King. Kubrick. Craven. Conversations about the masters of horror consistently involve male monikers. But so many modern and vintage horror classics have either been written by, directed by or written and directed by women — films with distinct emotional depth, real chills and, in some cases, wry humor. In honor of Women in Horror Month, here are 11 films to watch before February is up. Or whenever you want to be scared.
The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears
Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s giallo homage is a cousin to Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin but defiantly more hellish. A man tries to track down his missing wife by collecting clues in his labyrinthine apartment building, and descends into an occultist fantasy of bloodshed and nightmares in the tradition of Mario Bava. —April Wolfe
If you’re not excited about the upcoming sequel to The Craft, you’d better watch director Leigh Janiek’s moody debut, Honeymoon. It tells the story of a newlywed couple on their honeymoon in the woods, but when the wife sleepwalks into the woods one night, she comes back a different, creepy person covered in bug bites. The film functions as both a metaphor for how the shine of people wears off after marriage and a truly unsettling take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers. —April Wolfe
The novel Pet Sematary was written by a man (you know the one) and is told from a male point of view, but in director Mary Lambert's hands, the folly and foolishness of masculinity feels even more powerful. The soil of a man's heart is stonier — and nothing could be more treacherous. Pet Sematary gets no critical love whatsoever — hovering at 47 percent, aka rotten, on Rotten Tomatoes — but if you can watch the flashback scenes of wife Rachel caring for her deformed, dying sister Zelda without having nightmares, more power to you. —Gwynedd Stuart
The Midnight Swim
Sarah Adina Smith’s sci-fi psychodrama Buster’s Mal Heart hit it big at the Toronto Film Festival last year, bolstered by its star, Rami Malek (Mr. Robot). But it’s her debut feature, The Midnight Swim, that signaled this young director had a hugely original voice. This one’s about three sisters who go back home to sort out their mother’s affairs after she goes missing during a swim in the lake. Smith submerges the viewer in a psychological breakdown by using a POV camera, so we see the world through the characters’ eyes, and what they see may or may not include the lake’s resident ghost. —April Wolfe
Lucile Hadzihalilovic can tap into sexual-awakening anxieties like no other director working today. Her 2016 offering about male puberty, Evolution, is grand, but it’s her 2004 film, Innocence, that’s stuck with me. Students at a secluded, all-female boarding school arrive in sealed coffins, and that’s the least strange thing about this film. No one can leave the school, and those who try to escape become indentured servants. It’s up to every girl to endure the horrifying bodily changes through to the end, or forever face the consequences. —April Wolfe
When a mother returns home from cosmetic plastic surgery with her face in bandages, her twin little boys convince themselves that she’s not their mother. Directing team Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala take this premise and then circumvent all expectations, making these two well-meaning children some of the most terrifying villains imaginable. —April Wolfe
The horror of grief's aftermath — particularly following the death of a child — strikes again in this stylish thriller about a cultish dinner party that's sure to resonate with Angelenos. Director Karyn Kusama, who also directed the campy Diablo Cody vehicle Jennifer's Body, masterfully builds dread while making the audience doubt the emotional and mental stability of the connecting character, which makes for a refreshing and satisfying — if gruesome — ending. —Gwynedd Stuart
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
Every frame of Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature is a photograph you could hang on your wall. The image of a young woman in a long black chador gliding through the night on a skateboard like a vampire bat is one of the most creative and concise political statements — women can be dangerous and beautiful. Come for the beauty, stay for the blood. —April Wolfe
Jennifer Kent’s debut feature The Babadook is one of the scariest movies of the past 10 years. A malevolent spirit invades a young widow’s home as she tries to care for her needy son. The Babadook itself seems like it was ripped from Tim Burton’s scarier nightmares, but coupled with Kent’s sense of gritty realism, the monster stands out as truly terrifying. All the while, this grieving woman is slowly losing her mind, and the possibility of her killing her own son becomes more and more inevitable. Fun times! —April Wolfe
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Slumber Party Massacre (Parts I and II)
Amid all the slashers of the 1980s, Slumber Party Massacre was the film for and by women. Director Amy Jones had clearly seen some of the film’s predecessors and totally turned the gender assumptions on their heads. These women are on the run from a killer with a power drill, but they’re also smart and totally realistic teenage girls. Later, Deborah Brock picked up the next installment of the series and infused it with even more camp, as a “supernatural rockabilly driller killer” haunts the girls. —April Wolfe
Yup, yuppie capitalists are sick fuckers, and Bret Easton Ellis took that notion to its extremes in his 1991 novel American Psycho. In the 2000 screen adaptation, co-written by Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner — and directed by the former — the titular prostitute-murdering, Huey Lewis–loving serial killer could only be so terrifying through a woman's lens. — Gwynedd Stuart