Five horror female directors
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Five Horror Female Directors for you to check it out!

Are you a horror fan who is tired of looking for new things to watch and getting the same old list? Again and again and again.

Before anyone comes at me to say how dare I speak ill of the greats, I want to preface here: I am not doing that. I still appreciate and have so much fun watching Halloween (1978) or Insidious (2010). However, from time to time, I feel the thirst for something different, a new perspective. It can be something darker or humorous, a classic teen horror movie or a twisted psychological drama.

So, in order to satiate this need, I have compiled a list of some of my favourite horror directors and films outside the more mainstream route. Shall we begin?

Horror Female Directors

Karyn Kusama

The first name on our list is the incredibly talented Karyn Kusama. She is responsible for directing the masterpiece that is Jennifer’s Body (2009), she has also directed a short from the 2017 anthology XX, and some other superb films.

However, today we are going to discuss, in my opinion, one of her best projects yet. I am talking about The Invitation (2015).

The way I found out about this movie was very low-key. A friend of my partner recommended it to us and since it was on Brazilian Netflix at the time, we decided to have a cosy night in to watch it.

Horror - Karyn Kusama

The thing about this film is that, just as that friend made a low-key suggestion, the story is initially very quiet and minimal. A man and his girlfriend are invited to a dinner party at his ex-wife’s house. A little awkward, but nothing to be afraid of… That is, for now.

I do not want to talk too much about the story because what this film does masterfully creates an atmosphere around its characters that creates a sense of mystery that is slowly revealed with every turn of the narrative. You never truly feel like the whole truth has been told, until the very last shot.

Let’s just say my partner and I were not feeling too cosy by the end of this film.

Gabriela Amaral Almeida

If you are in search of something outside the US, Canada and UK circuit, this recommendation is for you.

Gabriela Amaral Almeida is a Brazilian writer and director who has influenced the greats like Stephen King but also is deeply connected to Brazilian culture. Her first two short films, The Comforting Hand (2012) and Estátua! (2014) narrates the tales of women, either dealing with the fears of being a mother or the anxieties of becoming one.

Horror - Gabriela Amaral Almeida

As I write this article, Almeida has directed two feature films, The Friendly Beast (2017) and The Father’s Shadow (2019), both incredible achievements. However, we will be discussing her very first feature, The Friendly Beast.

The way I like to describe this film is as a capsule horror movie. Everything is set in a restaurant, owned by Inácio (Murilo Benicio) an egotistical and greedy businessman, where at the end of the night shift, a pair of burglars break into the place and makes all the team and the remaining clients their hostages.

Slowly, things escalate, especially between Inácio and Sara (Luciana Paes), where an unlikely and animalistic love and desire erupts into a cascade of endearing and gruesome violence.

If you have a weak stomach, I must warn you that this movie might make you flinch a couple of times. Highly recommend it!

Nia DaCosta

Going back to the US, we have the amazing writer and director, Nia DaCosta. I do recognize that her portfolio is hardly focused on just one genre. The woman is incredibly talented and has experience from smaller projects, to being involved in a Marvel production.

But today I wanted to talk about her latest endeavours in the feature film world. I am, of course, talking about the 2021 Candyman.

Horror - Nia Dacosta

It is truly a shame that this film got so caught up in the COVID limbo. Even though it received appraisal from critics and audiences alike, this is a film that deserved a big splashy cinema release that we so wanted during the worst of the lockdown. Regardless, it is indisputable that this is a masterpiece.

Unlike what most people think, the 2021 Candyman is not a remake or even a sequel for that matter, it is more of an expansion of the very first movie. It follows the story of Anthony, a young artist who creates an exhibition about the legend of Candyman. What starts as an artistic curiosity, slowly turns into something much more dangerous than he could have ever imagined.

With stellar acting and a director bursting with creativity, this movie is a must-watch. 

Issa Lopez

Travelling around the Americas again, we reach the fourth name on the list. Issa López is a prolific Mexican writer, director and producer. She has written eleven screenplays, directing four of them herself.

Like all the talented people on this list, López has comedies and dramas under her belt, but today I’d like to take a closer look at her 2017 feature film Tigers Are Not Afraid.

Horror - Issa Lopez

Once again, this film is very hard to describe, it borrows elements of horror, fantasy, crime and drama. It masterfully interweaves these genres, creating a unique sense of place and atmosphere that will grip your attention from beginning to end.

Tigers Are Not Afraid follows the story of a young girl who, after her mother’s disappearance, finds herself in a gang of street children to survive. What was an already bad situation, takes an even more twisted turn when tragic and strange events start to take place.

Leigh Janiak

Now, I will recognize that Janiak is not exactly an underground name. However, I could not talk about women in horror and not bring up one of the most successful directors of the last couple of years.

If you have been leaving under a rock and don’t know who Leigh Janiak is, allow me to give you a summary of her portfolio. The first feature film listed in her name is the 2014 Honeymoon, a horror film about a just married couple that has their honeymoon disturbed by some odd behaviours from the wife. After this first film, Janiak shows up as the mastermind behind the massively successful Fear Street trilogy.

Horror - Leigh Janiak

Yes, that is what you heard, she went from directing one film in 2014 to leading the production of three feature-length films for Netflix.

Some people hated them, others loved them. I personally really enjoyed watching this trilogy, especially during the lockdown, their fun yet the gory tone was what I needed during some of the darkest days of the lockdown. Especially with the genius strategy of releasing one film a week for a month, really gave the audience something to look forward to in isolation.

If you’re unfamiliar with the films, I will try to explain them as simply as possible. Based on the point horror books of R. L. Stine, Fear Street follows the life of Deena, a young teen from the town of Shadyside, a place cursed by a witch long ago. After Deena accidentally finds the witch’s burial site, Deena and her friends will have to fight against the evil that has been haunting the town for centuries.

If you enjoy meta storytelling, this is the series for you. Each film adopts the tropes of the many horror cycles. From the 90’s teen horror to the folky witch tales, this trilogy has it all to give you a good time.

This list is not complete. I could literally write a whole book just with suggestions. But for now, that will have to do!

What do you think of these directors and films? Do you have a female horror director that you believe deserves more recognition? Let me know about them!

About the author

Livia Reim | Rock and Art
Livia Reim
+ posts

With an MA in Filmmaking, Livia spends her time either making films or writing about them. She has contributed to independent publications and has her own blog, focusing on the horror genre, LGBTIA+ and feminist issues.

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