I Spent October Bingeing these Feminist Horror Films, so I Ranked them from Best to Worst for You

The coming of age of young women is scary. With everything that we have to deal with — from the fight for reproductive rights to sexual violence to being shut down in conversations almost daily — horror is one of the few places we’re able to find catharsis. It provides a visceral window into parts of our lives that we fear the most, and the dangers that we face. Even Bela Lugosi, perhaps better known as 1931's Count Dracula, once said, “It is women who love horror. Gloat over it. Feed on it. Are nourished by it. Shudder and cling and cry out — and come back for more.”

So to commemorate spooky season, I spent last month binge-watching ten critically-acclaimed feminist horror movies, some of which I'd seen before and others for the first time. From best (1) to worst (10), here's my final ranking.

Warning: spoilers ahead

 

  1. 1. Jennifer's Body (2009)

    When an indie band desperate for fame performs a failed satanic sacrifice on high school student Jennifer Check (Megan Fox), she's revived as a demon to devour the young men in her town.

    There’s a reason why both Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried cite this movie as their favorite project they’ve ever done. The way it challenged and subverted every restrictive trope on female sexuality, the complexity of female friendships and intimacy, and revenge pre-#MeToo made the movie criminally ahead of its time, and I believe Jennifer’s Body will be taught at film school for years to come.

    Diablo Cody’s iconic zingers, the cheesy early-2000s aesthetic, and a failed satanic sacrifice leading to Megan Fox’s revival as a demon succubus that devours sexist young men? Honestly, we don’t deserve her.

  2. 2. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

    A Persian western noir depicting a skating vampire girl who feeds on men who disrespect women? This film gets rid of every toxic horror trope in the book. The sex worker survives, and there’s no final girl because none of the women get killed.

    The spectacular symbolism – from the Persian cat as a sign of impending doom to the little boy as the voyeur – were also incredible. And, it was directed by a woman.

  3. 3. You’re Next (2011)

    This is a film about a family gathering that gets attacked by assailants. Erin (Sharni Vinson), the survivalist in the family, becomes responsible for fighting off her attackers. Sharni Vinson’s extraordinary performance as Erin is immaculate.

    She subverts the final girl trope as well as the Tough Girl trope. Being the “tough girl” doesn't always allow female characters to be emotionally complex and vulnerable. However, Erin embodies every single one of these qualities. The film paints an excellent picture of the dangers of forcing one woman to hold down the fort. 

  4. 4. Ginger Snaps (2000)

    When Ginger Fitzgerald is attacked by a werewolf, she starts feeding on residents in her home town to quench her thirst for blood. Ginger Snaps is a commentary on the initial shame and disgust many cis women and girls have about menstruation. Ginger is initially ashamed of her primal urge to kill, but she eventually embraces it.

    This film is one of my all-time favorites because of its portrayal of sisterhood, supernatural folklore and womanhood. And since I’m a sucker for prosthetic makeup, I enjoyed seeing women and girls really take the opportunity to get ugly on screen.

    That said, the film also has many flaws. The script contains homophobic slurs, and while I know Ginger was supposed to be the villain I wish they'd taken a different route than sacrificing the newly-liberated young woman.

  5. 5. Dracula’s Daughter (1936)

    Dracula's Daughter is the sequel to Dracula, portraying the life of Count Dracula's daughter, Countess Marya Zaleska. The film follows her unsuccessful attempt to eradicate her thirst for blood after her father’s death. Dracula's Daughter is supremely ahead of its time in the ways it subverts archaic gender roles and portrays the vampire as a feminist icon.

    This classic is one of my favorite films and it’s packed with feminist symbolism, motifs and queer allegories. Thanks to the restrictive homophobic Hays Code this film was made under, filmmakers resorted to coding queerness in movies, which means the sapphic symbolism is a big highlight of the film. Unfortunately, that also makes the film a classic example of the Bury Your Gays trope, which I had to dock five points for.

  6. 6. The Craft (1996)

    When four high school friends form a coven and unlock their magic, they become power-hungry and their spells take a turn for the worse. I wasn’t around for the commercial release of The Craft, but since it’s a cult classic this viewing was essential. Plus, this film solidified Fairuza Balk’s status as a fashion icon.

    The movie did an outstanding job at highlighting the power of female friendships, the positive and negative energies that spells can send out, and just how heinous and mean-spirited the dynamic between teenage girls can get. Unfortunately, some of the dialogue and the jokes are very dated — especially the glamorization of self-harm.

  7. 7. Teeth (2007)

    Directed by Mitchell Lichtenstein, Teeth follows the journey of Dawn O’Keefe. Dawn is the president of her chastity club, who discovers through unwanted sexual encounters with men that her vagina is lethal. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this film as much as I anticipated.

    My dissatisfaction mainly came from the lack of character development – I would have loved to see her grow to embrace her sexuality instead of skipping so soon from a fully celibate teenager to a rape-avenging angel. Watching the sexually-entitled men who came after her get what they deserved was definitely satisfying, but this film should definitely have a trigger warning for multiple scenes depicting sexual violence. 

  8. 8. Audition (1999)

    This Japanese cult slasher film depicts a widower named Aayoma holding fake auditions as a dating service. The woman he ultimately chooses, Asami, ends up being more than he’s bargained for. Audition is one of the most critically-acclaimed classics in feminist horror lore. The buildup of suspension and gorgeous cinematography are in a league of their own.

    However, that was the only highlight for me. I ultimately felt that the film was misleading. It felt more like a depiction of a sociopathic serial killer than a feminist revenge film, which was what I expected it to be.

    Content warning: this film is definitely not for those with weak stomachs or an aversion to needles.

  9. 9. The Witch (2015)

    The Witch follows a New England family in the year 1630. Thomasin, the oldest daughter, is suspected to be a witch when evil plagues her family and her youngest sibling goes missing on her watch. Upon its release, The Witch received a lot of praise for its commentary on power, independence, and female sexual liberation, and the bone-chilling scenography and dissonant soundtrack made this a riveting watch.

    However, while the subversion of the final girl trope is admirable, Thomasin ultimately surrenders to the coven that killed her family. That felt more like a personal defeat and a last resort than a victory. The film depicts a series of events that happen to her, leaving her powerless. At least in Audition, Asami was in full control. 

  10. 10. Stepford Wives (1975)

    When Joanna Eberheart moves to the town of Stepford with her husband, she notices that there's something off about the town’s women. This eventually leads to a horrific discovery about the town's leadership.

    This film is considered to be a second-wave feminist classic, but it didn't age well. The creepy league of men killing their wives and replacing them with docile, subservient robot clones won. The message intended with the ending was that no woman can fight off the patriarchy alone. While I'm grateful for what the film accomplished at the time, it was still very painful to watch, which is why I'm ranking it last.

Critiquing feminist cinema is essential in order to access better representation. We've certainly come a long way since the days when horror films sacrificed the sexually-liberated women and the final girl had to be virginal, chaste, and pure. But there's still a long way to go. Regardless of their flaws, all ten of these movies make for a riveting viewing experience. So if you’re hungry for more horror movies that center women’s stories, these are all great options.