It isn’t news to claim that horror genre in film, and in particular, the zombie genre, is a tired one. Over the past decade or so, countless superficial movies, which often involve a group of rather ill-informed teenagers and a poorly imagined menace, have dominated cinematic horror. Not only do these films usually lack any kind of actual substance, they also tend to give shockingly basic depictions of women. More often than not, their female characters tend to fall into the ‘Angel – Whore’ dichotomy, in which the sexually active are devoured by an entity, a predator or a combination of the two, while the virginial find themselves spared from any harm.
All, however, is not lost. In recent years, there has been something of a surge in thought-provoking, female-centric horror films, ones that could easily join the ranks of ‘Carrie’, ‘The Craft’ and ‘Alien’. I’m talking, here, about the likes of ‘It Follows’, ‘The Witch’ and, my most recently watched, ‘The Girl with All the Gifts’. What I love about these films, and their inclusion of female protagonists, is that the women featured in them are not simply shoved in for the sole purpose of appearing ‘diverse’. Rather, they are essential to the major themes of each said film. ‘The Witch’, for example, is a fascinating exploration of adolescent sexuality and female agency under the guise of horror. If the lead of ‘The Witch’ were not Tomasin, played with a coy brilliance by Anya Taylor-Joy, then the film would not be nearly as wonderfully tense as it is. One of the finest aspects of the film is the use of Satanism, and the worship of sexual depravity, used as a metaphor for the terrifying terrain of adolescence and the discovery of sexuality. Without the tentativeness of Tomasin, and her unsure attempts to understand her own desire, so often mixed up with blasphemy and so-called ‘sin’, the film becomes significantly less gripping. The examination of female sexuality featured in ‘The Witch’ serves as the driving force of the film, as it consistently encourages the curiosity of the audience. The inclusion of a female protagonist whom, gradually, indulges fully in her own agency and the exploration of female desire, untainted by the male gaze, is arguably the strongest point of the film, and is a refreshing change within the modern horror genre.
By placing power back into the hands of badass women, akin to ‘Alien’s Ripley and Sarah Connor of ‘The Terminator’, horror films have managed to salvage themselves from the poor, misogynistic features that have unfortunately dominated the genre throughout the early to mid-2000s. As feminist features such as ‘The Lure’ and ‘Raw’ muster international success, women in horror are continuously reclaiming their titles as the masters of fear. Long live the queens.
by Hannah Ryan
Hannah is 19, lives in Cardiff and is into female protagonists, visually pleasing movies and Star Wars. Her favourite films include Pan’s Labyrinth, Casino Royale and Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy. She generally prefers dogs to people and you can find her talking endlessly about films at @_hannahryan on Twitter.
Categories: Anything and Everything