Originally published by Ms. Magazine on October 27, 2015
Just when you thought it was safe to go back on the Internet around Halloween without being confronted with those pesky feminist analyses of every goth girl, riot grrrl and geek girl’s favorite genre—horror—SHE’S BACK with that darn Feminist Guide to Horror Movies. And this time, she’s got an international agenda to promote.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I wish there were an Iranian vampire film noir that combines some real old-school Bram Stoker horror with a commentary on the gendered nature of the danger of walking the streets at night in Iran but also offers a visually stunning representation of violence that simultaneously valorizes and undermines drug/mafia culture in a style that can only be described as Tarantino-esque?”
Good news! There is! It’s called A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night; it’s written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour and it’s available on Netflix. The film successfully blends the shadowy landscapes of Gothic novels, the humor of post-modern horror movies and the nightmare-dreamscape of a Hitchcock film. This is not to say the film is derivative—it is in fact far more than the sum of its parts.
+4 for successful gender-flipping of Gothic vampire tropes
+2 for a total absence of vampires that sparkle in the sun
+1 for humor of the self-referential Wes Craven (may he RIP) sort
+A million for representations of desire that deal simultaneously with its dangers and its pleasures
If vampire movies aren’t your thing, this holiday season you might find yourself wondering, “What other sort of horror film might I view to celebrate the occasion that would not so totally offend my feminist sensibilities that I can’t enjoy the film?”
Might I suggest the New Zealand thriller Housebound. Multiple plot twists will keep you on the edge of your seat—even if you have to pause to make microwave popcorn halfway through—and the evolution of the mother-daughter relationship is truly endearing. Some really great jump-scares combined with a satisfying ending make the film both an effective moral on the importance of trust between family members and a fairly exciting watch.
+4 for a central female figure and central female relationship that doesn’t involve a man
+1 for humor of the just-at-the-right-moment-and-therefore-cathartic-Wes Craven-(may he RIP) sort
For the zombie lovers among you, you might enjoy the Australian film Wyrmwood. Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead adds some unique touches to the behavior of its zombies, offers a pretty terrifying take on the mad-scientist trope and gives both the central characters each a hero journey of their own. It’s also pretty funny, and despite the awkward blackouts that make it seem like it was made for TV, it manages to create and sustain fear over time. But I must also attach a feminist advisory to this one: If I were to interview the writer, I’d have to ask, “Did you really have to make the character who was clearly descended from indigenous people a not-so-bright, sex-obsessed stereotype? Really? And did you really have to keep the central female character in what appears to be a see-through teddy the whole time? Really?”
+2 for eco-positive messaging
+2 for female character with badass magical powers
-5 million for racism and sexism
-Another million for not having any relation at all to Wes Craven (may he RIP)
Front page photo via A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
What do you think?