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

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The Descent

The Descent, Screencap via Lionsgate/Celador Films/Northmen Productions

Sub-Genre: Survival/Monsters

What it’s about: One year after a personal tragedy, Sarah and five of her friends go on a trip in the Appalachian Mountains. All adventure-enthusiasts, the group decides to go caving in what they thing will be a run-of-the-mill spelunking expedition. But once they descend into the cave, they become trapped. As they work through the cave trying to find another way out, each woman struggles with her friendships and her mental state. But when Sarah encounters something unnatural, she and her friends are forced to fight for their lives

What makes it feminist: First of all, the cast. All six of the main characters are women. In fact, there are almost no men in it at all. On top of that, the women are spelunkers. While some are more experienced than others, they are all clearly very involved in extreme sports and high-adventure activities. Obviously caving requires a very high degree of strength and skill, and those qualities are generally reserved for men in the media. But this movie gives constant proof that they don’t need to be male to be great at a traditionally masculine activity.

The most compelling feminist quality of this movie, though, is its characterization. Other horror films have two personalities for their women characters: the “good girl” and the “bad girl.” If there are several women, they often end up with basically the same personality. The filmmakers conflate them with each other just because they are female. In The Descent, the women also have something in common; they love high-adventure, which could make them easier to blend together into a lame vanilla character soup. Instead, writer/director Neil Marshall ensures that each woman has her own personality. They’re not all hard-hearted badasses. Some of them are grieving mothers or soft-spoken med students. This movie understands that women are human beings, with all the complexity of any man.