Dr. Andrea Wood’s FILM 450 course “Women Horror Directors” focuses on the rise of women horror directors, covering early trailblazers as well as contemporary cutting-edge filmmakers from around the world. A recent study conducted by Google and the Geena Davis Institute of Gender and Media discovered that women are featured on-screen more often than men and have the most speaking time in only one genre of film and media—horror. This might come as a surprise to many, especially considering horror cinema has long been a genre dominated by male directors and criticized for its objectification of women as well as the sexualized violence used against them in many of these films. Despite these troubling representations, horror is also a genre that has consistently featured powerful female characters—from vampires, to werewolves, to aliens, to witches, to Final Girls. Indeed, significant numbers of women and teenage girls have gravitated toward the genre for decades—a fact that has intrigued feminist film scholars and drawn them toward analyzing the genre as well as its spectatorship.
While horror scholars have addressed representations of gender within the horror film, their analyses have focused almost exclusively on the work of male directors. In the last ten years the number of women directing horror films has risen significantly, and many of these innovative women are taking the male-dominated horror genre in new and exciting directions–all while still delivering spine-tingling scares, macabre thrills, and psychological twists along the way! This course explores the ways in which women directors use the horror genre as a vehicle to explore issues related to systemic oppression, including reproductive rights, sexual assault, gendered violence, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. We also consider how horror can function as a deeply political genre that bridges the gap between horrifying material realities and nightmarish fictional fantasies to comment on and critique aspects of heterosexist patriarchal hegemony.
The students in this course developed a podcast show we are calling “Not Another Boys Club: Women Make Horror” as one of their group assignments. Students worked in pairs or trios to create individual episodes focusing on specific horror films directed by women.
In this week’s episode, Jay and Aaron discuss Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation (2015).