Five Fantastic Horror Films Helmed by Female Directors

American Mary

There are many talented female directors, screenwriters, producers, and actors working in the production of genre film on a daily basis, but they don’t always receive the same level of recognition as their male counterparts. To show our appreciation for the hardworking women who toil away in the horror genre, we are spotlighting five of our favorite female helmed horror films. Read on for our picks.


Jennifer Chambers Lynch (Boxing Helena) turned out a restrained and gut-wrenching modern masterpiece with Chained. The script was originally penned in the style of ‘torture porn’ and Lynch retooled the draft to make the film more about the characters and their relationships. The result is a beautifully photographed film with heartbreaking performances. Vincent D’Onofrio turned in an absolutely spot on performance as Bob. Bob’s relationship with Rabbit (Eamon Farren) was multilayered and ultimately heartbreaking; that is thanks in no small part to Lynch’s keen directorial prowess. Chained is not the type of film that one pops in when they want to unwind and kick back, it’s the type of movie that one watches when they are in the mood to see a film that is expertly constructed and will undoubtedly make you feel something.

Chained Slumber Party Massacre

This 80s slasher gem was crafted with Amy Holden Jones (The Rich Man’s Wife) at the helm. The plotline is pretty simple: a group of high school friends hold a slumber party and are picked off by an escaped mental patient with a drill and a demented idea of what ‘love’ is. The film has raised a certain amount of controversy because, while it was intended to be a feminist’s response to the objectification and exploitation of women in slasher films, it followed some of the familiar tropes that audiences of the time had grown accustomed to. Rita Mae Brown who penned the original draft of the screenplay is among the film’s detractors. Realistically, we think the film walked the line quite well. The women in the film embody many stereotypically male tendencies and take on roles that are often occupied by men; the handyperson is a woman, the telephone repair person is a woman, the girls beat up the boys, the boys flunk gym class, and the boys deaths are much more brutal than those of their female counterparts. As far as nudity is concerned, there is a bit of it, but it is fairly tongue-in-cheek and it’s no more gratuitous than what audiences saw in films like Halloween.

Slumber Party Massacre Near Dark

Near Dark is an early example of giving vampires some human-like qualities, a trend that has since become almost the norm. The film boasted an impressive cast with: Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, and Adrian Pasdar. The film made waves for throwing traditional vampire mythology to the wind, but that didn’t matter, audiences ate it up, nonetheless. The film featured strong performances from its leads and an interesting plotline with a young man chasing the girl of his dreams and winding up as part of a clan of bloodthirsty vampires. Kathryn Bigelow has created a masterpiece with Near Dark and has gone on to do great things since. Her more recent works include a string of hits like Point Break, The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty.

Near Dark Pet Sematary

If there ever were a contest for most brutal Stephen King adaptation, Pet Semetary would certainly be a nominee. And there is plenty of room for violence when the story revolves around a cemetery that has the ability to resurrect the dead with unpredictable results. There is much violence at the behest of the film’s young lead, played by Miko Hughes, and a particularly gut-wrenching scene where the lad is struck by a semi truck. The violence doesn’t stop there, however, but. Mary Lambert keeps it tactful, in spite of the film’s incredibly violent and somewhat taboo subject matter. In less capable hands, the film could have been a disaster. Director Mary Lambert did an excellent job of adapting Stephen King’s words for the screen and was asked back to direct the 1992 sequel that did not fare quite as well. Mary Lambert is also noteworthy for being the first female director to helm a Sy Fy original feature: Mega Python vs. Gatoroid. Um, thanks for that…

Pet SemataryAmerican Mary

The sophomore feature from the ambitious directing duo known as “The Twisted Twins” is brutal in its subject matter, but surprisingly restrained in its actual depiction of onscreen violence. We are not subjected to gratuitous lingering shots of victims having their bones sawn off or overly graphic surgical procedures. What makes the movie special is its strong feminist point of view. It takes a stand in favor of empowering women, but does so without alienating male viewers. American Mary brings us a strong protagonist that doesn’t need to be rescued by a man and can stand up for herself. Katharine Isabelle did a remarkable job as Mary, a medical student who finds herself involved in the underground world of body modification as a means to pay off her mounting debt. Isabelle has often stated that Mary has zero redeeming qualities on paper but that she attempted to bring the character to life in a way that would endear the audience to Mary as much as possible.

American Mary

What are some of your female helmed horror films? Let us know in the comments below.

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Written by Tyler Doupe'
Tyler Doupe' is the managing editor at Wicked Horror. He has also written for Fangoria, Rue Morgue, FEARnet, Fandango, Ranker, ComingSoon, STYD, and more.
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