February marks the 7th annual Women in Horror Month, a grassroots initiative meant to showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. While Final Girls are vital to genre narratives, women working behind the scenes often go unnoticed as they’re largely outnumbered when it comes to directing horror features. Considering that the demographics of horror audiences have shifted over time, with female viewers now making up the majority percentage of ticket purchasers, the ratio seems a little outdated. So many women have left their mark on the genre over the years, but the following women are notable modern trailblazers currently breaking down the gender divide with their memorable contributions to the genre.
Amirpour’s debut feature, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, offered a genuinely unique take on the vampire sub-genre. An odd yet seamless mash up of a Spaghetti Western, 1950s juvenile delinquent, and new wave set to sleek black-and-white cinematography and a catchy soundtrack. Set in an Iranian town called “Bad City,” in which a chador sporting vampire stalks evil men on her skateboard, Aminpour’s dreamlike vision feels more akin to a badass comic book at times. Yet the scenes in which the vampire stalks her victims in the dark across wide expanses of abandoned streets and empty lots effectively layers in the horror.
Janiak’s first feature debut, Honeymoon, plays on the fear of not really knowing the person sleeping next to you. The story centers on a newlywed couple honeymooning at a cabin in the woods. When the bride disappears in the middle of the night, only to be found disoriented and naked, the groom begins to question who he actually found in the woods when her personality changes. Janiak elevates a simplistic plot and setting with an unsettling tension that continues to build until it boils over into a disturbing climax. Janiak deftly balances a realistic, emotional dissection of relationships with slimy, gross body horror.
Writing, directing, and producing duo Holzman and Boyle, aka Dpyx, mark their debut with Nobody Can Cool, an independent feature that proves that budget isn’t everything when it comes to making a great film. The story follows a young couple who discover their borrowed cabin is inhabited by another couple. Instead of finding elsewhere to stay, the couple agrees to share the cabin for the night only to find they’ve gotten mixed up with hardened criminals. Tensions rise and much blood is shed. Dpyx delivers on excellent atmosphere, great performances, and a very clever story.
Paxon’s directorial debut, Blood Punch, takes familiar tropes, such as the dangerous love triangle, and throws them on their head. When a meth cooker is lured out of rehab to help a dangerous couple land a big score, the trio gets more than they bargained for when things take a twisted turn into the supernatural. Paxon boldly escalates the violence and the dark humor, but even more daring is that she doesn’t even require that you like the main characters. As the body count rises, you find your allegiance constantly shifting between each unsavory character. Paxon proves she can do grisly just as well as the boys.
Before becoming a filmmaker, Carolyn spent years as a horror journalist for notable publications like Fangoria and published horror short stories. From there she transitioned into short horror films before completing her first feature, Soulmate, which was censored in the UK for its graphic suicide opening scene. As the mastermind behind Halloween anthology Tales of Halloween, in which she rounded up nearly anyone and everyone worth noting in horror, Carolyn further solidified her ranking as one of the most passionate about the genre working today.
Up until recently, Benjamin has largely served as a producer for notable credits like V/H/S, V/H/S 2, and festival darling The Devil’s Candy (read our review here). She very recently marked her directorial debut with the segment “Siren” in horror anthology Southbound, a film in which she also co-produced. The segment marks the rare story centered around female leads, and Benjamin has openly spoken about her interest in female centric roles. It’s clear that Southbound is just the beginning for Benjamin.
Kusama already earned her horror street cred with 2009’s Jennifer’s Body, but while that failed to win over mainstream audiences her latest feature had festival audiences going crazy. The Invitation is a slowburn thriller toeing the line of suspicion and paranoia that crescendos into one grand finale. It marks an impressive return to feature filmmaking for Kusama, and proof that she can tackle the genre in different, refreshing ways. While The Invitation is awaiting wide release (look for our review soon), Kusama is currently directing a segment in XX, an anthology of female-driven horror.
McKendry worked for nearly 13 years at Fangoria, starting in radio research before moving her way up to Director of Marketing. She’s since assumed Editor-in-Chief for Blumhouse.com, and that doesn’t even cover her extensive education in film (she’s currently working on her PhD with a focus on “Horror and Exploitation Cinema”). Mckendry co-hosts popular weekly horror podcast, Killer POV, and a monthly LA horror trivia Dead Right Horror Trivia Night. Somehow, between all of that, she’s made numerous horror short films, like “Witches Brew”. She’s currently working on her first feature length film, All the Creatures Were Stirring, an upcoming holiday horror-comedy film starring Constance Wu, Jonathan Kit, Brea Grant, and Graham Skipper. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone more knowledgeable about horror and the horror industry than hardworking McKendry.