In terms of direction, the mainstream films in the Horror genre are generally male-dominated. However, in my research, I have found that, interestingly enough, women mostly favour it. It also doesn’t come as a surprise that in many mainstream horror flicks, the ‘figure of fear’ is female-based.
Some of these examples could be The VVitch (2015), The Conjuring (2013) and The Ring (2002). The depiction of a ‘figure of fear’ is bound to be different from a male versus a female director. While the mainstream horror flicks mentioned above are entertaining, I am sure that the female perspective is just as brilliant.
For starters, American Psycho (2000) directed by Mary Harron, has topped the charts in the horror genre or even general filmmaking for about two decades now. It is an adaption of a book by the same name written by Brett Easton Ellis, which garnered its fair share of controversies given its grotesque and extremely violent nature. The film, of course, followed in similar footsteps.
The film is glossy, glamorous, extravagant and indulgent in every sense of the world. Harron’s direction is intelligent to the point where a movie with severe issues of consumerism, misogyny, and alarming violence can seem parodistic. The absurd and hypocritical moments of the film are shot in such an ordinary light that it is hard to accept the realness of it all. It is easy to misinterpret the movie as being sexist, yet it is a feminist film which subverts the very subject it focuses upon.
Kent uses a psychological base to deal with the themes of personal grief and mental health issues
The Babadook (2014) by Jennifer Kent is another brilliant example of how horror takes on a feministic perspective. The film revolves around the story of a mother and her son haunted by a malevolent spirit. In this portrayal of horror, Kent uses a psychological base to deal with the themes of personal grief and mental health issues. The Babadook or the figure of horror here is a manifestation of the mother’s unprocessed pain, which haunts the damaged relationship she has with her child.
What is even more interesting is that Kent doesn’t banish the monster in the story. In fact, the monster doesn’t go away, but rather the mother manages to keep it at bay by standing up to it. In a metaphorical sense, it translates to the fact that pain never goes away, but by facing it, its effect on our current lives diminishes day by day.
Horror in Indian cinema is predominantly occupied by male directors. However Bulbbul (2020) by Anvita Datt Guptan has opened up the avenue recently. Based during the colonial Indian presidency, it’s a story of a child-bride called Bulbbul, who grows to become an alluring mistress of her home and village. However, beneath the suspiciously calm and collected demeanour, Bulbbul hides her painful past and the supernatural transformation.
The representation gives more space to the severe issues plaguing our postmodern society along with commercial entertainment
In a town haunted by a demon witch, Bulbbul emerges as a secret saviour for the victims of patriarchy. The narrative builds itself around the topics of misogyny, paedophilia and domestic violence. In what seems to be an initiation of female horror directors in Indian cinema, the Lionness shares her side of the story, taking away the glory of the hunters.
Ranging from commercialism, capitalism, patriarchy, sexism, paedophilia, domestic violence, grief and mental health in just the span of three films, the female take on horror is much more about information, commentary and awareness. The representation gives more space to the severe issues plaguing our postmodern society along with commercial entertainment.
While countries like India have made an intellectual start, female directors in other places continue to inspire directors to bring valuable content to the front, in both horror and general filmmaking.
Featured Image: YouTube, IMDb
Last modified: 30th October 2020