“But it is women who love horror. Gloat over it. Feed on it. Are nourished by it. Shudder and cling and cry out – and come back for more.”
You said it, Bela.
I love horror movies. I’m a total wimp about them, the screaming, crying, watch-the-movie-behind-my-hands, “NO DON’T GO IN THERE oh god why am I watching this” kind of wimp, but I love them. Horror movies not only create spaces where we can explore and exorcise cultural fears: they are fantastically complex pieces of media that can reinforce cultural rules or shatter them, that celebrate and condemn transgression.
Plus they’re just wicked fun.
Here’s a list of some of my favorites. For best results, I’ve recommended a food/drink combo and some complementary feminist literature. Happy Halloween!
Suggested reading for everything: Men, Women, and Chainsaws, Carol Clover — the definitive work on feminism and horror films
Pair with: Sherry
Suggested reading: The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, because I’m pretty sure anything else I could recommend would result in spoilers
Pair with: Beer and spaghetti with red sauce
Suggested reading: Female Masculinity, by Judith Halberstam
Pair with: Jello shots
Suggested reading: The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography, Angela Carter
Pair with: Spiked punch and/or pork chops
Suggested reading: Queen Bees and Wannabes, Rosalind Wiseman
(Secondary reading: “If Men Could Menstruate,” Gloria Steinem)
Pair with: Chocolate mousse and a pervasive sense of nausea over Roman Polanski in general
Suggested reading: Our Bodies, Ourselves
The Silence of the Lambs
Pair with: A nice Chianti
Suggested reading: Gender Trouble, Judith Butler
El Laberinto del Fauno
Pair with: A bottle of rioja tinto and several boxes of tissues
Suggested reading: Feminism and Fairy Tales, Karen E. Rowe
Pair with: A pitcher of Black Velvets
Suggested reading: The Laugh of the Medusa, Hélène Cixous
N.B.: Films included here are not necessarily explicitly feminist or even necessarily pro-woman; they are included because of the space they create for feminist critique. Similarly, the recommended readings were chosen to complement, not necessarily match, the movies, and aren’t necessarily indicative of my own thoughts on feminism. (Because some of that second-wave stuff, man . . . I dunno.)
Watch some movies. Read some theory. Draw your own conclusions. If horror movies teach us one thing, it’s that what we create for ourselves is always more wonderful, more terrifying, and more moving than anything we’re shown explicitly.
(Special thanks to everyone who suggested readings and made this post possible: Elisa, Izzy, Caitlin, Nicole, Esther, Lillian, Kait, Sara, Ernie, and my professors Kristina, Chemers, Wendy, and Pino.)