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

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Scream, Image via Woods Entertainment/Dimension Films

Sub-Genre: Slasher/Horror-Comedy

What it’s about: Two high school students are found brutally murdered right around the same time as their classmate, Sidney Prescott, is struggling with the one-year anniversary of her mother’s murder. Sidney begins to receive threatening phone calls and is eventually attacked by a masked killer. When the killer starts to attack her friends as well, she realizes that she is being targeted. Sidney works to figure out who would be doing this to her, and if it has anything to do with her mother’s murder.

What makes it feminist: Scream really changed the game for women in horror. Four high-powered actresses were cast in top-billing roles: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Drew Barrymore, and Rose McGowan. Because so many women were featured, and because the actresses already had fan followings, Scream attracted a significant female viewership and really contributed to idea of featuring women in horror films.

As far as the characters themselves, Scream works on several levels. Because the movie includes elements of parody and satire, it plays on the standard stereotypes of the genre. Many horror films have a character similar to Tatum, for example. But other films conflate a woman’s sexuality with a lack of intelligence. Tatum is sexual, but she’s not stupid. She’s presented like a realistic high-school girl. Similarly, the film references a famous horror trope by having the killer attack Sidney and her boyfriend Billy just after they have sex. But Sidney doesn’t die, like she might in another movie – she escapes and lives to fight on.

Sidney and Gale in particular are incredible female protagonists. Sidney is both an innocent teenager and a fierce fighter, showing her complexity at pretty much every turn. Gale, as a hard-hearted, somewhat sensationalist reporter, is a lot less likable. But as she fights for her life, she develops a softness towards the victims and becomes more complex as well. Whether due to satire or just good writing, the women of Scream are characterized as real humans, which led partially to its extreme success.

The Babadook

The Babadook, Image via Causeway Films/Entertainment One/IFC Films/Icon Productions

Sub-Genre: Monsters/Psychological Thriller

What it’s about: Amelia is a widow struggling to raise her 6-year-old son, Samuel, by herself. When Samuel starts developing a tendency towards weapons and violence, Amelia becomes increasingly alarmed. But things really start to get scary when Samuel asks her to read him a children’s book called Mister Babadook. In it, a shadowy, human-ish figure is described committing unbelievable violence. Amelia does her best to get rid of the book, but it keeps haunting them. Things around the house get increasingly strange, and when violence starts to occur, Amelia and Samuel have to somehow find a way to stop the monster.

What makes it feminist: Written and directed by a female rising star in the genre, Jennifer Kent, The Babadook is widely recognized as one of the scariest movies of the modern age. And that’s according to pretty much everyone. But it’s the metaphorical significance that makes it stand out beyond other movies of the genre. You could probably be completely satisfied reading Kent’s feature directorial debut as just a horrifying monster movie. But many have noticed a possible correlation between The Babadook and mental illness or grief.

Amelia learns quickly that the more she denies the existence of the Babadook, the more she and Sam are tormented by it. And we are reminded several times in repeated lines, that “you can’t get rid of the Babadook.” Amelia insists on fighting the Babadook, even when it becomes all-consuming. Her determination to make it through seemingly unending and impossible torture is mark of enormous strength and an accurate portrayal of a sufferer of mental illness. She doesn’t back down and summons everything she has to fight the monster that’s taken over her. But the ending truly completes the allegory in a beautiful way.