A male friend asked me recently why women like horror movies. His point being that so many of them are about victimizing women. It's a genre undeniably rife with misogyny. I believe it was Hitchcock who said (paraphrasing) fear is an emotion we all like to feel when we know that we are safe. If that's true, I can understand why any woman would hate horror. Women are victimized in the real world for the sin of being women. We don't ever feel safe, so why would we want to be reminded about that fact in the most extreme way?
It's a concept I struggle with because I love horror films. I really do. Watching movies like Evil Dead and Suspiria as a kid made me want to be a filmmaker. They are so visceral, so accessible and I can tell you from experience, they are so much fun to make. But over the years, it became increasingly apparent that these films were made neither about me nor for me. Most horror films are made for teenage boys, which perpetuates an exhausting repetition of sexualized violence, primarily on women. It really kind of kills your love of something when you know it not only hates you, but it wants to kill you.
There was a long stretch where I stopped watching horror films altogether because they stopped being about anything more than body count and extreme torture. The characters, male and female, were shallow, self-serving and two dimensional. I guess the thinking was that if we didn't like the them, we would root for their deaths. The story didn't matter as long as it offered up tortuous scenarios that satisfied an audience's bloodlust. But why would I feel frightened for characters when I don't give a fuck about them? Why would I feel anything at all for them? I believed the genre was dead. Gone the way of the Western, but it has been resurrected in the last few years by diversity and a glut of indie filmmaking, which hit or miss, usually spurns innovation in storytelling.
Horror has changed, is changing and will continue to change. It has definitely become more accessible and more aware of female viewers, most likely because there are more female filmmakers in the game. I cannot wait to release my list of feminist horror films at the end of this month. It took a lot more thought and effort than previous lists and I think it will be more well rounded. But if I'm being completely honest, I like horror for a lot of the same reasons men do. I like horror because gore can be fun, because we all like to feel scared and because we all need to stare into the void. Sometimes scream into it.
Stay tuned for 31 Days of Horror 2016 - Feminist Theme.