As any genre fan knows, horror cinema is filled with a veritable treasure trove of the terrifying. From ghosts to ghouls, and slashers to spellcasters, you can find almost any frightful tale lurking around the next corner. Unfortunately, there’s something cinema, in general, hasn’t had nearly enough of: female film directors.
While horror has often had more female auteurs than other genres, we certainly need more women’s voices in the industry. That being said, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been any amazing female filmmakers in horror. On the contrary, the ones we have are beyond incredible.
So for your horror-loving enjoyment, here are five female-directed horror movies that you should watch immediately.
When it comes to female directors, you can’t deny Kathryn Bigelow’s inimitable place in cinematic history. As the first woman to win the Oscar for Best Director in 2008 for The Hurt Locker, Bigelow is a total legend. That’s what makes it even more thrilling that her directorial debut is a vampire Western. Set in Oklahoma, Caleb is a young, shiftless man who pursues the beguiling Mae and soon finds himself unwittingly falling in with her vampire family. Things don’t get easier for him from there.
Although truth be told, I’m more of a fan of The Lost Boys myself, Near Dark, which was released the same year in 1987, is undoubtedly a unique entry into the vampire canon and one that absolutely needs to be seen as soon as possible if you haven’t already. The desolate landscape, the Tangerine Dream score, and Bigelow’s top-notch direction are worth your time alone.
Suicide by Sunlight
Short films don’t get nearly enough love from audiences, and that’s a particular loss since shorts, especially in horror, can serve as a springboard for creators to helm bigger projects, and also because shorts can be a tremendous amount of gory fun all on their own. Case in point: Suicide by Sunlight. Directed by Nikyatu Jusu, the story follows Valentina, a day-walking vampire who’s experiencing a very bloody nightlife while also trying to maintain a relationship with her young children.
Needless to say, this one goes into some unexpected and disturbing territory as Valentina does whatever she can to be close to her daughters. For fans of this film, there’s also good news: Nikyatu Jusu is preparing to expand the story into a full-length feature film, so while we wait, get on board now and watch the original short. It’s only seventeen minutes, and it’s more than worth your time.
For reasons that remain completely arcane to me, Office Killer has never seemed to catch on with horror audiences. And that’s a real shame to say the least. To date, it’s the only directorial effort from the acclaimed photographer (and original selfie goddess) Cindy Sherman.
True to its title, Carol Kane stars as the titular murderer who systematically racks up a body count at her bureaucratic employer. This satire of office politics is painfully relatable, and in particular, the characters’ attempts to work from home—decades before the pandemic—ring particularly true now.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Released in 2014, this is such an unsung modern vampire classic. Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night follows Arash who lives with his heroin-addicted father in a sinister and hopeless city that becomes even more disturbing at night, in large part due to the eponymous woman who stalks her prey on the urban streets. The gorgeous black and white cinematography and the dreamy soundtrack create a world that’s at once as bleak as it is bizarrely alluring.
And if that’s not enough to entice you, where else will you find a skateboard-riding female vampire? A perfect film for both vampire fans and arthouse horror aficionados, so if that sounds like you, then be sure to sink your teeth into A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night as soon as you can.
Messiah of Evil
Co-directed and co-written by Gloria Katz along with her husband Willard Huyck, Messiah of Evil made its debut back in 1974, and it’s become something of a cult favorite since. Arletty, played by Marianna Hill, heads to an oceanfront town to find her father, only to discover that there are far more things going wrong than a simple missing persons case.
There’s certainly a camp factor associated with the film, and with its high melodrama and overwrought voiceover, it’s without a doubt a strange foray into the genre, but that doesn’t diminish the chills. In fact, in my opinion, this film has not one but two of the most genuinely dread-filled and horrifying scenes in the history of horror cinema. Consequently, I can’t recommend Messiah of Evil highly enough, so head on over to your streaming queue and get ready for a surreal nightmare of a movie.