Brooklyn Horror Fest: 5 films by female directors to put on your radar


Brooklyn Horror Fest is upon us, set to unleash eight days of frights and spooks on its namesake city from Oct. 11 – 18.

Brooklyn Horror Fest is here and for those lucky enough to partake in the festivities, BHFF packs a punch of exciting new titles by directors like Nicolas Pesce (Eyes of My Mother; Piercing) and Perry Blackshear (They Look Like People; The Rusalka), as well as a handful of world and North American premieres.

This year, Brooklyn Horror Fest features an impressive slate of movies by female filmmakers– a breath of fresh air in the typically dude-dominated director’s chair! Here is a list of five films by some brutal ladies worth checking out.

Brooklyn Horror Fest 5 Films by Female Directors

LEVEL 16 – Danishka Esterhazy

Known for her empowering female-driven stories, Level 16 is Canadian filmmaker Danishka Esterhazy’s first foray into the realm of science fiction dystopia. Set in a boarding school / prison called Vestalis Academy, the story follows two teenage girls living out hellish, restrictive lives at the dastardly institution.

With the goal of creating exemplary young ladies, the prisoners are expected to follow a strict code of obedience, cleanliness, patience, and humility called “The Feminine Virtues,” in order to reach new training levels. Should they disobey, the threat of brutal punishment looms.

Brooklyn Horror Festival – Level 16 -Markham Street Films

Together the girls discover that reaching level 16, which promises adoption by an upper-middle class family, isn’t what they expect. Fans of A Handmaid’s Tale should look out for this cerebral and stylish take on the feminist dystopia.


Brooklyn Horror Fest – House of Sweat and Tears – Courtesy of Sudor y Lágrimas Films SL

“She” is the sadistic leader of a religious cult that violently tortures her followers to test their devotion. The group of devotees willingly trapped inside the titular house are either suffering or worshipping, fasting or cutting themselves to no end in order to please their blood-lusty goddess.

But when a man claiming to be the true chosen one appears, a power struggle breaks out that leaves carnage in its wake. Beautifully shot by up-and-coming cinematographer Pepe de la Rosa, Valencian director Sonia Escolano’s The House of Sweat and Tears is a sweat-soaked, atmospheric foray into a crazed religious fever-dream.

TOWER. A BRIGHT DAY. – Jagoda Szelc

Brooklyn Horror Fest – Tower. A Bright Day. Courtesy of Centrala,Dolnoslaski Konkurs Filmowy,Dreamsound Studio

Polish director Jagoda Szelc’s debut feature film opened to critical acclaim at the Berlin Film Festival this year, making women directors from Poland two for two after Agnieszka Smoczynska’s celebrated monster-musical film, The Lure. The oddly titled Tower. A Bright Day. is the story of two sisters, one a Christian with a young daughter, the other a mentally unstable pagan.

When the two reunite on the occasion of a First Communion, menace and paranoia invade the household, and an eerie, transfixing buildup makes way for a shocking finale. Spearheaded by two spellbinding lead performances by Anna Krotosca and Malgorzata Szczerbowska, Tower. A Bright Day. brings a realistic, natural feel to this modern tale of witchcraft, which will feel reminiscent of Roman Polanski.

FAMILY – Veronika Kedar

Brooklyn Horror Fest – Family – Courtesy of Veronika Kedar

Described by Veronika Kedar herself as a “[expletive]  up family drama,” Family traces the dysfunctional dynamic of an Israeli family of five, and the events leading up to one member’s brutal murder of the rest. Using a non-linear narrative, the story unfolds as one long therapy session slash confession as our female protagonist delves into her traumatic past.

Kedar not only directs, but writes and stars in this macabre depiction of family life, which is boosted by compelling photography by Christian Huck, and a haunting score by Daphne Keenan.

HOLIDAY – Isabella Eklöf

Brooklyn Horror Fest – Holiday – Courtesy of Apparatur Film,Common Ground Pictures,Det Danske Filminstitut

Already notorious for an extended rape scene comparable to the one in Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible, Danish writer-director Isabella Eklof presents a disturbing portrait of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship. Set on holiday, in the glimmering paradise of Turkey’s Turquoise Coast, a seemingly utopian world and an ideal relationship slowly reveals its hidden underbelly.

Anchored by a fearless performance by Victoria Carmen Sonne, Holiday is a story about trauma and survival, horrifying in its depiction of real-world violence while delivering poignant commentary on consumerism and gendered power dynamics in the age of #MeToo.

Laugh Until You Die at the Women in Horror Film Festival. dark. Next

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