12 Halloween horror movies directed by women

We're firmly in Halloween season when the ghouls come out and things go bump in the night. And if you're looking for spooky movie inspiration, you've come to the right place.

But this isn't any old blog list of horror classics. We've put a spin on it by looking at the women filmmakers who've brought us some of the most enduringly creepy imagery in movie history. In a genre that's often dominated by men, both behind the camera and in terms of stories, women have fashioned some truly great chillers.

Scroll down to discover our choices.

 

1. The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)

Director Amy Holden Jones sliced and diced the slasher movie with this subversive comedy-horror. It was her debut feature film, having worked as Martin Scorsese's assistant on 1976 classic Taxi Driver – in fact, she turned down the chance to make E.T. in favour of this. Predating the meta humour of Wes Craven's Scream (released in 1996), this is a gory and good-humoured tale of a high school senior whose slumber party (or sleepover here in the UK) is interrupted by the arrival of a murderous maniac.

 

2. Near Dark (1987)

Long before she scored critical acclaim and Oscar success with The Hurt Locker, director Kathryn Bigelow was making in-roads with horror films. Near Dark cannily fuses the Western with the archetypal vampire tale to bloodcurdling effect, as an innocent farmboy (Adrian Pasdar) is bitten by an attractive young bloodsucker. That heralds the arrival of three of the creepiest neck-biters in movie history: Lance Henriksen's mysterious leader Jesse, Jeanette Goldstein's Diamondback and, best of all, Bill Paxton's psychotic Severen, who is in it for the thrill of the kill. Atmospherically shot and hypnotically scored by Tangerine Dream, Near Dark has deservedly become a cult classic.


3. Pet Sematary (1989)

Later remade in 2019, Pet Sematary adapts Stephen King's chilling bestseller to eerie effect. Director Mary Lambert marshalls the story of an ordinary family, a busy road and an inevitable tragedy that leads to unimaginable evil from beyond the grave. Lambert's skill with twisted imagery (particularly in the Zelda flashback scenes) ensured that generations of late 80s/early 90s kids were scarred by this particular King adaptation.


4. The Babadook (2014)

Australian filmmakers have always had a knack for exposing melancholy and terror lurking beneath suburban life (see the disturbing Snowtown as an example). In Jennifer Kent's The Babadook, an apparently haunted pop-up book metaphorically reflects the anguish and tragedy felt by one isolated woman and her troubled son. The arrival of the mysterious Mr. Babadook is therefore loaded with all kind of figurative suggestions, transforming a simple ghost story into a startlingly powerful statement on the human condition.


5. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2015)

You don't get too many Iranian vampire westerns around. But that's exactly what A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is. Director Ana Lily Amirpour crafts a loving and achingly well-shot ode to a host of genres, fusing the black and white discontent of David Lynch with the windswept environment of a frontier western, and the paranoia of a classic bloodsucking horror. It's all fused with a subversive statement on the role of women in Iranian society, as embodied by the titular girl. And that slo-mo scene set to White Lies' 'Death' is simply unforgettable.


6. Goodnight Mommy (2015)

This unsettling Austrian thriller is directed by the duo of Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. It evokes flesh-crawling French classic Eyes Without a Face, as two young twins suspect their mother isn't who she says she is. Said parent has returned from cosmetic surgery heavily bandaged – but is she actually their mother? Disquietingly steady camerawork and a subtle sound design, not to mention convincing acting, keeps us on tenterhooks throughout, and Hollywood was impressed that Franz and Fiala were invited to make their Hollywood debut with 2020's The Lodge.


7. Prevenge (2016)

British writer/comedian Alice Lowe made her feature directorial debut with this macabre black comedy. In the manner of earlier Lowe vehicle Sightseers, directed by Ben Wheatley, it straddles the divide between uncomfortable terror and mordant humour, relaying the story of a pregnant woman (Lowe) compelled to kill by her unborn baby. Tapping into fears of motherhood with a uniquely ironic twist, it also keeps us guessing as to the central character's psychological state.


8. Raw (2017)

The coming of age college drama meets gnarly cannibalistic terror in this slice of full-on mayhem from French filmmaker Julia Ducournau. When a young vegetarian woman is compelled to eat meat as part of a cruel hazing ritual during her first day at veterinary college, it uncorks some memorable side-effects. The usual dose of adolescent angst is rendered as a bloody and ripping blast, set to a pulsating soundtrack and with a terrific central performance from Garance Marillier.


9. Revenge (2018)

Prepare to wince (a lot) during this full-blooded homage to 1970s exploitation horror movies. When a young woman is assaulted and left for dead by her boyfriend and his cronies, she decides to wreak, yes, revenge in the most savage way possible. Director Coralie Fargeat claims to have been heavily influenced by Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, and there's no denying the vicarious thrill of watching an alleged victim turn the tables on her tormentors in the most creative ways possible. In the central role, actor Matilda Lutz is nothing less than a blood-drenched force of nature.

 

10. Saint Maud (2020)

British filmmaker Rose Glass graduates from striking short movies to feature films in this arresting psychological chiller. Morfydd Clark is a revelation as pious palliative nurse Maud, whose quest to save another woman's soul could lead her towards damnation or redemption. Glass cloaks the story in layers of shadowy atmosphere, always careful to conceal Maud's true nature and motivations. And the scenes where Clark spars with Jennifer Ehle, playing embittered and sinful ex-dancer Amanda, crackle with all manner of theological suggestion.

Click here to read our interview with Rose Glass.


11. Relic (2020)

Natalie Erika James is another filmmaker who has jumped from short films and music videos to the more ambitious realm of features. Her debut, Relic, is a carefully controlled exercise in dread, which manages the tricky task of fusing dementia-laden sadness with the needs of a supernatural chiller. By focusing on three generations of women (superbly played by Emily Mortimer, Robyn Nevis and Bella Heathcote), James emerges as a director with a strong handle on character and emotion, all the better for investing us in the scares.


12. Candyman (2021 TBC)

Nia DaCosta helms this "spiritual sequel" to the classic 1992 shocker. The story picks up in the former Chicago slum of Cabrini Green, where the notorious, hook-handed Candyman (Tony Todd) is said to have originated. Only this time, Chicago artist Anthony (Watchmen's Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) wants to interpret the fiend's legacy as a topical installation project – which soon brings untold evil upon his head. Top Boy helmer DaCosta collaborates with Get Out and Us filmmaker Jordan Peele to give the ever-present boogeyman a topical update.

 

What's your favourite horror movie directed by a woman filmmaker? Let us know @Cineworld.