Women in Horror Month: Creator, Spectator, & Star 
February may be known by many as the shortest month and the month of romance, but it also holds a special place in the hearts of horror fans as it is Women in Horror Month. As with everything over this past year all in person events have been postponed for this celebration, but it hasn’t stopped the outpouring of love and appreciation for women in genre. Women have always been a part of the Horror industry and the recognition has increased in recent years, rightfully expanding past the one month of the year celebration and giving opportunities to the talented women out there who love to scare us.
In celebration of Women in Horror Month I wanted to take a retrospective look at the women of 2020 and early 2021 that have influenced the genre in different ways. Many moons ago (how many is my business) I wrote a dissertation on Women’s role within horror. It’s official title was “Women in Horror as Creator, Spectator and Star” and since writing it I have done what every proud dissertation creator has done…kept it on a pen drive and avoided re-living the trauma of it. However, this always feels like the month to dust it off, update my thoughts and appreciate the amazing women of Horror.
Let’s start with our creators, those behind the scenes who are filming, writing and producing some of the most visceral, terrifying and intensely smart horror.
There was a horror film in 2020 that had everyone buzzing and seemed to sum up the strange and horrible year everyone has been having through the pandemic. That film was Host, a ‘found footage’ style Zoom horror movie that utilised the video call technology we’ve all been forced to become way too accustomed to using. One of the writers behind this great film that brings the spooks straight to your computer is Gemma Hurley. Her writing brilliantly brought life to a realistic group of women who suffer the consequences of a zoom seance. Her upcoming projects include the horror series Red Rose, supernatural thriller The Rising and her own project Tin Foil.
Jennifer Scudder Trent
Behind every good movie is an organised producer who keeps everything ticking over. Jennifer Scudder Trent brings this skill to the horror world, working as a producer for Blumhouse Productions and putting her talents behind seven horror films in 2020 including The Invisible Man, Freaky and The Hunt. She previously worked for Blumhouse as a post-production supervisor helping to finalise films like Happy Death Day and Get Out. It’s great to see more horror about women that is backed by creative women.
Staying in the Blumhouse headquarters meet Head of Production Jeanette Volurno, a woman with over 80 films under her belt, including the 2020 horrors Run Sweetheart Run, The Invisible Man and The Craft: Legacy. Jeanette is one of the main reasons that Blumhouse has the set up that it does, low budget horror films that allow the creative to control and enact their personal vision. Alongside bringing the scares at Blumhouse she is also a founding partner of CatchLight Studios. She’s an incredibly busy woman with five films coming up including the highly anticipated Halloween Kills.
Starting her career as a film journalist Veronika Franz has certainly left her mark on the Horror genre. Working alongside her creative partner and nephew, Severin Fiala, she has co-written and co-directed the terrifying twin movie Goodnight Mommy, a segment for anthology Horror The Field Guide to Evil and the 2020 psychological ‘cabin in the woods’ horror The Lodge. Veronika and Severin are definite Horror fans and genius at creating tension and dissecting family based terror with some incredible films behind them.
Natalie Erika James
Relic was possibly one of the most beautifully haunting and heartbreaking Horror films of the 2020’s with an intense and lovingly handled story of Alzheimers and the bonds of mothers and daughters. This incredible film was written and directed by Natalie Erika James, who had directed, wrote and even edited some stunning short films before making her feature debut with this film. There are rumours of a Folk Horror film being next on the list for James and I am excited to see her exceptional take on a sub-genre I love.
As a Heroes fan I was aware of Brea Grant as Daphne before I became aware of her as a writer and director. Luckily, this year’s Grimmfest Festival introduced me to her darkly hilarious writing and artistic direction when it screened 12 Hour Shift. The film focuses on female characters with human flaws and dark comedy chops and was a joy to watch. Grant has also written and starred in recent time loop horror Lucky. She is also involved in creating some brilliant graphic novel series such as We Will Bury You, SuicideGirls and Mary.
