Recent years have seen a bumper crop of critically acclaimed, female-led horror films. There was Alice Lowe’s pregnant serial killer romp Prevenge (2016), Julia Ducornau’s gory coming-of-age tale Raw (also 2016), all-female horror anthology XX (2017), and stylish sex work thriller Cam (2018), to name just a few. These movies were hailed as a movement of sorts, as a new wave of female filmmakers interested in the horrific and the macabre brought their vision to the big screen. Movies like The Babadook (2014) and A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014) pushed the genre in new and fascinating directions, in terms of style, representation, or sheer gore.
Of course, women have always written and shared dark tales. The difference is, now the movie industry is finally paying attention. 2019 will see a growing number of female-made genre films premiering at top-tier festivals like The Berlin International Film Festival, and Sundance.
As co-founder of feminist horror film collective The Final Girls—which reclaims forgotten films of the past, as well as platforming up-and-coming female talent—I'm excited about how 2019 is shaping up to be a vintage year for horror lovers. The films coming out this year will create complex female characters, allowing for stories that dig deep into our anxieties and fears. They'll depict haunting images that get under your skin, and stay there for years.
Here are five horror films written by, centred on, or directed by women coming out in 2019 that promise to be fabulously traumatizing.
Knives and Skin, directed by Jennifer Reeder
With a strong and unique body of work in short film behind her, American director Jennifer Reeder’s second feature film is the culmination of a lot of her interests: teenage life, mysticism, and small town weirdness. The film follows the mysterious disappearance of teenager Carolyn Harper in a small town in the Midwest, and its effect on the other kids and their parents.
Release date TBC.
Paradise Hills, directed by Alice Waddington
With a background in fashion, and having directed the gorgeously designed short film Disco Inferno, Alice Waddington made history by becoming the youngest female director in Spain to direct a feature film, which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival. Set in a high-class girls’ reform school with a sinister secret, and with a cast including Emma Roberts, Akwafina, and Milla Jovovich, the director has dedicated her debut feature to “all the girls who grew up loving sci-fi and fantasy but never feeling like they saw themselves in it.”
Initial release 29 January 2019; wider release date TBC.
Make Up, directed by Claire Oakley
Known for her haunting short films, self-taught writer and director Claire Oakley makes her feature-length debut with a psychosexual exploration of female desire. Oakley’s film centers on a young woman (BAFTA-winner Molly Windsor) who becomes obsessed with the idea that her boyfriend has cheated on her.
Rabid, directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska
Twin sisters, filmmakers, and queens of the macabre Jen and Sylvia Soska will make their much-anticipated return following the success of 2012's American Mary with a remake of David Cronenberg’s 1977 body horror classic of the same name—but with a feminine twist. After a terrible accident leaves aspiring fashion designer Rose (Laura Verdervoot) scarred beyond recognition, she seeks out an experimental treatment that will have unexpected consequences.
Release date TBC.
Ma, directed by Tate Taylor
You wouldn’t necessarily expect a horror film from the director of The Help (2011) and Get on Up (2014), but that is what we’re getting. Ma stars Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer as Sue Ann, a loner who befriends a group of teenagers and invites to hang out in her basement. Horror film mogul Jason Blum produced this film, which promises to be a fun romp, and a chance for Spencer to showcase her comedic skills.
Ma is out in US and UK cinemas on 31 May.