Horror films directed by women part 3: 2017-present

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: Director and screenwriter Julia Ducournau attends the "Titane" UK Premiere during the 65th BFI London Film Festival at The Royal Festival Hall on October 09, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for BFI)
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09: Director and screenwriter Julia Ducournau attends the "Titane" UK Premiere during the 65th BFI London Film Festival at The Royal Festival Hall on October 09, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for BFI) /

For part 3 of our Women in Horror series, we are focusing on women-directed horror films released from 2017 through the present.

This was a more difficult list to pare down, since there are more horror films directed by women during this time period. That’s a very good thing, but it does make it more difficult to pick and choose which are deserving of a spotlight.

We’ll start with 2017’s Revenge, written and directed by Coralie Fargeat. Revenge was the film that convinced me to stay with Shudder after my free 7-day trial. I originally got the trial subscription to watch Mayhem (which was great), but Revenge really blew me away.

Jen is a beautiful American woman involved with a rich man, fittingly named Richard. When Richard whisks Jen off to his secluded desert home for a weekend away, the plan is for him to later connect with his buddies for a hunting trip. Unfortunately, the buddies show up while Jen is still there, and after a night of dancing and drinking, one of them sexually assaults her.

Matila Lutz in REVENGE, a Shudder Original. Image courtesy Shudder /

When Richard tries to pay Jen off to forget the rape happened, he ends up pushing her off a cliff and believes she is dead. But, by the time he and his pals go down to where she landed, she is gone. Seriously injured, Jen becomes a warrior and hunts the three men down. Revenge is action-packed, compelling, brutal and bloody, and I was rooting for the brave and determined Jen the whole way.

If you don’t think women can write and direct incredible, violent films with gallons of blood, I encourage you to watch Revenge, which is available on Shudder.

Next up for the immensely talented Fargeat is the highly anticipated Netflix series The Sandman, in which she directed the ninth episode, and The Substance, which is in pre-production.

2020’s Relic premiered at Sundance before it was acquired by IFC, and it was nominated for a slew of awards. Its entry on this list of horror films directed by women is due to Natalie Erika James, who also co-wrote the script with Christian White.

Relic tells the story of the elderly Edna, who suffers from dementia. When she disappears, her daughter Kay and granddaughter Sam go home to try and find her. What they find when they arrive is a locked house with the interior wall coated in an odd black substance.

When Kay suffers nightmares, and Edna shows back up with an unexplained black bruise, the events in the house, and in Edna’s mind, begin to escalate. The horror in  Relic is intensified by the very real backstory of dementia, which all too many of us have had to deal with in real life.

James’s work prior to Relic mainly consisted of short films, but she does have a project called Apartment 7A currently in pre-production. Relic can be streamed on Vudu and Amazon Prime.

Niamh Algar in CENSOR, a Magnet release. © CPL/SSF. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing. /

Censor made a big splash when it premiered last year. It was directed and co-written by Prano Bailey-Bond, and premiered at Sundance in January of 2021, where it received the Melies d’Or for Best European Fantastic Film.

Censor took us back the mid-1980s, when Britain was enduring the Video Nasty controversy. The character of Enid (played by the very talented Niamh Algar) has a job that requires she view violent films and decide if they should be partially censored, or banned altogether.

Enid’s past is steeped in trauma, and when a man murders his family after watching a film Enid was responsible for rating, she begins to fall apart mentally. She even believes that an actress appearing in a banned film may actually be her sister, who disappeared when the two were children.

Censor is one of those “slow burn” films, and it escalates into an extremely bloody, ‘80s style ending that was quite shocking. It was director Prano Bailey-Bond’s first feature film, and she hit the big time right out of the gate. Censor was critically acclaimed, and was nominated for 8 British Independent Film Awards.

IMDb does not show any upcoming projects for Bailey-Bond, but with a debut as good as Censor, I can’t imagine that she won’t bring us anything else. Censor is available to stream on Hulu.

The final entry on our horror films directed by women list is 2021’s Titane

Julia Ducournau directed this decidedly weird film, and she also wrote the screenplay. It premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the coveted Palme d’Or. Ducournau was only the second female director to win, with Jane Campion being the first in 1993 for The Piano.

Titane is a difficult film to summarize, but it’s been compared to David Cronenberg’s 1996 film Crash. It focuses on a woman named Alexia, who suffered a head injury in a childhood car crash, after which she had a titanium plate installed on her head.

Alexia develops an intimate relationship with a car, and also becomes a serial killer, and really, it’s just very difficult to sum up this film! You’ll just have to watch it for yourself.

Ducournau actually deserves a second entry on this list, since she also directed 2016’s equally disturbing Raw, about a young woman who develops a taste for flesh after spending her life as vegetarian. She also directed two episodes of the popular series Servant. Titane is currently available on Hulu.

Thanks for joining us for this discussion of horror films directed by women, we hope you enjoyed it and maybe discovered a few new films to watch.

Next. Young actresses deserving of a scream queen crown. dark

Which films directed by women would you add to this list? Give us your picks in the comments section.