Courtney & Hillary Andujar
The Andujar twins are production designers, writers and directors who clearly have a taste for the weird and the dark. Their work as production designers can be seen in atmospheric horrors like Body at Brighton Rock, Bloodline and Girl on the Third Floor. The twins have expanded into being triple threats now by writing, directing and doing the production design for their segment ‘Girls Night Out of Body’ from the recent Horror anthology film Scare Package. These two are unstoppable with three features in development to show off their incredible skill.
Another great catch from Grimmfest was female biker club revenge flick Revenge Ride directed by Melanie Aitkenhead and supported with a huge female cast of bad asses. The film was based on a short she directed, Blood Ride, and came after her success with the remake Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? which showcased her genre love. Here’s hoping for more from this director who puts women front and centre.
In the brief period that cinemas reopened I was able to see one film, the hard hitting religious Horror film Saint Maud. This debut feature from Rose Glass gripped the Horror world with it’s intensely psychological exploration of a pious nurse and her personal spiral. Glass wrote and directed this intense and psychological film that has everyone waiting for what she will bring to our screens next.
A shout out to our Scream Queens, Final Girls and pure Badass ladies who are making us laugh, cry and scream often in equal measure.
Hayley Bishop, Jemma Moore, Emma Louise Webb, Radina Drandova & Caroline Ward
We’ve all been dealing with the horror and anxiety of social separation in the last year or so, and no group of women personified this more than the Zoom calling friendship group of Host. Each of them not only nailed every reaction and scream at the madness happening around them but managed to do it all whilst being in quarantine and being their own cinematographer, lighting team and stunt coordinator. This ensemble of women convinced me of their realistic friendship and their unfathomable terror in under an hour.
There was a lot of heat around The Hunt when it was first scheduled for release, causing delays and outrage from both sides of the argument. Yet one thing I believe everyone can agree on was the brilliance of Betty Gilpin’s performance as Crystal, who’s previous role as Debbie on G.L.O.W definitely has her giving action star vibes throughout. She definitely cemented her name in genre cinema in 2020 this kick ass Final Girl role and her cameo as sympathetic real estate agent in the remake of The Grudge. She may not be a gore hound herself but she’s welcome in the Horror world anytime.
Elisabeth Moss may be most well known for being Peggy in Mad Men and June/Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale but she has been a part of the Horror genre for a long time even before that. One of her first appearances was in Midnight’s Child and since then she has starred in numerous genre fare leading to a blood splattered role in 2019’s Us, a portrayal of famous Horror writer Shirley Jackson and her incredible performance in 2020’s The Invisible Man. Moss is captivating in the role of Cecilia, a woman escaping an abusive relationship but comes to believe her partner is still in her life. It looks like she will be keeping her toe in Horror with some upcoming roles which keeps this fan happy.
Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevin & Bella Heathcote
Three generations of women deal with the harsh emotional and supernatural unravelling surrounding Alzheimer’s in this beautiful but heartbreaking film. It is a personal story reflected stunningly by the three lead women who play Grandmother, Mother and Daughter as they deal with physical manifestations of dementia and what it means to look after family. It’s a slow burn Horror that requires a lot from the ensemble as far as character depth, emotional revelations and haunting terror that each one of them exceeds in.
Lulu Wilson has been a Horror darling since her first feature film role in Deliver Us From Evil and has been been a household horror name since then with starring roles in Ouija: Origin of Evil and Annabelle: Creation and her appearance on The Haunting of Hill House as the younger version of Shirley. In 2020 she got to put her Final Girl skills front and centre in Becky, playing the titular character who must defend her father’s lake house from some sadistic escaped convicts. Wilson is set for a long career in Horror and I look forward to seeing her in more leading roles in all things spooky and bloody.
Angela Bettis, Chloe Farnworth & Nikea Gamby-Turner
When I wrote my review for 12 Hour Shift I spent a long time praising the female characters in the film and since reading more about it my appreciation of these women has only increased. Our three main women, Mandy, Regina and Karen are all perfectly imperfect and allowed to be something rarely afforded to women, anti-heroes. Of course Angela Bettis is no stranger to Horror, having starred in May, Carrie and Toolbox Murders prior to this film. Each woman has their own signature characteristics and get time to shine individually and as a collective and I need more characters like this in my Horror.
