March is Women’s History Month, and even though we try to equably celebrate horror films at 1428 Elm, it seems appropriate to put together a list of horror films directed by women. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t even realize some of these films were helmed by women!
Keep in mind that this is not a complete list, and there are many other horror films that were directed by women, but this is just my own short list.
We have to start with the first mainstream noir film to be directed by a woman, 1953’s The Hitch-Hiker. Ida Lupino directed and co-wrote the “ripped from the headlines” script, which was based on the true story of spree killer Billy Cook. Lupino took her job seriously, and even interviewed two of Cook’s kidnap victims. Over the years, appreciation for the film has grown, and it was even screened at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre in 2014. The Hitch-Hiker is currently streaming on Tubi.
1982’s The Slumber Party Massacre was written by a woman, and directed by a woman; Rita Mae Brown wrote the script, and Amy Holden Jones directed. The title of the film more or less gives away the basic plotline, but it has become a beloved classic. Brown originally wrote the script as a parody of slasher films, but the producers wanted a more serious story and edited the script against her wishes. As for Jones, she was a film editor who wanted to begin directing. She filmed the first three scenes at her house, then showed them to Roger Corman, who ended up financing the film. The Slumber Party Massacre can be streamed on Tubi, Shudder and Amazon Prime.
1987 brought us one of my own personal favorites, the Western vampire flick Near Dark. Featuring the acting talents of Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen (among others), this wild ride of a horror film was co-written and directed by a woman. Kathryn Bigelow went on to work on films such as Point Break, Zero Dark Thirty and Strange Days. She became the first woman to receive an Oscar for Best Director with 2008’s The Hurt Locker. Near Dark has gone on to achieve cult status, but should have been a bigger success when it was first released. Lance Henriksen told me in an interview that at the same time the film was released, the studio went bankrupt, robbing Bigelow of the fame she deserved. Unfortunately, Near Dark is not currently available to stream.
The original version of Pet Semetary, released in 1989, was also directed by a woman, Mary Lambert. Lambert was the studio’s first choice as director for the adaptation of Stephen King’s dark, bleak novel, but King himself had final approval. He was impressed with her enthusiasm and her promise to stay true to the novel, and Lambert was in. It may be that people thought a woman would try to lighten up the storyline, or at least the ending, but she did not, choosing instead to make good on her promise. Mary Lambert went on to direct Pet Semetary Two, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary and the 2011 Syfy film Mega Python vs. Gatoroid. Pet Semetary can be seen on Netflix.
Join us later this week, when we will return to discuss some more recent horror films directed by women.
Which horror films by women directors do you love the most? Give them a shout-out in the comments section.