017 revealed that though in every other genre, men dominated both on screen time and speaking time, when it came to horror, women held 53% of the on-screen time and 47% of the speaking time. And in 2016, Movio, a provider of movie marketing software, revealed that between January 2015 and September 2016 the horror movie ticket buyers were not only diverse (largely Hispanic and Black) but over 49% of horror ticket buyers were women.
So why are men still telling our stories? Women who direct horror movies exist, new directors and those that are established. There’s a whole festival devoted to women in horror called simply that, Women in Horror Film Festival. Studios and the executives that run them are leaving money on the table by ignoring the very genre that women have led for well over a century, and change is coming.
Issa Lopez, a Latinx woman from Mexico directed Tigers Are Not Afraid (Vuelven) to much critical acclaim (97% on Rotten Tomatoes). French filmmaker Julia Ducournau’s hit festivals in 2017 with Raw which many critics called one of the best horror films of the year. Iranian-American writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home At Night was called one of the 10 Best of 2015. And there’s so many more. The horror genre is already enveloping women’s stories....now it’s time to let them tell those stories, too.