Women in Horror

‘The Bad Seed’: Mother and Daughter, Autonomy Through Violence


In no way does this piece condone violence or 8-year-old serial killers. We all know that’s wrong and our mothers taught us better than that. But really, what’s the harm in a female character with autonomy and direction?

The Future Is Behind You: David Robert Mitchell and Maika Monroe on the Chilling, Thoughtful ‘It Follows’


The fact that ‘It Follows’ is a horror film, and a surprisingly effective one, is almost secondary to the respectful way it develops its characters, particularly its protagonist, Jay, portrayed in a breakout performance by Maika Monroe.

The film is a huge sleeper hit, by low-budget indie standards. This week, it expanded to an astonishing 1,655 theaters nationwide. I spoke with Monroe and Mitchell recently by phone about how the film was made and what makes it so unique.

‘The Taking of Deborah Logan’: Alzheimer’s, Possession, and Mother/Daughter Love

Evil Lives Within You, But Your Daughter Lives With You And She Will Kick Evil's Ass

‘The Taking of Deborah Logan’ is a story about the horror of evil afflicting a deteriorating mind, but it’s also a tale of the strength of a mother and daughter’s love. Deborah is driven by female characters, and while not a perfect film, it serves up the scares and aces the Bechdel test.

The Volatility of Motherhood in David Cronenberg’s ‘The Brood’

Candy getting kidnapped

For Cronenberg, Candy represents the symbolic order and influence of the father, precisely what Nola wishes to eradicate. Candy is supposed to come “home to mommy” and have no fatherly influence. The characters in the film are defined by rigid gender constructs, or alternatively, through their attempts at living up to them.

Self-Made Orphan: Why We Cringe When Karen Cooper Snacks on Her Dad

Kyra Schon as Karen Cooper

The crumbling cement in this relationship is the injured little girl lying on the table downstairs. Her parents are united only on the question of her safety. Unsurprisingly, Karen has no voice or agency of her own. The adults perceive her as entirely helpless— “Maybe it’s shock,” her mother says of her condition. “She can’t possibly take all the racket…”

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The Strangeness of (Surrogate) Motherhood in ‘The Innocents’


Part of what makes the excellent 1961 film ‘The Innocents’ different is the main character, the governess, Miss Giddens (played by Deborah Kerr), is thrust into a parental role suddenly. We see her at the beginning in an interview with the children’s uncle, a handsome playboy (played by Michael Redgrave, Vanessa’s father) who tells her he spends much of his time traveling and the rest in his home in London. When he offers her the job at his country estate, he takes her hand (a bold move for the Victorian era, when the film takes place) and asks if she is ready to take full responsibility for the children, because he doesn’t want to be disturbed during his adventures in London and abroad.

You Never Want to Do Something Interesting: How ‘You’re Next’ Became One of the Most Empowering Horror Films for Women

This woman comes from a land where they eat Vegemite by choice. Of course she's tough.

It has been dissected time and time again on the way the horror genre has misrepresented women both on the screen and off, but whenever a film comes along and represents a female character as something different, we immediately bring praise to the filmmakers. While this practice is admittedly problematic, the only reason we stress the importance of these “strong female characters” is in large part due to the lack of positive female representation.

Women with Disabilities: The Undiscussed Horror Staple of Female Characters

"God closed my eyes so I could see only the real Gwynplaine"

The slut, the virgin, the bitch, the girl next door, the mother, the creepy old lady, the evil little girl, and the final/survivor girl. Female archetypes and stock characters within the horror genre are rampant and well known. From a movie poster alone, we can often times figure out exactly what a woman’s place and purpose is in a horror film. However, there’s another “type” of woman that we frequently see in horror films that no one seems to want to talk about.

Trans* Women and the Horror of Misrepresentation

Felissa Rose as Angela Baker in Sleepaway Camp

While women (especially women of color) are constantly misrepresented, the trans* woman is without a doubt the most misrepresented minority group in existence. The horror genre frequently comes under fire for its formulaic uses of tropes and characters, and the “mentally ill trans* woman/psycho killer” is one we should really stop using.

I Scream, You Scream, We All ‘Scream’ for Feminism!

Neve Campbell as Syndey in Scream

The ‘Scream’ franchise, after all, is about the women. It could be argued that most horror movies are about the women; female victims make for easy targets and garner more of a reaction from the audience. But ‘Scream’ was one of the first mainstream horrors to advocate for equal-opportunity killing: where the men are as fair game as the girls, and two out of the seven killers have been women. More than that, they’ve been the masterminds of the whole operation; using the clueless and fame-hungry men as pawns in their bloody chess game.

The Shock of ‘Sleepaway Camp’

On the surface, Sleepaway Camp isn’t much different than your average 1980s slasher movie. The comparisons to Friday the 13th can’t be ignored – Sleepaway’s Camp Arawak, much like Friday’s Camp Crystal Lake, is populated by horny teens looking for some summer lovin’, and is the site of a series of gruesome and mysterious murders that threaten to shut down the camp for the whole summer. But unlike Friday the 13th and other slasher films, the twist in Sleepaway Camp isn’t the identity of the murderer, and the final girl isn’t exactly who you’d expect.