30 Woman-Friendly Horror Movies for the Thrill-Seeking Feminist

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Ex Machina

Ex Machina, Image via Universal Pictures/Film4/DNA Films

Sub-Genre: Artificial Intelligence/Psychological Thriller

What it’s about: Caleb is a computer programmer who gets invited to the rural home of Nathan, his company’s CEO. Soon Caleb learns that he is there in order to test Nathan’s latest invention – an artificially intelligent humanoid robot named Ava. Nathan wants Caleb to administer the Turing test, which dictates that if the evaluator cannot tell the difference between an AI and a human, then the AI is exhibiting genuine thought and intelligence. As Caleb gets to know Ava, he becomes increasingly uncomfortable with Nathan and his methods. Caleb begins to question the reality of his own existence and decide how to help Ava escape.

What makes it feminist: Ava is a creation; she was literally made in the image of woman based on a man’s needs. So in the story, she represents all the expectations directed at all women every day. And these expectations align with what we see in underdeveloped, stereotypical female characters. At first, Caleb sees Ava as an unfeeling robot, with no desires or agency of her own. Just like those cardboard female characters, in horror movies and film in general, she is supposed to exist only for the advancement of a man. Ava’s whole job is to do what Nathan wants her to do.

But Ava proves her consciousness and her agency by taking control of the situation. She learns how to manipulate the technical systems and speak with Caleb in private. She gives her thoughts and feelings to Caleb. These could have been written in her code, of course. But then, she expresses a desire to escape – something that was certainly not programmed by Nathan. And just like when, in a movie, a plot-device female character expresses an original thought, it changes our perception of her. Both Caleb and the viewer start to see her as a complex, meaningful individual, rather than a blank canvas for some man to project on.