Shaping Horror–Women Writers and Filmmakers

Rather than focusing on actresses in horror, or the term “Scream Queens”, I wanted to take a look
at the past and present of women in horror–in creator capacities–particularly writers and directors.

A new generation of women horror writers and directors are getting widespread geographic representation–from Chicagoan actress/writers of “What they Say”–Heather Dorff and Kelsey Zukowski;  Canadians Lianne Spiderbaby, Karen Lam, Nadine L’Esperance, and the Soska Sisters (Sylvia and Jen); southern filmmakers Goldie Fatale, Andie Noir, and Shauna Tackett; and those covering horror across the pond: Germany’s Cat la Belle (Horrorpilot) and Scotland’s Jennifer Cooper (Musings of a Morleysaurus/Jennifer’s Bodies).  The Soskas have wrapped the intriguing  “American Mary” (w/Katharine Isabelle) and previously brought us “Dead Hooker in a Trunk”.
The realm of indie horror has proven to be a welcoming landscape for strong, young female filmmakers such as the Soskas, and other exciting new voices including Hannah Neurotica, Elisabeth Fies, Amy Lynn Best, Nicole Kruex, Axelle Carolyn, Maude Michaud, Tammi Sutton, and Elske McCain.   Bloggers, journalists, and film site reviewers such as Lianne Spiderbaby and Rebekah McKendry (of Fangoria) , Molly Celaschi and Kelsey Zukowski (Horror Yearbook), Dai Green ( and several podcasts),  Jennifer Cooper, Cat la Belle, and Rebekah Herzberg, each bring great passion, knowledge of horror/suspense, and nostalgia for a life’s memories of growing up on horror and genre fare to their perspectives on the industry and its product.
Video segment webisodes, such as scribe Lianne Spiderbaby’s smart and funny “Fright Bytes” and Jill Killington’s charming and clever video review blog “Jill Kill”, have led to a new generation of horror hostesses that are more review and interview focused.

Love her or hate her, Stephenie Meyer, along with J.K. Rowling, have been the two most influential females in popular culture in the last decade.  Female fiction writers, especially in the horror and fantasy genres, wield undeniable influence.  From Meyer’s “Twilight” series (with screenplays by Melissa Rosenberg) to Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse/”True Blood” source material,  Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” epics, L.J. (Lisa Jane) Smith, whose series”The Vampire Diaries” and “The Secret Circle” have both been translated  to TV; Richele Mead’s Vampire Academy novels, Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series, and the grand vampire and witch matriarch,  Anne Rice.  Also of note are S.D. (Stephani Danelle) Perry’s Resident Evil novels, which rival the Milla Jovovich film series, in my view.  And much of modern horror fiction is owed to the horror classics of Shirley Jackson and Mary Shelley.

On the film side, the late Debra Hill has to be seen as a pioneer for female producers and writers, scripting and producing with John Carpenter the classic films Halloween (original and II) and The Fog.  Carpenter’s films became a strong source for female talent–Debra Hill, strong heroines onscreen, and utilizing the late, great composer Shirley Walker.
Mary Lambert helmed Pet Sematary (and its sequel) and was the first female director of a Syfy Channel Original Movie.
Rachel Talalay directed Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ghost in the Machine, Lori Petty in “Tank Girl”, and episodes of tv series “The Dead Zone”.
Kathryn Bigelow directed influential cult fave Near Dark before being honored as the first female Best Director by the Academy for The Hurt Locker.
Diablo Cody, Oscar Original Screenplay winner for Juno, currently is tackling “The Evil Dead” remake and brought us the infamous “Jennifer’s Body” (directed by Karyn Kusama, who also did the strong femme-centric films Girlfight and Aeon Flux).

And genre fave actresses are moving behind the camera, with Danielle Harris directing “Among Friends” (scripted by Alyssa Lobit).  Kristina Klebe is enrolled in film school at NYU and directed her first short.  Angela Bettis directed frequent collaborator Lucky McKee in “Roman” and is working on a segment for The ABC’s of Death.  Asia Argento has followed in her father Dario’s footsteps, working extensively as a director, in addition to her acting.

At least half the directors I have worked with in film and theatre have been female. They have come into directing from a variety of creative backgrounds: acting, choreography, cinematography, playwriting, and teaching Drama.  As a producer, I will work to champion original, strong, and unique female voices and aid in bringing their visions to the screen.  And I hope to see more female crew entering the industry as editors, DP’s, and composers.  Many female journalists, festival programmers, photographers, painters, illustrators, costume designers, make-up artists, and gore/creature-FX creators, currently express their creativity in the horror industry.  And that’s not to mention the number of women creators in comics/graphic novels and television.  So, while wrongly held preconceived notions like “Women can’t be funny…or women can’t do horror” may linger in some minds, a new generation of rising female talent will hopefully erode the last traces of such incorrectly held views.

–Cory Graham@2011