In terms of celebrations, February might be the shortest month of the year, but it’s also one of the busiest. Black History Month, numerous holidays like Valentine’s Day, notable festivities like Mardi Gras, and, in horror, a month-long spotlight of women in the horror industry.
As such, if you’re looking to pad out your watchlists with horror movies directed by women but are already well versed on the tried-and-true faves like Near Dark, American Psycho, Pet Sematary, and so on, here are ten lesser discussed films worth checking out.
Jackie Kong’s wacky horror-comedy was initially intended to be a sequel to Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast, but it became an unrelated standalone despite the remnants of the plot as connective tissue. Two oafish brothers run a diner, hacking up victims for spare parts while preparing a ritualistic feast to resurrect the goddess Sheetar. Very ‘80s, very silly, and without any pretense.
Roberta Findlay made films simply because she liked wielding the camera, and she wanted to make money. She started her filmmaking career creating “roughies” on the sexploitation and grindhouse circuit, developing a reputation for hardcore and sleaze. After a film controversy and the death of her husband and filmmaking partner, Findlay transitioned into horror. Lurkers, her penultimate feature, followed a woman haunted by memories of her mother’s murder and visions of strange ghosts. Schlock horror by the queen of sleaze, Findlay thinks those who like her films aren’t of sound mind, even the more accessible horror films like this one. She was a pioneering filmmaker, quality and opinions be damned.
This supernatural period piece follows a deadly curse claiming the lives of the sons in a high-ranking official’s household. When the third son dies, his pregnant widow must confront the vengeful spirit behind the curse as well as barb-filled family politics. A remake of 1986’s Yeogokseong (Cry of the Woman), The Wrath does have a familiarity with its vengeance-seeking ghost, but director Young-sun Yoo keeps the mysteries and bloodshed flowing. Even better is that you can stream it on Shudder now.
In My Skin
Marina de Van wrote, directed, and starred in this gruesome French extremity horror film that sees a woman becoming obsessed with her own body after an accident. As in, the woman develops a compulsive need to feed on her own flesh. Naturally, her life spirals, and things get pretty gruesome. A thought-provoking story that unfurls with unhurried pacing, de Van doesn’t shy away from the grisly exploration of self-mutilation.
Set in 1980s Warsaw, two mermaid sisters come ashore and are adopted by the band of a local cabaret. One pursues love, while the other gives in to her carnal hunger for human flesh. Agnieszka Smoczynska’s feature debut takes The Little Mermaid‘s grim origins and transforms it into a glam musical that blends comedy, fantasy, and horror.
Blue My Mind
Like Ginger Snaps, Blue My Mind brings gruesome body horror to the female coming-of-age and puberty story. Of course, what fifteen-year-old Mia is becoming isn’t a werewolf, but something entirely different. Something much more in the realm of fantasy, though the journey getting there is firmly planted in horror. That she’s undergoing such a strange change amidst average teenage growth makes for an extra angsty time. Blue My Mind isn’t just Lisa Brühlmann’s first feature, it’s her film school thesis film, too. Considering just how technically accomplished the film is, that makes Brühlmann, who’s since gone on to direct episodes of Castle Rock and Servant, a notable genre filmmaker on the rise.
Living during the 1800s on the Western frontier wasn’t for the faint of heart. Especially for the two married couples at the center of this supernatural western, where isolation creates an open invitation for evil. Emma Tammi’s feature debut creates a nonlinear narrative that may alienate some in its disjointedness, but The Wind offers eerie atmosphere for days.
After co-starring as Woman while handling costume design and cinematography in Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Kei Fujiwara wrote, directed, and starred in her own feature film, Organ. The plot follows two detectives trying to infiltrate a black market organ dealing ring, and a botched raid leaves the pair in dire straits. Things get very surreal and very gory.
The Mafu Cage
Two sisters live alone in a dilapidated mansion, with their late father’s pet ape. The older sister grows to become more independent and grounded, the young spirals into insanity and dangerous barbarism. Carol Kane turns in a fantastic performance as the younger sister in this twisted psychological horror movie by Karen Arthur. Depraved and disturbing, see it for Cane’s performance alone. But it should come with a caveat: her character is exceptionally violent toward apes.
Messiah of Evil
Arletty has arrived in a Coastal Californian town to visit her father after receiving a series of worrying letters. She finds that he’s vanished, leaving behind a diary that hints towards insanity or something much more sinister. Teaming up with an aristocrat and his two friends to find her father, the group learns that perhaps the town has been overrun by an undead cult. Co-directed by Gloria Katz, Messiah of Evil offers up nightmarish atmosphere and memorably spooky set pieces. If you’re a fan of films like Night of the Living Dead and Carnival of Souls, this is a must watch.