Women's History month may be in March, but we should celebrate the hard-won triumphs of the Women's Liberation movement 365 days of the year. During fall's spookiest season of October, there's no better way to do so than enjoying the delicious exaggeration of fictional worlds where women are indeed doing it for themselves. These 12 female-centric horror movies are available to stream right now on Netflix, indulging your appetite for chills, gore, and smashing gender mores. These movies prove that despite its reputation as a misogynist torture-fest where women's bodies are merely canvases for depraved violence, horror as a genre is one of the most gender-equal out there.
In an industry where underrepresentation of women in front of the camera is a serious problem, horror is the rare outlier. According to MoviePilot, several studies have reported that it's the lone genre where women get more screentime than men, and nearly as much speaking time. The way they're treated varies, of course, but often, storylines and character development are progressive. In horror movies, society's fears are warped and reflected back at us, with women being portrayed as targets and victims of very real animosity, as well as as survivors who use every ounce of wiles and strength to make it through.
These 12 films are a refreshing dip into a world where men take a distant backseat, where ladies fight for themselves, and where the struggle to just live becomes over-the-top enjoyable entertainment.
Hell is other middle-schoolers in this stylish slasher from former Imitation of Christ designer Tara Subkoff. A tony Connecticut sleepover turns deadly after bullying, both cyber- and regular, push a group of isolated girls to their limits.
2'Bound To Vengeance'
A young woman escapes from her captor's clutches, only to realize after searching his house for weapons that she's not his only victim. Determined to save the other girls found in photos, Eve forces her captor to lead her to them. Attempting to free the girls and exact revenge is complicated by the deep-reaching fractures of trauma and loss.
It barely needs explaining how everyone's favorite '90s coven ended up on this list, but a group of girl outsiders bonding together and gaining witchy powers is the best metaphor for the power of female friendship.... just like how the power goes to everyone's head and turns into a magical gaslighting murder extravaganza also works as a metaphor for high school female friendships gone sour.
All hell (literally) breaks loose in this Clive Barker adapatation when a sadistic uncle solves a devious puzzlebox and unleashes the Cenobites (including the well-known Pinhead). Young Kristie has to outwit the gatekeepers of hell, as well as deal with the raw sexual yearning that leads her aunt on a honeypot murder-spree to bring back her sadistic lover. She's gotta have it, indeed.
Created in response to the lack of opportunity for female directors, especially in horror, this anthology showcases four women telling gruesome tales of terror, including one penned and scored by Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent), and another from Karyn Kusama (Jennifer's Body, The Invitation).
From the bonkers director of Suicide Club and Tokyo Tribe, Sion Sono brings us a story of three actors playing the same character as they (literally) run for their lives from violent murder winds, angry teachers, and Death itself. Each embodies a "girl" stereotype, including brides and schoolgirls.
Starring stuntwoman and actor extraordinare Zöe Bell, Raze is a throwback to '70s grit, with a plot simple as it is brutal. Women are kidnapped and forced to fight to the death for a bored, wealthy audience (led by Sherilyn Fenn and Doug Jones). If the women refuse, or lose, their families will be killed. The film ties into larger reality about the subjugation and exploitation of women, noting sadly real statistics on the number of missing women never found each year.
The psychological fear of emasculation or male injury via sex is embodied in the concept of "vagina dentata" or vaginal teeth. You can see where this movie is going. A young lady finds she has the literal condition, only to realize this is an excellent advantage in a world where every man and purported ally is a creep just waiting to take advantage of youthful female sexuality.
A dreamy tale of mother-daughter vampirism from Neil Jordan, who also helmed The Company Of Wolves, a tale of the dangers young women face coming of sexual age. Here, the secret of immortality's been kept by a group of upper-class men, until prostitute Eleanor takes matters into her own hands. Breaking their rules, she turns her teenage daughter after sexual assault leaves her with a dire future, and the two are hunted to the present day. A meditation on female solidarity in a world that leaves them few choices.
A simple and straightforward revenge story, sort of The Professional crossed with April Fool's Day. Encountering Veronica, a young woman unfazed by her parents' sudden and brutal deaths, a man realizes he's found the perfect apprentice to train into beautiful, deadly bait. When a group of high schoolers with murderous intent pick her as their next victim, they have no idea what they've set themselves up for.
Nancy Drew meets Groundhog's Day in this clever tale of a morose teen living the same day again and again. Lisa realizes she and her family are the ghosts haunting their house, and there's something more sinister going on in the past, present and future. Lisa tries to solve her own murder as she unravels the mystery of why she's stuck in a loop.
A fascinating, creepy character study of Amy, a traumatized young woman using hand-sewn felt body suits to create protective alter-egos. She begins to unravel, and with good reason — the men around her are genuine creeps, and the movie highlights the awful indignities women have to bear on a daily basis.
Hopefully these films can help exorcise similar negativity in your own life just by watching them. In the meantime, we'll keep tearing down the patriarchy IRL while cheering on our fictional final girls.