It’s a difficult task as a petite young woman to act like a 6ft5 terrifying serial killer, but Kathyrn Newton makes it look easy, and fun, in Freaky where has to embody Vince Vaughn’s character ‘The Butcher’. The body-swapping Horror film lends a gory twist to a well known narrative trope and allows Newton to be unhinged and dangerous in the body of a teenage girl. Newton has previously starred in Horror films and TV series, being a regular in Supernatural and leading the found footage film Paranormal Activity 4 prior to this.
When Horror movies have a small cast it puts a lot on the shoulders of the lead. Luckily in the cat-and-mouse Horror Alone Jules Willcox is more than up to the task. As Jessica she has to carry a lot of the film as she must fight the elements and the wilderness whilst trying to escape her cold blooded kidnapper. Willcox beautifully balances being emotionally vulnerable whilst still fighting tooth and bloody nail to survive. It’s always great to see Horror movie characters who make smart, or at least well thought out, decisions.
Women don’t like horror?! Fuck that! There is incredible female created content out there for every horror fan, from reviews to podcasts to in-depth video pieces all fronted by female horror hounds. So here’s my shoutout to the women who are representing female love of horror and exploring it from different angles.
Zoë Rose Smith (Zobo With A Shotgun)
Now, I know I am late to the game with the incredible gore hound Zobo, having only started following her writing, podcast and YouTube channel since hearing her on an episode of Evolution of Horror podcast discussing the The Human Centipede franchise. I love listening to a woman discuss gore and the extreme side of the Horror genre with such reverence and absolute revelry. She has written for multiple genre magazines and is the co-host of A Nice Chianti podcast and co-host of The Unrated Cut youtube.
You can find her and her team here: https://zobowithashotgun.com/
Anna Bogutskaya & Olivia Howe (The Final Girls)
The Final Girls is a female horror collective that curates events, including the brilliant We Are the Weirdos which showcases short horror films from female creatives. I got to see one of these showcases and the short films were amazing and showed off the varied styles of women in horror. They also produce The Final Girls podcast which Anna Bogutskaya hosts with numerous genre loving intellectual guests. Each season focuses on a different area of horror such as witches, female monsters and their current topic, vampires.
You can find them here: https://www.thefinalgirls.co.uk/home
Julia Marchese and Teri Gamble (Horror Movie Survival Guide)
There’s something super fun about introducing an open minded non-horror obsessed friend to your collection of gore, spooks and fears, aka your film collection. These two friends, Julia Marchese and Teri Gamble took this idea and turned it into the podcast Horror Movie Survival Guide, where Julia introduces Teri to horror movies while learning the rules of horror survival. At the moment Julia is also working on an adaptation of Stephen King’s short story which is definitely worth keeping an eye on.
You can find them here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/horror-movie-survival-guide/id1260663982
YouTube is a great place for horror content and there are a lot of amazing women on there deep diving into genre films with reviews and recommendations. Emma, known as Spooky Astronauts on her channel, is one of these creators who does everything from lists and reviews to recommendations and deep dive scene analysis. Her passion for horror is clear in every video and she gives some great recommendations for horror films to dive into.
You can find her here: https://www.youtube.com/c/spookyastronauts/featured
Zena Dixon (Real Queen of Horror)
Here’s another amazing woman on YouTube who also writes for multiple genre sites including Bloody-Disgusting, Dread Central and Black Girl Nerds. She’s also a filmmaker with multiple shorts under her belt. Her YouTube content is brilliant and a lot of her pieces focus on women and people of colour in horror. Her videos are lively and fun and she’s charming and entertaining to watch for great lists and recommendations.
You can find her here: https://www.realqueenofhorror.com/
This month we celebrate, be it through watching women backed films, delving into the filmography of your favourite genre actress, or letting your ideas and thoughts loose on the internet. Horror has some of the most beautiful and passionate fans whose enthusiasm seeps, oozes and spurts at every event I have attended! It’s a palpable feeling to be part of the horror community and events like Women in Horror Month make sure that we are sending that appreciation to all. Let’s Hear it for the Girls!
If you want more Women in Horror have a look at my previous years Women in Horror Month post.