Blumhouse Productions has worked hard to become the go-to horror brand of the decade, pumping out hits like Paranormal Activity, Get Out, The Purge, and Insidious. The adrenaline-spiking logo which introduces each of their films, typically featuring a ghostly chair, a creepy girl, and flickering lights has become synonymous with high-quality scares. One thing the company hasn’t managed to do, as a recent Polygon interview with studio head Jason Blum pointed out, is regularly incorporate female directors into their production slate. Blum’s answer to a question on the topic, “There are not a lot of female directors period, and even less who are inclined to do horror,” left a lot to be desired.
Blum may have misspoken, as many do during lengthy press junkets. Or perhaps he, like a lot of people, doesn’t pay much attention to smaller indie cinema, and in focusing on the blockbusters, genuinely overlooked the plethora of female filmmakers who are talented and ready to work. At the time of publication, he has posted an apology on Twitter, but the fact remains that the above statement and others like it are ridiculous, disheartening, depressingly common, and resoundingly false. Female filmmakers have a long, rich, and yes, sometimes under-the-radar history within the horror genre, and there are dozens of them who deserve to work with Blumhouse or any major studio.
Blum’s own company has eve already worked with Catherine Hardwicke and Karen Moncrieff, meaning two of their 83 films made today (counting this month’s Halloween sequel as well as their non-horror projects) have been directed by women. In the Polygon interview, he cites The Babadook’s Jennifer Kent as a director he’d love to work with, and last year Mudbound director Dee Rees was reported to be working on a Blumhouse-produced film. I think there’s still room for improvement. Below are 30 women who in no particular order we at FSR think would slay the next big horror franchise if given a shot. This isn’t a comprehensive list and was actually whittled down from a longer version. Talented women are everywhere if you just look around.
Seimetz is a noteworthy actress with 70 credits to her name, but she also writes, produces, and directs. Her feature directorial debut is the tense, unpredictable 2012 neo-noir Sun Don’t Shine, and she also directed two Van-centric episodes of Atlanta: Robbin’ Season. The latter is one of the most darkly comic shows on television, often leaving viewers with a coil of tension in their gut and sometimes veering into straight horror. The more horror-tinged of Seimetz’s two episodes, “Helen,” follows Van and Earn to a surreal, nightmarish German festival, where the streets are haunted by people in homemade creature masks and a tall, beast-headed creature called the Schnappviecher sneaks through the night.
Lambert is familiar to horror fans as one of only a handful of female directors to ever snag a Stephen King adaptation. Her adaptation of Pet Sematary grossed $57 million at the box office in 1989 and made my mom forever terrified of kids named Gage. Lambert’s hit was notable for grounding real horror with authentic emotions in a film that was heavy with its characters’ grief. Lambert has since made Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, Pet Sematary Two, and TV movies including the Disney Channel favorite Halloweentown 2: Kalabar’s Revenge.
The Soska Sisters
Alright, so this entry is actually two people, but they come as a team. Canadian twins Jen and Sylvia Soska have a knack for the macabre, which they’ve lovingly expressed in their debut film, exploitation flick Dead Hooker in a Trunk, and the new horror cult classic American Mary. The latter stars genre favorite Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) and is a stylish and captivating rape-revenge movie unlike any other. The two women behind Twisted Twins Productions are always busy, even putting on an annual blood drive for Women In Horror Month. Up next, they’re working on a remake of Cronenberg’s Rabid about a would-be fashion designer whose dreams go awry.
Every one of Karyn Kusama’s films feels completely different from the last, and that’s a good thing. In the horror-sphere, she’s brought us Jennifer’s Body, a darkly funny coming-of-age story featuring a wickedly great Megan Fox as the titular monster teen, and The Invitation, a moody slow-burn thriller about an ominous dinner party. Both movies are made with recognizable confidence, and her upcoming Nicole Kidman-led thriller Destroyer looks equally sure-footed and exciting.
Janiak is right up Blumhouse Productions’ alley. She makes competent horror stories that will haunt your dreams, and a lot of it involves horny young folks, whom you may remember also figure prominently in Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare and Happy Death Day. Her debut film, Honeymoon, stars Rose Leslie and Harry Treadaway as a pair of lovers on a not-so-pleasant honeymoon and has a climax that’s horror-hall-of-fame level gross. Janiak has also directed two episodes of Scream: The Series, including gory and suspenseful season one highlight “In the Trenches.” Her upcoming film Panic will follow a group of recent grads playing a deadly high-stakes game.
Bravo isn’t known for horror — her debut feature, Lemon, is billed as a comedy — but everything she makes takes a wry and deeply unsettling twist at some point. The Sundance-selected short film Gregory Go Boom is dark and off-putting but impossible to look away from, while her debut short, Eat, goes from dread-inducing to harrowing in its final moments. Bravo also directed Atlanta’s “Juneteenth” episode, which aired four months before Get Out was released in theaters and addresses many of the same disconcerting themes. Bravo can put a person on edge in a heartbeat, and she explores race, class, gender, and ability in imaginative, bold ways.
Once upon a time, Mary Harron was on the receiving end of questionable comments about female directors, in this case from American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis. Judging by the response to the Christian Bale-starring satirical slasher, which has since been embraced by an intense fan base, Harron needn’t worry about Ellis’ take. Since then, her only outright horror film has been The Moth Diaries, though last years Netflix miniseries Alias Grace was a rich, dynamic, and suspenseful adaptation. The relatively overlooked limited series has me convinced that Harron has plenty more scary stories worth telling.
Ana Lily Amirpour
It’s hard to believe that Amirpour has only directed two features, since both have made waves in the filmmaking community, on the festival circuit, and around the horror watercooler. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is a stark but beautiful Iran-set vampire movie, while The Bad Batch reimagines the American southwest as an uber-cool, cannibal-filled wasteland. Amirpour has a unique, style-heavy sensibility that also lent itself well to the episodes of horror-influenced series Castle Rock and Legion that she directed this year.
Along with her husband Bruno Foranzi, French filmmaker Cattet has made two giallo-influenced films and a neo-western. Their debut, Amer, is a surreal psychosexual thriller, while The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears is a stylish and freaky deep dive into the senses. Their latest, Let the Corpses Tan, is more of a drawn-out action film than anything else, but the two are clearly busting at the seams with creativity and likely plan on delivering more scary surprises in the future.
Even if Ramsay hadn’t made one of the scariest not-quite-horror movies of the century with We Need To Talk About Kevin, she’d still be on this list thanks to the masterfully genre-bending style at play in her latest, the Joaquin Phoenix-led crime movie You Were Never Really Here. Every moment of Ramsay’s films is a treat for your eyes, even as you’re constantly tempted to look away. I can’t actually picture her working with Blumhouse, but we should count ourselves lucky if she graces us with her presence in the horror genre in the future.