We’ve ranked final girls and villainesses. We’ve remembered Fay Wray and honored Jamie Lee Curtis. We’ve ruminated on director Mary Lambert’s “Pet Sematary,” celebrated star Jess Weixler kicking the hell out of “Teeth,” and considered the limitations imposed by so-called sanity in “Carrie,” “Unsane,” and more psychological fright fests.
We’ve waxed poetic about our favorite horror movies and pestered genre goddesses of all kinds to do same with Kristen Connolly (“The Cabin in the Woods”), Leigh Janiak (“Fear Street”), Thora Birch (“Hocus Pocus”), Barbara Crampton (“Re-Animator”), Milly Shapiro (“Hereditary”), Essie Davis (“The Babadook”), and more weighing in. Heck, Cassandra Peterson — yes, the Elvira — even sat us down for a whole conversation picking apart what sets her Halloween-loving heart aflutter, in an interview that also explores the LGBTQ underpinnings of countless scary movies.
Now, IndieWire’s Seven Days of Scream Queens — our horror-themed tribute to women and queer people’s impact on film’s most frightful grounds — must be laid to rest. And what better way to memorialize this killer week than by going for the jugular with a straight-forward, but strictly limited ranking of the 13 best feminist horror movies ever made?
Rather than inundate you with every scary pro-woman movie out there (because, lucky for us, there are many), this curation includes only the most essential and most masterful horror movies about women and gendered issues. For example: Neil Marshall’s well-loved “The Descent” is fantastic and goes spelunking through a cave system of female friendship related subjects, but is not featured because it doesn’t quite rise to the salient messaging, historic impact, emotional resonance, or caliber of craft apparent in other films on this list. May this serve as the official honorary mention for Brian De Palma’s “Carrie,” Ross Glass’ “Saint Maud,” Mimi Cave’s “Fresh,” and oh-so-regrettably John Carpenter’s “Halloween” which was knocked out of consideration by a slightly earlier final girl triumph.
Look past the blood, guts, and even glitter that turn these stories into spooky spectacles fit for the big screen and you’ll find they share at least one fundamental position. To paraphrase dystopian soothsayer and feminist icon Margaret Atwood: Women are human beings, with the full range of saintly and demonic behavior this entails. And to paraphrase Dick Wolf: These are their stories.