Being a feminist and a horror-movie lover means suffering the same frustrating question again and again: "But how can you be both?" True, many horror movies are hella problematic, offering up buxom bare babes with more skin shown than character development, slut-shaming slasher tropes, and plenty of female figures who exist chiefly to be torn to pieces. Problematic faves aside, there are plenty of awesome horror movies that are feminist and frightening.
To celebrate Feminist Horror Month, SYFY FANGRRLS is highlighting a selection of some of the best in feminist horror — but we're not pitting these sensational films against each other in some senseless grudge match. We're less interested in ranking and more in range.
Below, you'll find a feminist horror movie for every mood, whether you hunger for some spooky, silly, or satirical, something haunting, horrific, or heralded. Werewolves, ghosts, vampires, zombies, and more can be found in the very best of feminist horror.
Anna and The Apocalypse
Imagine Dawn of the Dead meets Buffy The Vampire Slayer's musical episode, and you've got an idea of what's present in the holiday horror zombie musical Anna and the Apocalypse. Ella Hunt stars as a brooding teen girl desperate to escape her small town for a big adventure. Well, her Christmas wish comes early and monkey-pawed when the undead ambush her high school's holiday concert. Now, it's up to Anna to be the kick-ass heroine her hometown needs, and she'll do it with a little help from her friends, a festive bludgeoning weapon, and some song and dance.
Psychological horror often centers on protagonists whose fears are questioned by the world around them. "What if it's all in your head?" isn’t as much helpful advice as a horror of its own. Writer/director Jennifer Kent explored the terror of struggling with mental illness with her critically heralded debut The Babadook. In it, a widowed mother (Essie Davis) is at her wit's end trying to hold together her home life with a young son who is sweet, rambunctious, and sometimes monstrously irritating. Then the titular top-hatted beast invades, making her question her sanity and worthiness as a parent. While horror has long menaced moms, Kent made a story that's as empathetic as it is absolutely bone-chilling.
Before you complain that Batman Returns isn't a horror movie, consider the Catwoman plotline. Mousy Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer) is ruthlessly murdered by her bullying boss (Christopher Walken). She dies but returns a revenant hellbent on revenge. It's a return of the repressed tale! No longer submissive, she's now intimidatingly sultry and outright wrathful, shamelessly flirting with Batman (mmmmMichael Keaton) beneath the mistletoe, pummeling would-be rapists in back alleys, literally shattering glass ceilings with her scream, and burning the boys' club of Gotham to the ground.
Death Becomes Her
Not all cults are creepy; some are absolutely fabulous. In Robert Zemeckis's star-studded horror-comedy, Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn play ruthless rivals battling for the love of a bloated and mustachioed Bruce Willis. Admittedly, a love triangle that pits two women against each other doesn't seem particularly feminist. But there's a sly subversion underneath the shade-slinging quips and body-horror slapstick. These feuding frenemies are bogey(wo)men born from frightful patriarchal standards that demand a woman is only as valuable as she is young and beautiful. They go from dream girls to glamorous nightmares, and we couldn't love them more for it.
Want a werewolf movie with bite? Ginger Snaps centers on a pair of tight-knit teen sisters who begin to grow apart once one of them gets "the curse." Ever since the night Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) first bled, she's been different. She's moody, aggressive, and sexually ravenous. Her body is changing, too. Hair is sprouting where there was no hair before and that's just the beginning. The grown-ups say she's just becoming a woman, but her sister Brigitte (Emily Perkins) knows this isn't menstruation — it's a different moon change altogether. The horror of puberty roars to life in the scrappy start to a furry franchise.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
For many women, walking home alone at night can be a scary endeavor — but when you're a vampire, the night is yours for the taking. Written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night follows a vampire unlike you've ever seen before. Known only as The Girl (Sheila Vand), she stalks nightly the streets of Bad City, wearing a chador, riding a skateboard, and making a meal of bad men who cross her path. And all the while, she does it while looking preternaturally cool, whether sucking blood, spinning her records, or falling in love.
Forget Mean Girls, the bad b*tch in this flick is a full-on demon. Written by Diablo Cody and directed by Karyn Kusama, Jennifer's Body was an envelope-pushing horror-comedy ahead of its time. Audiences weren't ready for bombshell Megan Fox to satirize society's tendency to sexualize then demonize teen girls, and this blood-splattered tale of frenemies going through a brutal break-up bombed. But over the past decade, a fervent fan following has been gathering behind this misunderstood movie, resurrecting it as a wrongfully maligned cult classic.
Forget the virginal Final Girl who suggests the only woman worth saving are those untouched by desire. Alice Lowe's deliciously deranged spin on this subgenre boots that stodgy slut-shaming stereotype, instead focusing on a pregnant woman compelled to kill by the blood-lusting fetus in her belly. Female rage gets a gruesome and darkly hilarious outlet in Prevenge, which Lowe wrote, directed, and starred in while actually pregnant. Method acting meets motherhood and menace in one of the best horror films of 2017.
Stir of Echoes
Want a ghost story that gets it? David Koepp wrote and directed this 1999 gem that follows a self-centered dude who learns the horrors of rape culture through an unusual haunting. Kevin Bacon plays a sexist tough guy who bumbles into a mind-opening experience that allows him to see the ghost girl trapped in his home. At first, he's freaked out and wants nothing more to do with her and her haunting trauma. But in a third act twist, he's confronted not only with the hell she endured but also the evil patriarchal forces that conspired to cover it up.
Craving a horror anthology with a ferociously feminist twist? XX features stories about women made by women. Karyn Kusama, Roxanne Benjamin, St. Vincent, and Jovanka Vuckovic each direct a horror short that's grounded in female experience and growls with terror. There's scary stories of motherhood gone mad, skeletons in the closet, something untamed lurking in the dark, and the dangers of a big, red box.